The NXIVM whistleblowers -- Sarah Edmondson and Anthony Ames -- who also star in HBO's The Vow, interviewed me for their podcast. I hope you can listen to some or all.
Saturday, June 18, 2022
Sharon created a make-believe world for herself. She believed she was –– I heard her say this –– a character in a "Shakespeare tragedy." In her final performance, Sharon plays King Lear. In her adaptation of the classic, she bequeaths zilch to her two biological children because they "betrayed" her. Instead (as first reported on these pages) she leaves her multimillion dollar estate –– all of it stolen money –– to her looney step-son and other assorted bootlickers.
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Apparently fearful of testifying under oath and turning over School's financial records, defendants Greg Koch, Lorraine Imlay, Minerva Taylor, Ken Salaz, OSG LLC, and the Estate for Sharon Gans have moved to dismiss the class action lawsuit brought against them for unpaid wages and fraud. Plaintiffs are claiming in the suit that they were duped into paying OSG monthly fees to labor for no pay for the sole benefit of School and Sharon and OSG.
School claims that the suit is nothing more than a "shakedown" brought by people who are "apparent[ly] disappoint[ed] in how their lives turned out." Sounding an awful lot like Sharon (who tormented and publicly humiliated her followers), the School defendants denigrate the former members saying that they "seek to blame their apparent lack of self-improvement upon OSG and other study group participants." Finally, and in complete contradiction to what they told me for 23 years, School argues that the aims of School –– to evolve/improve –– are "impossible to measure" and "wholly subjective," and that plaintiffs have sour grapes.
The motion is now before the Honorable Justice Lori S. Sattler.
Friday, April 29, 2022
I'm honored that several leading authors, including former cult members and experts, have given wonderful praise for Manhattan Cult Story. You can pre-order now at your local bookstore and also here. If you want a signed bookplate, ask and I'll mail one to you.
"Captivating and veracious, Schneider has written a book I’ve long been waiting for, a lionhearted, soul-searching tale that flips the script of cult memoir, revealing that no one is immune to the siren call of belonging, and that any feet, no matter how well-shod, can stumble down the slippery slope of radicalism. Manhattan Cult Story is a book America desperately needs.” —Shawna Kay Rodenberg, the author of “Kin: A Memoir”
“An extremely valuable, cogent addition to the cult memoir canon. Schneider pens his haunting story not only with vividness and vulnerability but also with an eye to humanizing the cult experience and helping survivors of such abuse—and all of us, really—understand (and forgive) behavior that seems inexplicable.” —Amanda Montell, author of Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism
“An intense and chilling account of an egregious underground cult of young New York City
professionals, one of the most secretive groups I’ve encountered. In this outstanding book, Schneider not only exposes the destructive nature of this cult but eloquently reveals how, sadly, anyone can be drawn into one. Aside from a cautionary tale, this is also the story of unlikely survival, liberation, and hope. An important contribution to the literature on cults.” —Dr. Steven Hassan, author of Combating Cult Mind Control and The Cult of Trump
“Schneider delivers this scintillating story on a silver platter, offering a meticulous exploration of the seductive hook of meaning and fulfillment which cults and demagogues so readily promise to their faithful. His book will be powerfully healing for those who have been lured, educational for those who haven’t, and insightful for voyeurs into the delicious details of a secret world. Manhattan Cult Story is a vibrant, cohesive template, of how the sticky tendrils of coercive control operate.” —Sarah Edmondson, author of Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life
“It takes courage to share the stories of how we were dupped, but even one voice can break the silence and expose the perpetrators. Schneider speaks out about his experiences in a manipulative and abusive cult, not hidden on some compound in Texas, but thriving among the educated elite of NYC. This sinister cult lures people with what they long for––community, belonging, higher purpose, and elitism––but ultimately demands full obedience and control of their life. Think it couldn’t happen to you?” —Faith Jones, author of Sex Cult Nun
