Framework

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Dec. 12, 1958: Buddy Consol, 10, stands beside Krishna Venta's son, Lael, who points to the wreckage of the dormitory where both had been sleeping when explosion occurred.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

June 17, 1949: Krishna Venta, a.k.a. Francis Herman Pencovic, spent two hours in the County Jail, charged with nonsupport of two minor children by his first wife. A month later, he was helping at the Standard Airlines crash site.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Oct. 7, 1954: Brother Paul leads members of the WKFL Fountain of the World in prayer after the group was ordered to vacate its Box Canyon colony site. Brother Paul said the cult owed $2,600 in rent on the site. After praying, the group moved to another location in Box Canyon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Pete Grant / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

March 30, 1955: Krishna Venta, right, Master of the Fountain of the World sect, joins Sister Barbara and Brother Alvin in matrimony at ceremony in Box Canyon. The wedding was one of three held that day by the sect.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Volunteer Corps firefighters from Moorpark keep the smoldering ruins of the monastery under control after the bombing.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Officers probe the shattered main building after the blast at the WKFL Fountain of the World site.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gary Smith / Los Angeles Times

Dec. 10, 1958: With Bishop Asaiah, left, assuming temporary leadership of cult, followers say prayers for Krishna Venta and nine other victims of the explosion at monastery. Two of those killed were children.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Bishop Asaiah comforts one of sisters at prayer meeting.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Bishop Asaiah, in charge after explosion took life of Krishna Venta, talks with reporters at the site. "Venta will return," he told his followers, "and be resurrected."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Jesse Vezina, 9, one of the children who escaped unhurt from bombing of the Fountain of the World sanctuary near Chatsworth, lies asleep before the fireplace with her cat Jacob. The building, in Box Canyon, near Chatsworth and Simi Valley, was bombed and destroyed by two-excommunicated followers of the cult.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 11, 1958: Patriarch Wilber Foster Yates stands among remnants of the headquarters of Fountain of the World.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 10, 1958: Sister Ruth Lewis comforts her granddaughter, Linda Lee Baker, 9, at Northridge Hospital. The girl's father and 7-year-old sister, Keela, were among the 10 who died in the blast.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Fred Tschantre / LA Mirror-News/UCLA

May 9, 1964: WKFL Fountain of the World cult members Elder Nekona and Priest Charles are interviewed during a follow-up story on the cult by the Los Angeles Times. The group is now defunct.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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Krishna Venta killed in bombing

Dec. 10, 1958: Founder Krishna Venta and nine others are killed by a bomb at the WKFL Fountain of the World Monastery in Box Canyon, west of Chatsworth.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Dec. 11, 1958:

The Fountain of the World Monastery in a wooded canyon near Chatsworth was ripped apart early yesterday by a heavy explosion which instantly killed the bearded leader of the cult, Krishna Venta, and seven of his followers.

Two ex-cultists linked to the blast by bizarre tape recordings in which they vowed “to bring Krishna to justice” were believed to have also died in the explosion.

Two children, both girls, ages 8 and 9, and a 59-year old woman were seriously burned.

The explosion blew the roof from an adjoining dormitory for children and touched off a brush fire that swept over 150 acres. Fire completed the destruction of the monastery and dormitory.

The two ex-members, Peter Kamenoff and Ralph Muller, believed Venta had slept with their wives and was misusing the group’s funds. They set off a bomb made with 20 sticks of dynamite.

For years, Krishna Venta and members of the Fountain of the World had been very receptive to the media, allowing photographers great access to their monastery and activities. After the explosion, this access continued. Included in the above photo gallery are additional Fountain of the World images from 1949 through 1964.

This open attitude was explained in a 1974 Los Angeles Times story on the Fountain of the World by staff writer — and later staff photographer — Ken Lubas:

The WKFL was founded in 1948 by Krishna Venta, a onetime boilermaker in Berkeley, once jailed for issuing fictitious checks, who reportedly did nothing to confirm or deny the belief of many of his followers that he was Christ.

However, Venta worked to reinforce the belief by wearing a flowing robe, long hair and beard. Some said he had no navel.

The only requisite for joining the WKFL, which stands for Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love, was to live by the 10 Commandments and learn Venta’s teachings. He once said he had visited Rome in AD 600.

The premise of Venta’s philosophy, according to his followers, is contained in the chant to be said each day: “Love one. Love ye on another. Love all. Serve ye one another.”

The cultists who echoed this refrain came to be regarded as angels of mercy. They fought fires, aided earthquake and flood victims and helped in homes when there was illness, and once when a plane crashed in the canyon, they helped in the grim task of carrying out the dead.

After the explosion, the WKFL Fountain of the World group dwindled in size and is today defunct.

All the images in the photo gallery were shot on 4-by 5-inch film, except for John Malmin’s 1964 picture, which was shot on 35 mm film.

Krishn Venta at the C-46 plane crash.

1 Comment

  1. January 28, 2011, 8:46 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Los Angeles Times, LA Times Photography and Donnie, Scott Harrison. Scott Harrison said: Today's LA Times From the Archive: 1958 bombing at Fountain of the World Monastery near Chatsworth . http://lat.ms/gLAAli [...]

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