Course Hero Logo

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test | Study Guide

Tom Wolfe

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Nov. 2019. Web. 31 Mar. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, November 1). The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Study Guide." November 1, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Study Guide," November 1, 2019, accessed March 31, 2023,

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test | Summary

See Plot Diagram


On the Rise

In October 1966 journalist Tom Wolfe went to California to interview author Ken Kesey about the eight months he spent hiding in Mexico to avoid arrest for two counts of marijuana possession. What Wolfe got instead was the true story of how a creative-writing student looking for a little extra cash became the leader of the LSD-fueled psychedelic movement that turned music, media, and youth culture upside down.

In 1959 Kesey, a native Oregonian, earned extra money during graduate school as a drug test subject at a California veterans' hospital. Of all the drugs he took, his favorite was LSD, on which he was often high while writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962). He shared the drug, which he snuck out of the hospital, with his neighbors on Perry Lane, a popular enclave of Stanford University intellectuals. Before long, the group expanded to include a number of local LSD enthusiasts, or "acidheads." By the time Kesey and his wife Faye moved to a sprawling wooded property in nearby La Honda, the acidheads outnumbered the collegiate crowd. The group soon gave themselves a new name: the Merry Pranksters.

On the Bus

In the summer of 1964, the Pranksters transformed an old school bus into a vibrant rolling rainbow, jam-packed with sound and recording equipment, and set off for a cross-country tour that would take them through the South, up to New York, across the Midwest and back to California. The trip had two purposes. In addition to celebrating the launch of Kesey's latest book, Sometimes a Great Notion, it was also the backdrop for the unscripted movie the Pranksters filmed along the way. Relationships were tested, hallucinations were frequent, and miles of video and audio tape were recorded.

Back in California, the Pranksters spent the next year and a half working on the movie and expanding their community. As 1965 wound down, they began sharing their methods of unlocking the mind via LSD through a series of giant multimedia parties known as Acid Tests.

On the Run

Kesey fled to Mexico in January 1966 after his second arrest for marijuana possession. He and a growing number of Pranksters spent the next eight months hiding, then partying, across the border. Under increasing scrutiny from the American and Mexican federal police, he returned to the United States in September of that year. He was arrested a few weeks later but spent only five days in jail because he told the judge he had returned home to tell the masses it was time to "move beyond acid." The Pranksters held an Acid Test Graduation on October 31, 1966, in the derelict former pie factory they used as their unofficial headquarters. The ceremony was weird to even the most faithful acidheads, who then wrote Kesey and the Pranksters out of the psychedelic movement. The Pranksters dispersed. After serving his criminal sentence of five months on a work farm, Kesey and his family moved back to Oregon.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Ken Kesey begins taking LSD as a test volunteer.

Rising Action

2 The Pranksters drive cross-country in a psychedelic bus.

3 They party in New York, attracting some famous guests.

4 After Timothy Leary refuses to meet, they head back west.

5 The Pranksters create a schism in the Unitarian Church.

6 The first two Acid Tests take place.

7 Partygoers trip on LSD-laced Kool-Aid at the Watts Test.

8 Kesey flees to Mexico to avoid prosecution for marijuana.


9 Kesey returns to the United States and challenges the FBI.

Falling Action

10 The more serious charges are dropped.

11 The Acid Test Graduation is a flop.


12 After the event, the Pranksters go their own ways.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!