The charismatic chief of a cult that recruited Manhattan’s rich and highly effective might have died final 12 months, however her infamous motion continues to be thriving.
The Odyssey Examine Group, also called The Work and A Fourth Means Faculty, has lengthy been accused of sexual and child abuse as well as siphoning cash from its members to pay for its leaders’ extravagant life in Manhattan, Boston, the Hamptons and Mexico.
OSG, which was registered as a for-profit firm in 2001, at present has greater than 200 members on the East Coast, a cult skilled and former member each advised The Put up.
“It’s a really weird type of group as a result of they’re usually rich and extremely educated Harvard, Yale and Wharton varieties,” mentioned Rick Alan Ross, writer of the 2014 e book “Cults Inside out: How People Get in and Can Get Out” and govt director of Cult Education Institute, which has studied the group since 2001.
“When folks say that individuals in New York Metropolis are a lot too sensible to get entangled in a cult, it simply signifies that the cult may be very subtle and slick,” Ross mentioned, including that OSG’s survival has quite a bit to do with its money stream.
Beneath former chief Sharon Gans Horn — who died from COVID problems in January 2021 on the age of 85 — the group was producing greater than $1.2 million a 12 months, simply in member dues paid in money, mentioned Ross.
The group, which meets twice weekly in an workplace constructing on West thirty eighth Avenue and an Higher West Aspect Church, is now run by 4 alleged longtime members handpicked by Gans Horn, in line with a current class-action lawsuit.
Gans Horn, a one-time Hollywood actress who had a small half within the 1972 movie model of “Slaughterhouse-5,” additionally left the majority of her $3.275 million property to some members.
“In response to the purported will and testamentary trusts … defendant Sharon Gans Horn bequeathed her curiosity in OSG to defendants Minerva Taylor, Lorraine Imlay, Greg Koch, and Ken Salaz,” in line with the lawsuit.
The defendants have lengthy been leaders of OSG, in line with a supply. Co-executor Michael Horn, 64, is Gans Horn’s stepson and isn’t a member of the cult, in line with the supply.
Taylor, 71, who has a five-bedroom dwelling in East Hampton, based a Manhattan recruiting agency — Taylor Hodson, Inc. — in December 1994, in line with public information; Gans Horn is alleged to have been a silent companion within the enterprise, in line with the supply. Taylor’s specialty is recruitment of recent members, the supply mentioned, and her firm employs many alleged members of the cult.
“I’m shocked Greg Koch made the minimize,” mentioned a former cult member who final 12 months posted his views in regards to the group on Cult Revolt, a weblog began by Schneider. “I bear in mind him being brutally set upon by Alex Horn [Gans Horn’s husband] and the older college students one evening … Greg was in tears and I felt sorry for him.”
Imlay, a ceramic artist, is a retired New York Metropolis trainer. Now 74, she has lived in the identical four-bedroom West Village co-op since 2003, public information present. She met Gans Horn and Alex Horn in San Francisco within the Eighties, and was described because the chief’s “physique particular person” or assistant.
Salaz is among the many youthful alleged leaders of the group. At 52, he’s an artist and magician who lives in Croton-on-Hudson, in line with public information. He was described as a protege of Alex Horn by the supply.
A lawyer representing Taylor, Koch, Salaz, Imlay and Horn declined remark.
The category-action swimsuit, filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court last year, was introduced by Stephanie Rosenberg and Marjorie Hochman, who each fled OSG after spending years concerned with the cult. They declare that they had been utilized by the group as slave labor — cooking and cleansing for twice weekly conferences in Manhattan and laboring on renovations to luxurious properties utilized by Gans Horn that always required them to do development and portray into the wee hours.
“Via strategies historically utilized to groom, intimidate, weaken, gaslight, and exploit their victims, OSG coerced and tricked its members into, amongst different issues … paying it month-to-month charges and performing many hours of labor with out compensation,” the lawsuit says.
“We filed a grievance alleging that these members had been staff as a result of they labored for the defendants’ for-profit firm and by no means acquired paid,” mentioned Mordy Yankovich, a companion in Liebatlaw representing plaintiffs Rosenberg and Hochman.
“Vindictive” late chief Gans Horn “deliberately excluded” her personal kids from the 2015 will “for causes which can be recognized to them,” in line with courtroom papers.
“She was like a human wrecking ball,” mentioned Ross, alleging that Gans Horn broke up the marriages of cult members, inspired some to interact in affairs with one another, and arranged adoptions of followers’ kids. “She was extremely vindictive.”
Gans Horn’s personal offspring, Ilsa Lee Kaye and son David Kulko, had been estranged from her, though Kaye’s kids weren’t excluded from the desire, courtroom paperwork present.
The cult’s success had a lot to do with Gans Horn, who has been described as a narcissist, Ross mentioned.
“The entire thing is a pyramid scheme and a hoax,” mentioned Spencer Schneider, a former OSG member who has written “Manhattan Cult Story: My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos and Survival,” a tell-all e book out now in regards to the cult. “It’s an extended haul hoax and Sharon was a genius at going after weak folks with cash.”
In response to Schneider, who spent 23 years as a part of the group, members paid $400 in money in dues to Gans Horn, who would then direct them to assist renovate her compounds in Manhattan, the Hamptons, upstate New York, Montana and even Mexico. She owned an expensive dwelling in San Miguel de Allende, purchased in 2004. She later offered the property to Taylor, in line with public information.
Taylor and her then-husband adopted Gans Horn and Alex Horn from San Francisco to the East Coast within the early Eighties, in line with a supply and public paperwork.
Along with the holiday dwelling in Mexico, Taylor is listed because the “registered agent” on the LLC that purchased Gans Horn’s sprawling $8.5 million Plaza Lodge residence the place she died in January 2021. Taylor was additionally named as an investor within the property, together with Gans Horn and three others, together with Manhattan hedge fund proprietor Joseph Stilwell, who signed the deed paperwork in 2008, public and courtroom information present.
Gans and her playwright husband, who died in 2007, co-founded OSG in San Francisco within the Seventies. The group, recognized then as Theater of All Prospects, was partly set as much as placed on performs by Horn. Its rules are based mostly on the teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdieff, a Russian mystic and thinker, who additionally impressed the Fellowship of Friends, a California-based cult well-liked with Google staff.
Gans and Horn shuttered their San Francisco theater in December 1978 once they realized that police and social welfare investigators had been interviewing their former college students who alleged baby neglect, sexual abuse and beatings, in line with Ross.
The couple fled first to Montana, after which ended up in New York Metropolis within the Eighties once they established OSG and lived in a sequence of opulent properties, together with an condominium in Greenwich Village the place actress Marisa Tomei was their next-door neighbor.
Ross mentioned that he believes the cult will proceed though the lack of their “thinker queen” Gans has possible hit them laborious.
“It’s no totally different than Scientology,” mentioned Schneider, an lawyer. “That group continued even after the demise of their founder.”
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