The Hare Krishna Murders
February 26-April 2, 2019: Wondery, a company based in Los Angeles noted for writing and producing top nonfiction podcast series, including Dirty John, Gladiator, Dr. Death, and Business Wars, has produced six podcast episodes about New Vrindaban, Swami Bhaktipada and the Hare Krishna movement, titled: The Hare Krishna Murders. Henry, due to his reputation as a Hare Krishna historian and the 2018 publication of his book, Killing For Krishna: The Danger of Deranged Devotion, was asked to serve as consultant for this series. Emma Courtland, an Associate Producer at Wondery, noted in an email to Henry, “We are currently doing a series on the Hare Krishna events of the late 60s, 70s and beyond. You are clearly the expert in this field.”
Henry accepted the offer and after working on the series, reported, “I am very happy to have the opportunity to utlilize the knowledge I acquired from fifteen years of studying New Vrindaban and ISKCON history by serving as consultant for the Wondery podcast series. I am grateful that the company is reputable and responsible for the content of their nonfiction writing. The writer for this series, Steve Chivers, has consulted dozens of sources in his own research, such The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous other reputable online sources. Steven also consulted books in print, such as my own Killing For Krishna, Hayagriva’s The Hare Krishna Explosion, and Hubner and Gruson’s Monkey On A Stick. It is important that they consult an expert in the field of ISKCON and New Vrindaban history because Monkey On A Stick was not historically authentic; it was a docu-drama which did not accurately tell the story without exaggeration. The authors even made up characters to help propel the story line. Wondery wanted to make their series as accurate as possible, and for that I am grateful. There is enough fiction written about the Hare Krishnas. The real story is salacious enough. There is no need for exaggeration or embellishment.”
Henry continued, “In addition, as I made corrections and suggestions to the writer’s story, and later after listening to the finished podcasts, I developed a great appreciation for Steve Chiver’s highly-accurate and intuitive perspective on Swami Bhaktipada’s psychological motivations. Persons, such as myself, who once-upon-a-time worshiped Kirtanananda Swami as a self-realized representative of God, might have somewhat distorted viewpoints; sometimes we fail to see the big picture. On the other hand, Steve probes into Kirtanananda’s motivations with an objective and detached eye, and I appreciate that. I hope these six American Scandal episodes will help my godbrothers and sisters in the Hare Krishna movement, as well as the general public for which this podcast series was created, to be aware of (and to beware) the danger of deranged devotion and the blind allegiance many members of charistmatic cults offer towards their leaders.”
Writer Steve Chivers spoke about his collaboration with his consultant, “Henry was my consultant on the podcast I wrote, American Scandal: The Hare Krishna Murders. His book, Killing For Krishna: The Danger of Deranged Devotion, was an invaluable resource in researching such a sprawling and complex story. I highly recommend it to anyone who listened to the podcast and wants to know more. But even more valuable than the book was Henry himself. As a longtime resident of New Vrindaban—the Hare Krishna commune at the center of the podcast—his personal experiences and recollections allowed me to fill in blanks, resolve conflicting accounts and truly understand what it was like to have lived through such a dark and fascinating chapter in our history.”
Hey Henry! hope all is well with you. We sure to miss you in Pennsylvania. :) I just wanted to tell you that I listened to the American Scandal podcast over the past week or so and found it super interesting. I never really knew much about the situation, or worried for your safety before - what craziness! You ARE brave, and I hope you stay safe. I listened to the whole series. (I listen to a LOT of podcasts on my commute.) During the final episode (not the one where you were interviewed but the final one wrapping up the trials, etc.) I couldn't help but think it would all make a great movie.
Sara Forman, Monaca, Pennsylvania
• Episode 1: Go West, Old Man (2/26/2019)
An elderly swami from India captures the zeitgeist of 1960s counterculture in America with his message of peace and love. But his western disciples are hungry for power, and one of his most trusted devotees betrays him.
• Episode 2: Sowing the Seeds (3/5/2019)
When devotees at the New York City temple confront Keith Ham, who betrayed the Swami, he decides to found a commune of his own in West Virginia. Krishnas in temples across the country come up with illegal ways to raise money for the group, including drug dealing and money scams.
• Episode 3: A Vigil of Vultures (3/12/2019)
When Swami Prabhupada dies, eleven senior disciples declare themselves gurus and take control of the movement. In Berkeley, Hansadutta becomes paranoid and starts amassing an arsenal of weapons. In West Virginia, Keith Ham finishes constructing his Palace of Gold. But when new devotees with records for violent crime join the commune, Deputy Westfall from the Marshall County Sheriff Department grows alarmed. A drug smuggling operation at the Krishna Temple in Laguna Beach ends in murder when temple leaders pair up with ex-mafia informants.
• Episode 4: The Whistleblower (3/19/2019)
When a devotee in West Virginia goes missing, his wife suspects murder. Deputy Westfall is thwarted by the DA when he tries to take action. Keith flexes his muscles and expands his power over New Vrindaban.
• Episode 5: The Fracture (3/26/2019)
Steve Bryant is forced out of the commune at gunpoint and heads to California where he finds evidence that the Gurus are frauds. Berkeley Temple Leader Hansadutta has a meltdown that lands him in jail. An attempt to start a Guru Reform movement divides the movement and leads to death threats. A devotee attacks Keith Ham, and the senior New Vrindaban leaders agree that Steven Bryant must die.
• Episode 6: Retribution and Reform (4/02/2019)
Keith Ham’s chief enforcer is summoned back to New Vrindaban for a mission. He enlists the help of a friend of the commune who turns informer. Steve Bryant goes into hiding. Deputy Westfall works with the state police to finally make some arrests, but will he be able to bring down Keith Ham?
• The Hare Krishna Murders: Inside and Out (4/09/2019)
Former Hare Krishna Henry Doktorski talks about what led him to join the faith, day to day life on the West Virginia commune, and why he finally left.
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