Francis Herman Pencovic, aka Krishna Venta, founded the WKFL (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, and Love,) cult, settling approximately 60 adults and children in a wooded area of Box Canyon a few years before the Standard Airlines crash. Naming the site The Fountain of the World, Krishna Venta preached love, knowledge, and tolerance. Pencovic legally changed his name to Krishna Venta in 1951.
Krishna Venta once said, “I am Christ. I am the new Messiah,” and claimed Adam (of Adam and Eve fame) came from the extinct planet Neophrates, having led a convoy of spaceships to earth (It makes me wonder if he believed Adam had landed at the Rocketdyne site nearby, with it’s well-known alien portal.)
Pictures of life among the cult, the WKFL bombing, and an extensive diary, recorded by Sister Helena (1948-1955) and Sister Neria (1956-1960), can be found at http:/stargatethetwins.com (Scroll down the page to Krishna Venta.)
Called by his disciples “Master” Krishna, Francis Pencovic controlled his followers lives, including arranging their marriages. He also confiscated his member’s assets (although many say his followers generally didn’t have much worth confiscating.)
At its best, the cult was helpful, battling brush fires alongside the firefighters who worked at the station across the street from the Fountain of the World compound. Venta and his followers were known to be friendly and open, sharing their meager resources with others. They regularly held small plays on the property, and welcomed visitors at all hours.
Disciples came and went. The work it took to keep the monastery’s members fed and the children educated was time consuming. Maintaining the buildings and grounds of the compound amounted to backbreaking work. Dedicated WKFL members toiled long hours, often late into the night.
Small bands of members would travel to communities in the Southern California area, preaching Krishna Venta’s message and recruiting people in his attempt to collect the “144,000 Elect” (supposedly chosen people.)
“Master” Krishna spent much of his time traveling throughout the United States and did little of the work at the Box Canyon compound. When he was at the monastery, he spent hours relaying his message in long, drawn-out sermons; admonishing his followers on a regular basis.
Over time, two disgruntled members Elizabah (Peter Duma Kamenoff) and Jeroham (Ralph Muller) came to believe Krishna Venta had not only mishandled cult funds, but seduced their wives. They decided to test Krishna Venta’s claim of being immortal.
No one blinked when Kemanoff and Muller arrived at the Fountain of the World monastery in the dark, early hours of December 10, 1958. Strapping their bodies with 20 sticks of dynamite, they entered the main house and lit the fuse, essentially suicide bombing the Box Canyon compound; killing themselves, Krishna Venta, an infant and a child. Ten people in all. The blast also seriously burned two girls, 8 and 9, and a 59-year-old woman, Erma Winfrey. Venta was only identified by his dental plate.
The explosion was heard more than 20 miles away. It destroyed the headquarters of the monastery, blew the roof off of the adjoining children’s dormitory, and started a brushfire that exceeded 150 acres.
At the fire station across the street, the blast had blown the firehouse door off its hinges, delaying the firefighter’s ability to respond. Rescue finally arrived on the scene to find body parts scattered in the darkness, while children of the WKFL cult stood by in stunned silence.
After the bombing, some WKFL members stayed at the Fountain of the World site to carry on Krishna Venta’s work, while others, including Venta’s widow, Sister Ruth, settled at the WKFL compound in Homer, Alaska, where they believed their beloved leader would be resurrected.
Interesting facts about Krishna Venta, aka Francis Herman Pencovic:
Pencovic was once a boilermaker in Berkeley, California. (Northern California is the home and stomping grounds of several notorious cult leaders.)
At one time Venta was jailed for issuing fictitious checks and prosecuted for violating the Mann Act (That’s taking a child/minor across state lines for immoral purposes.)
Pencovic liked to gamble, Las Vegas was one of his favorite towns.
Even though he was considered the “Master,” he claimed to have no income or assets, and was once involved in a Child Support lawsuit with his ex-wife.
