Oct 31, 2018

Open Up A Brain and Wash It w/ Prof. Eileen Barker, Officer of the British Empire


World-renowned for her work studying the Unification Church, otherwise known as the Moonies, Eileen Barker is one of the most well-respected, and controversial, experts of cultic studies and new religious movements in the world. A Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the London School of Economics and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, she has served on more academic and non-profit boards than can be counted. In 1988, she founded INFORM: The Information Network On Religious Movements, which seeks to educate people on cults and new religious movements. (inform.ac) Join Rachel and Eileen as they talk about about her life's journey from the theater to social sciences, the cult wars of the 1980s, and more!

Starting back next week - more interviews with former Scientologist Nathan Rich

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Oct 27, 2018

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/27-28/2018

Scientology, Videos, Books, Child Medical Neglect, Legal, Exclusive Brethren, Transcendental Meditation

"Scientology is one of the newest religions in the world and the target of many jokes. But what makes this religion unique and how was it founded?"
" ... Nathan Rich was born in Hollywood to a Scientologist family. After being sent to the infamously abusive Mace-Kingsley Ranch twice, he escaped and was disowned by his family. He spent seven years a homeless drug addict before turning his life around. Nathan appeared on "Scientology and the Aftermath" produced by ex-scientoligist and actress Leah Remini, and has since written a memoir called Scythe Tleppo: My Survival of a Cult, Abandonment, Addiction and Homelessness."

"Scythe Tleppo is an inspirational true story of a boy escaping the clutches of a cult, homelessness, emotional decimation, and rampant drug abuse.

It's a story of surviving on the streets, completely without family, friends or hope - of how to overcome against all odds; of will to carry on.

Born into Scientology, Nathan resisted indoctrination from the start. Eventually he was sent to the cult’s infamously abusive Mace-Kingsley Ranch, at age eight, and again at age fourteen. He was not allowed contact with his family for nearly three years. After finally getting away, his family disowned him.

He lived for seven long years homeless and without hope. Drugs, violence and despair plagued his mind until he was finally able to rise out of the gutter, face his past and live in the present.

From wild LSD experiences to gangs and past life recall, Nathan bears all in this brutally open memoir."

"A couple of religious fundamentalists were found guilty of criminal negligence for letting their 14-month-old son die by failing to get him proper medical treatment."

"Jennifer and Jeromie Clark, who were arrested for failing to take their son John to the hospital until he was actually near death, were convicted by a jury in Calgary. They were found guilty of “found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessaries of life,” according to the Toronto Star."
"... Rebecca Stott is a novelist, academic, broadcaster, historian, and currently Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia."

"Born in Cambridge, Rebecca spent her early childhood in 1960’s Brighton, growing up in a family that was part of a radical Christian #sect called the Exclusive Brethren. Although Rebecca’s father would ultimately liberate his family from the #Brethren in 1972, the experience would colour the rest of her life, and lead to her writing the Costa Award-winning memoir, In the Days of Rain."
"As the cult took hold, 1,000 of us moved across the world - squandering our fortunes - to meditate in a bid to prevent certain global annihilation."

" ... The first seeds of TM’s cult-like characteristics emerged in August 1979 in Amherst Massachusetts, where Maharishi gathered 2,600 meditators for a World Peace Assembly. There he made the fantastic claim that the Goddess “Mother Divine” had told him that crime, war, and environmental toxins had polluted the earth. Maharishi’s “World Plan” to create global peace wasn’t working fast enough, and therefore the Goddess was threatening to annihilate the entire earth’s population. After Maharishi pleaded with her, she purportedly agreed to give him one last chance."

"Maharishi then declared that time had run out and there was a world emergency. All of us must pack our bags, relocate our families to Iowa within one week, and meditate together in order to prevent certain global annihilation. So about 1,000 of us moved to Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa, where the cult gradually took over our lives, as we squandered our fortunes on various increasingly expensive TM courses and products."

