Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons
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George Pendle tells Parsons's extraordinary life story for the first time. Fueled from childhood by dreams of space flight, Parsons was a crucial innovator during rocketry's birth. But his visionary imagination also led him into the occult community thriving in 1930s Los Angeles, and when fantasy's pull became stronger than reality, he lost both his work and his wife. Parsons was just emerging from his personal underworld when he died at age thirty-seven. In Strange Angel, Pendle recovers a fascinating life and explores the unruly consequences of genius.
hold his prestigious position. Tsien made plans to travel back to his Chinese homeland, but when the government discovered his decision, it moved swiftly to stop him. Customs officials searched his packed luggage and discovered papers marked “Secret” and “Confidential.” Many of these documents were written by Tsien himself, and it must have seemed natural to him to take them. But the day that Sidney Weinbaum was sentenced to four years without parole for perjury and fraud, “Caltech’s famed Dr.
with Brad Branson, 15 July 1995, JPL. “not cause a ripple in the public consciousness.” Jane Wolfe, letter to Karl Germer, 2 December 1942, OTO. “coked up like a snowbird.” Grady McMurtry, letter to Parsons, 8 May 1943, OTO. “amphetamine abuse.” Nieson Himmel, interview. “Jack was an expert on drugs.” Robert Cornog, interview by Brad Branson and Susan Pile, 7 March 1995, ADASTRA. “I am no prude.” Karl Germer, letter to Aleister Crowley, c. 1943, OTO. “This will I think rank as the most
prevent him from falling in love with her. However unwilling Helen was to leave Parsons and no matter how stridently Parsons justified his affair through the teachings of the OTO, Helen could not help but feel that he had breached an unwritten contract by sleeping with her half sister. Soon afterwards Helen wrote in her diary of “the sore spot I carried where my heart should be.” Naturally more reserved than her husband, she had not embraced the OTO doctrine of adultery as readily. Nevertheless,
shopping for the entire house, while Phyllis Seckler was expected to do all the cooking as well as look after her own children. Mellinger’s duty was to water the garden, but he often slunk off from work and it began to die. Smith—who had given up his job as a gas clerk—was asked to look after the animals and the vegetables, jobs that he complained were more in keeping with those of a handyman than of a priest of the OTO. Meanwhile, many felt that Betty was shirking her share of the labor. The
it had transformed itself from a sleepy settlement into a violent border town. A motley assortment of “cowboys, gamblers, bandits and desperadoes” drawn both by the cattle and the possibility of gold ensured that one murder was committed for every day of the year. The Reverend James Woods, a visiting missionary, was shocked by the lawlessness, drunkenness, and low regard for human life he saw. “The name of this city is in Spanish the city of angels,” he wrote in his diary, “but with much more