The fuming families of three Bay State students are considering legal action against an Illinois Christian college, claiming the school failed to protect their children from an “evil” cult leader who they say lured them into an isolated vortex of ritualistic torture.
“I spent hours and hours applying ice to fat lips, cuts. I got whipped so many times that I couldn’t feel it anymore,” Harvard University grad Andrew Wolfe recalls of the violence he endured in Baruch Ha Shem. “It was just monstrous. It was terrible.”
The cult’s leader, Feroze Golwalla, was notorious for recruiting students on the suburban Illinois campus of Wheaton College – a school that counts holy roller Billy Graham among its alumni. Golwalla’s controversial tactics had been reported several times to school administrators by parents of students who fled the high-control group, according to ex-members.
Yet, not only did the school take no action, it let Golwalla continue as a graduate student and supported his Parsee Missionary Team, a program Golwalla supposedly ran to help the Parsee people of Iran.
“I’m very disappointed in the way (Wheaton) handled things. They didn’t do morally what they should have done,” said ex-member Carrie Andreson, a Concord-Carlisle High School graduate who was recruited by Golwalla at Wheaton in 2000.
The families of Andreson and Wolfe are considering legal action.
“They allowed Feroze to be there and they knew he was bad news,” said Wolfe’s mother, Christina. “The college did nothing.”
Wheaton spokeswoman Tiffany Self refused comment.
Golwalla, 36, is wanted by Maryland state police on assault charges stemming from severe beatings he allegedly unleashed on Wolfe and his twin brother, Benjamin, in the basement of Golwalla’s brother’s Mount Airy, Md., home in 2002. The beatings occurred after the sect returned from a Wheaton-sanctioned trip to Pakistan.
Benjamin Wolfe was beaten so badly that blood poured from his ears when his eardrums were ruptured from Golwalla’s open-handed smacks, his brother said.
Golwalla, a Pakistani, also allegedly beat the brothers with cans of “Boost” energy drink, pulled their hair out “in clumps” and used “psychological manipulation” before allegedly sexually abusing them and other young men in the cult. One was allegedly raped with a broomstick.
“It was a terrible situation. He would beat us and then do this, `come to papa’ routine,” Wolfe, 24, remembers.
Andreson, who tried four times to flee before finally breaking free in 2002, says she was forced to stay awake for days, had to stand in frigid weather in just a T-shirt for hours and was made to flog other members. Golwalla also made her abuse herself, once forcing her to screw a jagged coat hanger into her face.
She described the Maryland basement as a “torture chamber,” and said the hot-tempered cultist once kicked her to the ground and threw a book at her head. He wouldn’t let her call her family, monitored her phone calls and e-mails and forced her to slap herself in the face, pull out tufts of her own hair and bang her head on the floor until it bled. Her punishment for questioning Golwalla on one occasion: She had to lick a filthy bathroom floor.
“It was definitely evil,” she recalled. “It was so isolated. That basement was my whole life and Feroze was my God.”
Andreson once fled to the streets of Baltimore, where she slept in a train station and ate out of trash cans for days, only to return. She left for the last time after an agonizing van ride during which she was forced to squat into what Golwalla called the “rooster position.”
“I looked out the window and for the first time I recognized that there was a whole world out there – that this group wasn’t the only option,” she remembers.
After spending eight months recovering in the Meadow Haven group home for ex-cult members in Lakevile, the bright-eyed, curly-haired 21-year-old is now a junior psychology major at UMass-Amherst.
“It still makes me very upset,” she says. “It’s shocking to know what you’re capable of. Anyone is susceptible and vulnerable.”
Wolfe, who moved to Texas with Golwalla’s small sect after the Maryland ordeal, decided to leave after finding heartfelt e-mails from his family which he says Golwalla hid from him. He finally fled May 8, 2003, after his family intervened with Robert Pardon, a cult deprogrammer who runs Meadow Haven. A month later, he helped his brother leave.
“I definitely want to see him brought to justice,” he says of Golwalla. “The bastard deserves to be locked up. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It was hell. And Feroze won’t stop.”
Now a substitute teacher, Andrew Wolfe has moved out of state and hopes to get a doctorate.
“Life’s going to start over again,” he said.
Golwalla, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was spotted last week preaching at a Christian women’s conference in Bemidji, Minn.