Here’s the story! We booked an Airbnb for 10 days for an important family gathering. Actually, I picked the Airbnb and booked it myself, and I’m taking responsibility for that wacky situation! The plan was to gather Alison’s entire family in one place to celebrate the 80th birthday of Alison’s mom over the Christmas holiday in 2018. After reviewing tons of ideas for fun destinations mom chose Sedona for the big gathering.
I gladly volunteered to find and book the perfect house because I LOVE travel planning (and traveling). Choosing the best house wasn’t that complicated since the City of Sedona is not that big, with a population of around 10,000 residents. There weren’t that many vacation houses in Sedona that can accommodate 11 adults comfortably.
We wanted to spend meal times together around one big table and we also wanted lots of elbow room since everyone (except me) is around 6 feet tall or well over that height. We also wanted to have different common room spaces that people could gravitate to for naps, reading, playing games, and chatting. And we had a rather large Christmas tree to accommodate as well since it was the holiday season. After my brief research project there was only one Airbnb that met everyone’s hopes and had enough bedrooms and living space for all 11 people for 10 days. So my fun research project was over before I could really dig in!
That one house I found was called “Moondance Sedona Sanctuary.” After showing off the photos to Libby and getting her usual high level of enthusiasm about the idea, I booked the house. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve card for the booking. POINTS!
Coincidentally, when we booked that house we were also preparing to sell our home and leave Seattle to travel around the world full time. Making the logistics for everything all jive was a bit complicated, but all-in-all it was still relatively easy for us to figure things out.
Alison and I arrived in Arizona a week before the big gathering, and we drove to Sedona with her mom a few days earlier than the rest of the clan to get the party started. We had a fabulous time walking the property, checking out every room in the house, picking our bedrooms, and imagining which bedrooms the rest of the family would choose for themselves.
And truly – we all had an amazing time together in Sedona! Having everyone together for that long was a treat! Every night we enjoyed our favorite family dinners. Every day we took walks and enjoyed the outdoors. We all played games and talked and laughed. That was probably my all time favorite Christmas experience as an adult (so far).
After a week at the house the big birthday party and Christmas were behind us and we had a visit from a Sedona local who was related to one of our in-laws. We’ll call this lady Sally for this blog post. Sally arrived at our Airbnb for a visit and before she even closed her car door she was shouting, “You’re staying in a house owned by the infamous cult leader, Gabriel of Sedona!” Huh???
Yep. Sally said this incredibly creepy guy Gabriel (not his real name) was eventually “encouraged to leave Sedona” because of a long list of offenses, including a routine of absorbing whole families and then relieving his followers of their finances. She told us a sad story about a close friend of hers who got caught up in the spiritual trickery of the cult and became one of the cult leader’s “wives.” She was required to drop all communication with people outside of the cult so Sally has no idea what happened to her. Of course that was a very upsetting story for Sally, and that information got all of us pretty freaked out.
To add insult to injury, Sally pointed out right away that this expensive Airbnb was an income source for the cult and they had profited from our booking. Even though the cult was gone from Sedona by the time we arrived, there are still a variety of businesses in Sedona owned by the cult that put money in their accounts and also serve as active recruiting tools. Sally picked up one of the brochures in the entry way, offering guided spirit journeys and tours of the vortex, and said that group was part of the cult and those tours are major recruiting vehicles. There was stuff like that all around us. Hellfire!
Sally said we should watch the 1998 Dateline story about Gabriel and his cult that night, which of course we did. I was able to find that expose on YouTube, but as far as I can tell it’s been taken down since then. Which is unfortunate since this cult is still growing wealth and capturing new followers. But now there are other stories out there about what people have experienced in losing family members to this cult or best of all, people escaping and getting their lives back.
Midway through the Dateline show Alison’s mom shook her head and said, “The things you see when you haven’t got your gun.” Which prompted a round of hysterics from me and Alison. That old saying in Alison’s family originated from Alison’s great grandmother, Mother Packer, who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1800’s.
[Note – if the mention of guns strikes a nerve in you like it does in me, keep in mind that old family saying is a snapshot from a very distant time.]
So wow, we gave a rather large pile of cash to this Gabriel of Sedona character (born Tony Delevin in 1947) who changed his spirtitual name to Gabriel of Urantia since he left Sedona. After watching the Dateline show we toured the house again with new eyes. The only books in the house were written by Gabriel and the cult, the CD’s were also and the cult’s tourism brochures were everywhere. Even the house cleaners were part of the cult. What we called the yoga room suddenly looked creepy and all of the spiritual touches around the house lost their groovy appeal. Ick.
We are very conscientious about how we spend our money and we want to be wallet activists whenever we can. We would never have intentionally handed over a giant stack of cash to this cult. This experience was a great reminder of the importance of being mindful about where we spend our money and who will profit from our spending, even with something like booking an Airbnb. Lesson learned! Now when I research Airbnb options if the host is a company instead of a person I do more research before booking. And if we ever come across Global Alliance Properties (their property management business) or Global Community Communications Alliance (the cult) – we will steer clear.
If we had it to do over again, we would have made a different choice for the location of our family event. But what’s done is done. We left with wonderful memories from our family adventure in Sedona in 2018, and a very weird story to tell.