“School” or Cult? Do your research (as the kids like to say …)

Two Things: 1) Sometimes justice does prevail: Sarah Lawrence Cult Leader Convicted of Trafficking and Extortion

2) Sometimes it doesn’t: I left “school” in 2011, largely because my husband found the blog Esoteric Freedom. It exposed the cult con & provided a cyber gathering place for all “disgruntled ex-students.”

Following Scientology’s strategies, “school” sued the site owner. L. Ron Hubbard saw that– ironically– our justice system does not have remedies to protect whistleblowers from parasitic groups with loads of money. Free speech, anyone?

So “school” said, “Hold my beer,” hired a sleaze-bag lawyer & Esoteric Freedom evaporated. During my recent interview on the pod The Cult Vault, the host, Kacey, mentioned that she’d struggled to find information. Recently, some folks contacted me because a “school” recruiter had been courting them.

For what it’s worth, here is a list of online information that I’ll keep on the top of this blog & add to it, as things roll out:

Most recent:

Manhattan cult duped women into paying fee, working for free: lawsuit

Inside the cult that has been operating in NY for decades

Cult Vault Podcast interviews me (part 1)

Cult Vault Podcast interviews me (part 2)

Cult Vault Podcast interview with Spencer

Another podcast: New York Mystery Machine–Cult Following:The Odyssey Study Group

Another podcast: Drinking on the Job–Sharon’s son talks about being groomed for cult leadership


Past reports:

Sharon Gans Cult Report – the most current blog to come out of corporate headquarters, i.e. the NYC branch.

Archived Pages of Esoteric Freedom from The Wayback Machine

Random website from 2011

A history & analysis of the Sharon Gans group, also known as “The Work” (aka “school”, “the study” … etc)

Comment thread from various ex-members and spouses of members seeking information about “school”. (2006)

Theater group, cult or stage – an article published in The San Francisco Progress, 1978

Sharon Gans left San Francisco amidst scandal in 1978

Comments on “the work” a “fourth way school”

The ganscult

1978 San Francisco Progress article about the Horn/Gans cult

School” abuse of the court system to shut up an ex-member

Rosie, Sharon, Alex, Robert & “the work”

Rosie O’Donnell refutes cult connection

Book reading from a “disgruntled ex-student”

Such a shame that I “failed” at my “schooling”. I could be broke, exhausted, miserable and floundering for babysitting and housecleaning gigs, while trying to recruit fellow Target shoppers into the cult. I sucked at the “making new friends” thing.

Instead this “disgruntled ex-student” has a rewarding career, gets to make a lot of music and art with “only life” friends, and is preparing for a book reading and discussion with a fellow cult buster 🙂 If you want to join via Zoom, email me at esther@gsrhealingarts.com.

The ironic thing is that I found what I was looking for from the cult, by leaving the cult. I guess that’s the nature of the beast.

Sharon’s son on being groomed for cult leadership …

Vermont Sunrise

Good morning Readers,
I’m on a little retreat in Vermont, where it’s minus-18 degrees. Good excuse to stay in and write: coffee, fireplace, sunrise:

So, some might find this foodie podcast, Drinking on the Job, interesting. In this episode Sharon’s son talks about being slated to carry the cult forth, and how he rejected this designation.

Instead he sells wine and plays a mean blues guitar. To hear that story, musings about mezcal & some musical samplings click HERE.

More lessons from ‘school’

Today, I learned what a book plate is … an author’s signature, to be adhered to the inside of the book cover.

And that I’ve been awarded, “angriest blogger”. There must be an Emmy for “angriest blogger” … don’t you think?

Regardless, I’m, appropriately, full of pride!

Thanks, Spencer!

Order your copy now and stop by Spencer’s evil blog to learn how you can get your own book plate!

Podcast: The Cult Vault

Interview with Spencer Schneider, author of Manhattan Cult Story

Hi Readers,

Happy almost New Year — I raise my glass to leaving 2021, behind! But, with all that’s gone off the rails, this season still beats the holidays I spent in “school.”

So, I want to let you know about the podcast, The Cult Vault. Brilliant host, Kacey, has turned her attention to our secret little mom & pop cult. FYI, “school”, or “the study”, or OSG (whatever its calling itself now) operates both in New York City, (aka Corporate Headquarters) & Boston (the satellite branch & poor cousin). So, New York has its own “evil” blog, The Sharon Gans Cult Report. There, the hilarious Spencer Schneider cuts through the b.s. And recently he published what promises to be a fantastic memoir, Manhattan Cult Story, as well (hard copy release date, July 5th, 2022).

