A “CULT” with ties to Adam Driver’s in-laws obtained sensitive and private information about their followers to use against them if they fell out of line or ever threatened to leave the “abusive” sect, a lawsuit claims.
The Odyssey Study Group (OSG) is a self-described esoteric school – and alleged cult – based in New York City and Boston that’s estimated to have upwards of 200 members among its ranks.
Alex Horn and Sharon Gans founded he group in the late 1970sCredit: Getty
It was originally set up in San Francisco under the name the ‘Theatre of All Possibilities’Credit: survivorshandbook
The group was initially founded under the name the “Theater of All Possibilities” by the late one-time actress Sharon Gans and her husband Alex Horn in San Francisco, in the 1970s.
However, the couple was forced to fold the group and leave town after disturbing allegations of “brainwashing” and “violence” from numerous former members were made in a local newspaper report.
Gans and Horn fled to New York and reopened the group as the “A Fourth Way School” in the 1980s, which is otherwise referred to as OSG or simply School, today.
The ultra-secrative group is comprised of the city’s rich and highly educated and has an extensive history of alleged sex scandals, child abuse, and accusations of racism and rampant homophobia.
Former members, including litigation attorney Spencer Schneider, have openly accused OSG of operating as a cult that uses a series of abusive techniques to brainwash its followers and seize total control of their lives.
In a lawsuit filed by Schneider in December, he lists a myriad of instances of abuse that he claims to have witnessed or suffered first hand during his almost 25 years inside OSG.
The pattern abuse, he alleges, was a designed by Gans and other OSG leaders to slowly errode members’ psychological well-being and maintain control of them.
Some of the tactics employed by Gans and her acolytes included depriving students of sleep, emotionally abusing and humiliating them in front of their peers, and “gaslighting” them, claims the suit.
Additionally, Gans and other leaders would apparently conspire to obtain sensitive, private, and potentially embarrassing information about OSG members to keep them in line and dissuade them from leaving for fear the information may later be used against them or publicly disclosed.
“At times, when a Student broke a rule, including by failing to adhere to one of Sharon Gans Horn’s directives, Gans Horn disclosed personal and sensitive information obtained by her through members of the Inner Circle,” reads the lawsuit.
“Sharon Gans Horn frequently, and without warning, openly discussed during Class Students’ marital problems and intimate details about their sex lives, and encouraged adultery among Students.
“Schneider lived in fear that Gans Horn would publicly discuss
intimate details about his and [his wife’s] sex life, encourage his spouse to sleep with other Students of Gans Horn’s choosing, or demand that Schneider and [his wife] divorce.”
THREATS & COLLATERAL
In one such alleged incident, Schneider says when two students decided to leave the organization, Gans used collateral she had obtained on the pair and told their respective spouses that they had an affair with one of the leaders of OSG.
Gans also told other students of the affair, including Schneider, he claims.
Schneider said he experienced something similar when he finally quit OSG in 2013 having suffered a “complete mental breakdown.”
Annoucing his departure after 24 years, Gans allegedly told a room full of students that Schneider was “gay” and had never once had sexual relations with his wife – despite having a child together.
Schneider claims Gans routinely questioned his sexuality in front of other students in an attempt to belittle and embarrass him.
At times, when a Student broke a rule, including by failing to adhere to one of Sharon Gans Horn’s directives, Gans Horn disclosed personal and sensitive information obtained by her through members of the Inner Circle.
Years earlier, Gans had directed Schneider to share any childhood traumas he suffered during a class with a room full of peers.
For the first time in his life, per the suit, Schneider shared that he had been sexually abused by a male camp counselor when he was just 14 years old.
But rather than reacting with empathy, Gans allegedly told the room that Schneider was not the victim of abuse but rather that he had been “experimenting” with his attacker.
She also advised him to simply “cease” thinking about the incident, he claims.
