Wild Wild Country is the most addicting documentary on Netflix right now, exposing a relatively unknown (and undeniably chilling) chapter of American history. The story of how self-pronounced Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh established a commune in rural Oregon in 1981 is stranger than fiction. The stateside arrival of the Rajneeshees rocked the neighbouring town of Antelope (population: 40), the state of Oregon, and eventually the entire country.
The Rajneeshees first settled in the United States after Bhagwan was kicked out of India — he'd grown notorious with the national government, a foreshadowing of what would occur stateside. When Bhagwan bought the Big Muddy Ranch, Antelope residents watched in awe and horror as thousands of spiritual followers swarmed their remote part of the world. When the legality of the cult's use of the ranch was challenged, the Rajneeshees moved into Antelope, buying up plots of land and quickly overtaking the town. Street signs were changed, and the town was renamed Rajneesh.
The once-remote town became a global destination for religious wanderers and the homeless (who were imported into the community). But after the Rajneeshees lost a legal battle over immigration fraud and bioterrorism (among other charges), Bhagwan returned to India, and the ranch was evacuated.
But where is Rajneeshpuram now? You may have wondered what happened to the sprawling commune (7,000 residents at its peak) and the surrounding Wasco County. The answer might surprise you, though it shouldn't: everything about this story defies expectation.
If you're eager to make a pilgrimage to Oregon for your own spiritual journey led by the teachings of Bhagwan (now named Osho), you're out of luck. To experience Rajneeshpuram today, a passport is required: you have to book a flight to India to enjoy the commune's current iteration, the Osho International Meditation Resort (for a fee, of course).
As for Wasco County, the town of Rajneesh was renamed Antelope again, and the Big Muddy Ranch has been purchased by another fervent religious sect. The world's largest Young Life camp now presides over the ranch, and — though their attitude toward sex may be the opposite of the Rajneeshees — the devout spirituality remains the same. Young Life urges its youthful followers to believe in the teachings of Jesus, and Antelope residents are complaining once again that their neighbours are religious fanatics. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
If you haven't watched it yet, Wild Wild Country is streaming on Netflix.