Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Rich religious cult leader and her illegal, manmade island

This article starts out talking about an island illegaly built in a protected South Dade, Fla., nature preserve. Apparently, the island was built by the "Supreme Master" of a religious cult. But this isn't your typical cult:

Whether Ching Hai should be considered a ''cult leader'' is the subject of debate among people who track such groups. The group offers no dark doomsday messages but instead practices a form of meditation called quan yin, which taps into some sort of inner music, and stresses vegetarianism along with simple rules against lying, stealing or ''sexual misconduct.''

But apparently, living next door to her wasn't a bad thing.

''She was a very kind person, just very, very strange,'' said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. ''There was just a lot of weird stuff.''
Stuff like this: scurrying minions who always referred to her as ''the master.'' Odd construction projects, often done after midnight, like aviaries or landscaping, fences or screens to shield the property.
De Lamour, said another neighbor, described herself as a designer but talked little about herself. At one home, neighbors rarely saw anyone, only cars. At another, the petite woman was pleasant when encountered -- sometimes to a fault, offering extravagant gifts like expensive designer clothes on a whim.
''You had to be careful what you said. Just mention you were cold and the next thing you know she was coming with bags full of Ralph Lauren sweaters,'' the neighbor said. 'When I made a comment about why she was bringing over all this stuff all the time, she said, 'I have so such money I don't know what to do with it.' ''

Good stuff, take the time to read it.

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