An apparent suicide took place almost one year ago directly linked to Executive Success Programs now known as NXIVM, a privately owned for-profit company that has been called a “cult.”

Kristin Marie Snyder was in the midst of her second 16-day “intensive” program through NXIVM in Alaska when she apparently took her own life on February 6, 2003.

Ms. Snyder had just turned 35.

The young woman was initially reported as missing, her truck was found abandoned at Millers Landing in Seward.

A note was found in the truck that said:

“I attended a course called Executive Success Programs [also known as] NXIVM based out of Anchorage, [Alaska] [and] Albany, [New York]. I was brainwashed [and] my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents…if you find me or this note. I am sorry…I didn’t know I was already dead. May we persist into the future…No need to search for my body.”

An old kayak was missing from the landing and it is believed that Kristin drowned herself.

Authorities searched the waters for five days, but never recovered her body or the boat. The water in Resurrection Bay is glacier fed and extremely deep, it is doubtful that Kristin will ever be recovered.

Last month an application for a death certificate was submitted to Alaska authorities.

Kristin Snyder was an attractive young woman with a loving family and many friends. She was a self-employed environmental consultant, member of the Nordic Ski Patrol and an avid outdoorswoman. And according to her family had never experienced any psychiatric or emotional disorders.

A close friend, who attended the same ESP intensive, told CultNews that Kristin had discussed suicide several times that week and was implicit about her intention to kill herself the day she disappeared.

The same friend advised that this was reported repeatedly to NXIVM leaders, but their assessment was that the distressed young woman was merely attempting to manipulate people for attention.

No meaningful help was sought from a mental health professional and no referral made.

New York psychiatrist Carlos Rueda told Forbes Magazine and the Albany Times Union last year that he has treated three NXIVM students, one who experienced a psychotic episode and required hospitalization.

“I think that the stress and the way the courses are structured may make people who have a tendency to have a psychotic disorder have an acute episode,” Rueda said.

And the psychiatrist warned that NXIVM leaders weren’t prepared or certified to deal with the potential psychological problems that can surface during the training.

Carlos Rueda is the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in New York City and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College in Valhalla, Westchester County.

Two other highly respected mental health professionals have also been critical of NXIVM and the potential consequences of participating in its programs.

Forensic psychiatrist John Hochman an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA wrote that NXIVM is “a kingdom…with psychological borders – influencing how…subjects spend their time, socialize, and think. Increasing involvement serves to…distance participants from their relationships in a manner that is slow and subtle, and thus not at all obvious to them.”

Clinical psychologist Paul Martin wrote two reports regarding NXIVM. He is the director of Wellspring Retreat, a licensed mental health facility for the rehabilitation of former cult members.

Martin recently testified as an expert witness on “cult brainwashing” in the trial of Lee Malvo, the so-called “D.C. sniper.” In his report about NXIVM the noted psychologist specifically compared “Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs.

Lifton, a renowned psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor, is the author of the seminal book Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism.

“ESP has characteristics that are consistent with the themes of thought reform [often called ‘brainwashing’] Martin stated within a “A Critical Analysis of the Executive Success Programs.”

Some of the consequences the psychologist cited that might occur as a result of such a thought reform program are a “borderline psychotic state, split identity, fear, confusion, feeling…lonely and an inability to distinguish the real from the unreal.”

Martin also noted that thought reform victims might experience relief through “suicide.”

Kristin Snyder’s parents told CultNews, “We had serious concerns about her involvement with the group and about personality changes that we sensed in her after her first exposure to ESP…We attempted to dissuade her from attending again, but to no avail.”

Kristin lived in Anchorage, thousands of miles from her concerned family.

The Snyders researched NXIVM more in-depth recently through the Internet.

Kristin’s mother wrote, “We only recently became aware of your website, but from the beginning we were aware that controversy surrounded ESP. I wish we had known more a year ago when my husband and I were so terribly concerned about our daughter.”

Sadly, such in-depth analysis of NXIVM by mental health experts only began to appear publicly after Kristin Snyder’s untimely death.

In what seems to be an effort to suppress such information NXIVM filed lawsuits against doctors Hochman, Martin and the Ross Institute for publishing the cited reports on the Internet.

However, the judge denied NXIVM’s request for an injunction.

“Our hearts are broken, but we are also enraged that a group like this can legally peddle such destructive propaganda in America,” says Mrs. Snyder.

