Hamilton, Montana -- A deprogrammer specializing in cults yesterday finished five days
for working with Caraway Seed, a young woman who was brainwashed
by former Corvallis counselor Steven Rundquist, according to that
Rick Ross, a soft-spoken, 36-year-old exit counselor, said the
case was a classic common instance of mind control.
"Caraway is going through a process of inoculation,"
Ross said. "In the future she won't be a vulnerable target
for a cult group. I'm here to stimulate her to reach her own
conclusions and when she does, those values will be Caraway's
- not Steven Rundquist's."
Rundquist carried on a secret relationship with Caraway Seed for
four years. Ross said there is no doubt Rundquist intended to
make Caraway his polygamous wife.
"He made that very clear on the tapes," Ross said, referring
to a series of cassettes that Rundquist sent Caraway. "He
took her from counseling to friendship to leader/disciple, deeper
and deeper into his situation."
When Caraway's parents, David and Linda Seed, discovered the situation,
they removed their daughter from high school, keeping her home
for more than two months as they tried to deal with the family
At the end of what Linda Seed described as a "very intense
week," things have changed radically. Caraway plans to return
to school Monday, taking up the threads of her life again.
"We feel very positive," Linda Seed said. "He
(Ross) came to do a job and he did it well. Before he came we
didn't know what was going to happen or what to expect. He ties
up all the loose ends. He sorts things out."
Ross' services are not cheap. In addition to an hourly fee, all
his expenses, including plane tickets, are paid by the victim's
family. That cost is a minor item, compared to the results, according
to Caraway's father, David Seed.
"even if it didn't help, it was worth it to try," Seed
said. "But we have seen a difference."
The Seeds have mortgaged their property to pay counseling fees
and engage an attorney. They have asked the Corvalles School
District, where Rundquist was employed and met their daughter,
for help. So far, both of the district's insurance carriers have
refused to consider paying for Seeds' expense until a summons
and formal complaint have been filed.
Ross, who began working with cults and deprogramming in 1982,
said Rundquist is not unique.
Ross' credentials to make such a judgment are strong. Over the
past seven years he has established himself as one of the country's
leading experts on cults.
Ross has served on many state and national religious and community
committees, written books and school curriculum on cults, taught
courses on cults, testified as an expert witness in trials, and,
for the past two years, worked exclusively at deprogramming people
involved with cults and mind control.
Ross said that of the more than 125 cases he has worked with
in the past two years, he has been about 80 percent successful.
"Even if the case I work with doesn't come out well, at least
the person I worked with had an opportunity to do some critical
thinking and make their own decision about what to do next,"
Critical thinking is what deprogramming is all about. Ross' work
is not religious-based although he often works with church people
"I do not substitute any other religion or belief for the
ones held by thought reform victims," Ross said. "I
don't attack their beliefs. I just show them how they came to
hold those beliefs and offer them a chance to critically analyze
how they got to where they are."
Ross said most brainwashed people never have all the facts before
them at one time.
As an analogy he pointed out that if one drops a frog in a pot
of boiling water and the frog realizes the danger and hops right
out. If one places the same frog in warm water and gradually
heats the water to boiling, the frog remains in the pot, unaware
of the danger, until it is boiled to death.
"The victim never realizes what is going on," Ross said.
"It's a 'spoonfeeding effect.'" A potential member
is brought in by a series of indoctrinational efforts until they
are finally ready to receive the big picture."
"Thought reform is thought reform," Ross said. "The
techniques are always the same. Based on his tapes and letters
I absolutely believe Steven Rundquist used thought reform, mind
control and psychologically coercive techniques to indoctrinate
and control Caraway Seed."
Ross pointed out that on at least one tape Rundquist's voice has
rhythmic quality and he uses frequent repetitions of phrases.
Ross called the tone and pattern a hypnotic induction frequently
used to indoctrinate people.
"Steven Rundquist has grossly violated any trust a school
system or community has placed in him," Ross said. "I
absolutely believe he is an inherent danger to any young people
who come in contact with him."
Ross said Rundquist's pattern of behavior dating from the time
he worked in the Victor school system show an unchanging pattern.
At Victor, there was a parental complaint about his attentions
toward a then 13-year-old girl. While at Corvallis Rundquist
became involved with Caraway and at least one other female high
"There's no doubt this man is not learning from his mistakes,
that he's not doing anything to correct his behavior," Ross
said. "He denies all allegations. The Tok, Alaska, superintendent
will eventually have to take full responsibility for whatever
happens in Tok, (where Rundquist is now employed as a school counselor).
Authorities have to recognize this; if they do nothing to stop
Steven Rundquist, they are responsible for the situation."
Ross said there were two issues in the Rundquist/Seed case which
made it a serious one.
"First, Rundquist is using the public system as an arena
of recruitment," Ross said. "Something is going on
here that is very sad. What kind of position does a school counselor
hold? People who have problem, who are most vulnerable, pour
out their problems to a counselor. Being a school counselor is
being placed in a position to get the most productive people for
"The other main issue is the total abrogation of a paternal
authority by an adult in a position of responsibility with a minor.
The Seeds never knew what was going on. Rundquist was deliberately
breaking Caraway away from a loving and supportive family. She
couldn't compare ideas or consult with anyone. He wrapped her
in a vacuum of secrecy. That's been pierced now."
Ross said Caraway has gradually come to realize through comparing
contradictory statements made by Rundquist to her and to others
that Rundquist is a liar. Understanding that helps break the
mystique Rundquist created with her, Ross said.
"Caraway is beginning to realize he's not an ethical or trustworthy
individual. She's beginning to realize she's been taken advantage
of," Ross said.
Ross said his ability to work as a deprogrammer comes in part
from convincing the person he works with that he is not there
for their parents, or a particular church group or organization
but specifically just for them.
"I'm not on a crusade against a person's beliefs. I'm an
ally, one who helps a person think things out," Ross said.
"The issue isn't theology. It's thought reform, mind control.
It's whether or not that's an ethical way to recruit someone
into a lifestyle."
Ross does not involve himself with groups or individuals who see
deprogramming as a religious crusade, calling that behavior as
unethical as the initial mind control.
"That's using a crisis for recruitment," he said.
Instead, he helps the victim look at facts, at the reasons for
emotional attachments, at what has happened and the methods which
have placed a person in their situation. He asks the victim to
think independently and to critically evaluate those methods.