A Campus Organization or a Dangerous Cult?
A campus group or something darker?
During my second year of college, I met a young lady named Cassie who asked me to join a club that convened on-campus. Their activities were not sanctioned by the University, but they managed to reserve a small room in the Student Union to conduct their meetings. The group professed to study paranormal activities and other events that could not be explained. Cassie bumped into me several times on campus and, apparently realizing I was a sucker for a pretty face, she eventually coerced me into attending a gathering she described as a “fun group of cool people investigating weird phenomena.”
At this meeting I counted more than a dozen teenagers and two slightly older men in their early twenties. Some sat around small tables together and sipped from paper cups while others gathered in the center of the room and mingled. I wondered if the older men were chaperones, but Cassie told me they were the groups’ facilitators. She dragged me to the center of the room and introduced me to “club leaders” Carl Thompson and Jim Bradley. As Cassie told them my name, Thompson enthusiastically shook my hand and said he heard I was coming. I just decided to attend two minutes earlier, and he couldn’t possibly have known I would be there. Cassie quickly interjected that she told him she hoped I would come, but I wondered if my presence was far more calculated than I guessed. There was no time to reflect on my misgivings, however, as I was led about the room to meet everyone. Thompson and Bradley worked at making me feel at ease, and I noted the effortlessness with which they made everyone feel included. Their meeting seemed like a party, and everyone involved appeared well-adjusted and friendly.
There was no schedule or agenda for this club—everyone contributed what they wished. Some members read books, some recorded their dreams in journals, and others wrote to research facilities for information on psychic abilities. Thompson addressed the group, and I listened with fascination as he talked about the luck he had with a test he took that week. A natural herb and a few simple meditations helped him relax and focus, and he earned top grade in his class on his test. He labeled his achievement an opportunity for everyone, and speculated how successful we could be in life if we were able to simultaneously relax and heighten our focus. He suggested there were no limits to what could be accomplished if we mastered this simple tool for focusing our awareness. Someone requested he bring notes on what he did to the next meeting, and he cheerfully agreed to document his processes for everyone.
A few other members made comments about their week, but Carl Thompson was the ringleader and set the tone for everyone else. I liked him but he was always performing, and I didn’t trust him. The hour passed quickly and I felt more connected than I had in a long while, but I soon I learned that this “fun group” served a darker purpose.
Trappings of evil
A secret order
On Monday November 14th, 1977 I accepted an invitation to visit Carl Thompson and Jim Bradley at their apartment. I arrived at their place on Mississippi Street just as they returned from buying groceries, and I followed them up a creaking stairway. At the top of the stairs was the door to their apartment, protected by three padlocks. One by one the padlocks opened, and the door was swung wide.
It looked much like any other college student’s apartment, sparsely furnished with a second hand sofa, chair and coffee table. A bookshelf contained many of the same books I owned, including paperback editions of Carlos Castaneda’s works. I sank into a chair with broken springs and relaxed. Carl Thompson made small talk about campus activism while Jim Bradley brought me a few potato chips and a glass of Coca-Cola. Bradley seemed slightly uneasy, but Thompson was his typically gregarious self. Eventually he confessed they asked me to their apartment for a specific reason. His solemn tone briefly made me wonder if they intended to rob or molest me, but I resisted the urge to bolt for the door. They wanted to talk more about their club. He admitted they studied more than just paranormal activities—they dabbled in the occult, voodoo and satanic rituals. Thompson referred to their group for the first time as an order and said it was similar to many groups across the United States. He estimated that two percent of all high school and college students actively studied the occult, and many practiced witchcraft throughout the course of their daily lives. He hoped I would join them because the order needed the safety of a large group to protect them from outside influences. No matter how he tried to convince me his beliefs were positive, I knew I could never join his group. He suggested practicing the occult arts was not a contradiction to my own Christian beliefs, but rather a means to augment my faith. The use of these powers or gifts we had been given strengthened our link to God. I could never accept the syncretistic belief that the occult could make me a better Christian, but refrained from arguing—Thompson was a skilled speaker and I didn’t wish to debate him.
