Odyssey Study Group cult still going strong after Sharon Gans’ death

Odyssey Study Group cult still going strong after Sharon Gans’ death

The charismatic chief of a cult that recruited Manhattan’s rich and highly effective could have died final 12 months, however her infamous motion continues to be thriving.

The Odyssey Examine Group, also referred to as The Work and A Fourth Means College, has lengthy been accused of sexual and baby abuse in addition to siphoning money from its members to pay for its leaders’ extravagant existence in Manhattan, Boston, the Hamptons and Mexico.

OSG, which was registered as a for-profit firm in 2001, presently has greater than 200 members on the East Coast, a cult professional and former member each advised The Submit.

“It’s a really weird type of group as a result of they’re typically rich and extremely educated Harvard, Yale and Wharton sorts,” mentioned Rick Alan Ross, creator of the 2014 guide “Cults Inside out: How Individuals Get in and Can Get Out” and government director of Cult Training Institute, which has studied the group since 2001.

“When folks say that folks in New York Metropolis are a lot too good 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 loads to do with its money circulate.

Underneath former chief Sharon Gans Horn — who died from COVID issues 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.

Former OSG member Spencer Schneider wrote a guide on the cult’s inside workings.Doug Kuntz for NY Submit

The group, which meets twice weekly in an workplace constructing on West thirty eighth Road and an Higher West Aspect Church, is now run by 4 alleged longtime members handpicked by Gans Horn, based on a latest 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.

“Based on 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,” based on the lawsuit.

The defendants have lengthy been leaders of OSG, based on a supply. Co-executor Michael Horn, 64, is Gans Horn’s stepson and isn’t a member of the cult, based on the supply.

Taylor, 71, who has a five-bedroom house in East Hampton, based a Manhattan recruiting agency — Taylor Hodson, Inc. — in December 1994, based on public information; Gans Horn is alleged to have been a silent accomplice within the enterprise, based on the supply. Taylor’s specialty is recruitment of recent members, the supply mentioned, and her firm employs many alleged members of the cult.

A photograph from an Odyssey Examine Group Christmas social gathering, with Sharon Gans Horn entrance and middle, in 1997 highlighted the group’s privileged background.

“I’m stunned Greg Koch made the reduce,” 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 keep 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 Nineteen 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, based on 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.

Alleged OSG members Minerva Taylor and Lorraine Imlay had been bequeathed pursuits within the group, together with others, based on a class-action lawsuit by former members.Twitter/Minerva Taylor; Flicker

The category-action swimsuit, filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court docket final 12 months, 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 usually required them to do building and portray into the wee hours.

“By way of 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 bought paid,” mentioned Mordy Yankovich, a accomplice in Liebatlaw representing plaintiffs Rosenberg and Hochman.

“Vindictive” late chief Gans Horn “deliberately excluded” her personal kids from the 2015 will “for causes which are identified to them,” based on courtroom papers.

Gans Horn reportedly excluded her kids from her will.Wikipedia

“She was like a human wrecking ball,” mentioned Ross, alleging that Gans Horn broke up the marriages of cult members, inspired some to have interaction 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 Intercourse, Crimes, Chaos and Survival,” a tell-all guide out now in regards to the cult. “It’s a protracted haul hoax and Sharon was a genius at going after susceptible folks with cash.”

Gans Horn, whose grave is seen right here, died in 2021 from COVID issues.Offered by Spencer L. Schneider

Based on 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 opulent house in San Miguel de Allende, purchased in 2004. She later offered the property to Taylor, based on public information.

Taylor and her then-husband adopted Gans Horn and Alex Horn from San Francisco to the East Coast within the early Nineteen Eighties, based on a supply and public paperwork.

Along with the holiday house 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, identified then as Theater of All Prospects, was partly set as much as placed on performs by Horn. Its rules are primarily based on the teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdieff, a Russian mystic and thinker, who additionally impressed the Fellowship of Buddies, a California-based cult standard with Google staff.

Gans and Horn shuttered their San Francisco theater in December 1978 after they realized that police and social welfare investigators had been interviewing their former college students who alleged baby neglect, sexual abuse and beatings, based on Ross.

The couple fled first to Montana, after which ended up in New York Metropolis within the Nineteen Eighties after they established OSG and lived in a collection of opulent properties, together with an residence 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 doubtless hit them onerous.

“It’s no completely different than Scientology,” mentioned Schneider, an lawyer. “That group continued even after the loss of life of their founder.”

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