1968 Beat Exorcism

Thelma Blitz’s dutiful documentation of The Fugs and, most particularly, the late great Tuli Kupferberg, we mentioned yesterday. Here’s a montage by her to audio of a fabled and curious event – the 1968 “Exorcism” at the Grave of Senator Joe McCarthy, in St Mary’s Parish Cemetery, Appleton, Wisconsin

Senator Joe McCarthy (1908-1957)

Ed Sanders, in his recent memoir, Fug You, (despite contrary, incendiary, reports), describes the action as “dignified and respectful” (occurring, as it did, just a few months after he and various other Vietnam war protesters staged their famous (absurdist but necessary and sincere) exorcism and (attempted) levitation of the Pentagon Allen, with his bardic presence and mantra-chanting, a singular and significant participant in both events).

Their plan was to “lecture the ghost (or summoned apparition) of the Red-baiting Senator for his homophobia” and for “the careers wrecked through falsehoods”. Allen, Ed, Tuli, and approximately 75 people gathered at the location. What happened that chilly afternoon in February (miraculously preserved on audio-tape) may be listened to here

Tuli – “Somehow (a) reactionary radio commentator in Chicago had us pissing on the grave, but it was (the) exact opposite, it was beatific. We were told we were going to be arrested, but we left at midnight for Madison in a secret caravan and we got home safely”

Ed Sanders & Allen Ginsberg & Company – Appleton, Wisconsin, 1968 – At The Grave of Senator Joe McCarthy


  1. I read about this the next day in the student union of another college in Wisconsin. The Chicago Tribune printed a headline that said Allen Ginsberg had led a group of Poetry lovers, after a poetry reading at Lawrence College, down to the graveyard where firebrand Senator Joe McCarthy was buried, just 10 years after he’d died from alcoholism. Joe’s grave was found and Ginsberg “DANCED ON JOE MCCARTHY’S GRAVE!” This account says nothing about Ginsberg dancing on Joe’s grave. It’s possible the Hecht-McArthur winds were still floating thru Chicago newsrooms then, and someone at the Tribune dreamed the story I read, up. The idea of hippies wasn’t even quite born yet, though Hoffman and Rubin and the fugs had been at the ‘levitation of the Pentagon’ which inspired a lot of us for its sheer humor, the previous Fall. Anyway, its possible too that I have the wrong event and Ginsberg came to Lawrence for a poetry reading on another occasion, and this was not it. Since the author (below) was there, I’d be interested in knowing whether there might have been two separate events? I still can’t get my mind around the Tribune fabricating a story that false. Please email me what you believe to be the truth.

    • That’s really interesting. Mike Schumacher makes no mention of dancing either in Dharma Lion. He’s a native Wisconsinite, so I’d trust his account over the other biographies. He does mention that Paul Harvey (pg 501), syndicated conservative news commentator, was particularly galled by what Allen and the crew did simply by their various readings, so it’s not hard to imagine some exaggeration taking hold as word of the event got around. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll keep looking around for more stories around that.

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