The six-part documentary Wild Wild Country is one of the most haunting and fascinating shows in recent memory. The series, which premiered this year, is the latest in a string of chilling cult documentaries currently available on Netflix. When self-appointed spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh established a commune in Wasco County, Oregon, thousands of devoted followers swarmed the rural community. Bhagwan previously lived in India, moving to America to found Rajneeshpuram in 1981. Locals were astounded and horrified by the influx of 7,000 free-love-worshipping spiritual seekers in their tiny town — of all the places in the world: Antelope, OR? — and it only gets weirder as the story goes on.
Read on for the most disturbing and astounding revelations from Wild Wild Country and relive a truly unbelievable chapter in American history. Though the chain of events may incur disbelief, the documentary is historically accurate. The truth, it seems, is stranger than fiction.
- Bhagwan owned 93 Rolls-Royces. When Bhagwan and his chief of staff, Ma Anand Sheela bought a ranch outside the tiny town of Antelope, their quest was for spiritual enlightenment and free love. While love is free, enlightenment decidedly is not. The unabashedly materialistic guru has an affinity for fancy cars, the Rolls-Royce in particular. His collection reached a fleet of 93 while living in Oregon.
- The naked orgy tape terrified local Oregon residents. The rural dwellers of Antelope, OR, already viewed their new red-clad neighbours with suspicion before a videotape was released displaying their hedonistic and violent orgies, which resembled both a mosh pit and an exorcism.
- The free love followers became armed guerillas. After a bombing of the Rajneesh hotel in Portland, Oregon, the commune dwellers became increasingly paranoid, and Sheela enforced a policy of armed escalation. The cult's vast collection of machine guns even scared the national and local police forces who were terrified of arresting the guru when he is found guilty of immigration fraud. Footage of the Rajneeshee target practice is reminiscent of terrorist training camps.
- The Rajneeshees poisoned an entire community. So much for free love. The 1984 bioterror attack on the town of the Dalles, Oregon, contaminated 10 local restaurants with salmonella. Though there were no deaths, 751 residents were hospitalised with poisoning symptoms. Local authorities originally believed this outbreak was unrelated to the unrest emanating from Rajneeshpuram.
- The Rajneeshees lured homeless people to their ranch then drugged them. In an effort to sway local elections, the Rajneeshees took off on buses across the country, evangelising their cause to recruit homeless people to join their commune. Unsurprisingly, this influx of thousands of residents did not go over as smoothly as expected. After struggling with outbreaks of violence and mental psychosis from the former homeless community, the Rajneesh leaders resorted to drugging them every night by spiking their daily alcohol allowance with sedatives.
- Bhagwan was addicted to Valium and laughing gas. Speaking of drugging, Bhagwan became increasingly reliant upon a new inner circle of Hollywood types, who administered him Valium and laughing gas through a personal physician. Sheela worried for his health and safety, as well as unwanted attention from him due to narcotics, which is rich considering the next revelation.
- The attempted murder of Bhagwan's doctor. Sheela hatched a plan to murder Bhagwan's physician via the preferred Rajneeshee method of poisoning, enlisting one of her top lieutenants to carry out the act. Though the murder attempt was unsuccessful, a new standard was set. And perhaps it was a wake-up call: Sheela and her cronies left the ranch shortly thereafter.
- Bhagwan blamed Sheela's departure on sexual jealousy. After Sheela left, Bhagwan was furious and broke his vow of public silence, engaging in a bizarre smear campaign of his former confidant. Amidst the accusation of conspiracy and fraud, the most shocking glimpse into his personal affairs was revealed when he blamed her departure on her sexual frustration that he would not sleep with her. He made it a rule to never have sex with his secretaries, apparently.
- Rajneeshpuram is now a Jesus Camp. After Bhagwan and his followers evacuated Rajneeshpuram, the ranch wasn't empty for long. Another religious sect moved in — the land is now home to the world's largest Young Life camp, a Christian program devoted to the teachings of Jesus and the glories of abstinence. Though there are many other twists and turns over the course of the series, one thing remains constant: The Antelope residents just can't catch a break.
If you haven't watched it yet, check it out. Wild Wild Country is streaming on Netflix.