Who Is Ma Anand Sheela? New Details About The Woman From Wild Wild Country On Netflix

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ma anand sheela

For those of us who enjoy a good Netflix binge, put this one on your list: Wild Wild Country. The documentary tells the story of a controversial Rajneeshpuram spiritual community that established itself in Wasco County, Oregon in the 1980s. Though citizens of the area were unaccepting of the community, leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh sought to have his own followers be elected in the 1984 elections.

But instead of winning through sheer votes, Rajneesh contaminated salad bars at ten restaurants with salmonella to incapacitate the voting population and secure his candidates’ win. And this is where his personal assistant, Ma Anand Sheela, comes in.So who is is Ma Anand Sheela, righthand woman of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh? 

Let's investigate:

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1. Her father was responsible for introducing her to Bhagwan.

When she was only 16, she and her father went to Bhagwan’s apartment. When she first saw him, she became an instant devotee. As the two embraced, she recalled, “It was in this moment, if death were to have come, I accept. My life was complete.”

2. She was one of the main planners in the bioterror attack.

Sheela, along Diane Yvonne Onang, Rajneesh’s secretary-treasurer, bought the salmonella through a medical supply company. They then cultured it at the commune.

3. Her original plan was far more sinister.

Though the group, with Sheela in charge,contaminated produce in grocery stores as well as doorknobs in the county courthouse, they later added salmonella to salad bars. They considered this a “trial run,” but had, in fact, planned to introduce pathogens into the county’s water supply.

4. 751 people were infected.

Though nobody was killed, 45 people received treatment at the local hospital. Their plan was rendered unsuccessful, as many of the county turned out on election day to prevent the Rajneeshpuram candidates from winning.

5. She was incredibly manipulative and vain.


A post shared by Samuel da Costa (@starjay) on May 20, 2018 at 3:19pm PDT

And she also didn't seem to give two f***s.

In Wild Wild Country, it was revealed she overthrew Rajneesh’s other secretary to become his chief lieutenant. And there’s no doubt she loved power. According to the documentary, “She once made a young Australian disciple wax her legs in the middle of the night, later promoting her, and much later instructing her to murder Bhagwan’s doctor. The woman obeyed, though she wasn’t successful.”

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6. Sheela was eventually arrested.


A post shared by OSHO (@osho_photos) on Jan 27, 2018 at 9:06pm PST

After being arrested in West Germany, she was extradited to the US, charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault for poisoning, second-degree assault for poisoning, and product tampering for the poisonings. Sheela received a sentence of 59 years total in prison for her charges but was later released after serving less than three years. She later moved to Switzerland and ran two nursing homes.

7. Throughout her trial, she showed no remorse.


A post shared by Debra Palermo (@debrap65) on May 18, 2018 at 5:00pm PDT

According to William Gary, former deputy attorney general for Oregon, when he questioned Sheela, “I was struck by how small and unimposing she was, because she had been a pretty big figure in Oregon at the time and frankly in my life. She answered all of my questions with complete honesty and without the slightest trace of shame or regret or anything reflecting remorse. I left thinking this is a person with no empathy.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.