Cult experts are alarmed by Keene prophet's case


Keene Sentinel, January 12, 2000
By Brian Rourke

Ronald J. O'Brien is a cult leader, two experts say, and people should worry about where he's leading his followers.

Citing the tragic ends of some cults in recent years, Rick A. Ross of Phoenix, Ariz., and Joseph Nickell of Buffalo, N.Y. -- both authorities on cults -- say that what they've seen in the writings, pronouncements and warnings of the 55-year-old Keene man are cause for concern.

Less than a year ago, few in Keene had even heard of O'Brien, who rented a small house on Victoria Street. Then, religious statues in his house began oozing oil, and thousands of hosts, the bread wafers Catholics use in Holy Communion, miraculously appeared in his home, he told people. Then, he proclaimed himself a prophet, and began having conversations with God. These conversations he conveyed to his followers using the Internet. Since then, O'Brien's past has emerged -- he served time for credit-card fraud, he changed his name, and he bought nearly 9,225 hosts from church-supply businesses.

Ross and Nickell worry that O'Brien shows characteristics of a cult leader: