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Betrayal, Murder Plots, And A City In The Desert: The Story Of The Rajneesh Commune

Samvado Gunnar Kossatz
Baghwan Shree Rajneesh greets his followers from one of his many Rolls Royces

Les Zaitz was a reporter for the Oregonian in the early 1980s, when he began covering a  group of people, known as the Sinyasins who were followers of the enigmatic Indian guru, Baghwan Shree Rajneesh.

They arrived in the Northwest with visions of creating a whole new city in the middle of the Oregon desert. They called themselves a religion. Many others have called them a cult.

The story Zaitz was covering soon transformed from a curiosity to an epic drama, complete with massive fraud, betrayal and plots to commit murder. Even Zaitz himself was told he was a marked man.

Behind it all was a figure that loomed even larger than the guru himself: Ma Anand Sheela. She acted as Chief of Staff for the whole operation, running the multimillion dollar international enterprise.

Hear Les Zaitz recall his sometimes-troubling interactions with Sheela and the Rajneeshees by clicking the "Listen" link above. 

Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.