“Kris was a lovely and gifted young woman who loved life and had never before had any emotional instability, but her descent into mental illness was rapid and we believe that it was a direct result of the manipulation of her mind by…’Vanguard’ and his doctrine,” the Snyder family concluded.

“Vanguard” is the self-proclaimed title Keith Raniere, the creator of Executive Success Programs, has chosen for himself.

When asked about NXIVM causalities Raniere told the Schenectady Sunday Gazette that the number of people who have gripes with the program, he estimates at 1 percent, are disproportionately reported in comparison with the 99 percent who had a positive experience.

Such self-serving spin offers no solace to the Snyders.

A purported “cult leader” in Oregon has literally gone to the dogs.

Whitewind Weaver, formerly Whitewind Swan Fisher, formerly Susan Kilbourne Musemeci, has had a long dry spell in the “cult” business.

Even though the self-proclaimed “shaman” who set up “Friends Landing” outside Springfield, Oregon still has a few diehard followers, they apparently aren’t enough to keep things going.

The fading “spiritual teacher” has had problems paying her bills and generally making a go of it as a guru.

Ms. Weaver has had her share of image problems too.

Parents have complained publicly that the founder of Friends Landing “brainwashes” students through her “Spherical Reality” programs. And that her “Dream Camps” ultimately led to personal nightmares for some families.

The extra-large “shaman” who was once “morbidly obese,” shed mega-pounds through stomach surgery, but that makeover didn’t seem to help much.

So it was time for another business, or at least a sideline to pay the bills.

The “shaman” has become a dog breeder, though zoning at the Friends Landing property is restricted to farming.

The group has a history of zoning problems.

This would-be guru is now selling Boxers and has launched a website,

Whitewind, now supposedly a doggie maven, has even come up with her very own special training called the “Witness Socialization Program” (WSP).

Could this be “brainwashing” for Boxers?

According to her website “WSP…is a proprietary method of training that insures you a seriously trained puppy.”

The guru/dog trainer is assisted in this new endeavor by “the greatest little teacher since doggie school began; Ruby,” her trusty Chihuahua.

Well it seems that Whitewind believes, if first you don’t succeed try, try again, but with dogs.

Ms. Whitewind (Susan Kilbourne Musemeci Swan Fisher) Weaver may have the distinction of being the founder of the first canine “cult compound.”

Maybe someone should call animal protection?

“Banned in Boston” used to be a good hook years ago for promoting a controversial book or movie. Conventional wisdom seemed to be that if something was too hot for the stodgy elite of Boston, it must be pretty good.

But times have changed and Boston now has an openly gay congressman. So Beantown may get bumped, as Salt Lake City (SLC) assumes the conservative title.

A gay film titled Latter Days, which features a Mormon missionary who does more than proselytize on his mission in LA, has made Mormons angry and is apparently banned in Utah’s capital reports Associated Press.

This “coming out” story is not something Mormon leaders appear to appreciate. The film’s dark humor includes the missionary’s co-religionists trying to literally jolt him out of it, through “aversion therapy” with electrocution.

A Mormon theater owner in SLC said, “We thought it lacked artistic merit. If it has merit, we play it.”

But a Mormon moviemaker with dubious “artistic” credentials and no previous feature film credits didn’t have a problem arranging a venue in Salt Lake for the opening of his “Book of Mormon” movie. Many of the faithful made a pilgrimage out of that premiere reported the Salt Lake Herald-Tribune.

Threats of a boycott were made regarding running the gay film in Utah, subsequently its opening was cancelled reports Zap.

Mormons like movies about Mormons, but apparently only those made by Mormons in good standing and/or with an approved story line.

A gay ex-Mormon made the film Latter Days.

Interestingly, Mormons recently complained that nonbelievers don’t seem to properly appreciate their films reports NPR.

Maybe it’s because they “lacked artistic merit”?

Whatever criteria LDS leaders and critics apply to films one thing is for sure, banning Later Days will probably give the movie some buzz and a boost at the box office.

Maybe the mantra for this film should be “See the film Mormons banned in Salt Lake”?

Tom Cruise may finally have gone nuts, but don’t expect him to seek professional help.

The devout Scientologist came out swinging against the practice of psychiatry reports

“I think psychiatry should be outlawed,” the star of The Last Samurai told a reporter.

He further fulminated, “I think it’s an utter waste of time. There’s nothing scientific about it.”

Of course this is the party line promoted by the Church of Scientology, a religion created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who some say was nuts himself.

Hubbard’s rather fanciful religion is based upon a sci-fi story about alien beings from outer space.

Participants like Cruise pay to eventually learn this myth when they reach what Scientologists call “Operating Thetan Level Number Three,” or “OT3.”

This progression of courses can take many years and become quite expensive.

The former “Top Gun” has passed this point, so he knows the story of an evil galactic overlord named Xenu who is supposedly responsible for the human condition.

Some might observe that anyone who would swallow this story must be “crazy,” or maybe just a bit “brainwashed.”

But since Scientology doctrine effectively cuts its members off from any objective analysis, Cruise may never see the craziness of his situation.

The New York Times is often cited for its “politically correct” view of the news, but it seems like the “paper of record” has gone a bit too far and invented its own version of history.

In an article misleadingly titled “Commune to Close” a NY Times reporter describes a cult compound forced into liquidation by bankruptcy as “an enduring relic of the hippie commune explosion of the 1960’s” based upon the “principles of Christian love.”


Instead, the group known as “Love Israel” is one of the most notorious cults of the 1970s, as repeatedly exposed through numerous press accounts readily available to any serious researcher.

This information is largely glossed over and/or ignored by the Times reporter, who prefers to describe the group as a “commune,” rather than the much more obvious and historically accurate “c” word, “cult.”

The Times also allowed the group’s dictatorial leader Paul Erdman, who goes by the name “Love Israel,” to have the last word about everything.

Erdman brushed off any reports about sexual and financial exploitation within the group as merely “rumors” and “falsehoods” based upon “prejudice.”


The Times does not report the allegations of abuse about Love Israel in any meaningful depth, which ultimately led to the group’s bankruptcy. No cult victims or affected families are quoted, even though talk-show host Steve Allen discussed his son’s involvement publicly.

For an accurate portrayal of recent and past events surrounding the cult see the commentary of Rabbi James Rudin, a long-time expert observer of the group.

About 40 diehard followers still remain loyal to the 63-year-old Erdman. The cult leader told the Times, “Wherever we go we can do the same thing…we’ll just take that right with us.”

No doubt “Love Israel” will continue to control and manipulate his remaining followers in the same way he always has.

By the way, the New York Times calls such control being “like-minded.”

Does this mean that the Times reporter might view Jonestown through such a politically correct prism as simply a “commune” of “like-minded” people?

Perhaps, given this reporter’s seeming penchant for revisionist history.

CultNews previously reported that The New York Times declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses a “Christian denomination,” conferring a status upon the group that they have never possessed historically.

And once the Times lauded Sai Baba, a purported “cult leader” UN officials expressed concerns about due to “widely reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youth and children,” as “a friend of India and all the world.”

Isn’t it about time for the Times to tell its reporters to take more time researching their stories.

Two towns, Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah seem to be little more than fiefdoms within the domain of a polygamist sect called the “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (FLDS).

FLDS is essentially like a totalitarian state ruled over by the Jeffs family. And in recent years the royal succession has passed from one Jeffs to another, who is apparently now involved in consolidating his kingdom.

Rulon Jeffs ruled over thousands of FLDS followers for decades, but he died in 2002, bequeathing the throne of his multi-million dollar domain to his son Warren Jeffs.

“King Warren” is now engaged in something of a purge, ejecting those of his subjects that he deems disloyal.

One such subject asked to “hit the road” was Dan Barlow, the former mayor of Colorado City reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Barlow promptly resigned as mayor after being essentially excommunicated by Jeffs, which should disabuse anyone of the notion that Colorado City was ever anything less than a theocracy, ultimately responsible to religious and not civil authority.

Many residents are fleeing the little FLDS fiefdom as a result of the internal power struggle and as usual they will rely upon the social service safety net provided by nonbelievers reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The sexual abuse and exploitation of minors as “child brides” within has been “dirty little secret” of Arizona and Utah.

But something that’s not so secret is that this thinly veiled theocracy is largely supported with taxpayer money. This is done through federal and state funding of schools, municipal improvements and social welfare programs.

In the current polygamist power struggle each faction claims its leader is the true “prophet” hearing from heaven and the other is only a false pretender reports the Desert News.

But regardless of who is supposedly hearing from whom, why should taxpayers keep picking up the tab for these polygamists?

A story titled Busting on the ?Cult Buster’ reported about personal attacks made in response to my comments within a previous article run by the New York Daily News.

Though Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre are cited within the recent story, there have been many other groups that have responded to criticism by attacking me personally over the years.

When I began working to expose cults in 1982 my family warned that eventually, if that work proved to be meaningful, cults might retaliate by exposing my past.

The old adage seems to apply, “If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger.”

The fact is many cults retaliate by “busting on” their critics.

Lloyd Grove accurately reported that as a young man of 21 and 22 I plead guilty (1975-76) to criminal conduct, resulting in a record that includes a misdemeanor and felony.

In 1983 those guilty verdicts were vacated by court order and my civil rights restored. This was done about the time I began coordinating a prisoner program and serving on an advisory board for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

I deeply regret and am sincerely sorry for the criminal mistakes I made almost thirty years ago, and have done everything possible to rectify those bad acts.

This included complete restitution, which was possible because my crime thankfully only included stolen property and was nonviolent. Those concerned stated they were satisfied in court. And the police did not oppose probation, which ended early and without incident in 1979.

Beginning in about 1988-89 groups that I criticized began investigating me, looking for anything they could use to discredit my work.

Scientology certainly has become the most notable nemesis of cult critics. Accordingly, they compiled and disseminated what is called a “dead agent” file about me, which literally reflects their belief in that old adage about the messenger.

Of course once the Internet became the “information highway” Scientology made the contents of that file publicly accessible online. It now includes 196 pages of typed text.

Groups like the Kabbalah Centre only need to point, click and print it out.

Since 1998 my response to that file has been likewise publicly available online through the Internet. And it has occasionally been updated to respond to new accusations.

Also available at this Web site are the archives “Hall of Flames” and “Flaming Websites,” which are filled with less than glowing descriptions of my work and personal history.

Interestingly, the bible teaches a path of rehabilitation that includes the following:

Acknowledge your wrongful conduct, specifically to those you have hurt and admit it to others openly.

Make whatever restitution is possible.

And then finally, change your life and don’t repeat such bad behavior.

This is exactly the route I chose almost thirty years ago.

This path met the expectations of those directly hurt by my crimes, the legal authorities, my family and community.

However, such an effort will never satisfy groups like Scientology, who don’t seem to believe in rehabilitation, unless they rehabilitate you.

And Scientology apparently does not believe in meaningful rehabilitation for itself. And in my experience neither does the Kabbalah Centre, despite the rabbinical credentials of its founder.

Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre don’t acknowledge misconduct reported about their respective founders and/or the injury caused by their teachings.

And by the way, reporting about Scientology’s bad behavior almost always begets the response that its critics are somehow “bigots” guilty of “persecution.”

But is it “bigotry” to report about criminal indictments, suicides and serious personal injuries linked to Scientology?

Don’t expect acts of contrition from Scientology or the Kabbalah Centre, instead they apparently prefer frivolous litigation and harassment to intimidate their critics.

Once at a deposition a Scientology lawyer asked me what I did to receive probation, was it part of some arranged plea agreement?

When I responded that there was no plea agreement he seemed incredulous, and asked why then did I plead guilty?

The answer, “because I was wrong,” appeared to startle him.

A consistent feature of many cults is their unwillingness to admit when they are wrong.

And historically, cult leaders like Jim Jones have died rather than admit or face the consequences of wrongdoing.

It seems impossible for many cults and/or their leaders to be meaningfully rehabilitated, as they appear unwilling to take the necessary first step, let alone complete the process.

It seems that Ralph Nader may be “losing his political judgement” reports a former fan for the liberal left publication The Nation.

Nader is “in bed with the ultra-sectarian cult-racket formerly known as the New Alliance Party,” says a writer for the newspaper.

The celebrated consumer advocate and former presidential candidate appeared January 11th as the featured speaker at an event titled “Choosing an Independent President 2004 Campaign” organized by Fred Newman, whose followers now effectively control the so-called “independents” or Independence Party of New York.

Newman heads a myriad of front organizations populated by his fervent devotees commonly called “Newmanites.” The self-styled political guru also created something he named “Social Therapy,” which has been described by its victims as “brainwashing.”

