Former KATU reporter remembers covering Rajneeshees nearly 30 years ago

Former KATU reporter Jim Hyde speaks with KATU on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 about covering the Rajneeshees nearly 30 years ago. (KATU Photo)

The story made national news back in the early 1980s. Rajneeshee followers made the trek to central Oregon, where they set up a large commune in the small town of Antelope.

Jim Hyde was a reporter for KATU News. He was the first reporter to visit the ranch where nearly 2,000 people lived.

"It was a rundown ranch house. They had just bought the property; they were just getting situated there," he said Wednesday.

The leaders came with apparent wealth, and its leader was commonly seen driving Rolls-Royces around the ranch.

He said the local opposition grew, which in turn made the group more aggressive.

At one point, two of its leading followers went to prison for attempted murder of a U.S. attorney.

"They decided that the U.S. attorney was the man that was standing in their way of having their way, so they were going to take him out," said Hyde.

Followers were also behind the first and single largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history. Followers used salmonella to poison voters in The Dalles.

The story will be featured in a six-part series to air later this month on Netflix. "Wild Wild Country," begins airing Friday, March 16.

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