Long before leaving a string of broken families in his wake, long before co-founding a company that froze the investments of 12,000 stockholders and long before being accused of leading a cult in the suburbs of Carroll County, Scott A. Caruthers took aside a business associate to deliver the inside story on himself: He was a space alien who communicated to the mother ship through his cats.
The year was 1992, the occasion was an after-dinner conversation at
Caruthers' home, and the business associate was Bob Bonnell III, who was
trying to market a Caruthers idea that would eventually cost backers more than
Who, indeed. It is the question at the heart of a vast and troubling riddle
concerning Caruthers, 54, who until now has largely escaped public scrutiny,
even while enriching himself with ventures that have led others to personal or
financial ruin. Only recently have a handful of court cases and private
inquiries begun prying open his past, and the bizarre disclosures have caught
the attention of authorities including the Maryland State Police and the
Securities and Exchange Commission.
The record shows that Caruthers is a high school dropout and an Army
washout, a rather ordinary-looking fellow who lives in a rather
Beyond that the truth is elusive: Since age 17, Caruthers has fashioned a
far more exotic version of himself. According to dozens of people who've met
him over the years, he has posed as an astronaut, a war hero, an Air Force
test pilot, a CIA agent, a clairvoyant and a space alien. By doing so, and by
having a few creative business ideas along the way, he has displayed a
charismatic, if unlikely, knack for attracting lovers, investors, admirers and
valuable business connections around the world.
As a result, he controls offshore accounts, foundations and trusts that
enable him to spend lavishly. In June, he threw a party costing more than
$500,000 to launch his newest career -- as a cyberartist depicting aliens and
their spaceships. He has hired a limousine to transport an ailing cat to a
Philadelphia veterinarian. Excess also marks his personal life. Twice he has
been married at the same time to two women, unbeknown to them. According to
purported journal entries fished from his garbage by a private detective, he
has five women devoted to his every need.
They are among a group of eight adults and four teen-agers said by
detractors to be at Caruthers' command as part of a cult in Carroll County.
Three of the adults live with him in a two-story brick colonial on a
cul-de-sac north of Westminster; the others live nearby, and all but two met
him through his dealings with an Owings Mills law firm, Gershberg and
Their motivation, according to their journal entries, is survival itself:
In the coming years, the super-alien Caruthers will safely lead them through
cataclysmic "Earth changes" to a reordered future.
The journals and other documents depict an existence dominated by themes
that have long characterized Caruthers' life -- controlling behavior,
extravagant spending, womanizing, a fascination with cats and, draped across
it all, a lavish cloak of mythology. It is a fantasy world in which Caruthers
is the dashing leading man, keeping a tight rein on followers while recruiting
other prospects through the Internet; building up finances while scouting real
estate listings for future compound sites.
The group's journal entries -- covering seven months and filling more than
2,000 pages -- prompted Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. in June
to remove four children, ages 4 to 9, from the custody of two mothers in the
group, including a 9-year-old girl who was living at Caruthers' home.
The emotional stakes of becoming one of his followers might best be
described by Elaine Gershberg, the wife of lawyer Richard Gershberg. On July
4, 1998, she wrote in a journal entry she sent to Caruthers:
"I didn't want to pull out of my conventional life at first. It was
comfortable and fun ... What started out for me as guilt and sadness and grief
for something special that was lost, is now something I know to be necessary
and even appreciated, for now I live the Truth. The most important thing is
there will be no marriage or family unit like what currently exists ... I used
to feel bad for my children because they are not leading a `Normal' life like
their friends, even though they still can have fun and enjoy themselves for
the most part. I'm not sure what they think of my relationship with their
father, but [I] have come to understand that they will appreciate and
understand when the time is right. After all, it's for their survival and my
own and that's what it's all about. I am teaching them and you are teaching me
about following Command, and duty."
Caruthers says that he and the group's writings have been misinterpreted,
and in December he invited two reporters to his home to talk about it. Flanked
by three of his supporters and a favorite cat, he sat by a computer screen
during a three-hour interview, speaking in a soft voice.
After decades of exercising and weightlifting, he is trim and muscular. But
the first thing one notices are his eyes. A glittering gray-blue, they never
seem to waver during conversation, widening with a sudden flash whenever he
drives home a point.
The "journal entries" are anything but, he said: Some are forgeries
concocted by his enemies, who wish to blame him for failed investments or
broken marriages; others are the fruits of elaborate role-playing. He said the
group members are his employees, and they send him their jottings as part of
an effort to write science fiction.
Caruthers said he has never told anyone that he works for the government;
nor has he ever claimed to be an astronaut, a CIA agent or a space alien, he
said. He also claimed that he has been married only twice, although when
confronted with evidence of three other marriages, he said he had simply
forgotten about the rest, unable to remember events "that have no significance
As for the allegation that he leads a cult, he said: "To my understanding,
cults are usually well-financed. They are usually effective in what they do,
and they usually deal with problems, situations or issues -- whatever you want
to call them -- in a different manner than we deal with things. Well, we
obviously don't have deep pockets. We certainly don't have the power to do
anything to anyone, nor do I desire to. And the reason for that is there is no
cult. There never was."
Caruthers first publicly laid out his version of events in June, in
response to the child-custody cases initiated by two men whose wives are
Caruthers' followers. He enlisted the help of syndicated columnist and
longtime acquaintance Jack Anderson, who signed an affidavit ridiculing the
idea that Caruthers led a cult. Anderson, 74, said in the document that he and
Caruthers were "collaborating on a science fiction novel."
Under His Spell
Lives caught in orbit of devotion, deception
Charisma: A knack for attracting lovers, investors, admirers has helped Scott Caruthers enrich himself in ventures that led others to personal or financial ruin.
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