Rajneesh Invasion Plaque – Antelope, Oregon - Atlas Obscura

Rajneesh Invasion Plaque

Antelope, Oregon

Post office plaque commemorates local resistance to a cult invasion. 


A small metal plaque can be found outside the Antelope, Oregon, post office. It reads:

Dedicated to those of this community who throughout the Rajneesh invasion and occupation of 1981-1985 remained, resisted and remembered….

What sounds vaguely like something from a science fiction movie is in fact a testament to a very real cult invasion. For in the early 1980s, the small town of Antelope, Oregon, started to get a lot of new neighbors, and all of them wore red. 

These neighbors, who grew to be some 7,000 strong, were members of the Rajneeshee cult and had built their commune a short 15 miles away from Antelope. As the red-wearing cult outgrew its commune, it maneuvered to gain control of local politics. One casualty was Antelope, Oregon. 

On September 18, 1984, enough cult members had moved to Antelope, a town of only 75 people, that they were able to outvote the local community government by a vote of 57 to 22. They changed the town name from Antelope to Rajneesh, the name of their cult leader. They were officially in control.

However, the change was short-lived. The cult committed the first and largest bioterrorism attack in the US, poisoning some 751 Oregon locals (no fatalities). The cult leadership, under investigation, then fractured and fled the US. The commune utopia fell apart, and the cult followers drifted away.

Antelope was returned to the locals; in 1986 they voted to go back to the name Antelope, but it turned out they didn’t need to. The post office had never officially registered the name change. 

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December 21, 2012

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