A recruitment firm founded and staffed by members of an alleged New York City cult used "mind games" to keep employees in line, an ex-employee told The U.S. Sun.
Taylor Hodson Inc., an employment agency based in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, was founded by Minerva Taylor in 1987.
Taylor, 72, is a long-standing member of the Odyssey Study Group (OSG), a self-described esoteric school - and alleged cult - established by Slaughterhouse Five star Sharon Gans.
OSG - which still has an estimated 200 members across the East Coast - has been in operation for decades and has a disturbing history of alleged sex scandals, slave labor, child abuse, and accusations of racism and rampant homophobia.
When Gans passed away from Covid-19 in 2021, she left her $3.275 million estate to Taylor, a handful of other members who now allegedly oversee the group and her stepson who is not associated with OSG, court documents state.
For years, Gans was believed by some to be a silent partner of Taylor's firm based on the close ties with OSG.
Another senior figure at Taylor Hodson is also a known follower of Gans: Cynthia May.
May, the mother-in-law of Oscar-nominated actor Adam Driver, was first unmasked as a member of OSG in an exclusive report by The U.S. Sun earlier this year.
The 67-year-old became a member of OSG in the early 1990s, working her way up to the esteemed position of "teacher". At Taylor Hodson, she was a vice president and senior account executive.
It remains unclear if she's still a member of OSG and whether she's still employed at Taylor Hodson.
Messages seeking comment from Taylor, May, and Taylor Hodson Inc. have not yet been returned.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former employee of Taylor Hodson claimed that Taylor and May's affiliations with OSG were an "open secret" among employees of the office.
They also claimed that firm executives used "cult-like" mind games to create a culture of fear and bend employees to their will - similar to fear tactics reportedly employed by Gans against her OSG acolytes.
"Everything I learned about the cult was told to me by people that worked there when we were outside of the office," said the insider.
"They would never speak about it inside the office, it was always outside; on the street during a lunch break; after the phone after work; or at the bar at the end of the week.
"But even before I found out I had a very strange feeling while I was working there.
"I was highly attuned to observing other people's behavior, and they had their own distinctive quirks.
"I would come home and tell [my partner] there's something really weird going on in there and I had so much anxiety about going in to work.
"So when someone told me what was going on and that all of them were involved in this cult, the way I was feeling started to make a lot of sense."
'WE WORK FOR A CULT'
The news was broken to the source during a lunch break with one of their coworkers in the winter of 2016.
They'd started at Taylor Hodson only three weeks earlier having responded to an ad for an administrative assistant but was later hired as a recruiter.
"You know we're working for a cult, right?" the source remembers their coworker bluntly blurting out, stopping them dead in their tracks.
"And I was like, 'Excuse me, what?!' and she explained everything.
"She said the group was based on the teachings of the Fourth Way principal, that it was started by D-list actress Sharon Gans, and then she named the people that were in it and that nobody else was.
"Everyone in the office knew, but they apparently wouldn't try to recruit anyone from within the firm, and I was never propositioned.
"The thought this could all be happening right under our noses was equal parts exciting as it was extremely anxiety-inducing."
'CULT-LIKE MIND GAMES'
Immediately after work, the source went into their nearest bookshop and began reading up on the Fourth Way principle, an idea coined by Russian philosopher George Gurdjieff, who believed hard labor and intentional suffering were the keys to self-improvement and true enlightenment.
That later led to a deep-dive online about Gans, OSG, and her alleged ties to Taylor, May, and the other executive at OSG.
The more the source learned about the ways in which Gans exerted total control over her subjects - dictating who they could marry, whether they could have children, and where they could work - the more they saw OSG tactics in play inside the workplace, they claimed.
The worst perpetrator was allegedly Taylor, who the source described as intimidating and unpredictable.
They explained: "Minerva [Taylor] would most of the time be like, 'I'm your friend, now I'm very much not your friend, oh I'm your friend again.'
"And she'd do this to get people to agree to do even the smallest things, like staying late at work.
"She also had this very intense way of looking you directly in the eye and telling you what she thinks, whether that's if she doesn't think you dress well enough, your hair is too curly, your nails are dirty - she would just run through people."
The source added that Taylor would allegedly openly discriminate against recruitment candidates based on their race and sexuality.
OSG and Gans have for years been accused of harboring racist and homophobic beliefs, apparently believing people of color are "inferior" and that members of the LGBTQ+ community can be "cured", survivor Spencer Schneider - Cynthia May's ex-husband - previously told The U.S. Sun.
The source added: "I couldn't tell if that's because of the cult they came from or rather that the recruiting industry as a whole is super sexist, classist, and all those things.
"But when I was being trained, Minerva Taylor would have me sit in her office while she interviewed possible recruits or when she was hosting meetings.
"And in the span of a 10-minute conversation, she could be so nice to you and complimentary for the first few minutes, while you were deciding if you should change your mind or agree to help her out with something.
"Then she'd spend the next four minutes being rude to you, and she wouldn't necessarily raise her voice, but she would talk over you and say something like, 'This is why you're fighting me. You're not open to what I was saying,' and she would just berate the person and tell them all the things they're doing wrong.
"Then for the last few minutes, she'd go back to being nice again, and in the arc of the conversation, that person would change their mind and agree to what she was asking.
"I watched my manager once tell Minerva, 'Okay, I won't leave on time so I can pick up my grandma from the airport. I'll stay late instead.'
"It was literally those kinds of things. And that made me feel really anxious."
The source said that Taylor would try the same tactics on them, but their disinterest in recruitment and their research into OSG meant her approach was ineffective.
"Knowing what I did about the cult, it seemed pretty in line with how they would talk in the cult and get people to do things," they added.
"Again, she never tried to recruit me, but my observation was that she was taking what she'd learned from Sharon Gans and was applying it to her daily life."
The insider described May, meanwhile, as "tough" but relatively easy to interact with.
They remarked how strange it was to see her come into the office the day after attending one of Driver's movie premiers while knowing what was happening behind the scenes.
The source lasted at the firm for just six months before quitting.
The stress of the work environment, combined with a moral complex about where the money they were making might be going, forced them to abruptly leave, they said.
"The office itself was very friendly and they were very adamant about being a woman-owned business, which I thought was great.
"But once I found out what was going on, it felt like I was part of a sham or a cover-up.
"The people who would tell me about the cult outside the office would say, 'Don't worry, this won't affect your paycheck,' and I kept saying the part that bothers me is what they're accused of.
"That was just really disturbing to me."
OSG was initially founded under the name the "Theater of All Possibilities" by one-time actress 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 today as OSG or School.
The ultra-secretive group is made up of the city's rich and highly educated and has an extensive history of various alleged abuses.
Former members, including 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, in which Taylor is named as a defendant, he listed a myriad of instances of abuse that he claims to have witnessed or suffered firsthand during his almost 25 years inside OSG.
The pattern of abuse, he alleges, was designed by Gans and other OSG leaders to slowly erode 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."
Schneider said he experienced this first-hand when he finally quit OSG in 2013 having suffered a "complete mental breakdown."
Announcing 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, Cynthia May - 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.
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.
"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]."
ADAM DRIVER LINK
Schneider was introduced to May by Gans in 1997 and allegedly ordered to marry one another within weeks. They also allegedly split under Gans' instructions in 2009, per the suit.
May 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.
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 previously 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."
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.