The Karen Unterreiner interview for the Podcast ‘A Little Bit Culty’ with Sarah Edmonson and Anthony Ames, is a must for those who study the ESP/NXIVM phenomenon.
Here is an edited and abbreviated version of what Karen said on a Little Bit Culty about NXIVM and Keith Alan Raniere.
Listen to the podcast to learn more.
I met ‘Alan’, I would call him Alan – it just gives me chills every time I say the full name before college even started – during freshman orientation.
We both went to RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute].
My father had passed a week before. I was already very shy and insecure from a lot of childhood trauma. And then my father had just died.
Alan noticed me when I arrived. I had an entourage moving me in.
I was dressed like a hippie even though I was withdrawn. He saw the contradiction in my personality. At RPI, there were nine men to every woman; not a lot of women there.
I was on the only floor of all freshmen girls – my dorm – and he made the rounds. He went and visited everybody. And when he stopped at my room, we talked for a long time.
He was mysterious. He asked me if I liked older men, because he was actually a year and a half younger than me. He would do lots of weird things like that.
And then slowly, he would drop that he was eastern coast judo champ. He could play piano. He just slowly dropped all that stuff.
He was better looking back then for those of you who say ‘how can you?’
He was built. He was muscular. Very, very, very big, broad shoulders, small waist. He had been doing a lot of athletics. He had the feathered back 70s hair.
I was like, ‘I can’t believe this guy’s talking to me.”
I was just overwhelmed by the attention, which was – now we know – called love bombing.
We were inseparable, pretty much, through college. I eventually found out I was not the only one in his life, but I don’t know how he found time, because we were together so much – but he was fooling around with a lot of people.
I broke up with him in my senior year, because he slept with my best friend over the summer.
But he pulled me back. He said that, while I was separated from him, I had a little fling – and he said it made him, really, really sad. He said he had wanted us to never have been with anybody else.
I left him because he screwed my best friend and he’d been screwing half the campus, but I had a one night stand, and that made me an awful person. That’s the standard ‘Alan’ thing. That’s what he does.
I met Keith’s mother when we were in college, and we went down to New York City to go to a Yes concert. He was introducing me to rock and roll. We stopped at his mother’s on the way. She was very eccentric. She was a dancer, ballroom dancer, but she had a heart condition. So she couldn’t really do it anymore. But she had that physique. She was a little weird.
Keith with his mother Vera
I was laughing because she made us Kraft macaroni and cheese, which was a staple that we had at school. That’s a total college students’ make and guess what? We go home, and that’s what she made for us. So it was a very like, vibrant person, I thought.
And then we went and visited his dad who lived in New York City with his new wife. I could see the tension. The mother would complain about him and he would say something about the mother. There was tension there, obviously, with his parents.
The mother was living in their old house and he’s in this fancy apartment on 88th Street in New York City. His mother passed, I think, in our sophomore year of college. Because my father had just passed, the first year. We were dealing with that, and then I think it was sophomore year, his mother died, around Christmas time.
What he told me was when his father was there I don’t think was true. His mother was at her cardiologist funeral, and dropped and passed there, with cardiologists all over the place and nobody could restore her. He said her heart was damaged when she had surgery once she just passed around a whole bunch of cardiologists.
He kind of dropped out for a semester. He didn’t really do the next semester. And that’s why he had incompletes for a while, and he didn’t get his degrees for a little while.
Well, that’s what he told me. Back then, even, he thought the faculty at the college we’re watching him and talking about him – and he’s already in the conspiracy theory stuff, back then.
After college, I moved to Connecticut, because it’s the insurance capital of the world. And I was trying to get rid of a recruiter, one day, that was on the phone, and I said, ‘Well, if you got a job in Albany’… The next day, he called back with a job in Albany, in my field, in a really good consulting firm. So I moved up thinking that, ‘okay, we just move in with Keith’, not realizing he was actually dating other people up here, too.
I thought I was still dating him the following years after college, but he was obviously living with other people.
We were all led to believe we were the special one in his life. He lied. Later, he blamed me. He told me I told him to lie to me.
After college, I moved to Connecticut for a while, became an actuary. And I found a job back up here in Albany, and we moved in together at 3 Flintlock. We both own that condo, though I paid for the whole thing. Yeah, that’s the usual. He technically owns half of it, but I paid for everything.
I was working as an actuary in Albany when he started Consumers’ Buyline. I jumped ship and came on full time. Consumers’ Buyline kind of grew up in my living room, as did NXIVM later.
I would get out of bed, leave him in bed, go into the office, and as soon as I did, Pam was sneaking into my room while I’m working at the office.
