7 episodes

River Donaghey grew up in a cult. Or at least that’s what some people called it. His parents called it a “personal-growth seminar group.” Its leader called it “one big happy family.” But there was a dark side to the world River grew up in. One he never heard about as a kid. 

In the 1970s and 80s, a self-help company called Lifespring took America by storm. Hundreds of thousands of people walked out of Lifespring as true believers, convinced that the seminars had the power to change the world. But dozens of trainees claimed that after taking a seminar, they had a psychotic break. Some spent months in the hospital. Others attempted suicide. And at least four people died. 

River spent the past year digging into the bizarre, untold story of Lifespring and its controversial leader: a convicted felon turned New Age guru named John Hanley. What he uncovered made him question everything he thought he knew about his childhood. And about the seminars that are still changing lives—and ruining them—to this day.

Good Cult Kast Media

    • True Crime
    • 4.8 • 1.1K Ratings

River Donaghey grew up in a cult. Or at least that’s what some people called it. His parents called it a “personal-growth seminar group.” Its leader called it “one big happy family.” But there was a dark side to the world River grew up in. One he never heard about as a kid. 

In the 1970s and 80s, a self-help company called Lifespring took America by storm. Hundreds of thousands of people walked out of Lifespring as true believers, convinced that the seminars had the power to change the world. But dozens of trainees claimed that after taking a seminar, they had a psychotic break. Some spent months in the hospital. Others attempted suicide. And at least four people died. 

River spent the past year digging into the bizarre, untold story of Lifespring and its controversial leader: a convicted felon turned New Age guru named John Hanley. What he uncovered made him question everything he thought he knew about his childhood. And about the seminars that are still changing lives—and ruining them—to this day.

    6 of 6: So What? Now What?

    6 of 6: So What? Now What?

    "Your idea of how this came about ain't at all how it came about."

     

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    • 33 min
    5 of 6: The Red-Black Game

    5 of 6: The Red-Black Game

    "I see the value in transformation, but I also see its shortcomings."

     

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    • 35 min
    4 of 6: Casualties

    4 of 6: Casualties

    "We were never a cult and we wanted to remove everything that gave the appearance of being a cult."

     

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    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 33 min
    3 of 6: This is About the Rest of Your Life

    3 of 6: This is About the Rest of Your Life

    "He was like a rockstar. He was a very attractive man. He was the Lifespring celebrity."

     

    Listen to Good Cult ad-free, with bonus content, at KastMedia.com/KastPlus

    Listen to Good Cult ad-free on Amazon Music

     

    Thank you to our sponsors:


    BetterHelp: Get 10% off at Betterhelp.com/GOODCULT
    Splendid Spoon: Get $120 off your first three boxes at SplendidSpoon.com/GOODCULT.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 31 min
    2 of 6: The Leader

    2 of 6: The Leader

    "He thought being put in that casket was the best thing that ever happened to him."

     

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    BetterHelp: Get 10% off at Betterhelp.com/GOODCULT
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 32 min
    1 of 6: The Mom-Dad Dyad

    1 of 6: The Mom-Dad Dyad

    "It's the single most impactful thing that ever happened in my life. You always have to say the birth of your child was the biggest impact. But I never would have had a child if it hadn't been for the seminars!"

     

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    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.1K Ratings

1.1K Ratings

Maria Elaine ,

Highly Recommend

A great mix of first hand interviews with key players, personal insight & pops of humor. Will def be looking out for more of River’s podcasts.

ashbash_05 ,

So What, Now What?

The title of episode 6 is a good representation of the podcast overall. I was surprised when I ended up agreeing with the guru telling him “you’re saying so many words without saying anything at all” because that was largely the whole podcast.

The merged in ads were also super painful and deceptive. You frequently couldn’t tell when he was done talking about this cult and was suddenly reading an ad. Not to mention, they went on forever.

I opened my Apple Podcasts app for the first time in I don’t know how many years just to write this review because this podcast was so bad. Don’t recommend.

henkelchris ,

Well done

Enjoyed the program

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