When I first came to work for NXIVM in September 2007, Seagram liquor heiress, and a staunch NXIVM member, Clare Bronfman was gracious enough to give me the keys to her manor house in Delanson NY, not far from Albany.
This immediate trust and encouraging consideration was at once endearing. I was expected to do big things for NXIVM and was treated to VIP status.
The elegance of the large county home – which I occupied by myself – [a NXIVM student, an intelligent 30-something Mexican woman, living in one of the smaller houses on the 200-plus acre compound, was assigned to me for errands, cleaning etc.] made the stay and the prospects inviting.
I learned that the manor home was most often used by ‘VIP’s,’ people with money who were either taking the NXIVM course or were considering taking courses. Clare did not seem to stay there often although she kept a wardrobe in the large master bedroom.
I soon converted the manor home into temporary offices and NXIVM members would meet me there to discuss matters. I would give them various assignments to accomplish.
There were two wings – the main area – and a servant’s wing (to the left when facing the home). As well as several out buildings including a large barn with an indoor riding arena and offices.
As I recall there were few, if any horses kept on the property. Clare had bought the $2.5 million farm as part of her quest to be an Olympic horse jumper – she had won several prestigious races – but soon afterward Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, persuaded her that riding horses was cruel and that she had more important things to do with her wealth and power as a Bronfman.
I took a bedroom in the servant’s wing of the manor house since it was remote, neglected and unused, a little reminiscent of a monastery with its narrow hallway and small bedrooms. Most importantly, when people dropped by to work, it afforded me privacy when I wanted it.
The main part of the manor house was large and open with a great room, fireplaces, a bright, sunny, quaint farm kitchen, an elegant dining room and out of every room, views of farm, field and woodlands.
The bedrooms on the second floor were large, the bathrooms spacious. The stairway leading up to the hallway to the bedrooms overlooked the great room and was adorned with an elegant banister. The entire feeling of the house was rich and masculine with an abundance of wood on floors, trim and walls that made it seem substantial indeed.
Clare came by soon enough and made her best effort to be warm and agreeable. She seemed not the cold and aloof person she is often described to be. It struck me then and the feeling grew over time that the real Clare Bronfman was not a spoiled heiress, a haughty princess or even a frightened awkward girl which some people seem to see in her.
The true woman inside, I thought, wanted to be an equal in the world of people. If she desired to surpass anyone, it was to be more noble, an individual who seeks and works hard to create a better world. But it takes a lot of rehearsing for a woman to be herself.
If she had one gift, I thought, it was purity. With the added benefit of having wealth to aid in her quest for a better world, she might one day be the change she wished to see in the world. Somehow, she decided that the best way to accomplish her mission was to invest her heart and inherited wealth into Keith Raniere.
Those that Keith liked, she loved, and those he hated, she disliked. He liked me then, so Clare was my friend.
At the time, I thought Raniere wanted good things too. Perhaps he does ultimately wish for the good of all. Maybe some fundamental flaw in him makes it possible for him to reconcile causing such suffering to people he was once close to and his oft stated goal of compassion.
Below are pictures of the farm and manor house from google.
The manor house.
When I was there in Sep-Oct. 2007, I was able to enjoy the spectacular changing of colors of the maples, the quaking aspens and the other hard and softwood trees during an unusually long and warm Indian summer.
I took plenty of walks with Kristin Keeffe, sometimes with Clare – deep in the woods along a small and winding creek or for miles along the road, up and down the countryside, stopping at times at an old country graveyard.
Once I walked with Clare and her sister, Sara, along the hillock on Wind Rd, as I learned about NXIVM’s needs, their challenges and their goals as sisters going up, and their tears and fears as we walked back down.
In a world where everyone knew they were rich, they had chosen to remove themselves from the jet set that would eagerly welcome them and chose instead to wander around with Raniere and Nancy Salzman as their teachers and live among their followers – many of them quite humble and unimportant. And finance it all too.
At the time, NXIVM was immersed in litigation, losing every motion, being threatened with sanctions, with lawyers who did not like them – but who loved the Bronfman money.
Raniere relentlessly pursued cases, it seemed to me, without meaning or justice – only trying to win and never winning.
For a man said to be so smart, Raniere’s strategies never resulted in victories.
For this poor Kristin Keeffe- as the legal liaison – would blame herself. [But it was he who dealt her the losing hands.]
At the time NXIVM was inundated with prying reporters writing negative news stories about the so-called secretive cult. They were smelling something funny, but had no idea how funky it smelled. Neither did I.
This was well before the media learned about the draining of more than $100 million of the Bronfman’s money in dubious investments and litigation under the guidance of Raniere. Nor did they know about Raniere’s curious sexual encounters some of which were with females under the age of consent.
While I came to learn about his harem, [but not the underage women] I realized he was a polygamist who kept it a secret to most of his students.
As for my discovery of his plundering of the Bronfman fortune, that led to my being fired and being a target of Raniere.
Back in those days, I knew very little. I observed that his women would weep about the injustices they felt Keith was enduring – such purity and goodness so misunderstood.
They had mystical interpretations of these matters: that some world-shaking consequence was sure to come out this suffering: since Raniere was the equal of Buddha or Christ, his pain was a Crucifixion.
Meantime Raniere would hide from the public and most of his students.
While he allowed the women to think he was suffering immensely [he might even die from the grief] his nights were spent having sex with one or more of the women or playing volleyball, or gathering several together to sing in harmony under his direction.
By day he would sleep, then get up to consult with Keeffe on what tricks of truth he would make her pull in the litigation so they could keep their lawsuits alive and punishing.
Then he would meet with Clare or Sara and load up some great ethical teachings on them, and maybe on some other women. Perhaps then he’d take a walk over to Nancy Salzman’s house where she would cook him dinner and wait on him.
Next he would think about what woman or women he would bed that night. He would give it out that which ever one he chose to bed was the one[s] that were growing the most spiritually, as it was a sacrifice for him.
None of this I knew when I first came to work and live in the manor house. I was tasked with turning around the negative publicity and righting the always losing litigation.
At the time I believed these were good people who were misunderstood. Now I believe most of them are good people who are misled.
As for Raniere, I wish he would be honest, admit he has lied and end his hatred toward his ex-lovers and others.
Be the man he pretends to be.
I remember hearing a story about a thief, being pursued, who pretended to be a Hindu monk as a disguise. As he was escaping detection he noted how much veneration the common people gave him and so he decided to be the real monk people chose to worship and never again did he go back to stealing.
I wish the same for Keith Raniere.