He told me he wasn’t screwing Pam.
How Keith Met Pam
Keith wanted to start a business called ‘Life Learning Institute’. It was not about ethics. But it was kind of the same format as NXIVM ended up being, with classes, more of like a knowledge network.
He needed funding. So he was on a ski trip with his dad, and an obviously wealthy man and his daughter, Pam were on a gondola,
Keith was going for money. He was looking for funding for that business. He was looking for money. And that’s when he met Pam, and brought her in. Her dad eventually did help us get the ‘Consumers’ Buyline’ started. He gave us a loan to get that going.
He claimed he wasn’t screwing Pam. As usual, he was. At first, she was just very unusual to me, because she was from a very wealthy family. She was ditzy. But she was a lot of fun. We became friends. They would keep their relationship hidden. She was angry about that. I think we were friends for most of the time.
I found a contraceptive device of hers on the bathtub. She had left it. And, so, I confronted him.
I challenged him on it. And the scene ended with me on his foot begging him not to leave. That’s how things went – in between that, he would give me some bullshit story that it was for something else, which is obviously, even then, I knew was obviously crap.
He’ll give you some lie that you can hold on to. And then he pulls the thing you saw him do with Camilla, in the end, with Lauren, in the trial.
He would say, “Oh, you’re hurting my heart. I can’t do this with you. You’re killing me.”
He would say: ‘If you ask any more questions, if you want me to answer I can answer but I’ll never be able to talk to you again.”
His health was used a lot, in those situations. So, he’s lying, which is different than saying, “Oh, I am being hurt.”
I think he knows he’s not being hurt. It’s just a tactic he used with every single one of us consistently.
He set you up to think you’re not a good person, and then would play on that. I mean, eventually, in NXIVM, he defines what a good person is pretty much.
So he’s setting you up to want to do what he wants you to do, in order to be a good person. He makes those things line up.
Who’s going to do something that’s going to give the person that you care about a heart attack? You back down. In the back of your mind, you know, you’ve got a ton of competition for his attention. So, you’re not going to screw up and put yourself on the bottom of that list.
Even when I thought I was the special one, I knew there was a ton of women in line waiting for my position. So, you had to stay in line to maintain that attention from him.
Eventually, I lost all the attention for him. I barely saw him towards the end, with no real explanation.
One day I read Pam’s diary. She was not happy about that. It was also at the same time he was about to move in with Toni Natalie. So, he was having to come clean that he was having relationship with Toni, but I kind of fought to get the truth out of him.
My way of dealing with it was ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. I got to be okay with it. Nobody was really okay with it. But we had to act like that.
Barbara [Jeske], Pam and I became very close while Keith first moved in with Toni.
Barbara was recruited at the beginning of Consumers’ Buyline. She was in a different multilevel marketing company, and she got pulled over into ours.
She met Keith, and then moved herself from Ann Arbor to Albany, and was there ever since then, so she helped with Consumers’ Buyline marketing after it was started.
She grew her hair long because mine used to be down to my waist because Keith always told me not to cut it. And so, everyone else thought they had to do that, too. I don’t know if he told them to, but she was growing hers. And then she, you know, had a relationship with him. She would hang out in my house. When he was over there. And she’d be massaging his feet for hours while he laid on that couch. She would sit at his feet and massage his feet for hours.
The couch at 3 Flintlock
Consumers’ Buyline was a purchasing service. But it was also multilevel marketing. It was supposed to be a different multi level marketing, an ‘ethical multi level’. His idea which was more of a conspiracy theory is that we pissed off Amway and Walmart or something, and some Attorneys General came after us.
And eventually, half the Attorneys General came after us. And we were in legal battles for years.
But he was like, ‘we’re the good guys.’ And it eventually took us down. We won some of the legal battles, because Keith was kind of smart in how he set things up. But the money we paid to win the battles put us out of business.
Arkansas is where the people that came after us, that he said was a conspiracy? Because Amway, or something?
This was the first time he started saying ‘there’s forces out there against him’. He’s done that with everything that he’s failed at, he did that even with the stock market thing that he did, when he lost everybody’s money. He said ‘there were forces that were teaming up against him’, and that’s why he lost.
Well, he’s got a response to everything. The women are lying. I knew the women weren’t lying, because I had the same conversations with Keith that they claimed they had. The lore with the baby – I was promised a baby, you know – everything is the same. Like I’m sure they weren’t lying, because the exact same words he used with me were used with them.
Stay tuned for part 2.
And listen to A Little Bit Culty