(Note: This "Guru" also used mind altering drugs at his seminars. And it is reported that he used them at the one this poor lady was at. And her friends said she began acting strangely after the drugs were forced on her. She did not want to use them but was coerced by Ray or his staff. Then she committed suicide. To see more about Ray's drug practice, read the other article below.)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - A self-help guru who is linked to three sweat lodge deaths in Arizona has now been linked to a bizarre suicide at Horton Plaza. A woman on one of his retreats committed suicide at the mall, and another participant actually witnessed it.
That witness didn't realize what he was seeing until hours later, or that the woman was a part of the group. There was confusion because the woman was dressed as though she was homeless.
Colleen Conaway's family is still in shock the Minnesota native took her own life while on a three-day seminar last July here in San Diego hosted by self-help guru James Ray.
As part of the retreat - which cost thousands of dollars - participants were told to spend a few hours pretending they were homeless as a lesson in self-sufficiency.
Participant Andy Grant says during the exercise, he witnessed a woman, later identified as Colleen Conaway, leap 30 feet to her death from a third-floor balcony at Horton Plaza near where a group of children were performing.
"I looked back at the woman and she put her hands up and just fell forward," Grant said.
While shaken up, Grant did not realize Conaway was part of the James Ray group, which returned to their hotel at the end of the day, apparently not concerned Conaway was not among them.
Because she was posing as homeless, Conaway had no ID or cell phone on her.
"At the hospital, we labeled her as a Jane Doe because she had no identification," a medical examiner's spokesperson said.
In fact, seven hours elapsed before the James Ray group finally reported the 46-year-old missing, at which time investigators were able to identify her body through a driver's license picture and inform her heartbroken family back home.
"All I know is she is alone -- No ID, no means of getting a hold of us or anyone in a big city where she didn't know anyone," Colleen's mother Marian said.
A spokesman for the James Ray group said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Ray or James Ray International contributed to or could have prevented Miss Conaway's tragic sucide."
Colleen Conaway had paid $12,000 dollars on the San Diego retreat and two future James Ray events. Her family says at the very least they're entitled to a refund. Conaway's family says they have received no money back from the James Ray group.
Breaking News: James Ray drugged participants and forced snake handling
When news of the death lodge first emerged everyone called it a tragic accident. As more information came to light everyone called it negligence. As we continue to look into the James Ray scandal we begin to see a larger picture, a pattern of abuse growing in severity that resulted in at least four deaths, possibly five.
I fully expected Nightline to divulge all the dirty little experiential events at James Ray’s other seminars since they were speaking to former JRI employee Melinda Martin. They didn’t though, so it looks like it’s up to me.
The death lodge was not James Ray’s first attempt to cook people. I’ve heard reports that both his Modern Magick and Practical Mysticism seminars include an event where participants walk across a bed of hot coals and lots of people have been badly burned because of this. The worst example I heard of this was at a retreat where approximately 80% of people received second or third degree burns. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about fire-walking and it seems like a pretty bad idea to me, but plenty of people have reported walking across coals without any injuries at all. In the retreat mentioned above, where the majority received burns, it appears to be due to the accelerant James Ray “spilled” on the coals and sections of the dirt where participants were walking barefoot.
What are some other features of the Modern Magick retreat, besides the human barbeque? James Ray also drugged participants. I repeat - James Ray drugged participants. Hallucinogenic breathing techniques are one thing, but James Ray goes above and beyond that and actually drugs his victims with some sort of hallucinogenic muscle relaxer.
What is this drink he coerces people into consuming? I don’t know, but we have a pretty detailed description. It’s a thick liquid described as mud-like. It tastes like dirt and definitely had mind-altering effects. James Ray described the substance as a sort of truth serum, claiming that it would release inhibitions and allow participants’ honest feelings to come out. Participants drank about four cups of this and it produced a heavy bloated feeling. Another notable side effect was that participants pooped black insanity for a couple of days. If anyone has ideas as to what this drink might be or what it’s made of please let me know in the comments.
Another activity at Modern Magick is something called “Dreamers and Dreamed”. Participants were put on silence and not allowed to talk to anyone and then had to wander around to different “stations”. At these “stations” the participants were supposed to hold their arms out in front of their face and look at their palms. They would then flip their hands to look at the back and say something like “Is this real or is this a dream?” after they had done this at the different stations they would go back to the classroom and lay down on their mat. They would rest for a bit and then they were supposed to get up and do the exact same thing, over and over again. This went on for about two hours, maybe longer. It was stressed to participants how important it was to do the exact same routine without variation.
What does this exercise signify? I’m not sure yet, but I think it’s a little odd that between 300 and 600 participants were wandering around the host locations all zombie like, in a trance, not talking, and nobody questioned this.
The most worrisome description of the Modern Magick seminar actually comes from the description of the breathing exercises. James Ray told participants that some may feel like taking off their clothes during the exercise and that staff members would be walking around to cover them with blankets and keep them from being exposed. They were also told that people might be doing things like gyrating hips, etc. James Ray stressed the importance of everyone staying on their own mat and to stay focused on themselves and not others. This setup is so ripe for abuse that I shudder to think what James Ray really meant with the trigger phrase for this activity – “Exactly what you need is exactly what you get.”
The Spiritual Warrior retreat ended with the grand finale of the death lodge and Modern Magick ended with no less of a shocker. James Ray had the same type of lead up saying things like “You’re not out of the woods yet! I have one more thing planned for you.” He also stressed that every single person there had to do it, had to participate. Then he brought out the snakes.
There were large fish tanks filled with writhing, squirming masses of serpents. Participants were told they had to reach through the snakes and grab a key from the bottom of the tank. James Ray told participants these were the keys that unlocked the door to their future. The snakes were all different sizes and species, but James Ray never said whether they were venomous or not.
Now, I’m sure some people are thinking “But James Ray would have to be psychotic to have hundreds and hundreds of people put their hands through five or six inches of venomous snakes!” and, well, yes. Yes, he would. In fact, snake handling is illegal in many states so I definitely think we should find out exactly what types of snakes James Ray was using, and if he had the appropriate exotic animals permits required to have snakes in that quantity. If the serpents were in fact vipers, then I suspect James Ray and staff will be looking at a whole new slew of charges.
Speaking of James Ray’s staff, it turns out that sometimes their job descriptions include things like “pretend to be a participant”. Greg Hartle has done this on more than one occasion.
Other reports of dangerous activities and injuries at James Ray seminars include bending rebar between two people’s necks, breaking arrows on necks (with sharpened metal point!), multiple broken bones from multiple activities – including standing meditation for hours resulting in falls (don’t forget Lorena Bathey’s arm), torn muscles/ligaments, walking on hot coals, and of course all the dangers of the Spiritual Warrior death lodge retreat.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Sweat lodge guru now linked to San Diego death
Sweat lodge guru now linked to San Diego death