“On multiple occasions thereafter, Gans Horn openly questioned whether Schneider was heterosexual and intentionally left Schneider with the impression that his childhood sexual abuse was his fault,” the suit reads.
“In this way, Gans Horn obtained sensitive information about Schneider – another method used by the Organization to ensure Schneider’s continued participation in it – and used shame and humiliation to maintain control over [him].”
Schneider was introduced to his spouse by Gans in 1997. They also allegedly split under his instructions in 2009.
His ex-wife was not named in the suit but The U.S. Sun identified her as Cynthia May in an exclusive report last month.
May, 67, is the mother of actress Joanne Tucker. Tucker has been married to Star Wars star Adam Driver for a decade.
Her involvement in OSG was confirmed by Schneider who wrote a tell-all book about the alleged cult last year.
While May was referred to under the pseudonym “Beth” in Schneider’s book, The U.S. Sun was first able to verify her identity through divorce records, which Schneider later confirmed.
While he’s unsure if May is still a member of the group, she was once a “teacher” at OSG, Schneider said.
Cynthia May was once a ‘teacher’ at the Odyssey Study Group (OSG). She and Schneider were married for more than a decadeCredit: Instagram
May is the mother of Joanne Tucker (right) who is married to Star Wars star Adam Driver (left)Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Spencer Schneider filed a lawsuit against the estate of Gans and her alleged successors in DecemberCredit: Kenn Lichtenwalter
Being anointed with the title of “teacher” was considered the highest honor inside the group and akin to being Gans’ lieutenant, he added.
In Gans’ absence, teachers would lead lessons on her behalf, keeping tabs on the students and conducting the classes just as she would.
There is no suggestion that Adam Driver or Joanne Tucker are in any way involved with the group.
However, Schneider said he thinks Joanne was “aware” of who Gans was, adding that she and her siblings “hated” the eccentric sect leader.
“[Driver and Tucker] have no involvement in it whatsoever. None,” adamantly stated Schneider.
“I know Adam and Joanne very well, they’re my stepdaughter and son-in-law.
“They have no involvement in it, [but] I think Joanne knows about Sharon, you know, she knows about that.
“But they all have no involvement at all and they didn’t like Sharon, the kids.
“They all hated her,” he added. “They all hated her.”
PASSING THE TORCH
Requests for comment sent to May, Driver, and Tucker previously went unanswered. This story will be updated if The U.S. Sun receives a response.
When Gans passed away from Covid-19 in 2021, she left her $3.275 million estate to a handful of members who now allegedly oversee the group, as well as her stepson who is not associated with OSG.
Those alleged members were named in Schneider’s lawsuit as Minerva Taylor, Lorraine Imlay, Greg Koch, and Ken Salaz.
Taylor, 71, founded a Manhattan recruiting firm, Taylor Hodson Inc., in December 1994 – and Gans was long-rumored to be a silent partner in the business.
Cynthia May also worked for a number of years at Taylor Hodson, earning the title of vice president and senior account executive. It’s unclear if she’s still employed with the firm.
According to Schneider, May was at one time named as a recipient in Gans’ will but was removed for reasons unknown prior. The U.S. Sun could not verify the claim.
During the 12 years they were married, Schneider says Gans had a profound influence over his and May’s relationship.
He revealed in a previous interview how Gans told him to have sex with his 19-year-old step-daughter after he and May encountered difficulties when trying to conceive a child in 1998.
As Schneider remembers it, Gans called him to inform him she was worried about May, then 42, having a child.
“I don’t like the idea of Cynthia getting pregnant, at her age it’s potentially dangerous,” she apparently told him, per his book.
“The child could have down syndrome and you would have to put it up for adoption.”
As Schneider tried to assure Gans all would be fine, she told him he should have sex with his 19-year-old step-daughter “Hannah” instead.
“No Spencer, what you can do is impregnate Hannah, she can carry the baby, and you and Beth can raise the baby as your own,” Gans allegedly instructed.
