Following the publication of her new book, The Program Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of Nxivm, author Toni Natalie is getting some media attention.
Largely, the stories are sensational – culled from her various “recollections” of her time with Keith Alan Raniere as described in her book.
Among the stories are:
- Keith had someone poison her dog.
- She was raped repeatedly by Keith.
- The cigarette story – where Keith got her to quit smoking and hypnotized her as she lost track of time and space keeping her husband waiting for two and a half hours outside Raniere’s room.
At one time, I believed all of Toni’s stories – but my experience with her over time has shown me that she doesn’t always tell the truth. It seems that habit may have crept into her book.
A Dead Dog Story
Here is how Radar described her dog story – one I had heard before and used to believe.
In The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of NXIVM… Natalie recalled what [Keith] was like when she met him in the 1990s and how he managed to ruin her life up until his arrest in March 2018. She also accused him of employing people to abuse and stalk her – and even killing her dog.
…. In the explosive book, Natalie explained that she was one of the first “indoctrinated” into Raniere’s madness – and the first woman to “escape” his wrath.
Raniere’s ex wrote that she began working alongside him in the early 1990s after attending a seminar he held for his former company, Consumers’ Buyline Inc. Her first meeting with the cult leader resulted in him miraculously curing her of her addiction to smoking cigarettes – a meeting she does not remember.
“To this day, I have no recollection of what went on during that two-and-a-half-hour blackout in his office,” Natalie wrote.
After their break up, Natalie claimed Keith sued her for fraud multiple times in addition to “stalking” and “harassing” her. Keith employed his business partners to interfere with her daily life, such as shutting off her phone service and canceling her cable.
“Someone would break into my home, mess my bed, open the cabinets in the kitchen, rearrange the artwork on the wall, and make off with some of my clothes,” Natalie wrote.
She further claimed: “This happened more than a dozen times and was extremely terrifying. I did not feel safe in my own home. I’d pack up my dogs and go to a hotel.”
In April 2004, Raniere’s ex claimed that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to his manipulation. She claimed her mental and physical health declined.
“I suffered from migraines and from weird aches and pains, the cause of which I could not determine,” Natalie wrote. “I was a nervous wreck.”
After her PTSD diagnosis, Natalie claimed that Raniere even hired someone to kill her pet.
“Jake, a very protective German shepherd, got sick after eating what I thought was a bad batch of dog food. I brought him to the vet, hysterical, but there was nothing that could be done,” she wrote.
Years later, Natalie claimed that Raniere’s former business partner, Kristin Keefe, hinted that a private detective staked out her house and poisoned her dog.
“Keith Raniere killed my dog,” Natalie wrote.
I spoke with Keeffe about this. She denies she ever hinted or otherwise implied that Keith killed Toni’s dog.
Keeffe doubts Toni ever had a dog who was poisoned. I also spoke to several people who knew Toni at the time and they also expressed grave doubts about the veracity of the story. Who would lie about their dog dying?
Maybe someone who was looking to enhance their story – or get on disability for PTSD.
Toni has been on social security disability for years and it is rumored she got on it by claiming she has PTSD – which, thanks to her stories [whether true or not] of Keith being a terror – she reportedly has been able to maintain this trauma diagnosis steadily for years. [She left him in 1998].
I reached out to Toni on several occasions requesting her comments on this post, but she declined.
I am left to speak with sources who knew Toni.
One source said Toni gets her federal disability check each month because of her affliction of fibro myalgia, a painful ailment. But others say this is not likely since she performs on hanging ropes and acrobatic rings thrice weekly and moves about easily doing flips and hanging from 60 feet in the air.
But getting back to the dead German Shepard – was there a police report? A veterinarian report? Who was the veterinarian? Is there something still on file? Was there a necropsy done on the poor animal to determine the type of poison used?
Poisoning an animal is a serious crime. Most people I know who had a dog poisoned would file a police report. I know I would. I would not just take it lying down if someone killed my beloved dog.
Where is the police report?
Toni also tells about being raped repeatedly by Raniere.
Radar reports, “She was physically abused by Raniere during their relationship. ‘He continued to be prone to violent outbursts, and to rape me when I did not consent to have sex with him, but mercifully, these episodes occurred with less frequency,’ she claimed in the book.”
Toni said her son, Michael, was in the bedroom next to them in their townhouse in Knox Woods – when she was being raped night after night.
I suppose some women would stay with a man who continuously raped them, while their son was a few feet away. But many women would leave. Some might press charges. At that time, Raniere had numerous sex partners. He had women competing to be with him.
Did he really need or want to rape her? It’s hard to say but her being repeatedly raped certainly makes for a great story.
Dog killed. Raped repeatedly. What else could be more vile?
Hypnotized Into Another Dimension
Then there was that first meeting with Raniere which resulted, Toni claims, in him miraculously curing her addiction to cigarettes – a meeting she does not remember.
“To this day, I have no recollection of what went on during that two-and-a-half-hour blackout in his office,” Natalie wrote.
This sounds nutty to me. If true, she seems rather weak-minded. A woman totally lost all track of time and space and blacked out for hours? While her husband waited patiently as she was alone with another man in a locked room?
I hope to talk to her husband, Rusty DeCook, to see what his version of this story is.
Of course, there are stories of people being hypnotized for hours and doing bizarre things they do not remember. I would venture it is extremely uncommon.
Is this a bogus story meant to magnify Keith’s terrible and awesome power – to make him appear greater, a more powerful enemy? Or did it really happen?
Toni claims her husband, Rusty, waited while she was gone for two and one-half hours. When she came out of the room, he allegedly said, ‘Where have you been; you’ve been gone for two and a half hours?’
She said she thought it was 15 minutes.