Oct 26, 2018

Escaping Utopia; A Conversation with Janja Lalich

Generation Cult
Episode 8
October 26, 2018

We had a visit from Dr. Janja Lalich, an author and educator who has a new book out about children raised in cults called "Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out and Starting Over." Janja chats with us about her research for this project as well as her time working and writing with the late Margaret Singer, a prominent psychologist known for her studies on undue influence.

The Return of the Vampire King of New York

The wild goth subculture of the 1990s may be gone, but as long as there are people who want fangs, Father Sebastiaan will supply them.

Sam Kestenbaum
New York Times
October 26, 2018

In the dim corner of Halloween Adventure, a two-story costume store in Manhattan, a man called Father Sebastiaan sculpts vampire fangs by hand. A Ouija board hangs crooked on the wall, near a purple crystal and an uneven pile of occult books. His work stall, no larger than a broom closet, is barely visible behind pirate and cowboy masks.

A small gaggle had soon formed at the door, and Father Sebastiaan looked up. “The people who come to me are lost souls,” he said to a young assistant. “This is why I’m here. Fangs help them tap into their primal vampire nature. Fangs are magic.”

Two women squeezed in the stall to be fitted for fangs. “I’m a modern-day vampire who loves life,” said Christina Staib, a woman with leather boots and bat tattoos. Her friend Melanie Anderson had come for her first pair. “They give off an aura,” she said. “A spiritual vampire aura.”

Father Sebastiaan is just the man to help cultivate that aura. A 43-year-old with long hair, the fang maker once styled himself the king and spiritual guru of New York’s vibrant vampire scene in the 1990s. He hosted raucous parties, wrote books and launched product lines — jewelry, contact lenses and the fangs — with financial success. It was a good time to be a vampire in New York.

But he was toppled by critics and rivals and, ultimately, a city that outgrew its vampire moment. Fortunes rise and fall, but the fang maker’s travails are particularly unusual — and include spirit encounters in dance clubs, the disappearance of a young journalist and feuding gangs of self-professed vampires.

The New York vampire scene, like Father Sebastiaan’s stature in the city, is not what it once was. But the subculture — part alternative religion, part costumed role-play — is appealing to a new generation. Unlike their predecessors who had to seek out clubs or salons, these new vampires may simply go online. With galas and plans to expand his fang empire, Father Sebastiaan is looking to re-establish his place in the culture lest it pass him by.

Before his self-invention as a vampire guru, Father Sebastiaan was born Aaron Todd Hoyt and raised in the sleepy suburbs of New Jersey. An awkward teenager, he found solace in vampire fantasy games and New Age philosophies. He worked a series of odd jobs, mowing lawns and working, notably, for a dental surgeon. Mr. Hoyt enrolled in college but dropped out, and in 1994, he moved to New York City.

Here, he discovered an eclectic scene of drug-fueled club parties and scattered salons where eccentrics met to discuss occult spirituality. The vampire myth was enjoying a revival in those years, thanks in part to Anne Rice, whose “Vampire Chronicles” inspired a legion of superfans. The popular image of the vampire suddenly transformed from Old World castle-dwelling monster to svelte rock-star Lothario.

“The vampire is a powerful myth of the heroic outsider, of lost beauty,” Ms. Rice said. “There is a fascination with vampires always slumbering in our culture, waiting to flare up.”

In these heady times, Mr. Hoyt saw a business opportunity.

In 1995, he started selling a line of ultrarealistic acrylic vampire fangs that fit snugly over the teeth. He called his fang company Sabretooth and treated each new customer as a member of his own vampire clan with ritualized, if kitschy, ceremonies. For some it was playful dress up, for others it was a spiritual path.

“I realized that one thing we don’t have in America is coming-of-age ceremonies,” he said. “I made one for vampires.”

Mr. Hoyt also approached club owners, like the Limelight impresario Peter Gatien, about hosting vampire-themed events where the growing community could congregate.