“If the psychology of cults and cult leaders hold even a minor fascination, I heartily endorse Spencer Schneider's debut memoir of a little-known Manhattan underworld. As Schneider peels back the curtain, he brings the reader along on his journey of self-discovery. It's a story of friendship and connection, of brainwashing and trauma, and his attempt to make himself whole in the years since his daring exit.” —Amanda M. Fairbanks, author of The Lost Boys of Montauk: The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind
“No genre is more popular today than true-crime, and nonfiction stories about cults, from NXIVM to Rajneeshism, captivate us with a particular intensity. But what Schneider has done is different, and probably without parallel: He has written a highly intelligent, highly detailed, and extraordinarily compelling account from a follower's perspective. With dispassionate clarity, he takes the reader by the hand and leads them step by step down the ladder of his own subjugation. This book is an act of great bravery, and students of the cult experience owe him a debt of gratitude for it.” —Bess Rattray, publisher of EAST Magazine
“This penetrating and often painful personal account written by a cult survivor details the inner workings of a secretive cult that preyed upon sophisticated, educated, and affluent New Yorkers. Spencer Schneider’s twenty years of experience in ‘The Work,’ led by former actress turned philosopher queen Sharon Gans, demonstrates how anyone can be tricked and trapped by a deceptive cult, even those among us that seem too smart and accomplished to be taken in. This book is a deep dive into a hidden cult’s world of sexual and financial exploitation, manipulation, isolation, and personal destruction. Schneider spares no one including himself. Riveting and insightful.” ––Rick Alan Ross, author of Cults Inside and Out: How People Get in and Can Get Out
“Written with candor, self-knowledge, and good humor, this account of Spencer Schneider's long captivity by a group of pseudo-mystic predators is first a reminder of the perils of surrendering your skepticism and finally a tale of self-liberation from the illusions any of us might create. Manhattan Cult Story pulled me in and threw away the key.” —Mike DeCapite, author of Jacket Weather
“Manhattan Cult Story is a study of human psychology, group behavior, adulation, and domination, and about how a community that at first nourishes you can come to feed on you. It is a must read for anyone interested in cults, swindlers, and charlatans but also in the human yearning for deeper meaning, love and community. The lessons of this astonishing book resonate long after the reading.” —Spencer Wolff, author of The Fire in His Wake
“Manhattan Cult Story is one of those gripping tales of personal struggle and perseverance you simply cannot put down.” —Andy Ostroy, director of HBO’s Adrienne
“Intelligent, witty, and utterly terrifying. An intimate look at the breakdown of everyday individuals through systematic methods of coercion and manipulation...for the unspoken and sole purpose of lining the twisted leader’s pockets and boosting her ego. Spencer’s heartfelt account of his experiences shows how cults can and do exist all around us and are, unknowingly to most, made up of typical people you pass by every single day. Let Spencer’s published voice be the first of many sincere survivors who come forward to shed light on this darkest of secret groups” —Kacey, Host of The Cult Vault Podcast
“This is a gripping story about being pulled into a cult that was masked as an enrichment course, a heartbreaking tale of manipulation, power, and greed. Spencer Schneider’s well-crafted narrative is masterfully told through the lens of time, healing, and introspection. I couldn’t get enough!” —Frances Badalamenti, author of the novels I Don’t Blame You and Salad Days
Monday, March 21, 2022
There are many repulsive acts which I never discussed in this blog or my article from 2019, but which I reveal in my book. Sharon coerced women, through public humiliation and degradation and peer pressure, to have sex with other members against their will. I saw it happen once but it happened at least one other time. In 2011, during an evening meeting on West 38th Street, in a room full of 50 people, Sharon shamed and compelled a married women to have sex another student after class. I detail this sickening crime and others in my book.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
School continues to this day and I want it to stop.
Please come forward and tell your stories. The more people who stand up to this, the more likely it will end.