The Rajneesh movement made its way to Oregon in 1981 and was led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
The religious cult made national news after engaging in immigration fraud, busing homeless people to their commune, and perpetuating the most massive bioterrorism attack in US history in an attempt to overthrow local government leaders.
The group had several disagreements with neighboring cities and the authorities before the community was disbanded in the mid-1980s.
More recently, interest in the Rajneesh movement has been reignited by the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. Here are five shocking facts about the Rajneesh movement.
Top 1: Plotted The Assassination Of Two Government Officials
Devotees of the religious leader plotted to assassinate Oregon’s US attorney and its attorney general to prevent criminal probes against Rajneesh. FBI agents investigating the followers uncovered the plan.
The group decided to murder the US attorney and then assembled weapons and spied on him, but they never carried out the plot.
This was the end of the Rajneeshees in Oregon; Rajneesh had already been deported from the United States.
Several of the other top members had fled the country as well. Sheela served time in prison and was eventually exiled to Switzerland (where she could not be extradited).
Seven cult members had been indicted in the murder conspiracy by 2006.
Top 2: Rajneesh Owned Nearly 100 Rolls-Royces
As stated earlier, Rajneesh embraced materialism and enjoyed the more beautiful things.
He owned a massive fleet of expensive cars which he would use for his daily “drive-bys,” which was a drive along the road of Rajneeshpuram while the followers would line the road clapping.
Rajneesh once said, “Wealth is a perfect means which can enhance people in every way . . . So I am a materialistic spiritualist.” His first two Rolls-Royces were a Corniche and Silver Shadow, which were shipped from India to the Oregon ranch.
His collection would eventually grow to a fleet of 93 Rolls-Royces. After Rajneesh left the country, the Rolls-Royces were auctioned off.
The cars were in mint condition and had very few miles on them because Rajneesh drove a different one each day. The vehicles were sold for anywhere from $60,000 to $265,000 a piece.
Top 3: Followers Were Brainwashed
The controversial guru was accused of brainwashing his followers. They would always wear certain colors and a portrait of Rajneesh around their necks.
Dynamic meditation was performed every day by the Rajneeshees to get them out of their heads and bodies.
There were four phases of the mediation that gave the followers the experience that their minds were leaving their bodies. This was believed to be part of the mind control that Rajneesh employed on the Rajneeshees.
Former members of the cult have even spoken out about how they thought they were brainwashed after arriving. Roselyn Smith claimed that she was part of a sophisticated program of mental manipulation.
She remembered entering a four-day breath therapy group after coming at the commune, and she said that by day three, she’d entered into a cathartic state that lasted for hours.
She then went through a five-day intensive enlightenment group, a sensory deprivation tank, and a 14-day insight group. She said it took her years of expert counseling to regain self-confidence and self-worth after leaving the group.
Top 4: Responsible For The Largest Bioterrorism Attack In US History
The people of Rajneeshpuram wanted to take over the local government, and another one of their crazy plans to do so would be more harmful than shipping homeless people in and out of their town.
Since they didn’t have enough people to swing the votes their way, they decided they would take out their competition.
After inspecting the ranch, Wasco County Executive William Hulse and Commissioner Raymond Matthew became ill.
They had polluted ice water from the commune that had traces of salmonella in it. Followers of the group didn’t stop there, though; they would also be responsible for the most massive bioterrorism attack in the United States.
Salsa bars, vegetable and salad bars, table-top creamers, and other foods at a dozen local restaurants and supermarkets were contaminated with salmonella.
Nobody died, but more than 750 people were sickened due to the Rajneeshees’ actions. They had hoped that if enough people were sick during the election, they could throw it to get their leaders in.
The plot didn’t work, though, because the locals were angry and turned out to vote against the Rajneesh people after suspecting it was them who caused the illness.
Top 5: Recruited Thousands of Homeless People
Thousands of homeless people were being bused into Rajneeshpuram to live and work in the commune.
Followers claimed this was a significant new charity being performed by the group to give homeless people another chance at life.
Critics of the group claimed the homeless were being shipped to the area to boost voting for members of the religious group.
The leaders of Rajneeshpuram wanted to start getting members elected into government positions to give the group help with certain things, but they would need more people to vote for their members to get elected.
This was the reason homeless people were being moved to the location and registering to vote. The cult soon realized that many of the homeless were mentally ill and refused to vote for them or live with their ridiculous rules at Rajneeshpuram.
The homeless people were told they would receive a ticket back to where they came from, but instead, they were dropped off at nearby cities, causing an influx of homeless people to these towns.
Many of the homeless were even part of a $40 million suit against the Indian guru after learning they were used for voting.