Category: Synanon

The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry

The idea that punishment can be therapeutic is not unique to the Rotenberg Center. In fact, this notion is widespread among the hundreds of “emotional growth boarding schools,” wilderness camps, and “tough love” antidrug programs that make up the billion-dollar teen residential treatment industry. No fewer than 50 programs (though not the Rotenberg Center) can trace their treatment philosophy, directly or indirectly, to an antidrug cult called Synanon.

Newspaper to celebrate 25th anniversary of its Pulitzer for series on Synanon

This Friday, April 16, will be the 25th anniversary of The Point Reyes Light’s winning a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service. It was the fourth time in the 61-year history of the Pulitzers that a prize in any division had gone to a weekly newspaper instead of a daily. The prize was for an expose of the Synanon cult, which was then headquartered in Marshall. A reformed alcoholic, Charles Dederich, started the group in Santa Monica during 1958. Dederich had learned to hold an audience as a speaker for Alcoholics Anonymous, warning about Demon rum. Dederich, who was living

Charles Dederich, 83, Synanon Founder, Dies

Charles E. Dederich, a reformed alcoholic who founded Synanon, the drug rehabilitation program that won widespread acclaim and amassed great wealth before it became associated with violence, died on Friday in Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia, Calif. Mr. Dederich, who lived in Visalia, was 83.

Challenging Synanon can be hazardous to health and wealth

Attorney Paul Morantz unlocked the door of his house in Los Angeles last week and put his left hand into the mailbox. “I felt a sharp pain, and then it felt as though my hand was in a vise,” he recalls. When he pulled his hand back, he brought with it a 41/2-ft. diamondback rattlesnake, its fangs buried near his left thumb. He managed to shake off the snake and ran screaming to a neighbor, who applied a tourniquet that saved Morantz from almost certain death. Fire department paramedics chopped off the snake’s head with a shovel, and discovered that

Life at Synanon Is Swinging

In a cavernous California mountain lodge, some 40 smiling people, their shiny, shaved heads reflecting the dancing flames of a roaring fire, oohed, ahed and applauded. A lawyer had just pledged to file ten divorces for the ten highest bidders at a fund-raising auction on New Year’s Eve. At a wooden table a grizzled, gruff man who wears a cap emblazoned with the message I’M THE MEANEST S.O.B. IN THE VALLEY nodded his approval. Charles (Chuck) Dederich, 64, was adding another ritual to his famed commune Synanon: wife swapping. That is quite a reach for a 19-year-old organization that was