​The Fascinating True Story Of The Cult Behind Netflix Doc 'Wild Wild Country'

Most of us will watch a documentary about pretty much anything, but Netflix's latest hit is serving up much, much more than late-night fodder you're used to - thanks to the genuinely fascinating true story of cults, free love, assassination plots and poisoning entire towns behind it.

Detailing the rise of the Rajneeshee cult in America, Wild Wild Country is a six-part series about controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his community of followers.

Rajneesh and his followers descended upon the sleepy area of Antelope, Oregon, back in the 1980s - having bought a ranch and turned it into their own utopia, eventually renaming it Rajneeshpuram and installing a 'sannayasin' ('disciple' in Sanskrit) as mayor.

Naturally, this didn't go down too well with locals, who were for the most part conservative, retired citizens - and not exactly a fan of the free love and primal screaming that the cultists were preaching.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

In 1984, the cult became the perpetrators of the largest bio-terrorist attacks in US history. Aiming to incapacitate voters for a county election, they infected 751 with salmonella by contaminating salad bars in restaurants.

Pretty dark stuff, right? So dark, in fact, that Rajneesh's personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela - who had also armed Rajneeshee followers with semi-automatic weapons, by the way - was given a 20-year jail sentence as a result of the attack.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Amazingly, that wasn't the worst thing that the cult was guilty of. Along with constant tensions and legal battles with locals, some wiretapping and an attempted murder in Rajneeshpuram, others within the cult also plotted to assassinate Rajneesh's personal doctor, a local investigative journalist and several Oregon government officials.

Wild Wild Country explores whether or not Rajneesh himself was actually behind any of the controversy, or if it was just his followers running amok.

"What the prosecutors will tell you is the evidence wasn't there linking him to the salmonella outbreak, to the conspiracies to kill people, the attempted murder on the ranch, or the wiretapping," co-director Chapman Way told Vanity Fair.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

However, one thing Rajneesh was guilty of was circumventing US immigration law to arrange fake marriages. It was this that eventually landed him with a $500,000 fine - and got him booted out of the country.

"You start to see how devotion to one man can be used and manipulated by leadership to have people commit acts that shouldn't be committed," co-director and Chapman's brother,Maclain Way, added.

"That's a real chilling part of the story: seeing how this love for a person and a community was then used to do harm."

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist at LADbible. Jess graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

Next Up

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock close comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp logoInline safari-pinned-tab Created by potrace 1.11, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2013