One homeless man's 'chaotic' experience at the Wild Wild Country ranch

Charlie Myers was one of thousands of homeless people who briefly stayed at the Oregon commune depicted in the Netflix series. He spoke to As It Happens in 1984.

Charlie Myers told As It Happens in 1984 why he decided to leave Rajneeshpuram after just 24 hours

The Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country explores the controversy around the Rajneeshees, a religious sect who worshipped an Indian guru called Bagwan Shree Rajneesh. (Netflix )
Listen6:57

Charlie Myers stayed at Rajneeshpuram for 24 hours before he decided he'd rather live on the streets.

The Portland man was one of thousands of homeless people from across the United States who briefly went to live at the elaborate commune at the centre of the new Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country.

The series explores tensions in the early '80s around the Wasco County, Ore., ranch that was home the Rajneeshees, a free-love religious sect that worshipped Indian guru Bagwan Shree Rajneesh.

The commune was later abandoned after Rajneesh was convicted of immigration fraud and deported. 

In 1984, Wayne Fawbush, then the sate representative of Dalles, Ore., spoke to As It Happens host Elizabeth Gray about Bagwan Shree Rajneesh's plans to invite thousands of homeless people to his ranch in Waco County. 8:11

In 1984, Rajneeshpuram was recruiting new members from the American homeless population — a move county officials dismissed as a scheme to boost the sect's voting power. 

Many of those new residents were later evicted from Rajneeshpuram after the county refused to register them as voters. 

Myers took a bus from a hotel in Portland to Rajneeshpuram after being promised food, shelter and a welcoming community. He spoke to then-As It Happens host Elizabeth Gray in September 1984 about the experience.

Here is part of that conversation from our archives.

So you got to the ranch and they gave you some dinner?

They took us into this place [that] looked like customs, you know? And we signed another thing so they could search our luggage.

We hung around for about a half hour, then walked over to this tent where they had a dog come over and sniff our luggage and sniffed us.

What kind of dog?

German Shepherd, I guess, or something like that.

A big dog, eh?

Oh yeah.

Were the Rajneeshees themselves friendly towards you?

[Chuckles] Like a sickly type friendliness. Everything was "darling, honey, sweetheart." Stuff like that.

What had they told you life would be like there?

We were told at the hotel we were going to a loving community.

And how did it turn out?

We got up there and they took our picture and then they took us over to a shack ... and gave us some red clothes to wear.

Then we took a shower and they took our clothes and washed them.

Then we went under a tent and they gave us a bag lunch and some coffee.

They had these A-frames put up. They showed us where we were going to sleep. So we went up there and we went to sleep.

We stayed in bed until about 12 [p.m.] then went down the road to see the Bagwan. He comes in at about 2 [p.m.] every day in his Rolls Royce.

The Rajneeshees greet their leader, Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, as he moves through the crowd in one of his many iconic Rolls Royce cars. (Netflix)

The Bhagwan is the big cheese there?

Yeah, he's the holy man.

They had all the drums out there and the flutes and the triangles and tambourines and everything. They really get you warmed up to see him.

And he comes down. They got all this peace force or police department. They've all got guns, you know, and Uzis and things like that. 

And he goes down real slow and stops and waves at you.

You pay a buck for a rose and you put it on his car.

Did you do that? Did you buy a rose?

No, I didn't buy no rose. I wouldn't buy rose for my sister, let alone him.

Alright. Then what happened?

He rode past and they were jumping up and down — as far as I'm concerned, acting goofy as hell.

We went back up to the tent.

Sheela, Ma Anand  Sheela ... 

Ma Anand Sheela was Bagwan Shree Rajneesh's personal secretary before they had a falling out. She pleaded guilty in 1985 to attempted murder and assault in connection with an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in Oregon. (Netflix)

She's the one who's his assistant, she's the sort of...

I think she's running everything.

She had general meeting and it was all a big complaint. 

She was screaming about guys bartering cigarettes and beer, and they were throwing shoes down the toilet.

You know, you can't get away from this old man's picture. His picture his everywhere, even in the bathroom. And you go to the toilet and you're sitting there and you got his picture. Somebody poked his eyes out or something in the picture.

Oh dear.

Right. So she came right out and she said if anybody dared hurt one hair on his head, she'd kill us all.

So it just got real heavy and I walked to this big shack and told them I was going back. 

Go back to Portland?

Yeah, told them I had enough.

I was only there 24 hours, you know what I mean? I said that's enough. It was too chaotic.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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