Manhattan Cult Story: My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos, and Survival

Written by:
Spencer Schneider
Narrated by:
Austin Rising

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
July 2022
8 hours 1 minute
Right under the noses of neighbors, clients, spouses, children, and friends, a secret society, simply called School—a cult of snared Manhattan professionals—has been led by the charismatic, sociopathic, and dangerous leader Sharon Gans for decades. Spencer Schneider was recruited in the eighties, and he stayed for more than twenty-three years as his life disintegrated, his self-esteem eroded, and he lined the pockets of Gans and her cult. Cult members met twice weekly, though they never acknowledged one another outside of meetings or gatherings. In the name of inner development, they endured the horrors of mental, sexual, and physical abuse, forced labor, arranged marriages, swindled inheritances and savings, and systematic terrorizing. Some of them broke the law. All for Gans. “During those years,” Schneider writes, “my world was School. That’s what it’s like when you’re in a cult, even one that preys on and caters to New York’s educated elite. This is my story of how I got entangled in School and how I got out.” At its core, Manhattan Cult Story is a cautionary tale of how hundreds of well-educated, savvy, and prosperous New Yorkers became fervent followers of a brilliant but demented cult leader who posed as a teacher of ancient knowledge. It’s about double-lives, the power of group psychology, and how easy it is to be radicalized—all too relevant in today's atmosphere of conspiracy and ideologue worship.
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Gary G.

Very interesting explanation of how these cults prey on intelligent, successful people. The book easily holds the reader's interest with the author's story and exposes how abusive relationships can be weaponized for profit.

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Molly G.

Long, dull, drawn out story. It took me months to finish it. My brain could only handle so much numbing at one time. The story line is ridiculous. Cult? Really?? Dumb book, not worth the time.

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Ellen B.

Good story but a bit drawn out, As someone who has had a family member involved is cults over the years the author did an excellent job is articulating the pull and over arching impact of the cult and difficulty of life following leaving the "community!"

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Marie C.

It was a disturbing story but well told. Shocking to think this happened in plain sight. Shows the power of manipulation even over well educated people.

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Lauri C.

Unbelievable that this could happen in todays society! This book shows that no one, even the wealthy, is immune to the power of manipulation.

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Regine L.

Intriguing to learn more about ‘School’, a cult that Spencer Schneider got involved with in the ‘80’s in Manhattan. He was a part of it for 20 years. I am all for the collective conscious but, the immediate alarm bells was that they were not allowed to speak about ‘School’, or even engage or recognise each other outside of ‘School’, not even to let their spouses know. Sharon Gans, the leader, controlled everything and even encouraged affairs. It all sounds very sordid.   It is all a bit bizarre. What I don’t understand is that he is a highly qualified lawyer, and by the sounds of it, most of the people at ‘School’, were in high profile positions, so, pretty much, one would presume to be intelligent people. Yet, they were taken for a ride for a very long time. You can hear in the narrative that Spencer Schneider is very cross, hurt by the betrayal and disillusionment of it all. He does come across quite bitter towards the end. Who wouldn’t be after 20 years of your life being dictated to by someone like Sharon.  I also asked myself why he stuck with it so long, I suppose that's what the manipulative nature and brainwashing of a cult is all about. 

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