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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 a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.