Eight years ago today, on July 25, 2009, a 46-year-old woman named Colleen Conaway died at a San Diego shopping mall after attending a "wealth creation" seminar by James Arthur "Death" Ray, convicted killer and star of the New-Wage moviemercial for magickal thinking and McSpirituality crapitalism, The Secret. Most of you who have been following this blog and/or the blogs of several others who have written about it -- especially Salty Droid and Yakaru of Spirituality is No Excuse -- know Colleen's story well. But it is a story worth mentioning again, in the service of never forgetting.
If you don't know the story, a good place to start is this 2012 Whirled post, which contains links to more detailed accounts. From that post:
Colleen, who reportedly had no history of emotional or mental problems, apparently had a psychotic episode at a James Ray event in San Diego in July 2009, and she leaped to her death from a third-story shopping mall balcony. After Ray found out about it, he and his top minions apparently worked to cover it up, shielding the rest of the attendees from the unfortunate event, and they all partied on that night. If you don't know Colleen's sad story, my pal Yakaru has written a good summary of this tragedy, linking to several Salty Droid posts.At the time Colleen died, Death Ray was not yet a convicted killer. That distinction came in 2011, in the form of three convictions for felony negligent homicide, not for Colleen's death but rather for the October 2009 deaths of three other people -- Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman -- in a Sedona, Arizona faux-sweatlodge/torture chamber. For these three deaths, Ray served a disgustingly short term -- less than two years -- in an Arizona state prison. And while he has reportedly settled with Colleen's family (I still don't know all of the details there), he was never criminally charged, tried, or convicted, and therefore has never served prison time for, her death. In fact, Colleen's story, though reported in local newspapers, didn't really become widely known until after the Sedona story broke months later.
In the years since Ray was released from prison, he has been trying his best to make a comeback, and has worked the Sedona deaths into his narrative, painting himself as a hero/martyr who has survived a trial by fire and has emerged stronger than ever, prepared to charge others for his hard-earned wisdumb.
In 2009, after rising to the top of the industry, James was involved in a terrible incident that claimed the lives of three of his clients who he cared about deeply.Ray even tried to get his three negligent homicide convictions overturned, but he was unsuccessful. He did get his rights to vote and hold office restored, however. Meanwhile, he continues to push his shtick, and though his crowds are considerably smaller now than they were in those heady post-Secret, pre-Sedona days, he still seems to have a loyal following of dolts who either don't know, don't remember, or don't care about his reckless past and unrepentant ways.
True to his own teachings, James maintained an attitude of personal responsibility coupled with resilience. James is constantly focused on extensive study of great philosophers, as well as an in-depth analysis of himself. As a result, he has defined a new approach that will radically disrupt traditional thinking and present a fresh and dynamic approach to being successful in both life and business...
...James’ personal and business experiences have caused him to be considered an expert in leadership, entrepreneurship, mental toughness, resilience and emotional strength. His experience has proven time and time again…that it’s the challenges, adversity, and often crisis, that present the ultimate opportunity for growth and greatness if we’re only willing to utilize them in that way.
And in other, related news, the Transformational Leadership Council, the New-Wage/selfish-help cartel that Ray helped found but that booted him out after the Sedona story broke, is getting ready to convene in yet another seekrit place on July 26-30, 2017 to bolster each other's egos. Their summer event always takes place around the time of the anniversary of Colleen's death, which is why I remember it. The TLC used to publicize their events, and the locations, well in advance, but in the past few years have been much more circumspect -- at least on their official site. But another co-founder, Jack Canfield, reveals on his site that the event will be in Tucson, Arizona.
And so it goes. Death Ray natters on, and the TLC continues to hold events where members congratulate themselves on being masters of the universe, and Scamworld hums away: the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.
But that doesn't mean the dogs should give up on barking.
And once again, my heart goes out to the people who loved Colleen Conaway. Never forget.
PS ~ While some folks have all but given up on the self-help industry having any integrity, there are good people working to improve the industry. One example is the Ginny Brown, mother of Ray victim Kirby Brown. Following Kirby's death, Ginny and the Brown family founded a non-profit called Seek Safely to try to make the industry more accountable, guide consumers to make safe decisions, and track legislation affecting the industry. Check out Seek Safely here.
Related on this Whirled: