FROM KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS TO CRIME
Scripps Howard News Service
Release date: 12-01-88
"Monkey on a Stick," by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson; Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, $19.95.
By MARK WOOD
Scripps Howard News Service
As Chuck St. Denis turned to run, 12 bullets pierced his body.
Somehow he got up and stumbled away. Thomas Drescher tackled him, then
stabbed St. Denis with a kitchen knife until the blade broke.
Switching to a screwdriver, Drescher kept stabbing St. Denis, then
he punched a hole in St. Denis' skull with a hammer.
Finally, as Drescher and Dan Reid were wrapping the body in
plastic, St. Denis opened his eyes and pleaded. "Don't do that, you'll
Incredible? You bet, but it's true. And it's just the first of many
revelations about the American Hare Krishna movement in "Monkey on a
Stick: Murder, Madness and the Hare Krishnas." This is a fascinating
book that reads more like a crime thriller than the social history and
expose that it is.
Indeed, reporters John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson effectively use
all the conventions of a crime novel to draw the reader into the real
story: how murder, drugs and fraud turned the spiritual intentions of a
generation into a nightmare.
Besides the murder of Krishna devotee Chuck St. Denis, "Monkey on
a Stick" also details the murder of a former devotee who tried to
expose the movement's horrors and the supposed murder by pit bulls of a
Other madness detailed in the book includes the sexual abuse of
children, the beating of women, money-raising scams, arms-stockpiling,
drug-running, a guru fueled by LSD and other gurus more concerned with
empire- and palace-building than furthering "Krishna Consciousness."
As do most thrillers, "Monkey on a Stick" also has its good guys,
particularly Tom Westfall and Joe Sanchez, the only two cops to show any
interest in the Krishna movement. Westfall became known as the "Krishna
Cop" because of his detailed knowledge of the movement.
Yet the thriller aspect mostly provides background for an
examination of the social history of the Krishna movement by Hubner and
Gruson. Through extensive interviews with current and former Hare
Krishnas, as well as law enforcement officials, the authors provide some
provocative clues to why "people who had set out make peace and love
ended up molesting children, running drugs, committing murder."
To their credit, Gruson and Hubner take pains to point out that not
all the Krishnas were involved in crimes, nor were many even aware of
If there is a downfall to "Monkey on a Stick," it's the book's
structure. The facts and figures that make this engrossing story more
credible are buried among the notes and citations at the end of the
book. In a note on their methodology, Hubner and Gruson urge readers to
consult the chapter-by-chapter notes as they read the book, a process
that can be distracting at times.
Still, "Monkey on a Stick" will leave you shaking your head in
(Mark Wood is a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service.)