For $258,500, or the highest bid, you can own a two-story building filled with tall tales, many told in the Netflix documentary “Wild Wild Country,” about the Rajneeshees commune that took over the tiny Wasco County town of Antelope for a brief, tumultuous time.
The 1898 wood structure for sale was originally a hall for the United Workmen fraternal organization.
In the 1980s, copies of the Rajneesh Times were printed here with news of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh along with warnings to his thousands of followers by the guru’s powerful personal secretary, Ma Anand Sheela.
“Please be careful, remain together; don’t allow negativity to spring anywhere, among us especially. Because it is our unity that is going to keep us together and strong,” instructed Sheela in an issue of the Rajneesh Times.
The ambitious commune in North Central Oregon collapsed in 1985, wrote Douglas Perry of The Oregonian/OregonLive, amid murder plots, a poisoning attack, political intimidation and illegal wiretaps.
Afterward, Antelope, fleetingly renamed Rajneesh, reverted back to having around 50 residents.
Now, the print shop is a museum with living quarters and the entire 0.66-acre property at 45380 Main St. in Antelope is on the auction block.
Sealed bids are due Dec. 8 to John C. Rosenthal of Realty Marketing/Northwest auctions, who calls this “one of the more unusual remote properties for sale in Oregon.”
A new owner could use the building as a live-work space that, although isolated, has access to fiber-optic internet connection and is 300 steps from the Antelope Post Office.
Antelope’s Main Street is on the winding Shaniko-Fossil Highway (Oregon Route 218), which starts at the ghost town of Shaniko at U.S. Route 97 and crosses the John Day River before ending at Fossil, the largest town on the route, with a population of about 425.
Listing agent John Gill of Land and Wildlife in Bend said the building with 3,000 square feet of space is “rich in history” and the property’s three contiguous lots create “endless” opportunities.
The land’s commercial zoning may allow for rentable RV spaces for travelers along Highway 218, which is part of the 286-mile Journey Through Time Scenic Byway.
An RV on the property generates $350 a month in rent. Annual real estate taxes are less than $400, said Rosenthal.
The auction’s reserve price of $258,500 is $90,500 less than the last asking price of $349,000.
The cash sale includes most furnishings and a collection of books, signs, photos, clothing and newspaper clippings from the Rajneeshpuram days, Rosenthal added.
The museum lent memorabilia reflecting the region’s past to the High Desert Museum in Bend for the exhibit “Imagine the World,” which opens in January. The Antelope property’s new owner will receive the items as part of the deal after the exhibit closes in October 2022.
The building for sale was constructed on a stone foundation by the Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.), the world’s first fraternal organization that provided life insurance to laborers. Oregon’s other A.O.U.W. building in Portland was demolished in 2017.
For decades, ranching, mining and railroad workers living around Antelope entered the double entry doors to socialize and receive support when needed.
Starting in 1981, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers moved to Antelope and reported some of their activities in their newspaper.
Over time, they transformed the undeveloped Big Muddy Ranch around the John Day River into a self-contained compound with residences, meeting halls, discos, medical clinics, a crematorium, bakery, airport and dam surrounded by a giant, painted-grass logo of doves.
Members wore clothing in shades of red, purple and pink, which made them look like a color-coordinated cult, wrote Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Rajneeshees would line up for a “daily drive-by” to wave at the guru as he slowly motored by them in one of his 74 Rolls-Royces.
The compound was abandoned in 1985 as authorities sought to link commune leaders and members with food poisonings, murder plots, immigration fraud and other crimes.
The Bhagwan was deported and returned to India. Sheela and others were convicted on various charges and served prison sentences.
Big Muddy Ranch was sold and is now operated as the Washington Family Ranch camp by Young Life.
By 2000, most of what had been built in the Rajneeshpuram settlement was decaying or had disappeared.
The current owner of the building, which is in town and not part of the settlement, purchased the structure in 1995, then restored it and added a kitchen and bathroom.
After the 2018 Emmy Award-winning documentary “Wild Wild Country” was released, the building became the Wild Wild Country Museum, displaying artifacts left by Bhagwan followers.
For more of the history, read The Oregonian’s original 20-part investigative series on Rajneeshees.
— Janet Eastman with archive reporting
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