If Mr. Hoyt had any doubts about his new ventures, an otherworldly experience assuaged his uncertainty. One night, he was wandering alone in a private room of Limelight, a club in a deconsecrated church notorious for freely available drugs. He recalled his body growing unnaturally warm. He felt a spirit wrap around him. “You will become the vampire king,” Mr. Hoyt heard a voice whisper.

“It was my Moses moment,” he said.

The vampire parties took off. Mr. Hoyt’s galas were experimental affairs, rotating through a series of clubs, with coffins splayed out on the dance floor, performances by goth bands and leather-clad vampires who might flog one another with kink whips. Going by Father Sebastiaan or another pseudonym, he pranced through as a vampire playboy, dressed in leather pants and a top hat.

As the decade wore on, Mr. Hoyt’s business expanded. He ran a full vampire emporium, with half a dozen contractors, casting thousands of fangs for aspiring vampires. He wrote books — metaphysical how-to texts — that were stocked at the Hot Topic retail chain.

“New York was mine,” Mr. Hoyt said. “I ruled from my shop.”

But there was trouble in Father Sebastiaan’s world. Controversy erupted in 1996 when a reporter for The Village Voice named Susan Walsh went missing while working on a story about the city’s vampires. Mr. Hoyt had met her (by some accounts she was last seen at one of his galas), and the vampires were plunged into the spotlight. Police ultimately found no vampire leads, but the story brought a media circus. Ms. Walsh’s case was never solved; her story was the subject of a book, television specials and a flood of articles. Cosmopolitan magazine dubbed the vampires Manhattan’s own “sexy, scary new cult.”

Meanwhile, internal schisms broke out. Did one have to literally drink blood to be a vampire, or could you feed off invisible human energy instead? Some vampires drank small pricks of human blood in private, but the matter remained unresolved.

And Mr. Hoyt also earned the scorn of vampires who said he had abused his power and capitalized on their subculture. “Sebastiaan was using magic and spirituality as a guise,” said Michelle Belanger, a writer who would later split with Mr. Hoyt over accusations of plagiarism. (She never took legal action.)

The city was changing, too. Clubs were shuttering as rents rose. And following arguments with his contractors, in 2001 Mr. Hoyt sold the shop amid much acrimony. The community fractured. “They knocked the crown from my head,” he said. Later that year he left New York.

Gradually, the scene dissipated in the city, spreading instead to places like New Orleans and Los Angeles.

Mr. Hoyt then drifted around European and American cities. In the next years, Mr. Hoyt took his fang-making and events company, called Endless Night, on the road, holding galas in Berlin, Paris, New Orleans.

As past feuds quelled slightly, Mr. Hoyt quietly returned to Manhattan around 2006 to reboot his fang business in a more modest state at Halloween Adventure. These days he is based in Los Angeles but makes several trips to Manhattan each year to fill fang orders. In the lead up to Halloween, he is booked back-to-back making specialty teeth. Standard fangs go for $150, a price that includes a pendant, a book and a ritualized renaming ceremony.

Finished with a client, Father Sebastiaan put down his tools and tidied up his little domain. Sober for seven years, he has yet to give up cigarettes and stepped outside for a smoke. Father Sebastiaan’s fangs poked out as he took a drag and flipped through old photos on his phone. “The glory days,” he said.

“All I wanted was for my tombstone to read: ‘Best vampire dad ever.’”

The feuds still linger. But by some measures, the Father Sebastiaan brand has grown larger. His online following has swelled in recent years (on Facebook he has more than 90,000 followers) as younger seekers discover him. There are plans for a mass printing system for fangs, an autobiography and a series of esoteric guides for aspiring vampires. “I feel like my next big moment could be coming,” Mr. Hoyt said.

On a Friday night, a dozen young vampires gathered at what was once the Limelight for dinner. The club shuttered years ago and is now home to a gym and an upscale Asian restaurant, where Mr. Hoyt’s clan sat at a long table.

