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Masked man enters, attacks Bohemian Grove
'Phantom' expected armed resistance

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2002

A bumbling, hooded commando calling himself the "Phantom Patriot" invaded the fabled grounds of the Bohemian Grove during the weekend hoping for a shootout.

What he got was a good night's sleep in a cot reserved for one of the club's captains of industry and a date with a prison psychologist.

Richard McCaslin, 37, of Carson City, Nev., pleaded not guilty in Sonoma County Superior Court yesterday to five felony counts including arson, burglary and brandishing a weapon at a peace officer after he allegedly sneaked into the exclusive Russian River encampment carrying an arsenal of weapons.

He told The Chronicle during a jailhouse interview that he went to the Monte Rio retreat Saturday night intent on exposing child abuse and human sacrifice and punishing the perpetrators.

"I was expecting armed resistance and I would have fired back if I was fired upon," he said.

The bizarre episode is the latest brouhaha involving San Francisco's Bohemian Club, which for years has provided fodder for conspiracy theorists and been attacked by women's groups.

Club representatives insist that the nonprofit organization -- founded in 1872 by five newspapermen, a Shakespearean actor, a vintner and a local merchant -- is dedicated to the simple enjoyment of music, literature and drama.

"We're very concerned and disturbed by the fact that this individual would trespass on our property armed as he was with the intent of doing harm," said Matt Oggero, general manager of the Bohemian Club. "His allegations . . . are totally irresponsible, highly offensive and grossly false."

But the well-spoken and seemingly lucid McCaslin is convinced that there are hidden torture chambers and other horrors at the club. He told how he was inspired by Austin, Texas, radio personality Alex Jones. Jones says he has seen "bizarre, Luciferian ceremonies" at the idyllic 2,000-acre redwood grove during the club's annual two-week summer encampment, which draws U.S. presidents and other luminaries.

Jones' Web site has dark, spooky-looking but completely indistinct pictures of the club's "Cremation of Care Ceremony."

Horrified by the images, McCaslin said he spent a year collecting weapons, staking out the grove and planning the commando-style operation.

"I was acting on reports that inside the Bohemian Club were incidents of child abuse and human sacrifice," McCaslin said. "I felt if physical damage was inflicted upon them and it got enough attention, the American people would rise up."

McCaslin was wearing a bulletproof vest, blue fatigues with "Phantom Patriot" spelled out in red letters across the chest and a rubber skeleton mask when he crept into the grove.

He quickly found himself hopelessly lost and bouncing off the trees in the pitch dark after his flashlight went out. Feeling "almost silly," he said he felt his way into a cabin, flopped down on a cot and went to sleep.

The next morning, McCaslin said, he discovered the club's giant owl "idol" and would have blown it up if he had explosives. Instead he placed an Old Testament verse from Leviticus at the base of the statue. Alone, with no enemy or anybody else in sight, McCaslin decided to set fire to the camp's mess hall,

but sprinklers extinguished the flames.

He was soon confronted by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies. He said he was expecting resistance but gave up quietly when he realized the deputies were "legitimate officers of the law."

Sheriff's Lt. Bruce Rochester said that besides the outlandish costume, McCaslin was armed with a double-barreled shotgun/assault rifle hybrid, a 2- foot-long sword, a .45-caliber pistol, a crossbow, a knife and a hand-made bomb launcher.

"We've had protesters and stuff at the Bohemian Grove, but I've been here 24 years and I've never seen -- and I don't think any of us will ever again see -- a guy come here dressed like that in our careers," Rochester said. "Nobody's laughing. The deputies were scared and we're all still scratching our heads."

McCaslin is being held on $500,000 bail in the Sonoma County Jail mental health ward and is being evaluated by psychologists. A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Feb. 5.

E-mail Peter Fimrite at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com.

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