David Berry Knapp, aka Swami Krishna Deva, the former mayor of Rajneeshpuram, famously flipped on the cult. And his FBI testimony was eye-opening and very disturbing.
Netflix’s Wild Wild Country is, so far, the must-see television event of 2018.
Created by brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, it explores the incredible true story of Rajneeshpuram—a city established by cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his free-loving, red-clothed followers, or sannyasins, on a 64,000-acre ranch in rural Oregon. With the help of his top lieutenant, Ma Anand Sheela, Bhagwan and the Rajneeshees transformed the barren fields on the outskirts of Wasco County into a full-blown community replete with a shopping mall, fire and police departments, a school, an airstrip, and enough A-frame townhouses to hold 7,000 people.
Things soon got ugly, however, between Rajneeshpuram and those in the nearby towns and cities. After a Rajneeshee hotel was bombed, the sannyasins acquired a large cache of approximately 100 semiautomatic weapons—more than the entire Oregon police force combined—and a million rounds of AK-47 ammunition. Then, in an attempt to overthrow the Wasco County government, they bused in thousands of homeless people to Rajneeshpuram to vote, only to drug them with Haldol and later expel them; poisoned several city and local government officials; poisoned 10 restaurants in The Dalles, sending 751 people to the hospital in the largest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history; and burned down the county commissioner’s office. They also attempted to assassinate U.S. State Attorney Charles Turner, who was coming down on Rajneeshpuram.
Wild Wild Country posits that most of these dirty deeds were orchestrated by none other than Ma Anand Sheela, though in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast she alleges that she was merely following the orders of her “boss,” Bhagwan.
There are also many unanswered questions in the documentary. How culpable was Bhagwan? How did Rajneeshpuram get its millions? Who was really behind all of these poisonings and assassination attempts? Were there other schemes that weren’t covered?
“Sheela and Puja discussed the possibility of using venomous snakes to kill people…”
The series briefly mentions how David Berry Knapp, aka Swami Krishna Deva, aka K.D., the outspoken mayor of Rajneeshpuram, was one of the only Rajneeshees to flip on the cult and give testimony to the FBI in exchange for a more lenient two-year prison sentence. Knapp, who was interviewed by the FBI several times at their Portland office between Oct. 29, 1985, and Nov. 7, 1985, provided what the bureau called “essential” information concerning the various criminal activities conducted by the sannyasins of Rajneeshpuram, including poisoning officials, immigration fraud, assassination attempts, you name it.
According to Knapp, a former marriage and child counselor and real estate broker, he was introduced to the teachings of Bhagwan in 1976, and stayed at his ashram in Pune, India, between 1979 and 1981, by which point he’d become “a full-fledged Rajneesh member.” He was one of the first people invited to what would eventually become known as Rajneeshpuram due to his real estate background—specifically his knowledge concerning incorporation and municipality law—and his job was to resolve zoning issues with nearby ranchers and the government. In August 1982, he became a city official and later was named mayor of Rajneeshpuram, acting as its full-time spokesperson … (read more)