When James Baker started his health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip in the 1970s, he had no intention of creating a spiritual commune. But opportunity knocked, and soon, he was the leader of a yoga-based cult in Hollywood Hills that launched Baker to wealth and fame. When the cult came under scrutiny, Baker ran. And to his surprise, his people followed. Sponsors! CBS All Access - Visit CBS.com/CULTS to redeem your FREE trial of CBS All Access. Robinhood - Robinhood is giving listeners of Cults a FREE stock like Apple, Ford, or Sprint to help you build your portfolio. Sign up at Cults.Robinhood.com.
E76: “New Vrindaban” Pt. 2 - Kirtanananda Swami
For roughly 15 years, this guru was a beloved spiritual leader with hopes of opening a worship oriented theme park. In 1985, everything changed when a vicious attack resulted in a head injury, coma, and ultimately a sinister personality change. He started using brutal tactics to keep his followers in line, including violence, espionage, and his own personal hitman. Sponsors! Calm - CULTS listeners get 25% off a Calm Premium subscription at Calm.com/CULTS.
E75: “New Vrindaban” - Kirtanananda Swami
For 26 years, he was the guru and leader of the New Vrindaban cult in West Virginia. Kirtanananda Swami would turn this vacant land into a 1200-acre sanctuary for all faiths complete with an enormous gold palace. What seemed like an idyllic paradise, was actually just a plot to steal member’s money. Swami was successful in swindling $10.5 million in just four years. Parcasters - To learn about an iconic event in American history, check out our our new episode on John McCain on HOSTAGE, wherever you get your shows. Listen now at parcast.com/hostage Sponsors! Upstart - Hurry to Upstart.com/CULTS to find out HOW LOW your Upstart rate is. Checking your rate only takes 2 minutes and won’t affect your credit!
E74: “The Workers' Institute” Pt. 2 - Aravindan Balakrishnan
By the 1970s, Comrade Bala's small collective had gone completely underground. His followers lived in constant fear of advanced Chinese technology capable of reading their thoughts, and killing them at any moment. Amidst the chaos, Comrade Bala fathered a child who would spend the first 20 years of her life in his strange home, a slave to the Maoist Collective. But when she finally escaped, she would be his downfall.
E73: “The Workers' Institute” - Aravindan Balakrishnan
His communist cult was started in 1974 in hopes of convincing working class citizens of England to rise up against their capitalist overlords and join forces with communist China. After two "members" escaped in 2013, it was revealed Aravindan Balakrishnan was enslaving women in the basement of his London flat. One woman born into the cult never had contact with the outside world before her release. Parcasters - For more stories about captivity and thrilling escape, check out HOSTAGE. This week, we’re covering the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker and her 24 years spent living among the Comanche. Listen now at parcast.com/hostage Sponsors! Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush.