Heather Walters was 11 when she first encountered the crimson-clad disciples of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in The Dalles in north-central Oregon. It was in the parking lot of a supermarket, though whether it was a Fred Meyers or some other big-box grocer—perhaps it was an Albertsons?—Walters, now 48, can’t quite recall.
What she does remember, however, is feeling a chill as she watched them dancing—twirling, really—with their eyes closed and faces raised beatifically to the sky.
The Dalles, the largest city and seat of Wasco County, would soon become ground zero for crimes committed by the Indian guru’s followers—known variously as Rajneeshees, neo-sannyasins, or simply sannyasins—who had commandeered a 64,000-acre cattle ranch, just 100 miles away, to build an ambitious utopia for thousands of worshippers.
The most salacious of these, including widespread salad-bar poisonings, are documented in Wild Wild Country, a six-part Netflix docuseries by the brothers Chapman and Maclain Way that charts the incredible rise and equally improbable fall of Rajneeshpuram, the city-commune that served as a flashpoint for debate about sexual mores, religious freedom, and land-use legislation in 1980s rural Oregon.