Brief, Fulminating Ruminations on Jack Parsons

In the next room, tucked away in a fireproof lockbox, there’s a handwritten note from 1952, hastily scrawled down on looseleaf paper by a man named John (aka Jack) Whiteside Parsons. (My partner and I are both fascinated by the tales surrounding Parsons and his equally scintillating wife, Marjorie Cameron.) Purchased a few years back from a reputable private collector, it’s a short list of the books from Parsons’ personal library– the ones he planned to take with him when he relocated from Southern California to Mexico. Everything from biochem science to William Blake to Alice in Wonderland. Only… Parsons never made it to Mexico. Within days of writing that note, the man blew himself up amid persistent, weird rumors of ritual workings, sex magick, portals.

Sixty years ago to this day, in fact.

June 17th, 1952: a “brilliant young rocket scientist and occultist was killed in an explosion in Pasadena of origins that remain mysterious […] Five days later, Pasadena police closed the case and announced that he dropped a vial of fulminate of mercury onto the floor of his home laboratory  […] He was 37 years old and one of the country’s top chemical engineers, a founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the inventor of the solid fuel that would take man to the moon.”  (via)

Such a strange fellow, with such an utterly bizarre life trajectory! And for me, for whatever reason, something about that list of indispensable books feels more eerie and portentous than any of his “Do What Thou Wilt”/”As Above, So Below” writings. But in any case, thoughts of Parsons’ mythic Moonchild loom large in my sky tonight. His biography is one of the most compelling stranger-than-fiction stories of the 20th Century. Here’s some highly recommended reading for the newly intrigued:

Painting of Jack Parsons by Marjorie Cameron

5 Responses to “Brief, Fulminating Ruminations on Jack Parsons”

  1. bunny Says:

    FANTASTIC!! RIP Jack and Cameron

  2. Andy Says:

    Any chance of there being made a movie about him?

  3. [ich] Says:

    Is there any chance that you put that list online, please?

  4. Heather Says:

    I love this quote from the Moonchild link:
    Crowley: “Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.”

  5. Tanya Says:

    There was a pretty great article about Parsons, especially focusing on his relationship with L Ron Hubbard, in MEAN magazine, years ago, back when MEAN was a zine and thus published far more esoteric (i.e. interesting) content. I still have the issue, actually. (The article, apparently, prompted an enraged visit to MEAN’s offices from a church of Scientology marketing rep.)