If it’s true that she was closeted with Keith for two and a half hours – it’s hard to know if she and Keith were up to something else altogether and she came up with the story of not remembering as an excuse for the two of them getting carried away.
I have my doubts about the incident occurring as described. What husband would sit around for two and a half hours waiting while another man was in a locked room with his wife?
Either way, Toni quit smoking, she claims, something she should be very thankful to Keith for doing – if the story is true.
One thing we do know – is that Toni was married to Rusty when she began her adulterous affair with Keith. She left Rusty and brought their son, Michael, with her to Albany leaving their home in Rochester.
Which leads me to the saddest story of all.
First a slight digression:
Low-Calorie Diets for Women and Children But Not For Keith
During the trial of Keith Alan Raniere, Daniela told the jury how Keith put a hidden camera in the kitchen, trained on the refrigerator, in the home he shared with several women including her sister, Mariana, at 3 Flintlock Lane.
One day, he placed a pie in there. And sure enough, Mariana went to the refrigerator and the wicked girl ate it.
Mariana had been placed by Raniere on a calorie restricted diet at the time and Raniere did not allow her to eat pies. She was defiant and indulgent.
When Raniere questioned Mariana about the pie, he already knew the truth – that she had taken the pie. But Mariana did not know about the hidden camera and she lied and said she knew nothing about a missing pie.
Raniere had her dead to rights. He showed her the damning film. She had taken the pie and eaten it too. He was furious.
This kind of wickedness was inexcusable and she was punished.
[The poor girl contracted bulimia and would go to her parents’ house to throw up daily. This pained Keith terribly because he could barely fuck a woman who had just thrown up.]
At the end of the day, Mariana was an adult woman and she chose to be with him and sleep with him and have threesomes with him and, in essence, to be his fuck toy. And she chose to be on a low-calorie diet.
Children Need Low-Calorie Diets Too?
Keith, of course, put Toni on a reduced calorie diet – fat on a woman disturbed his potent sexual energies, he said. It caused a strain on his heart if a woman was even one or two pounds over her ideal weight. Toni willingly went along.
But what about a child?
Toni Natalie talks so much about being a great and brave “single mother” and how good a mother she was and how she fought to protect her child, Michael, at all costs from ruthless Raniere.
But, as it turns out, Keith and Toni put her son on Keith’s low-calorie diet. He was on a low-calorie diet from the age of 6 or 7 for as long as he lived with Toni, sources who were there at the time said. This may not be in her book – but Keith semi-starved Toni’s son with Natalie’s full consent and approval.
Together, Toni and Keith guarded the refrigerator and limited what the boy could eat – for his own good, they said. A boy needs fewer calories than most people think Keith said. They have to break bad patterns of indulgent eating.
Toni knew Keith was the smartest man in the world. So they reduced the boy’s calories – all through the school season – for his own good.
Parenting is Tough
Parenting is a difficult thing. And no one knows it all. Many parents have vastly contrary notions. They feel that children should get a lot of nourishing food and they provide it. They do not watch the refrigerator – except in the opposite sense – to keep it full for their children.
Maybe they are not as smart as Raniere. Or as obedient as Natalie.
But this boy – under Toni and Keith – had his calories measured. He was not allowed to eat meat and was kept on the lowest calories they could allow him and still function. He was limited to far fewer calories than nutritionists of that day would have said was needed for a growing child, according to sources who witnessed this.
But boys will be boys and just like Mariana did a few years later, Michael began to steal food.
Keith loved sweets and because he was already enlightened – he could eat plenty of cookies and chocolate cake and pizza with hot sauce and multiple burritos in a sitting. For Keith, it did not matter how many calories he ate because he had attained unification.
But little Michael was not unified. He was lucky to be taught by the smartest man in the world, his mother knew.
Indeed, Michael did not go to regular school – and when he was 9 years old, he had not yet even learned to read. [Fortunately, his mother would soon abandon him and his father would see to it that he learned to read.].
But the fact is a boy should obey his mother and the truth is his mother wanted the boy on Keith’s low-calorie diet.
This lad – just 8 or 9 years old at the time – deviously defied Keith and his mother and stole food from the house and ate it – according to sources who were there at the time.
But Keith was on to him. He laid a trap. And one day when Michael stole some cookies and as usual sneaked down into the basement to eat them, Toni and Keith caught him with the cookies right in his hand.
He was severely punished. He was never to eat cookies again, as penance. Salad was good; so was plain broccoli. A cucumber with a dash of vinegar, Toni and Keith said, was better than cookies.
When summer came and Michael went home to his father, he never returned. Toni did not want him anymore either.
She had begun to cheat on Keith with a married man, 12 years her junior – Scott Foley. Soon they ran off in an RV to the Florida Keys – both of them leaving behind their children. They wed in Florida – Scott becoming husband number 4 for Toni.
Toni would never be with her son again. Her book says she reunited with her son – and, from what I know, he visits her a couple of times of a year. But she abandoned him for more than a decade.
That may have been the luckiest break in that boy’s life. For Rusty was not like Keith and Toni. He was of the old school and allowed the boy to eat so he would grow up to be a healthy adult. It was a blessed escape for the boy that Toni and Keith did not raise him.
But Toni says in her book that she was a “single mother”, a heroine that fought Raniere for decades.
Still, some of her stories seem perhaps for me a little hard to believe. I’d like to see some evidence – and hear what others who around at that time have to say.
In the movie The Time of Your Life, the character Kit Carson [r] used to tell some pretty improbable stories. But Joe [seated at the table] believed him. Kit was pretty pleased about it too. He told Joe, “You’re the first man who ever believed my stories.” A lot of people believe Toni’s stories with as little evidence – starting with her publishers. Whether the public ultimately buys into them is yet to be ascertained.