99% Invisible

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99% Invisible is a sound-rich, narrative podcast hosted by Roman Mars about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. With approximately 500 million downloads, 99pi is one of the most popular podcasts on Stitcher, Pandora, iTunes and is available on RadioPublic, via RSS, and through other apps. Sirius XM subscribers may also listen on the Sirius XM app. Also: follow us on Twitter.
You can listen to 99pi, as they say, “wherever you get your podcasts,” and there’s a new episode every week. But if listening isn’t your thing, each episode has a print companion piece and 99pi also has a book titled The 99% Invisible City which hit the New York Times Best-Seller list the week of its release.
99% Invisible was started by Roman Mars as a project of KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. It has grown from a four-minute spot on broadcast radio to an enormously popular podcast with listeners all over the world including, (according to our internal data), three in Antarctica. Hello, Antarctica! And where the show was once made by Roman alone his bedroom, it now includes an entire staff, who make episodes both from an office in beautiful uptown Oakland, California and other locations around the world. 99% Invisible is now a member of the Stitcher and Sirius XM podcast family.
Three limited-run series have also been produced by members of the 99pi team. Articles of Interest, with host Avery Trufelman, explored the stories behind the clothes we wear; According to Need, hosted by Katie Mingle, looked at the system we have in the United States to address homelessness; and the Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast, written by Christopher Johnson, goes behind the scenes into the events and making of the critically-acclaimed film depicting the rise of Chairman Fred Hampton and the subsequent betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.
If you’re wondering where to start listening, see the F.A.Q. below as well as staff favorites. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, too.
Our website, custom episode player and playlist system were created by the dynamic designer-and-developer duo known as Duck Brigade with help from Michael Waggoner and 99pi’s Digital Director, Kurt Kohlstedt, who also writes articles for the website.
1 episode
time period of hosting
10 January 2015
presenter (producer)
see also
Podcast website


Episode 184
Indian philosopher and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had a vision: he would build a Utopian city from the ground up, starting with 64,000 acres of muddy ranchland in rural Oregon.
Purchased in 1981, this expanse was to become both a fully-functional urban center and a spiritual mecca for his followers from around the world.
For this plan to work Rajneesh and his red-clad devotees (known as “sannyasins”) needed autonomous authority with which to construct their paradise.
Circumventing local land use restrictions was not a problem so long as their city of Rajneeshpuram was incorporated, which would allow them to issue their own building permits. Fortunately for them, the main requirement for incorporation at the time was a population of 150 people, which they met easily by importing more followers.
Funding flowed in to support construction from a global network of lucrative communes, as well as sannyasins who sold their earthly possessions and donated the proceeds toward the effort. These devotees were also taught that labor was a form of meditation, and willingly worked long hours to make Rajneeshpuram a reality.
With devoted laborers working to dam water, build power infrastructure, and construct buildings, a city quickly began to sprout from the soil.
They built a strip mall, a hotel, a discotheque, meditation center, post office, air strip, power station, recreation structures, and more.
Within a few years, the population jumped from hundreds to thousands and the city expanded to absorb newcomers. A mass transit system comprised of 85 school buses crisscrossed their modest new metropolis.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh himself, however, preferred to get around by car. He cruised the streets every day in one of his ninety-three Rolls Royces.
Having taken a vow of silence, he delegated the everyday operations of the city to a matriarchal council. His primary spokesperson was Ma Ananda Sheela, a woman who took on increasing amounts of authority.
While nearby communities and environmentalists had concerns about Rajneeshpuram throughout its evolution, those worries grew as the Rajneeshee began to harass the neighboring town of Antelope. Various intimidation tactics were employed in an attempt to take over the Antelope city council. The Rajneeshee were ultimately successful, and the town of Antelope was renamed Rajneesh.
Responding to threats real or perceived, Rajneeshpuram authorities formed a police force—called the “Peace Force”—and began stockpiling weapons. The city even had two helicopter reconnaissance teams.
This escalation caused further concern and led state and county officials to stall construction in Rajneeshpuram and call the legality of its existence into question.
Rajneeshpuram responded with more growth. Through a program they called “Share-A-Home,” Rajneeshpuram began to bus in thousands of homeless people from around the country, offering them places to live. They also encouraged them to vote in local elections. It would later come out that these new residents were drugged with a powerful antipsychotic called Haldol. Many such recruits left soon after they arrived.
In an even more desperate bid to block locals from voting a group of sannyasins poisoned a local salad bar with salmonella. No one died but 750 people became sick. To this day the attack remains the largest act of bioterrorism on US soil. (see addendum).
Investigations began to unravel the city, one allegation at a time. Multiple attempted murders, forced sterilizations and the firebombing of the Wasco County Planning Department were tied to Rajneeshpuram. As new facts and accusations came to light, Sheela vanished and Rajneesh came forward in an attempt to deescalate tensions.
These efforts came too late. Rajneeshpuram was in a downward spiral, its disillusioned devotees leaving in droves.
Sheela fled and was tracked to West Germany then extradited to the United States and pled guilty to a series of serious charges. Today she lives in Switzerland and runs a series of nursing homes for the elderly and disabled.
Rajneesh was convicted of more minor offenses, was fined, put on probation and deported.
He returned to India and continued as a spiritual leader under the name Osho, dying less than a decade later of natural causes.
Rajneeshpuram was dissolved and its valuables auctioned off, including its founder’s collection of luxury cars. Its land and buildings now fall under county jurisdiction.
The meditation hall is now a sports complex and the old hotel a dormitory, all serving Young Life, a Christian teen camp. It remains a place for religious seekers, just not the kind who want to build a Utopia on Earth.
Correction: The radio story says that the Rajneeshee poisoning of a nearby salad bar was the largest act of bioterrorism committed on U.S. soil; the largest acts of bioterrorism were the intentional transmissions of infectious disease by early American colonists to Native Americans, as with William Trent’s gifting of smallpox-laced blankets to two Native American chiefs visiting Fort Pitt in 1763. We regret the error.
Date of broadcast : 10 January 2015
Duration : 28:20
Listen to this episode here
Episode notes : Please check link for images.