57 pages 1 hour read

Tom Wolfe

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1968

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Chapters 20-23Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 20 Summary: “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”

After Kesey flees to Mexico, the Acid Tests continue with Babbs as the de facto leader of the Pranksters, but some are unhappy with this direction. Soon a schism develops between “Babbs loyalists versus the had-enough-of-Babbs” (269). Wolfe writes that they missed “the magical cement of Kesey’s charisma” (269). Babbs moves the Tests to Los Angeles, with the first one taking place at Paul Sawyer’s Unitarian church. Hundreds of people show up and even “the straight multitudes” are so far into it that they were now in “The Movie” and “on the bus” (270), Wolfe writes. The next Test takes place on February 12, 1966, in the Watts section of Los Angeles, a place where only five months earlier massive riots had taken place.

The majority of the chapter is a detailed description of the Watts Acid Test provided by Clair Brush, a young writer for the Free Press. Brush, who had never used drugs of any kind, explains that two large trash cans full of Kool-Aid were offered as refreshments and that only later when her trip began did she find out that it had been laced with LSD. While she was afraid of what she was feeling at first, she eventually settled into her trip and began to understand the disorienting lights, music, and films clearly.