By Felicia Fonseca
Texas resident Beverley Bunn is the first participant in the tragic incident to speak out publicly about the events that led up to the deaths. The 43-year-old told the AP in a series of interviews this week that by the time the sweat lodge ceremony began, the participants had undergone days of physically and mentally strenuous events that included fasting. In one game, guru James Arthur Ray even played God.
Within an hour of entering the sweat lodge on the evening of Oct. 8, people began vomiting, gasping for air and collapsing. Yet Bunn says Ray continually urged everyone to stay inside. The ceremony was broken up into 15-minute "rounds," with the entrance flap to the lodge opened briefly and more heated rocks brought inside between sessions.
"I can't get her to move. I can't get her to wake up," Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray's response: "Leave her alone, she'll be dealt with in the next round."
First a 36-hour fast, then pressure in stifling heat
By JJ Hensley
Representatives from Ray's organization picked up the participants the morning of Oct. 8 and returned them to the retreat center where they had a small meal and were brought into a lecture hall for the final day's events, Schmidt said.
"(Spencer) says that, in fact, when they were in the lecture that Thursday, they knew it was the last day, and they thought it was the conclusion of the program," Schmidt said. "At the end of the lecture, (Ray) says, 'I have one more surprise for you, we're going to go outdoors and we're going to have a sweat-lodge experience.'"
"There was certainly a level of intimidation, of humiliation," he said.
"There was a feeling among everybody that this was the end (of the retreat), and they really needed to obey him and stick it out."
On the other hand, this contradicts the claims of those who said they'd attended Ray's retreats before and knew what to expect. Apparently they didn't know to expect a sweat lodge. That means they didn't have time to research the proper conduct of a sweat lodge or Ray's credentials to run one. They had to take it on faith that he knew what he was doing.
These revelations can only increase Ray's culpability in the inevitable criminal and civil proceedings. Particularly damning is his decision to ignore a dead or dying participant until the "next round." This New Age huckster is going to pay through the nose.
For more on the subject, see Sweat Lodge Victims Chose to Die?! and Ray Investigated for Homicides.