[…] The story began late in 2002, when the resort was approached by an organization in northern California that purportedly specialized in organizing painting vacations.
It wanted to rent the whole resort for an entire year. An advance party arrived, and Samoan television cameras turned up to film the artists at work, but it soon became clear that painting was not their primary activity.
The true nature of the group began to emerge only when one member, Duane Reed, broke away and spilled the beans to a local newspaper. He identified the leader of the group as an apparently wealthy German woman named Gabrielle, who claims she is divine, and, according to Reed, is “the highest source of God on the planet…an immortal being from Atlantis and Lemuria who has the capabilities of building pyramids and turning people into God.”
The discovery of a verbose Web site dedicated to the theology of the Maha Devi Ascension Movement made it abundantly clear that the innocent little resort of Sinalei had, in effect, been hijacked by a religious cult of the most outrageous pretension.
Sadly for the owners of the resort, it was not until January that the cult’s last stragglers left, by which time most of the resort’s regular clientele had disappeared. The Sinalei finally resumed normal operations this September.
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