Lyman Family's Responses to Felton

extracts from various articles, 1978-1997

"...The family had invited Felton into its homes - and ended up feeling badly burned by what he wrote. Thereafter, they guarded their privacy fiercely..."

The Boston Herald American, p.1, March 26, 1978
By Katharine Paine, Staff Writer

Commune's image belied reality

...David Felton, who wrote a two-part series on the family for Rolling Stone said that "the violence was an act, they probably never really beat any one up but it was very effective, particularly to outsiders."
After the Rolling Stone article appeared at the end of 1971 the Family retreated still further from the public eye.

The Boston Phoenix, Section Two, July 16, 1985
by Michael Matza

We still are family: The Lymans of Fort Hill then and now

...The winter of '71 brought those devastating back-to-back issues of Rolling Stone, in which copy editor David Felton presented a scathing, exhaustively unflattering picture of Lyman family life. His damning bill of particulars drew on the comments of ex-family members who told him they had had to sneak away from the group to get free of its awful grip, and on his own observations during visits to family homes on both coasts. Among other pointed allegations, the Rolling Stone articles suggested that Lyman had become something of a deranged master to a bunch of stoned-out zombies - the malleable lost souls of a lost generation, who gravitated to the family and were easily exploited in its name. The articles strongly suggested that there was no freedom of thought on the Hill and that Lyman kept his flock under control through strategic administrations of hallucinogens and through manipulative psychological games.
The Rolling Stone pieces were later reprinted in a book entitled Mindfuckers. Deservedly or not, they spread the negative image of the family far and wide. Thereafter, most of what was written or said about the Lyman family was unflattering. Indeed, for anyone familiar with the Rolling Stone charges it's impossible to meet the Fort Hill communards for the first time - even as their guest at a lavish party in their meticulously restored and opulently appointed home - without wondering about the veracity of everything that came to be written and said about them over the years. It's impossible not to wonder about the authenticity of stories concerning the brutal "Karma Squad," which is said to have roughed up members of the underground press. Or stories of gun-toting bodyguards who protected Lyman's privacy and did his bidding. Or stories about a windowless, cinderblock basement vault, in which nonconforming members were allegedly chained in order to encourage "self-awareness." Or all those stories about ruthless self-government by LSD and intimidation. It's impossible to meet the gentle, slightly spaced-out souls of the Fort Hill Community today and not doubt the stories of yesteryear. Yet it's possible, of course, that the family has changed dramatically over the years and bears no resemblance to the group that is said to have indulged in so many manipulative practices. In any case, a couple of years ago, George Pepper had dinner with David Felton at Pallson's, a Continental restaurant on New York's West Side. At that meeting, says Pepper, Felton admitted that his articles had been misguided and that he was on assignment to do a hatchet job. But Felton remembers the meeting differently. "I stand by the articles," he told the Phoenix recently. "I wasn't under assignment to approach them in any way. When I had dinner with George, he was trying to get me to repudiate [them] .... I did say that I was sorry if people got their feelings hurt."
The family had invited Felton into its homes - and ended up feeling badly burned by what he wrote. Thereafter, they guarded their privacy fiercely, opening up to one another but rarely to the outside world. The public hostility and internal traumas of the '70s had exacted a heavy toll, driving the family into near-monastic seclusion.

The Kansas City Star, p.1B
Thursday, March 27, 1986
Quiet survivors from the 1960s:
The Lyman Family sets own course on a Kansas farm
by Brian Burnes

... A few years later, in 1971, Rolling Stone devoted two issues to a darker side of Lyman Family life.
"Although they didn't commit crimes like (Charles) Manson, they definitely took advantage of people's vulnerability within the family," says David Felton, author of the two stories.
"Our only concern was that they they were messing with people who were not in the family. Once the story came out, they did retreat and stopped messing with people on the outside world. "
Members of the Lyman Family will not contest that they withdrew. They say their children attending school in Kansas were harassed after the articles.
They also say the articles were without foundation.
If they were without foundation, why were they printed?
"Because," Mrs. Benton Lyman says, "they made a fortune doing the same thing ith Charles Manson, and they equated us with the Manson Family and wanted to sell that many newspapers again, and most of it was libel and we should have sued them but we passed on the whole thing."

Bay State Banner, June 19, 1997
Roxbury commune survives on Fort Hill
Seth Cobin

...However, the '70s were not kind to the Lyman Family. Lyman's charismatic personality began to draw negative media attention. In 1971, Rolling Stone Magazine ran a sensationalistic two-part series entitled "The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America."
In the series, reporter David Felton portrayed Lyman as a Charles Manson-like cult figure who controlled his followers though mindcontrol, drugs, violence and intimidation, coining the expression "acid fascism."
To this day such allegations are strongly denied by Family members who say the piece was defamatory and full of lies.

Mel Lyman