The vampires all wore black and bared their fangs theatrically. Sabrina Santiago, originally from the Bronx, said she discovered vampire culture on social media. “I wanted something that took me out of the spectrum of the normal,” she said and pointed to her fangs. “These bad boys do it.”

Father Sebastiaan had come here because it reminded him of the heyday of the New York vampire. Over dumplings, he regaled the table with breathless reminiscences.

“I did my magic rituals in that room.”

“This was sacred ground.”

“You could suck the energy right off the dance floor.”

The young group listened politely, but several faces were blank. Those galas were the old days, well before their time. Plates cleared as the vampires discussed an after party, but Mr. Hoyt decided against it. It was late, after all, and Father Sebastiaan needed his rest.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 28, 2018, on Page MB1 of the New York edition with the headline: Vampires, Your King Has Arisen

CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/26/2018

Mario Pianesi, Macrobiotics, Italy, Legal, Rajneesh, Documentary, Scientology, Universal Medicine, Australia

"Italian police have opened a new investigation into Mario Pianesi, an influential businessman celebrated as a guru of macrobiotic food, over allegations he may have killed his first wife by putting her on an extreme form of his “Ma-Pi” diet."

"Gabriella Monti died in 2001, two months after being diagnosed with acute hepatitis caused by aflatoxins, a fungal poison sometimes found in grain or nuts. Monti had had a stroke in 1997, after which she was cared for at home by her husband."

"Pianesi had built up a following of thousands of customers who believed his cereals-based diet could cure serious illnesses. Police claim the diet may have exacerbated Monti’s already fragile state, leading to her death."

Psychology Today: The Power of a Cult
"There is an unceasing crescendo of suspense as we view this Netflix documentary about the cult that moved from India to central Oregon in 1981, led by the white-bearded Shree Rajneesh Bhagwan, with his piercing, unblinking eyes, a guru in rapture who is fervently out to change the consciousness of the world. He had fled India, where his cult had multiplied, when he faced millions of dollars in back taxes and no clear path to the vast, transformative change he meant to achieve. His ashram’s growth had stalled, and, besides, the really rich people were in the West."

"The Church of Scientology began operations [October 15th] at its new downtown Detroit location."

"Church staff arrived [October 15th] morning to its newest center in Metro Detroit, located on Jefferson at Griswold in the former Standard Savings Building."

"Their arrival comes a day after the church held a private grand opening and dedication ceremony at the 55,000-square-foot building. Church officials said more than 2,000 parishioners attended Sunday's event."

"On [October 15th], church members and staff dressed in business attire entered the building through a brightly-lit lobby with marble floors and brass fixtures."

"Former Sydney tennis coach turned self-styled spiritual healer Serge Benhayon has suffered a spectacular loss in his Supreme Court defamation case against a former client, after a four-person jury found it was true to say he led a "socially harmful cult", "intentionally indecently touched" clients and made "bogus healing claims"."

"Serge Benhayon, 54, sued acupuncturist and former client Esther Rockett for defamation over a series of blog posts and tweets starting in November 2014, which he says portrayed him as "dishonest", a "charlatan who makes fraudulent medical claims", and the leader of a "socially harmful cult"."

Oct 25, 2018

Man sells house and car to pay $600K to 'psychic' charged in 'evil spirit' scam

October 25, 2018

A 27-year-old woman is facing charges of witchcraft and fraud after allegedly bilking a man out of $600,000.

Police in York Region said that about four years ago a 67-year-old man met with a “psychic” using the name “Evanna” who claimed she could rid him of evil spirits in his home.

According to the victim, the woman told him that he had to sell his home and transfer the money to her account, where she would hold the money until the spirits were removed.

He did and then the suspect allegedly did not return the money and instead told the victim she needed $6,000 more, which she said she would burn in order or ward off the spirits.

It’s alleged that the victim then sold his car and used credit and other sources to pay for several additional demands for money.
Police began to investigate the incident, reported as elder financial abuse, in November.

