A wild slice of Oregon history is back in the spotlight after roughly 30 years. It's all thanks to the Netflix documentary "Wild Wild Country.”
The series tells a story that's stranger than fiction. The documentary series spotlights the early 80s when the guru named Bhagwan and thousands of his Rajneeshees built a city in the Oregon desert.
Their Rajneesh commune eventually collapsed, ending with a global manhunt, murder conspiracies and the massive poisoning of an Oregon town.
But what ever happened to the Rajneesh? Are they still out there?
FOX 12's Bonnie Silkman went back to Antelope to find out.
The quiet town is nestled deep in cattle country, with a population of 50 and size of less than a square mile.
Among the dilapidated dwellings and silent streets, there's an old makeshift museum. Inside, we discovered Rajneesh remnants collecting dust.
"It was unsettling feeling, kinda like you woke up in the middle of a science fiction movie," said John Silvertooth, in his signature overalls.
Silvertooth is the former mayor of Antelope, and recent star of the Netflix documentary.
"It was like you're sitting at home and some people came in took over your house and put their name on the front door," said Silvertooth.
Back in the 1980s, Silvertooth said a sea of red washed over his tiny town.
"A brain washed cult," he said.
About 20 miles from Antelope, Bhagwan and the Rajneesh, would build a utopian city. The group transformed an empty ranch into a massive commune. Their property was 64,000 acres, double the size of Salem.
In 1981 "Rajneeshpuram" became a city.
"It wasn't till later till later that people started to get alarmed," said Silvertooth.
Not long after that, Silvertooth says the settlers, also known as Sannyasins, moved on to Antelope and took over the city council.
"It's kind of like they dropped 999 bombs already and now they dropped a thousand," said Silvertooth.
They eventually voted to change the town's name to Rajneesh.
Documentary Renews Interest
Now, roughly 30 years later, the Netflix show is sparking renewed interest. Silvertooth said many curious tourists have been steadily streaming into town.
"There's not much for them to see or do but, they all want to see the scene of the crime," said Silvertooth.
One of those iconic scenes is the town's school.
"The teachers and the students were all in red. The local kids didn't want to go there. After the Rajneesh left, the school never restarted," said Silvertooth.
At the school, we found a curious sightseer, Jim Kummer.
"Thought we'd come by and see what's left of the town. I'd like to go see the old commune, where the Rajneesh were at," said Kummer.
The property where the commune was built is 40 minute minutes east. Where Rajneeshpuram once stood, you'll now find Young Life, a Christian summer camp.
Nearly three decades later, on the same property, religious roots remain.
"Young Life's going to be busy this summer, I don't know if they figured it out yet. I think it's dawning on them," said Silvertooth.
On the Young Life property, FOX 12 spotted several Rajneesh buildings that still stand. Bhagwan's airport runway is also still there.
"It's one of the most bizarre things, and it came to an abrupt screeching end. People were so glad to have it over with," said Silvertooth.
With the buildings still there, many wonder if the Rajneesh are too.
FOX 12 found a local woman who lived there for months, and still considers herself a Sannyasin.
"My name is Roshani Shay Curtis," she said.
Rajneesh Beliefs Continue On
As a political science professor, Dr. Roshani Curtis, of Milwaukie, said she first visited the Rajneesh ranch in the early 1980s, only to observe.
"We really went out to study the creation and incorporation of a new city from scratch," said Curtis.
Curtis said she had no idea her studies would soon become her way of life.
"These people felt like family to me. This is the day I became a Sannyasin. This was the night my son became a Sannyasin," said Curtis, as she flipped through old photographs.
"I was very, very sad when the ranch experiment failed," said Curtis.
To this day, Curtis says she still answers questions about misconceptions.
"The label, ‘sex cult,’ is kind of crazy," said Curtis.
Curtis still wears her traditional Mala necklace, with Bhagwan's face always close.
"My big takeaway from the ranch were meditation and the value of celebration," said Curtis.
Her most prized possession though, are the robes and hat of the Bhagwan himself. Curtis said it was a gift.
"There are probably a hundred or two hundred Sannyasins still living in Oregon, but as you might expect they're pretty private about it," said Curtis.
Curtis herself was hesitant for our interview, she said the revealing Netflix documentary sent ripples through the Rajneesh.
"There was a lot of shock and a lot of grief in the Sannyasin community," said Curtis.
A community that's still right here in Oregon, if you look closely enough.
"This is a way of being spiritual, a movement, that's going to last a very, very long time," said Curtis.
Curtis said tens of thousands of Sannyasins are still out there. In fact, there's an active meditation center in Seattle. The organizer of the center lived on the ranch for four years.
As for the Bhagwan himself, after pleading guilty in Portland to immigration fraud, he was deported back to India, where he reportedly died of heart failure at 58 years old.
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