When most households are sleeping, the “WKFL Fountain of the World” members awake to an explosive event that changed the direction of their small commune. The bomb goes off on December 18, 1958. At 1:55 A.M. Headquarters is ablaze and in the rubble are eight others along with the founder and leader, The Master Krishna Venta.
The different perspectives
Over the years I have heard different perspectives on the happenings of this night. I did not hear the explosion myself, but at two years old I lived on the property and heard plenty of stories living on the property for seventeen years.
Bishop Nekona, appointed leader after the explosion and slept in the Headquarters the night of the explosion.
Bishop Nekona, an overseer of the school-age girls slept in the Headquarters when the bomb went off. She became the leader of the commune after the death of the leader. During the years of my childhood, her story is what I heard the most. She said she was the one who answered the door when the two bombers knocked. She refused them entry and told them to come back in the morning. When she went back to bed there came a noise that almost exploded her eardrums., the surrounding room shattered. I never heard how she got out of the building, but the only physical harm she received is shreds of glass in her feet from running out of the building.
My grandmother, Sister Muriel is sleeping in the Women’s Dorm on this explosive night.
My grandmother, Sister Muriel, lost her husband to cancer 4 years earlier and now slept in the Women’s Dorm along with the other women of the commune. She remembers a quiet, cool evening and slept well until she awoke startled, her eyes popped open to see the entire building lit up around each of the bunks. Muriel’s daughter, Barbara, my mother, was on the bunk above and the first words out of her mouth were, “What a beautiful light on the hill.” Although it may have seemed picturesque to Barbara, my grandmother Muriel’s heart gave an extra thump when she looked outside, her daughter did not always perceive the problematic signs in life. The ladies in the dorm decided they should find out what is making the unusual light on the hill.
The 11 sisters headed out into the cool night air. Their cotton A-frame style robes, sleeves just above the elbows, high neckline and finished scarves to cover their hair, still kept them warm enough. One decoration on their minimal attire is a small circular emblem sewn in the middle of the chest with the letters WKFL, which stood for Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, and Love. The women held onto the Faith part of that emblem now in the early hours just past 2 A.M.
As they took one cement step at a time, the colorful reflection of light lit their way. The more steps they took the more activity they heard: Sirens blaring, men members running, giving an extra chill up their back.
Sister Erica, the keeper of the Nursery
Sister Erica a strong woman, who had emigrated from Germany and the caretaker of the Nursery. Since childhood, she had a dream to work in an orphanage. The Master Krishna Venta gave her the opportunity to live her dream. She worked in the Nursery, slept in the Nursery and ate in the Nursery. She loved the children in her charge, maybe not in the way a parent loved, but she loved them. The parents trusted her responsible and stern dedication to their children. She knew how to discipline, and made sure the children well-fed, clothed and kept clean.
Erica remembered the morning of the explosion, she was sleeping soundly until something violently awakened her. It seemed the bed was shaking, and she heard an unidentifiable noise. She smelled smoke, but relieved the children still sleeping, and then she looked out the window and noticed yellow and orange flames against the midnight sky, and then she heard sirens. Erica was not the worrying type, but she knew those yellow and orange flames toward the Headquarters were of concern. However, she could not imagine what could cause so many flames and smoke. Just as she was giving up hope, to hear any news, she saw my mother, Sister Barbara walking up the stairs. My mother told her she would sit with the children, so Sister Erica could go downstairs and be a part of the waiting for news in the main building with the others.
My mother, Sister Barbara sleeping in the Sisters Dorm on this explosive night.
Sister Barbara is the one who said: “What a beautiful light on the mountain.” Her first concern is for The Master and the security he gave to her and her family. She knew if he had made it through whatever disaster had taken place, then she and her children would be fine. He had a natural ability to lead and keep everyone calm.
As my mother and the others entered the main building, my mother looked for security for her and her children. She headed toward the blaring sirens, but as she touched the door to go out, the little girls who slept in the Headquarters walked into the main building and so the opportunity arose to ask each one if they had seen The Master. All said no, but they had seen Bishop Asaiah and Bishop Nekona. With this information, she felt confident The Master was taking care of the crisis at hand. Then the thought of her children and evacuation popped through her mind. What if they had to evacuate? She knew from experience parents and children together are not a high priority for leadership. If they evacuated, she wanted to end up wherever they send her children, she could not stand being split up from them. She knew what she had to do, and she went straight to the Nursery where her children lived without her. She sat with resolve, in between her daughter’s bunk-bed and son’s crib.
Sister Erica wanted to go where the action was, and my mother said she would stay and watch the children. Hours later, Sister Erica returned to relieve Sister Barbara. Unknowingly, Sister Erica puts Sister Barbara at ease, saying with calm words no evacuation. Sister Barbara breathed a sigh of relief and felt safe leaving her children again in Sister Erica’s care. She now felt comfortable to eat breakfast in the Main Building with the other members.
My experience here. The Art of Hiding
A few facts as I understand them.
Ralph and Elziba, who set off the bomb were two disgruntled members who left the commune months before. They attempted to hire a lawyer to voice their opinion. The lawyer said their problem unusual, and he had not dealt with this kind of problem before, but if they get a confession, he would take the case. Apparently the two men decided to get the confession or die trying.
The authorities found a note in their pickup truck (via tape-recording) giving their reasons for their actions. They wanted it known that Krishna was sleeping with the women in the commune and gambling. It also upset them about giving all their monetary assets over to the communal group when one joined the commune but left empty-handed. They killed themselves in this attempt to get a confession, along with eight others which included Krishna Venta.
The end result.
The result of this act of violence is ten people killed, in which one of these is The Master Krishna Venta and two of his high up leaders, the two bombers, a baby, a little girl, the bookkeeper, and two others. For my mother, life went on without the men, but the teachings and her physical needs met. The two leaders who survived, Bishop Asaiah, and Bishop Nekona, took care of running the commune. Many left after this event, but she knew she could not leave with two young toddlers, so she went about her normal routine while her children played outside in the brick play yard under the care of Sister Erica.
Many investigations came after the explosion on December 28, 1958. During the investigation, the authorities found Krishna Venta sent the strongest men and women to Alaska to start his second commune. Sending these members left many children in the Nursery and Children’s Dorms. The members had no problem with Krishna’s orders, but the authorities insisted children must live in the same commune as their parents. These parents stayed in the Alaska commune, therefore, the California location lost many children.
The two men killed the chain of command, and the only leaders who survive are Bishop Asaiah in charge of school-age boys and Bishop Nekona in charge of the girls. Bishop Asaiah is the logical choice, but he didn’t want the extra responsibility. Therefore, Bishop Nekona became the new leader. She can keep his teachings because he had his weekly lectures recorded. All Bishop Nekona needed, is to keep his teachings front and center by reading one of his lectures every Sunday afternoon at the pulpit for members and outsiders. The regular daily routines gave firm, strict habits, so life at the “Fountain of the world,” returned to normal, on the surface at least. Leta, the cook, continued cooking, and Walli, the seamstress, kept on sewing. Bishop Asaiah kept the daily meditation of concentration twice a day. The sisters washed clothes, and the brothers kept the grounds up. They continued with Saturday night shows and held onto Krishna Venta’s philosophy.