“A Gathering of the Tribes” happened 48 years ago on January 14, 1967 in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was called “The Human Be-In.” This event marked the beginning of what the world saw as Hippies taking over the neighborhood that natives still call The Haight.
One of the prominent hosts for the event was Dr. Timothy Leary, a former Harvard University professor, psychologist and writer. Estimates of attendees range from 20,000 to 30,000 people. Here are some rare home movies, with sound added later, of what the scene looked like, including some close-ups of Leary and poet Allen Ginsberg:
Leary offered the crowd his opinion about the benefits of using LSD, a psycheldelic drug that he had started researching at Harvard in 1960. LSD became illegal in California on October 6, 1966, and other U.S. states and the rest of the world followed with a ban. Before the Be-In, and the worldwide ban, Leary was interviewed by talk show host Merv Griffin in July of 1966.Here Leary explains his philosophy about his drug use:
Leary was given credit for the famous phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But in an interview in the 1980s, he gave credit to Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher of communication theory, for creating the phrase before the Be-In, during a lunchtime chat in New York.
Leary died of prostate cancer at age 75 on May 31, 1996. In the 1960s, if you wanted to say something was amazing, you could use the phrase, “Far out.” Leary took this literally. A small packet of Leary’s ashes was transported aboard a Pegasus rocket that carried the remains of 24 other people, including Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, launched on April 21, 1997. The rocket capsule was in orbit until 2003 when it burned to complete a “space burial.”
Truth is always stranger than fiction,