After playing the role of what many-labeled “spoiler” in the last presidential election, is Ralph Nader hoping to jump in this time as an Independent with Newmanite support?

The Nation blasted Newman’s politics as “the latest in a skein of…rackets… which have as their ultimate goal nothing more than enlarging the cult and subsidizing Newman’s…lavish lifestyle…”

The Nation article goes on to describe Nader’s involvement with the Newmanites as a “mind-bogglingly dumb…mistake.” And says, “One cannot believe that a politically sophisticated chap like Ralph doesn’t know exactly who Newman and Fulani are, and why they are so despicable. For Ralph to grace a Newman front group with his presence is the equivalent of cuddling up to Scientology, another cult-racket.”

Strong words from a Nader fan and past booster.

In the end the Nation reporter concludes that his one-time hero has become a “sad” figure seemingly set to damage “his image and…legacy.”

CultNews has reported for some time about the calculated manipulations of the Newman machine, which has hooked bigger fish than Ralph Nader. Newmanites have been linked politically to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, Governor George Patacki and even much admired Rudy Giuliani.

Newman’s tentacles reach through a myriad of schemes that both benefit him financially and feed the “cult leader’s” considerable ego.

A prominent NY charity “All Stars,” a program supposedly designed to help disadvantaged children, appears to be one more Newman cash cow. Attorney General Elliott Spitzer once told the NY Post he would investigate the finances of Newman connected charities.

Ralph Nader, acclaimed as a consumer advocate, now appears to be an ego-driven aging activist pining for the limelight.

But by schmoozing with the likes of Newman Nader may get the kind of attention that will ultimately end in disgrace. The man who once encouraged “product warnings,” should heed the warning of his former fan about Newman.

After all, if a newspaper as liberal as The Nation is this critical of Nader’s new friends and behavior, Ralph is in real trouble.

Purported “cult leader” and perennial publicity seeker the “Supreme Master Suma Ching Hai” (born Hue Dang Trinh in Vietnam) has found a new angle to get her name in print.

The 53-year-old self-proclaimed “master of meditation” has sent some of her followers on a “mercy mission” to Iran reported England’s Evening Star.

Feeding off of world headlines is nothing new for the guru, who has homes in California and Florida. And it seems the devastating earthquake in Iran is her latest ploy for publicity.

The last time the seemingly ego-driven guru sought attention through charity was 9-11. At that time a gift she gave to UNICEF was rejected and another ultimately was an embarrassment to the American Red Cross.

Though Ching Hai claims to be a benevolent and selfless soul, she has a penchant for material things and status symbols. The “cult leader” lives very comfortably from the cash that flows from her followers and related business schemes.

One steady source of revenue for Ching Hai is a chain of vegetarian restaurants staffed by her followers.

In a naked bid for publicity and possibly influence the guru once gave Bill Clinton’s defense fund $600,000. The check was later returned when the president discovered the background of his dubious benefactor.

Madonna is on a mission it seems, devoting considerable time to missionary work that fulfills the agenda and recruitment objectives of Philip Berg’s so-called “Kabblah Centre,” which is frequently called a “cult.”

The fading pop diva that once sang “Papa don’t preach” appears to think there is an exemption for mamas.

She has apparently even preached about her new found religion to presidential hopeful Wesley Clark reports the NY Daily News.

Recently the former “Material Girl” also took to the airwaves promoting a program called “Spirituality for Kids” via a live satellite broadcast to Israel from Europe. This program’s launch was closely coordinated to the release of Madonna’s books for children.

Karen Berg, the wife of Philip Berg, described the programs as “a new initiative designed to provide children with practice tools to experience life as a great adventure.” But it seems more like a thinly disguised proselytizing effort targeting kids and families for recruitment.

The New York Kabblah Centre has even opened a pre-school in Manhattan located on East 53rd St.

In a Yahoo press release Berg claimed that everyone “should be free, strong and able to independently control his/her own destiny.”

But increasingly it seems Madonna has become dependent upon the Bergs to define her “destiny,” and acts more and more like their full-time salesperson, promoting what appears to be the Berg family business.

The Berg family has apparently grown rich from teaching their version of “Jewish mysticism.” They reportedly began building three homes simultaneously for family members in Beverly Hills last year.

Madonna, once known for her strong sense of individual identity, now behaves more like sock puppet scripted by the “cult” that she believes is the impetus behind her supposed deepening “spirituality.”