Some said Krishna Venta had no navel (yeah, right.)
Krishna Venta is buried in an unmarked grave at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood, California.
And there’s more. Brother Elizabah (one of the suicide bombers) was the husband of Sister Neria (one of the diarists.)
Box Canyon and the surrounding Santa Susanna Pass might be aptly named Cult Canyon, because the WKFL members who remained on the Box Canyon property after the 1958 suicide bombing fed and sheltered Charles Manson and his family in the late 1960‘s. Some say the nearby wreckage of the Standard Airlines flight was used as a hide-out by Manson Family members during raids on the Spahn Ranch in 1969.
Remember Fred Medina and Danny Townsend, the young men who murdered Dori Haines and Cheryl Monticello near Woolsey Canyon? Medina and Townsend were living on the Fountain of the World property when the murders were committed in 1972.
And a year later, in 1973, an Indian group, named The Red Wind Foundation, moved onto the Fountain of the World site. In October 1974, a neighbor was held captive in his home and beaten for several hours when members of the group attempted to rob him. A few days later, the body of a cab driver, George Aird, was found in a drain pipe on the property. Seven Red Wind Foundation members were arrested. The remaining Red Wind group terrorized the Box Canyon community for six months after the arrests, with death threats, shots fired at all hours, and the constant beating of drums.
One last WKFL cult connection: It’s population declined after the bombing, and was nonexistent by the mid-1970‘s. However, a few WKFL members moved on to another cult, The People’s Temple, led by Jim Jones.
On November 18, 1978, David (52) and Gladys (32) Smith, and their five children, Jeffrey, Karl, Kelin, Krista, Michael (ages 13 to 7) , along with another former WKFL member, Erma Winfrey (aged 79, who had been badly burned in the 1958 explosion) were among the 918 who died in The People’s Temple mass suicide/murder in Jonestown, Guyana, South America.
Krishna Venta, Kaysville, Utah, and Kay’s Cross:
There are rumors that Pencovic was born a Mormon. Others say he passed through the Utah area in his travels. Either of these stories lend credence to an eerie incident coming out of Kaysville, Utah.
For years legends and ghost sightings have surrounded Kay’s Cross, a large stone monument, in Kaysville, Utah. The structure, standing roughly 20 feet high by 13 feet wide, was adorned with the letter K on both sides. For years the origins of the cross have been debated. But serious researchers agree it appeared in the 1940’s. In 1992, Merlin Kingston told the Kaysville-Layton Historical Society that he and Francis Pencovic (Krishna Venta) had built the cross in 1946. This seems to be an accurate account of the cross’s origin, because Utah is largely populated by Mormons, and they don’t use crosses in their religious rites (it also might also explain the two ‘K’s.”- Krishna/Kingston?)
Those who live near Kay's Cross consider it haunted. Strange noises plague the hollow where the monument sits. A ghostly lady in a white dress is said to inhabit the area. During a full moon the cross gives off an eerie glow. Some say if you touch the stone it burns. Other ghostlike figures, cloaked in black, reportedly haunt the site. Legend says to reach Kay's Cross, you are required to pass three of these spectral beings.
Occasionally history repeats itself in the strangest ways. On February 25, 1992, nearby residents heard a loud blast around 10PM. Kay's Cross had been packed with explosives and blown into several large chunks (Eerily similar to the Fountain of the World bombing.) Some believe the explosion wasn’t man made. Or could it be a disgruntled person, maybe someone connected with the Fountain of the World cult, who did the deed? Evidence was collected and sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. No one was ever charged with the crime. Thankfully, this time the casualty was only one unlucky pheasant, roosting in a tree nearby.
(From Mesa Road)
Left on Box Canyon
Address: 585 Box Canyon Road, Canoga Park, California.
There’s three mailboxes and a bus stop at the location. Turn into the bus stop pull out. It’s a pretty, wooded area, and many of the buildings are still there.
Look for Part Four, our next stop, posting soon.