Samantha Stevenson, 27, of Toronto, also known as Evanna Lopez, has been charged with pretending to practice witchcraft, fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime.


Second man charged in homicide of Southington cult leader pleads not guilty

Lauren Sellew
October 25, 2018

The second man charged in the 2004 homicide and dismemberment of a Southington cult leader has pleaded not guilty.

Sorek Minery, 42, of 225 Covey Road, Burlington, was charged with murder and felony murder in the homicide earlier this year. He appeared in New Britain Superior Court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the state judicial website. 

Rudy Hannon, 72, was also charged with murder and felony murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in August. 

Southington man Paul Sweetman was “the chief apostle” in the religious cult “The Work,” which was led by Brother Julius and based in Meriden. 

He was reported missing by his wife on July 24, 2004, according to Hannon’s arrest warrant. On Aug. 27, 2004 New Britain police responded to the Shuttle Meadow Country Club for a report of human remains found. 

On April 20, 2016, New Britain police linked the 2004 missing person report to the remains found at the golf course, noting that Sweetman lived about 10 miles away from where the leg was found. Local police learned that the FBI had previously developed information that Sweetman was killed and dismembered in New Britain.

Police also learned that in 2006 Hannon was interviewed by FBI agents and shared intimate knowledge of the killing.

Police interviewed Minery on Oct. 20, 2016. He told officers that he, Sweetman and Hannon were all members of the same religious organization. In the months leading up to the homicide, Hannon was trying to convince Minery that Sweetman “needed to be killed because he was hurting his wife.”

Hannon and Minery remain held on $2 million bond. Minery is due back in court on Dec. 6 and Hannon is due back in court on Nov. 9. 


CultNEWS101 Articles: 10/25/2018

Books, Religion and Family Law, Worldwide Church of God, Wirapol Sukphol, Sexual Abuse, Buddhism, Thailand

" ... Renee Linnell is an accomplished businesswoman who achieved many high-profile goals before she turned 35, before realizing she'd been living under the control of a cult. In her new memoir, The Burn Zone, she shares the heartbreaking situation that opened her up to falling victim for nearly seven years, to people who called themselves spiritual teachers, and how she finally reclaimed her identity and life."

" .... 'For religious people in the U.S., there are strange crosscurrents in the country right now. We have cases from the Supreme Court that decide – correctly I believe – that institutions where religious values have traditionally had tremendous influence, like marriage, don't belong to religious people to decide for the rest of the country,' she said. "At the same time, a decision like Hobby Lobby – the 2014 Supreme Court decision that allows businesses to cite religious beliefs to exclude contraceptives from insurance plans – has left some in the faith community believing they have an unfettered right for their religious beliefs not to be burdened."

"Together, those decisions have sparked a sense among religious people that they've lost control over much that is deeply important to them."

"The book, published by Cambridge University Press, features original scholarship by Wilson, University of Illinois law professors Richard Kaplan and Robin Kar, and national and international scholars on the tension between religious freedom and the state's protective function. It also features an introduction by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch."

"On Thursday, Nov. 1, National Public Radio host and raconteur Glynn Washington will bring his storytelling sensation, Snap Judgment LIVE, to Iowa City’s Englert Theatre. That night, some of the world’s best storytellers will take the stage to tell real life stories, set to the beat of a live band. Snap Judgment LIVE offers a truly unparalleled performative experience — especially for anyone who enjoys storytelling programs like This American Life or The Moth."

"Little Village recently spoke with Washington about how he tells the story of his own life — a story which starts with his upbringing in an apocalyptic cult, the Worldwide Church of God."

"A former Buddhist monk who sparked outrage in Thailand over his lavish lifestyle and is already serving time for fraud was sentenced to a further 16 years in prison on Wednesday for abducting and raping a child."

"Wirapol Sukphol, formerly known by his monastic name of Luang Pu Nenkham, was sentenced in August to 114 years in prison after a court found him guilty of fraud, money laundering and computer crimes."
News, Education, Intervention, Recovery

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Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.