Before three people died in his sweat lodge of horror, James Arthur Ray told them to "surrender to death to survive it." The police report is out, and it's thirty-three pages of insanity, chronicling Ray's sordid career and stanky retreat.
We begin with the scene of the crime: The tarp-covered sweat lodge where participants were to experience "rebirth." As participants began to drop, Ray kept asking for more "grandfathers" (heated rocks) and cut a cool, careless figure amid pandemonium:
The "let yourself die" theme grazes the aesthetics of cult suicide, which could add a whole new dimension to this already tawdry case, though I suspect Ray wasn't murderous in a premeditated way. He just had his head so far up his own butt he either didn't notice or care that people were perishing left and right. As stunning as this apparent callousness is, however, Ray's followers' continued to adore him. Stockholm syndrome?
Another participant says she and her husband both broke bones there, along with sixteen Modern Magick participants who ended up in a Hawaiian emergency room. The police report establishes a pattern of physically distressed "vision quest" participants dating back to 2005:
The 33-page police report is equal parts thriller novel and parody. The detectives exchange emails with message board commenters, one of whom punctuates his murder accusations with a frowny face. We learn about Ray's "wealth society" (Ponzi-ish or Scientology-ish?) and the mysterious suicide of Colleen Conaway, a Ray follower who leapt to her death during a retreat in San Diego. He is motivated, it seems, by some sort of megalomaniacal power fetish:
Ray's inestimably irksome righteousness in the sweat lodge of horror aftermath—promoting the notion that the dead people weren't manslaughter victims, just freed of their corporeal beings and in a more spiritually enlightened place—seems to confirm the "megalomaniacal jackass" gloss. [NYT] [Gawker]