PORTLAND, Ore. – For a different slant on the world, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh led thousands to a remote area east of Portland for unrestricted sexual activity, communing with UFOs, taking drugs of all kinds and “spiritual” excess some 30 years ago, in 1981.
A group of Portland State University students recently visited the dilapidated ranch in Antelope, Oregon -- that’s 143 miles east of Portland -- to see for themselves why Rajneesh’s cult tried to purchase and control this small town back in 1981. What they found were locals who shared memories of “non-stop sex and drug parties, and where UFO and aliens were invited guests.”
“We didn’t find that community of thousands of spaced-out Rajneeshees in their orange robes. We didn’t find any of his reported 90 Rolls-Royces that he used for ‘daily inspections or to get ice cream.’ We didn’t even find any artifacts that they were there other than a bronze plaque at the Antelope post office that commemorates local resistance to what they called as ‘the Rajneeshee invasion,’ said one Portland student who’s writing about the cult’s 30th anniversary for local Portland media.
As for UFOs, the students found numerous documents written by the Rajneesh that detailed his interest in aliens and his desire to communicate with them because he believed certain areas of Oregon were "centers for alien contact."
Antelope's locals shun cult
There's still unexplaned missing people from Antelope, say locals who also point to murders commited by the Rajneesh followers when "he didn't get his own way."
"That nut really did a number on this town. He almost destroyed it," stated one Antelope local.
Moreover, the population of Antelope is now only about 40 people as compared to 30 years ago when the Portland Oregonian reported tens of thousands of young people who came to “be with this philosophy professor turned spiritual leader.”
Formally known as Chandra Mohan Jain in his native India, the “Holy Master Rajneesh” is now viewed as one of the most disturbed cult leaders in both Oregon and American history.
For example, one student said “there’s plenty of old newspaper clips and very, very strange interviews with the Rajneesh about why he came to Oregon. They talk about his sex slaves, his meetings with aliens, his fortune that he amassed by convincing many of his affluent cult members – called ‘Rajneeshees’ – to give him all of their personal wealth.”
In turn, the Rajneesh turned the quiet and dusty town of Antelope into the incorporated town of Rajneeshpuram.
“We read that the Rajneeshees issued themselves building permits for ‘spiritual’ whorehouses where both the Rajneesh and others who ran the cult would entertain themselves,” said the student who researched more than 500 different newspaper, radio and TV stories out of Portland about this “cult living out in the hills of Wasco County, Oregon.
What the Rajneesh had to say
“I went to Antelope with the same interest as entering a whorehouse. I did this with the same spirit of curiosity. And, now we’re ready to commune with our spiritual masters in the heavens,” explained Rajneesh during a 1981 interview after the Rajneesh paid nearly $6 million for the “Big Muddy Ranch, south of Antelope.
Moreover, the Rajneesh said his collection of 90 plus Rolls-Royces was “necessary for the spiritual growth of greedy Americans who wanted more material things than true human connections in this worldly life.”
The Rajneesh also focused much of his cult activity on strange sexual activities involving young men and women “performing unspeakable acts for him,” stated one media report that disclosed written instructions from the spiritual leader for his “sannyasins to wash their hands with alcohol and wear rubber gloves during sex to avoid AIDS.”
In turn, the Rajneesh welcomed thousands of young college-aged men and women – that he dubbed as “America’s transients” – to his compound so they could fulfill “residency requirements” and help make this small Oregon town his own.
While such provocative statements made headlines, and upset locals who had lived in Antelope for decades, it did not stop the multi-millionaire Rajneesh who fought lawsuits and state police with high-powered lawyers from back East.
However, it all started to unravel for the Rajneesh in 1985 when this “spiritual leader” pleaded guilty to immigration fraud and sexual abuse with minors. He was then deported, and later died of a heart attack in July 1990 back in his native India.
At the same time, many of the Rajneesh followers abandoned this so-called spiritual movement that was under investigation by the FBI and other federal and state law enforcement for numerous murder investigations, as well as multiple felonies for arson, drug smuggling and even vote fraud in nearby Antelope.
Now, some 30 years after the Rajneesh set up shop in this quiet part of Oregon, there's still hundreds of lawsuits and criminal investigations about what did happen in Antelope back in the early 1980s.
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