In this Cult Vault episode, Kacey interviews Spencer and their conversation highlights the following: how “school/the study” leveraged generic language (try Googling “secret school”)to keep “school” in the shadows … we met at “the space”, we studied “the work”, we didn’t divulge last names, or careers. This class, teachers claimed, was dedicated to the work, an “ancient, esoteric, oral teaching, passed down” from teacher to student (blah, blah, blah). We didn’t dilute it with “gossip.” How the cult targeted educated and successful professionals, and that clientele made the group look super good! All secrets & lies, by design.

So, if you’re Boston-based and you want to learn about our New York overlords, start with this interview! Then order a copy of Spencer’s book. If you’re New York-based, Kacey will be interviewing me in February, when we’ll discuss the cult’s poor cousin:-)

Stay tuned for more details! And … Come on, 2022!!

At it again: ‘school’/ ‘the study’ is ‘making friends’

Hi Folks –

This always happens when I wonder whether the cult is culting on …. someone asked me last week and I said, “I have no idea.”

Suddenly, I’m getting messages from people that have been targeted recently. Not only that, sounds like the cult is using the exact same tactics… sigh. You can read about those tactics here …

And remember, a “School”-free holiday season is a happy holiday season!

Enjoy your weekend!

The 1st published “school” memoir

Good morning, fellow “Disgruntled ex-Students” – Exciting news!

My fellow “evil” blogger’s cultic misadventure in “school” NYC (i.e. corporate headquarters) is now a published book!! I got to read a few excerpts pre-publication and can’t wait to read the rest. I’m confident that, true to form, Sir Spence’s beautifully written book, will make me laugh & cry, while demonstrating how one demented woman duped a group of intelligent, high-functioning humans into her staged production of “highly-evolved woman.” Buy the memoir. Compare it to your experience. Something tells me that you’ll relate.:

“We were invisible. We had to be. We took an oath of absolute secrecy. We never even told our immediate families who we were. We went about our lives in New York City. Just like you. We were your accountants, money managers, lawyers, executive recruiters, doctors. We owned your child’s private school and sold you your brownstone. But you’d never guess our secret lives, how we lived in a kind of silent terror and fervor. There were hundreds of us.”

Right under the noses of neighbors, clients, spouses, children, and friends, a secret society, simply called School—a cult of snared Manhattan professionals—has been led by the charismatic, sociopathic and dangerous leader Sharon Gans for decades. Spencer Schneider was recruited in the eighties and he stayed for more than twenty-three years as his life disintegrated, his self-esteem eroded, and he lined the pockets of Gans and her cult.

Cult members met twice weekly, though they never acknowledged one another outside of meetings or gatherings. In the name of inner development, they endured the horrors of mental, sexual, and physical abuse, forced labor, arranged marriages, swindled inheritances and savings, and systematic terrorizing. Some of them broke the law. All for Gans.

‘During those years,’ Schneider writes, ‘my world was School. That’s what it’s like when you’re in a cult, even one that preys on and caters to New York’s educated elite. This is my story of how I got entangled in School and how I got out.’

At its core, Manhattan Cult Story is a cautionary tale of how hundreds of well-educated, savvy, and prosperous New Yorkers became fervent followers of a brilliant but demented cult leader who posed as a teacher of ancient knowledge. It’s about double-lives, the power of group psychology, and how easy it is to be radicalized—all too relevant in today’s atmosphere of conspiracy and ideologue worship.

“School” News: Lawsuit Against Gans Estate

Hello fellow “Disgruntled Ex-Students”,

Here’s something you’ll probably find interesting: apparently, two former NYC colleagues (i.e. corporate headquarters) are demanding ” …wages for the alleged unpaid labor and a reimbursement of the many $400 fees collected.”

Read all about it in the article, Plaza Denizen Ran ‘Secret Cult’ Masquerading As Study Group: Suit.

My understanding is that this is a class action lawsuit, filed by Attny Mordy Yankovich, on behalf of all who provided unpaid labor to School, or Gans, or suffered similar losses. According to the Sharon Gans Cult Report, ” if anyone else was a member of school and wants to be part of the class, they can potentially collect damages by joining the class by contacting the attorney for the plaintiffs. You would not need to be named in the lawsuit to be part of the class.”

And, by the way, you can no longer reach OSG via phone … as “…number listed for the Odyssey Study Group is now out of service.” You can read about that, and more, in this article: Secret NYC ‘cult’ duped women into paying fee, working for free: lawsuit.

Here’s another article: Two ex-members of secretive NYC ‘cult’ say they paid $400 a month to serve as ‘assistants, cooks and drivers’ for actress and founder who lived life of luxury at the Plaza Hotel
That’s it for now.