• Manhattan Cult Story

  • My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos, and Survival
  • By: Spencer Schneider
  • Narrated by: Austin Rising
  • Length: 8 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (64 ratings)

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Manhattan Cult Story

By: Spencer Schneider
Narrated by: Austin Rising
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Publisher's Summary

Right under the noses of neighbors, clients, spouses, children, and friends, a secret society, simply called School—a cult of snared Manhattan professionals—has been led by the charismatic, sociopathic, and dangerous leader Sharon Gans for decades. Spencer Schneider was recruited in the eighties, and he stayed for more than twenty-three years as his life disintegrated, his self-esteem eroded, and he lined the pockets of Gans and her cult. 

Cult members met twice weekly, though they never acknowledged one another outside of meetings or gatherings. In the name of inner development, they endured the horrors of mental, sexual, and physical abuse, forced labor, arranged marriages, swindled inheritances and savings, and systematic terrorizing. Some of them broke the law. All for Gans. 

“During those years,” Schneider writes, “my world was School. That’s what it’s like when you’re in a cult, even one that preys on and caters to New York’s educated elite. This is my story of how I got entangled in School and how I got out.” 

At its core, Manhattan Cult Story is a cautionary tale of how hundreds of well-educated, savvy, and prosperous New Yorkers became fervent followers of a brilliant but demented cult leader who posed as a teacher of ancient knowledge. It’s about double-lives, the power of group psychology, and how easy it is to be radicalized—all too relevant in today's atmosphere of conspiracy and ideologue worship.

©2022 Spencer Schneider (P)2022 Dreamscape Media, LLC

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful and intriguing story

This is such a beautiful and well-written account of hope, redemption, self-actualization, and bravery. I started this book with the intent to indulge in the standard cult voyeurism I usually go into these things with. If I didn't know Spencer Schneider was a lawyer, I would swear he was a seasoned author. I hope to read more from him in the future.

Spencer, if you're reading reviews, thank you. Thank you for your vulnerability, wit, and bravery.

4 people found this helpful

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This story is true.

One of my closest friends was in this cult and before this book ever came out…I heard her tell many of the exact same stories. She is still traumatized from many of the events that took place.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant and very scary

This is absolutely amazing. The storyline is captivating, everything is meticulously explained and vocabulary used is really fitting. Very hectic and intense story! Staggering to think this is happening in our day and age.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Salacious title but doesn't deliver

The performance of this book is excellent. The content, however... I read a lot about cults and I can usually feel where the victims are coming from, but I find it hard to find empathy for a bunch of upper middle class white people who got scammed into a racist, homophobic cult by a deluded narcissist. I am also baffled by how often the narrator tries to convince us that he's totally ultra mega straight? It's bizarre. And unconvincing - there's no shame in bisexuality dude.

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Interesting - could have benefited from more editing

An interesting take on a NY cult, and worth the listen. It would have been just as good at half the length. I was waiting for him to describe daily breakfasts, at one point!

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    3 out of 5 stars

Clickbait subtitle but well written

Unbelievable is correct. This story delivers zero sex, zero crimes, and zero chaos. The author tries to convince the reader of his heterosexuality, by the end of the book, I am still unconvinced. Arsenic and Old Lace (1943) is more salacious and contains much more crime. Sharon Gans is the most likeable character, and she is a self centered control freak, all other characters are weak willed dupes. Yuppie cult run by an aged hippie narcissist. Fairly well written with a capable narrator, though Austin Rising sounds like a pseudonym.