The House Where Swami Lived

Long Island Newsday Magazine/September 14, 1986
By Ed Lowe

Eleven years ago, Ken and Patricia Smith bought a house from Dorothy and Franklin Jones. Patricia Smith remembers that when the Joneses were showing the house to the Smiths, Franklin Jones pointed proudly to the upstairs wall murals his son, Franklin, had painted years before. The murals depicted French street scenes. Soon after the Smiths moved in, they covered the murals with standard wall paint.

Also, soon after the Smiths moved in, they learned from their new Franklin Square neighbors that the Joneses' son, then about 36, had moved to California some years before, founded a religion, started a commune, changed his name to Bubba Free John and developed a sizable constituency of devotees who wore orange robes and married whomever he directed them to marry. Over the years, the Smiths also learned of some of Bubba Free John's writings, which bear such titles as "The Dreaded Gom-Boo, the Imaginary Disease that Religion Seeks to Cure"; "The Scientific Proof that the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House," and "Crazy Da Must Sing, Inclined to His Weaker Side."

One day, after they had lived in the house for about two years, Patricia received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as a New York associate of Bubba Free John. He wanted to know if the new occupants of the house had painted over the wall murals on the second floor, and he wanted to know if he could visit the house and ask some questions.

Patricia Smith said that she supposed it would be all right for the man to visit. The man appeared at the door less than 10 minutes after she hung up the receiver. He wore clean white jeans and seemed suddenly unconcerned about the wall murals. Instead, he asked if he could dig on the side of the garage for a blue ceramic urn containing the cremated remains of a pet cat. He said that if he did not immediately find the urn he sought, he would pay Ken Smith $100 for the privilege of digging until he did find it. Ken Smith, hoping to rid himself of any future connection to Bubba Free John, gave the man permission to dig. Five and a half hours later, said the Smiths, the man in now-dirty white jeans had unearthed a plastic bag from the side yard. The Smiths didn't know what the bag contained and didn't ask. The man left. Neighbors told the Smiths that Bubba Free John never had a pet cat. He had some birds, a monkey, fish and a dog, but no cat.

"We didn't hear anything else for a long, long time," said Patricia Smith. Two years ago, a young couple presented themselves at the front door and asked if they could visit Da Free John's old room (Bubba had changed his name to Da by that time; he has since changed it, again, to Swami Da Love-Ananda Paramahansa Avadhoota, which has a shortened version, Da Love Ananda, presumably to facilitate conversation). The young couple wanted to check the inside of Da etc.'s closet for a number and a date written on the wall. Patricia found the information (March 25, 1973, and SC3-4567) and gave it to the couple, who declined to reveal its significance.

Nothing else unusual happened until this summer. On June 23, Da Free John's New York associate called Patricia and told her that Da etc. would be visiting his mother and sister in Suffolk County and would like permission to visit his old homestead and show it to a few close friends. Patricia Smith said, "No," and added that she would not be home all day.

Not long after, she spotted a car cruising past their house, several of the car's occupants pointing directly at it. The car apparently rounded the block. When it returned, Patricia saw that one of the passengers was aiming a videocamera at her front door. She closed the door and asked Ken to look outside. He did and said, "If you didn't like the one carload, you probably ought to avoid looking outside now."

Two vans pulled up to the curb in front of the house, followed by another sedan and then two stretch limousines. People wearing full-length, orange robes got out, lined up on the sidewalk and listened as Swami Da Love-Ananda Paramahansa Avadhoota talked about his Franklin Square childhood. Members of the assemblage took dozens of pictures, and the videotape rolled on for the entire visit. Then Da etc. and his entourage paraded down the block and around the corner to an elementary school whose teachings had evidently contributed to the growth and development of the former Franklin Jones. Patricia asked Ken to go outside and videotape the parade. Ken had videotaped them from inside the house, but said he did not want to go outside, because he didn't want to look foolish.

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