Carl Thompson wanted to show me something in strict confidence and led me to a closet in a corner of the room. He opened the door to shelves filled with robes, daggers, charms, amulets, rings, and other “occult” artifacts. I recognized the Ouija board, Tarot cards, the I Ching and what was likely a crystal ball, but the rest of his satanic inventory was new to me. I didn’t know the value of this stuff but it looked expensive—it wasn’t just for show. The back of the closet housed an array of potions and herbs. I forced a chuckle and asked if they ran a drug store. Jim Bradley smiled and asserted those weren’t drugs but natural aids to focus their mental powers. He wondered if I wanted a demonstration and I instinctively recoiled. He reassured me what he intended to do was harmless, but if I were afraid he could give me a glimpse of their abilities without the use of potions or herbs. I cautioned him that I would participate in nothing that caused me to forfeit control of my actions. Bradley patted me on the back as if I were a naïve child and nodded. He told me that night I would dream I was a bubble floating on air. He said I would awaken from the dream at 2:30 AM. I would also awaken from sleep the next night at 2:30 AM.
That night I dreamed I was flying, a recurring dream I had periodically over the years. I was floating gently above the rooftops at a low altitude. I struggled to fly higher, where I instinctively knew navigation would be easier. I floated toward the street and, while looking back toward my house, I gently collided with a tree. I awoke with a start and looked at the clock. It was 2:28 AM. I sat up in bed and nervously sought an explanation. I dreamed I was flying. I didn’t remember feeling like a bubble, but I floated on air. Awakening when Bradley said I would was frightening, but I rationalized both the dream and the time I awoke might simply have been the power of suggestion and wasn’t necessarily anything more significant. I believed our mind had an internal clock that knew the time whether we were awake or asleep. This was nothing more than my subconscious believing I needed to get up at 2:30 AM. But what if it was more than a coincidence? The next day I wrote my friend Brad a long letter describing my experiences and wished he were in town to offer his support. Together we could get to the truth.
I awoke at 2:30 AM the next night also, and Jim Bradley’s prediction was essentially correct. Again I catalogued the occurrence as an example of the power of suggestion. These were two con artists, and I told myself that if I awoke at a normal time, Bradley would’ve blamed me for resisting him through indecisiveness. He was covered either way. In the back of my mind, however, I continued to wonder if there was something to their claims.
I did not falter
In the months that followed I continued to be coerced into interactions with them. They persisted in behaving in a manner suggesting a mastery of paranormal abilities, and spoke of a great destiny that awaited me if I embraced their practices without question. At times their activities were hard to explain away, and I was forced to consider the notion that they actually possessed some type of power. Their influence in my life grew in unhealthy ways until they finally went too far and alienated everyone in their group. Afterwards they vanished from campus, never to be seen in Lawrence again. I never learned for certain what happened, although months later I spoke with another guest at one of their meetings. He told me he heard rumors about Thompson from another skeptic in their order. One story involved Thompson attacking someone because he snapped and believed he was a vampire. A second tale suggested the entire group moved to a remote area to await the coming of alien travelers. No one heard anything concrete, and frankly no one cared enough to investigate.
I don’t know if Carl Thompson and Jim Bradley truly believed in their idealistic portrayal of occult practices, or if they were simply predators who found a way to con young people into believing in them. No matter where the truth rested, this was not a “fun group of cool people” studying paranormal activity; it was a cult. These two charismatic college students hoped to use the “order” to further whatever ambitions they had, although it was never clear what their goals were. Despite an impressive array of tricks I never believed they possessed powers, but I understood that perhaps they believed it. Their disappearance made it all irrelevant, however, and one of the strangest chapters in my life concluded without fanfare. The passage of time provided no further clues regarding their whereabouts. In the end I was comforted in the knowledge that my faith and beliefs were tested and I did not falter. Some psychological scars resulted, but I remained true to myself and God.
2012 Update: Another Look Back
I outlined the mildest of this group's activities in my article. There were several other encounters I deemed too distasteful to describe in detail. The members of this group have been gone and largely forgotten for decades, but the message of warning contained in this article remains.
There are still many groups in the United States preying on young people. They may be acting under the guise of religious groups, social clubs or any number of seemingly safe and normal activities. They seek out the young, the naive, the lonely, the disconnected and anyone else who struggles to fit in. They offer excitement, acceptance and even love in exchange for blind obedience. Their actions can be recognized through the rigid and patterned behavior typically found in cults. They are dangerous.
If you are a young man or woman reading these words, my advice is to be cautious and aware. It may seem like a dream come true to discover a group of people readily accepting you into their ranks, but the reality may be far more dangerous. There are many reputable organizations in every high school and on every college campus. Do not connect with groups that shroud themselves in mystery, no matter what their appeal.
If you are a parent, maintain open lines of communication with your children and know who they are associating with. College students might be in a hurry to find acceptance or enter into the world of adults, and act without consulting you. Try to know who their friends are. It could save their very lives.
To anyone who reads these words: I got lucky. Will you?
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