When asked if she was serious, he says she told him: “Of course. I’m sure Hannah would be happy to do this. She’s still young. She would do it for you.”
Spencer Schneider was 29 when he joined the mysterious group in 1989Credit: Spencer Schneider
The founder of OSG, Sharon Gans, passed away from Covid-19 in 2021Credit: Wikipedia
The true identity of “Hannah” is not clear.
But Schneider refused Gans’ direction and thankfully, he said, she didn’t push the matter further.
In his book, Schneider also recounts the moment he informed his wife of the sickening suggestion. While May shook her head in disbelief, it wasn’t enough to make either of them consider leaving OSG at that time, he said.
“Sharon was suggesting that I engage in incest to conceive a child,” writes Schneider in his book.
“This child would be the grandchild of my wife, the child of my stepdaughter, and the niece or nephew of my other stepchildren. It was repugnant and I never considered it for a second. But I did overlook it.
“Not because I thought Sharon was demented but because I thought, in my compromised condition, that Sharon was a free spirit — uninhibited and unconstrained from all conventions — and that someone of her “hippie mindset” would of course recommend this. I gave her a pass. A big one.”
Schneider is suing Gans’ estate and her alleged successors for violations of human trafficking laws and he’s seeking damages for years of unpaid work.
In addition to various instances of alleged emotional abuse, Schneider claims members of OSG were also forced to carry out hours of unpaid labor at Gans’ properties in New York, Massachusetts, and Montana.
Students apparently were required to strip logs, demolish walls, chainsaw down trees, install electricity and plumbing, and conduct various other skilled tasks – none of which they were trained to do.
On more than one occasion students suffered injuries, according to the suit.
Adding insult to sometimes literal injury, the labor-intensive trips were referred to by Gans and other OSG superiors as “retreats” – despite requiring students to work from anywhere between 12-20 hours per day with limited breaks, Schneider claims.
“On one occasion while Schneider was stripping the logs at the Montana ranch, he began to resent that he was doing this labor and verbally told others that he believed that Sharon Gans Horn should have hired someone to perform the labor,” reads the suit.
“When he did so, Gans Horn broke into hearty laughter and the Inner Circle and other Students joined.
“Gans Horn then stared at Schneider with laser focus – in a manner that Schneider found intimidating – and said, in substance, ‘Working hard is a privilege, it’s for you, to help you grow internally. I could easily hire someone to do this work, but what good would that do you? School is an artificial cosmos.’
“Continuing, she said, in substance, ‘It’s not our fault if negative thoughts come into our head, but it is our fault if we choose to think them. We have a choice to select other thoughts and not think those thoughts. These negative thoughts are just like little birds in your head—just let them come in one ear and out the other.'”
‘IT’S A CULT’
Schneider, in his suit, claimed that Gans and her acolytes instilled “a fear” in OSG members that if they didn’t perform the demanded labor and services they would “endure serious harm, including psychological, financial, and reputational harm and other non-physical harm,” such as ostracism from the group.
In addition to manual labor at Gans’ properties, Schneider said he was forced to conduct other tasks free of charge, including acting as her personal chauffeur, recruiting new members, party planning, and caring for Gans’ ailing husband, Alex Horn.
After years of alleged bullying, instances of public shaming, and other emotional and physical abuses, Schneider finally decided to leave OSG in 2013.
Having lost his marriage and with his legal practice suffering significant financial hardships, he suffered a “complete mental breakdown” in late 2012, before he really began questioning his association with Gans and what OSG really was.
“I honestly, like I didn’t think it was a cult until the day after I left and then it just all tumbled down,” Schneider told The U.S. Sun last year.
“Then it was like, ‘Oh wow, that was a cult.’
“I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Joanne Tucker and Adam Driver recently announced they were expecting their second child togetherCredit: AFP or licensors
Following the release of his book, Manhattan Cult Story, Schneider is the first former member of the school to come forward with his story