Before Rosemary Woodhouse rescues her devil-baby as he cries in a room surrounded by Satan worshippers in ROSEMARY’S BABY, she has a party to celebrate her seemingly normal pregnancy. In the scene, the camera pans on a dark-haired man with tan skin for an instant—but just long enough to catch your eye. The man, Michel Rostand, would later go on to become a sadistic leader of a spiritual cult known as the Buddhafield.
Before he became an enigmatic leader to a group of hippies, Rostand was searching for fame in Hollywood. His biggest role was as an extra in the Roman Polanski classic, and a handful of gay porn. He also fancied himself a dancer, and told people he performed in the ballet.
His accomplishments weren’t much, but to him they were monumental. To him, he was a star.
Rostand utilized his acting talent to create a powerful persona that would capture the minds of more than 100 vulnerable souls. He started by holding weekly yoga and meditation sessions at a studio in West Hollywood, and soon the group grew.
People both young and old came to Rostand searching for a place of belonging. They wanted a place to find a spiritual awakening and enlightenment—they wanted a family. And, they found it.
The group called themselves the Buddhafield. Rostand was known as “The Teacher,” who at first appeared calm, and full of positive energy. He spoke confidently about his own experiences with spiritual awakening, and insisted he could teach them all to have one too.
His followers hung on to his every word. They believed he was sincere. He relished in the attention and power. He thought he was God.
At first, things appeared normal on the outside. Rostand was a hip prophet who communicated with his peers through contemporary music and dance. He conducted weekly “cleansings,” which were hypno-therapy sessions (for a price of $50 bucks) to clear the mind.
Along with constant therapy, Rostand urged everyone in the group to be as healthy as possible. He was big on appearances, and he wanted everyone to exercise daily. He often suggested plastic surgery to followers with less-than perfect faces, and he received numerous plastic surgeries over the years as well.
His followers couldn’t use drugs or alcohol, have caffeine, or engage in sexual activity. People were so appreciative of their leader’s help that they did everything he asked without question.
They worked “service” daily on the commune, which was essentially doing hours of chores—on top of the 40-hour day jobs many of them already had. But, they loved serving their leader because it gave them a sense of purpose.
To keep his followers interested in more, Rostand told them he could give them a direct experience to God. He called it “The Knowing,” and only a select few were chosen to experience the phenomenon that would allow them to feel, see, and even taste God.
To be picked for “The Knowing,” Rostand’s followers essentially worked as his slaves. They worked harder—longer hours—on the premises, and they assisted their leader with daily massages, cooked him all his meals, and were at his every beck-and-call.
No one ever disagreed with his practices or called him out on his dictator-like behavior. After all, he made them feel things they couldn’t feel anywhere else. He could make them feel like they were out of their bodies, one with nature and God, and he made them feel pure happiness.
How could someone who can make you feel so good, really be that bad?
They all had no idea of the horrors that were occurring behind closed doors. As time went on, Rostand became more aggressive and narcissistic. He became more controlling toward his followers and demanded they “detach” from their families. He gave them all new names, because they were all new people.
His followers weren’t even really allowed to have romantic relationships with each other. And when someone became obsessed with a female follower who didn’t reciprocate his feelings, the disgruntled admirer went to the Cult Awareness Network to report the Buddhafield.
The Cult Awareness Network was run by a man named Rick Ross (not the rapper), who was dedicated to “rescuing” people from cults and deprogramming them. When Rostand heard of this, he and his followers packed up and moved to Austin, Texas to escape.
Then, another cult in Waco, Texas went up in flames after a hostage situation with the FBI. The Branch Davidians were negatively depicted in the news and the cult leader, David Koresh, was torn apart by the media. Rostand saw this and worried the same would happen to him. So, he made his followers keep their whereabouts with the cult a secret.
While Rostand thought he was completely different than the psychotic Koresh, he was very much like him. He forced his followers to hunt for rats in their garden and decapitate them with shovels. He would berate them and yell if they ever did anything wrong, or didn’t complete tasks quick enough. He even forced one follower to have multiple abortions because he didn’t want children in the community.
To keep them oblivious to the outside world and contain his control, the leader wouldn’t allow his followers to read books, watch TV, or listen to music. When one follower got a dog, he made her give it back.
And things just got worse from there. Rostand wouldn’t allow his followers to have sex, and yet he would masturbate in front of them. Then, a horrifying truth was revealed by a former follower: Rostand had forced himself on him—and many other male followers—for years.
This shocked his devoted followers who had been with the cult for over 20 years. They loved Rosend and thought he truly loved them too. However, Rostand was just using and abusing them for his sick, personal gain.
When the abuse allegations swarmed, many of his followers finally opened their eyes to what was happening and left the group. They demanded Rostand stop his teaching, or else they would press charges. So, he fled to Hawaii with his remaining followers.
He now refers to himself as “God King,” and still has followers to this day. Former follower, Will Allen, documented the cult for 22 years and released a documentary about the horrifying ordeal called HOLY HELL.
What started as a beautiful journey for spiritual awakening and community turned into an abusive cult dedicated to worshiping a power-hungry narcissist. He’s never been charged for sexually abusing his followers, and he’s still prophesizing his beliefs to people who have no idea what kind of monster hides behind his mask.
This article was originally published on Blumhouse. Check it out here.