Smoke Screen: I Am Rama

Smoke Screen: I Am Rama

Rama was a spiritual teacher in the 80s and 90s who inspired many of his students while helming what many of his detractors would describe as a cult. He defied society’s archetypal vision of a New Age leader, eschewing minimalism for wealth and celebrity. He was also a man ahead of his time, encouraging his students to develop careers in computer science before that was mainstream. For some, following Rama's lead worked out spiritually, and financially too. But for others, Rama's actions contradicted his cool persona; some eventually came forward with accusations of abuse, others vanished, whistleblowers went to the media, and the group began to shrink and splinter. In this 10-part investigative series, Jonathan Hirsch explores the life, death and impact of Rama.

Episodes

July 30, 2020 2 min
For 30 years, a man claimed to be a priest. He performed baptisms and took confession. Every time he ran into trouble, Father Ryan would move on to another small Midwestern town and start his scheme all over again. Followers who once worshiped him, now accuse him of exploitation, fraud and abuse. In season one of Smoke Screen, join Alex Schuman as he unravels this con and gets answers from this white-collar criminal himself. Learn ...
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Investigative reporter Alex Schuman hears about a guy accused of swindling millions who has travelled the Midwest for decades pretending to be a priest. Alex starts his journey talking to two people who have long tried to expose the truth. Alex is hoping to finally figure out why anyone would try to pull off such an elaborate con. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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August 20, 2020 38 min
Alex tracks down Father Ryan’s son, Jonathan Brady, and discovers Father Ryan was a scammer and manipulator long before he wore a priestly robe. Turns out he had plenty of practice committing fraud before he opened his first church in Wisconsin.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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August 27, 2020 37 min
Even con artists need mentors. Meet the false prophet who teaches Father Ryan how to perfect his con. Father Ryan evades criminal charges again and Alex learns about an unspoken reason prosecutors could let many criminals go free. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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September 3, 2020 38 min
After Father Ryan steals a follower's money, her property and even her husband's ashes, she hires a lawyer. A legal battle ensues over unpaid loans and a herd of llamas that Father Ryan leaves high and dry. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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September 10, 2020 39 min
A sheriff deputy arrests Father Ryan for taking more than $70,000 from an elderly follower. It's looking like he might get 7 years in prison, but then he meets a father-daughter pair of private investigators who change everything. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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September 16, 2020 2 min
Investigative Reporter Julie K. Brown exposed Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes to the world. Now his survivors are fighting for the truth. This season, host Tara Palmeri follows the women who are making their own justice. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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September 17, 2020 39 min
The father-daughter investigator team discovers the cop who arrested Father Ryan may have an ulterior motive. They defend Father Ryan tooth and nail - until they get a troubling surprise of their own. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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September 24, 2020 33 min
In his autobiography, Father Ryan connects himself to two priests who died suspiciously. One he accuses of molesting children. The other? He says he teamed up with to publicly shame pedophile priests. What's the truth? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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October 1, 2020 41 min
Alex Schuman finally has his showdown with Father Ryan. But things don't go as planned because Father Ryan has something to confess about his past that sheds light on why he wanted to become a "priest" in the first place. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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October 8, 2020 41 min
Until now, Father Ryan has mostly escaped punishment for stealing money from followers under false pretenses. What would it take for him to face a jury of his peers? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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For the past 6 years, someone — or some group — has been terrorizing a certain class of Hollywood workers. Strivers — day players and physical trainers and make-up artists and security guards — receive a phone call or email offering the job of a lifetime. A key role on a major film, or TV show. This offer comes from a powerful woman — one of the biggest producers or studio executives in the industry. All these strivers have to do i...
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May 18, 2021 6 min
Two young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs set out to rid the world of smoking with an incredible new product. The device stands to disrupt the tobacco industry and make them rich, until it falls into the wrong hands and lives are ruined. From classrooms to hospitals, boardrooms to the Oval Office, what can be done to protect teenagers? And is it too late?  From Laura Beil, the reporter behind Dr Death and Bad Batch, comes The Vapin...
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May 24, 2021 7 min
Have you ever wondered about those people in life who don’t play by the rules? Maybe it was the person who looked over your shoulder in that exam. The person who got the job instead of you because they lied on their application or the nice fella on the phone who said he was from the bank and ended up taking all your money. We have a name for these people. We call them cheats. People who cheat the system, largescale cheats, social m...
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June 8, 2021 3 min
Rama was a spiritual teacher in the 80s and 90s who inspired many of his students while helming what many of his detractors would describe as a cult. He defied society’s archetypal vision of a New Age leader, eschewing minimalism for wealth and celebrity. He was also a man ahead of his time, encouraging his students to develop careers in computer science before that was mainstream. For some, following Rama's lead worked out sp...
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June 22, 2021 40 min
Rama was a man of many faces: teacher, tech entrepreneur, friend - and to some, a scam artist. This episode introduces Rama, examining the world from which he came, the way he shaped those who entered his orbit for better and for worse, and the mysterious circumstances around his demise.  I Am Rama is a Neon Hum original podcast.  Host and Executive Producer: Jonathan Hirsch Producer: Kate Mishkin Editor: Vikram Patel Executi...
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June 22, 2021 31 min
This episode follows Frederick Lenz III from his early days and education through his introduction to spiritualism with his mentor, Sri Chinmoy, at the dawn of the New Age. Young Freddie  becomes “Atmananda,” a recruiter for his mentor, until it becomes time to strike out on his own, as Zen Master Rama.  I Am Rama is a Neon Hum Original podcast. Host and Executive Producer: Jonathan Hirsch  Producer: Kate Mishkin   Editor: Vikr...
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June 29, 2021 32 min
Rama’s growth as a spiritual teacher in the mid-80s starts in California but takes him and his students all over the country. Rama defines his doctrine, turning his attention to the potential of the computer industry. But for his students, it’s not always easy to keep up with their teacher, or stay in his good graces.  I Am Rama is a Neon Hum Original podcast. Host and Executive Producer: Jonathan Hirsch Producer: Kate Mishkin ...
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July 6, 2021 47 min
Will Arntz is a man of many talents, from filmmaker to laser physicist. In this episode, Will relives the time he spent studying with Rama and how it changed his life.  I Am Rama is a Neon Hum Original podcast. Host and Executive Producer: Jonathan Hirsch Producer: Kate Mishkin Editor: Vikram Patel Executive Editor: Catherine Saint Louis Sound Designer: Scott Somerville Fact Checker: Justin Kloczko Production Manager: Sammi...
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July 13, 2021 42 min
A young woman follows Rama to New York, and mysteriously vanishes, leaving behind many to wonder what happened. In this episode, people who knew and loved Brenda Kerber piece her story back together.  Contact White Plains Police Department I Am Rama is a Neon Hum Original podcast. Host and Executive Producer: Jonathan Hirsch Producer: Kate Mishkin Editor: Vikram Patel Executive Editor: Catherine Saint Louis Sound Designer: S...
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