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Krishna Venta Found a Voice, Audience

VALLEY 200: To commemorate the bicentennial of the San Fernando Mission and the San Fernando Valley, for 200 days we will feature people --some famous, some notorious-- who left their mark on the area.

June 20, 1997|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN

Having played host to all sorts of unusual characters over the years, Angelenos pride themselves on their openness toward people with so-called "alternative lifestyles."

But 50 years ago, in a remote and forgotten corner of the San Fernando Valley, few probably had experienced anything like a cult known as WKFL Fountain of the World--Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love.

Led by Krishna Venta, a former Berkeley boilermaker, the group of 53 adults and children erected a monastery in 1948 near the Chatsworth Reservoir, wore robes and went barefoot, volunteered as firefighters and helped disaster victims while preaching love, knowledge and tolerance.

"Love one. Love ye one another. Serve ye one another," were the words of one of the group's chants.

The goodwill wouldn't last.

On Dec. 10, 1958, two members who believed Venta was having sex with their wives set a bomb containing 20 sticks of dynamite. The blast, which was heard more than 20 miles away, killed the group's leader and six other sect members.

Many of the survivors followed Venta's widow to Alaska believing their leader would be resurrected.

A few remained at the Box Canyon monastery and, in the 1960s, even fed and sheltered Charles Manson for several days.

In time, many members went back to living ordinary lives. But several joined Jim Jones' Peoples Temple and were among the 912 who died in that group's 1978 mass suicide in Guyana.

Venta, who called himself "the voice," is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.

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