Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Cult Next Door by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone

The Cult Next Door: A True Story of a Suburban Manhattan New Age Cult, Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone.  Bergenfield N.J.: Ace Academics, Inc., 2011.  ebook, 345 pps.

Elizabeth R. Burchard grew up in Manhattan.  Her parents divorced.  Her father was stable but died when Liz was twelve years old.  Her mother was whacked out and verbally abused Liz frequently throughout her childhood.

Liz was smart and was in college pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a shrink when she met George Sharkman, a biofeedback technician during the course of his work.  He was a charming talker and roped both Liz and her dysfunctional mother in with his words.

He started what is referred to as "The Group," a quasi-therapy group at his home.  He had a bunch of women there and a few men, and his two kids and a dog named Ben.  He charged the women and the few men forty bucks an hour and his form of therapy devolved into mass marathons and his pick of sex partners.  He encouraged everyone to have sex with each other.  The author found herself married to a man that she didn't care for.  After that broke up, she still stayed in The Group.  George Sharkman began to channel "God's Light" but then he began to refer to his own self as God.  He started doing a lot of shaking so the group did too.  The dog died and George got the group to hang around and sort of hope for the dog's return to life.  Ben's decaying maggot-infested corpse was hidden behind the couch and brought out when The Group was in session.  The Group was in session as often as George could arrange it-- at forty bucks an hour per participant for as many hours daily as possible, it was worth his while to make it so-- and George also offered individual therapy as he saw fit to add to his income.  One day, the Black Dog Cult members were presented with a bunch of pebbles laying on Ben's body and told that Ben had birthed these stones.  This started The Group on sucking rocks.

Liz began a photography business as she had become a college dropout and her inheritance from her father went to George Sharkman.  She was hoodwinked into taking on George's daughter as a partner and also lived with her for awhile as roommates.  She met Judith L. Carlone and Judith's husband.  With Judith's gentle questions and friendship, Liz made her escape from all things Sharkman good.  Unfortunately, her mother remained behind.  George Sharkman died.  The dog never was brought back to life.  He was returned to his grave near the woods.

sapphoq reviews says: The Cult Next Door shows how easily it is for someone to decide to join a cult.  Liz was highly intelligent but she capitulated.  Her writing is crisp and she keeps her memoir moving.  Highly recommended to any who wish to understand more about how a talkative con guru can seduce folks into joining up.

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