Beyond the Pain Matrix
Inside an IRL cult built on Facebook memes and semen-drinking.
Inside an IRL cult built on Facebook memes and semen-drinking.
When a spring breaker goes missing, a seasoned investigator uncovers devil worship and a sinister cult at the heart of the drug trade.
Who was in a cult. Who lost his yacht. Who did not stab a man in the eye.
Bruce Wisan received one of the toughest assignments ever thrust upon an accountant: to take control of the assets (and by proxy, followers) of the polygamist Mormon breakaway sect, F.L.D.S., after their prophet, Warren Jeffs, went on the lam and their compound was raided.
Aum Shinrikyo was founded in 1984 as a yoga and meditation class, initially known as Oumu Shinsen no Kai (オウム神仙の会 "Aum Mountain Hermits’ Society"), by pharmacist Chizuo Matsumoto.
Later, Matsumoto changed his name to Shoko Asahara and masterminded the most deadly terrorist attack in Japanese history. Asahara was executed by hanging on July 6, 2018, at the Tokyo Detention House, 23 years after the sarin gas attack, along with six other cult members.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his spokeswoman Ma Anand Sheela moved their commune and its thousands of followers from India to an Oregon ranch. The poisoning of a nearby town, election manipulation, and plans to murder government officials and the writer of this story soon followed.
The events chronicled in this original 1985 series are the basis for the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country.
How followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh came to Oregon from India, and transformed eastern Oregon’s Big Muddy Ranch into Rancho Rajneesh.
How a small-town Indian boy became a religious guru that followers compared to Jesus Christ, Buddha and Krishna.
Before coming to Oregon, the Bhagwan built his following in Poona, India, attracting disciples from around the world.
What are the real reasons the Rajneeshees left India for Oregon? Rising tensions with the Indian government and police, and a lot of unpaid taxes.
Tales of smuggling – gold, money and drugs – dogged the Rajneesh movement since the late 1970s, and continued when they arrived in the United States.
Somewhere between India and Oregon, the life-or-death melodrama surrounding Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s failing health dissipated like a contrail against a summer sky.
How Ma Anand Sheela used family ties to help purchase the land for the Rajneeshees’ Oregon commune.
Ma Anand Sheela was much more than the guru’s personal secretary. She was a tigress of the two-minute TV interview, and wielded words like weapons.
To turn Racho Rajneesh from farmland to a city, the Rajneeshees needed to incorporate. It was a blurring of church and state that caught the eye of Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer.
While followers talked about free love, the Rajneeshees armed themselves with assault weapons, grenade launchers and submachine guns, turning Rajneeshpuram into one of the most-heavily armed places in the state.
Followers of the Bhagwan saw their ranch as a place of peace, but the universal bliss was laced with threats of violence and threads of paranoia.
Antics by the Rajneeshees during legal proceedings – including making faces and obscene gestures – confounded lawyers and judges.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh hardly led a humble life, with his diamond-encrusted Rolex watches and fleet of 74 Rolls-Royces.
The Rajneesh financial machine reached around the globe, and channeled millions of dollars to its Oregon headquarters.
How a lust for money propelled the Rajneesh movements into the arms of Big Business.
Ma Anand Sheela and other ranch officials kept a tight grip on followers.
Rajneesh used various techniques – some of them strong-armed – to separate followers from their cash, property and jewelry.
Rajneeshees bristled at the word “cult,” but it was clearly one according to religious experts.
Of all the threats to the Rajneesh movement, an immigration fraud investigation that was four years in the making loomed the largest, and focused on arranged marriages and fake relationships
The Rajneeshees took advantage of sleepy immigration officials to sneak followers into the United States. The government then bungled cases, and irritated potential witnesses to the point that they no longer cooperated.
Twenty-five years after 82 Branch Davidians and 4 federal officers were killed, the lead negotiator at the scene is still arguing about what happened.
The Nxivm initiation was supposed to open up a secret sisterhood. After giving up compromising photographs to the recruiter “master,” each woman was expecting a tattoo. Instead they received 2-inch brands that seemed to suggest the initials of the cults founder, Keith Raniere.
‘Your Black Muslim Bakery’ commanded vast influence in Oakland, offering jobs and self-empowerment to ex-cons , until this story revealed a history of incest-rapes and kidnappings. Another journalist investigating the story was later murdered.
A Manson-contemporary cult group rises out of a jug band, builds a fortress in the Boston ghetto, bullies control of a community newspaper, swallows a successful actor, fractures, splits for California, and attempts to describe to the reporter the enigma that is Mel Lyman.
Ricky Rodriguez was born in the role of the messiah. His father was David Berg, the leader of the polygamous/incestuous cult The Children of God, which published a book documenting his early life:
In 1982 a shop in Spain printed several thousand copies of a book that was then distributed to group members around the world. Bound in faux leather, illustrated with hundreds of photographs, the 762-page tome meticulously chronicled Ricky's young life and was intended as a child-rearing manual for families. Its title, The Story of Davidito, was stamped in gold. With its combination of earnest prose and unabashed child pornography, it is perhaps the most disturbing book ever published in the name of religion.
Eventually, he left the cult and found work as an electrician. But revenge called him back.
The American students hopped across the border for a night of partying in Matamoros. One didn’t return and was found later in a shack with 14 other corpses.
Rosie grew up in a succession of decrepit houses in South London with one man and a rotating cast of women, who claimed that they had found her on the streets as an infant. The man, Aravindan Balakrishnan—Comrade Bala, as he wanted to be called—was the head of the household. He instructed the women to deny Rosie’s existence to outsiders, and forbade them from comforting her when she cried.
On adolescence, pen pals, and the Manson girls.
Ex-members say it’s a cult preying on young creative women in New York. Its leader — a man who goes by International Scherick, compares himself to Jesus, and charges $200 minimum — says he’s empowering his clients to be successful in life and love.
A jailhouse interview.
In Guyana after the Jonestown massacre, with the survivors and the dead.
After a member of the Church of Wells abruptly left the group (which may or may not be a cult), many held out hope. A week later she went back, and the church’s elders are eager to explain why.
Previously: Sinners in the Hands
On two gay men in Pennsylvania who tried, and failed, to build a commune of their own.
The rise of the Peoples Temple through the lens of an earlier group: Father Divine’s Peace Mission.
Under the cover of curing addicts, they beat and brainwashed their charges in basements across California. When a cult deprogrammer crossed them, he found a rattlesnake in his mailbox.
A utopian German settlement in Chile had already turned darkly cultish by the time it became a secret torture site for enemies of the Pinochet regime.
Going undercover with David Sullivan, cult infiltrator.
Inside Harun Yahya, which promotes a “sexed-up Disney version of Islam,” publishes a 800-page creationist atlas, runs a surreal TV station, and has films it members in orgies that often include high-ranking politicians.