Netflix: “The Program” and a Reminder of My Own Past

I’m watching The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping on Netflix. Holy crap! This takes me back to my own childhood at Eden Farms in Snohomish, Washington.

After recently rewriting my book, A Train Called Forgiveness, about my own cult experience, I thought maybe I’d just set that work aside. I’m still uncertain what I want to do with the manuscript. As part of a recent sabbatical project, my goal was to change my story from a partially-fictionalized story to a true memoir format. I did that, but to get the work published is a hurdle I’m not sure I want to jump.

The Program is an investigative documentary about kids who were taken to a “school” called Ivy Ridge in New York. Katherine Kubler, a former victim of the program created the documentary. I find her work admirable, and I’m thankful that she was able to be a voice for the victims of Ivy Ridge.

My story runs parallel to hers yet is quite different. In my story, entire families were involved. However, the children lived at the farm while parents stayed in their own homes off campus. Many of the children and younger members of the cult were slaves, working 60-80 hours a week on a farm for no wages. We were also victims of marathon indoctrinating meetings where leader Theodore Rinaldo, who claimed he was Michael the ArchAngel, would use religion and fear as forms of mind control. Girls and young women were sexually abused.

Our family moved from Maine to Washington in 1973, in part, to find discipline for my oldest sibling who was having behavioral difficulties as a teen. I was 10 years old. I was able to escape the cult when I was 16 in 1979.

There is a part of me that wants to let go of that part of my life forever. After all, it happened almost 50 years ago. But another part of me wants my story to be seen and heard. Katherine Kubler has done something I have hoped to do for years. If I’m never able to get my story out beyond a self-published book, it’s good to see that others are able to shed light on these kinds of abusive histories.

Kudos to Kubler for her determination and efforts to get her story out there.

If you’re interested in my story, check out my book, A Train Called Forgiveness. Perhaps, in the future, I will find the means to get my memoir published or produced as a documentary. Until then, I’m just taking life day by day and continuing life-long healing. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.