Arizona “Sweatbox” Claims Third Victim


Flagstaff, Ariz. – What was supposed to be a spiritual retreat turned into a deadly fiasco in early October in Sedona, Ariz. Two people died initially on October 8, prompting an investigation into the situation. A third woman died a week and a half later from complications stemming from her use of a “sweatbox” at the retreat.

The third victim, Lizabeth Neuman, 49, was from Minnesota, and a mother of three. She passed away at Flagstaff Medical Center on October 17, almost 10 days following the initial incident at the Sedona-area resort. The other victims have been identified as James Shore, 40, from Milwaukee, and Kirby Brown, 38, from New York.

Individuals attending self-help expert James Arthur Ray’s “Spiritual Warriors” program were inside a crude “sweatbox,” a dome-like structure made of tarps and blankets; inside, hot rocks and water were used to create steam, creating a sauna-like experience. Inside, program participants were to take part in a ceremonial sauna used by Native Americans and other cultures.

Law enforcement officials say that between 55 to 65 people were in the “sweat lodge” for nearly two hours before anyone fell ill.

Jonathan Ellerby, an author who is familiar with sweat lodges but did not participate in the Sedona retreat, told the media that it is a tradition that has been used for thousands of years in countries across the world.

“This has been going on for thousands of years because it works and because it’s safe,” he said. Still, Ellerby cautioned that the person running the lodge must be experienced and properly trained. “One of the mistakes that you very often hear from people who try to create home-made ‘sweats’ is that they will use materials that are inappropriate and not understand the consequences.”

The ceremony is a process of detoxification, along with emotional and spiritual cleansing and purification. Ellerby said that fasting is sometimes done as part of the sweat lodge experience, which could have contributed to the deaths and injuries.

Authorities are unsure if Ray was qualified to run such an event, and have begun a homicide investigation into the deaths of the three victims, but have said it could be weeks until information is found and able to be released. In addition to the three deaths, 18 other participants were treated for injuries due to being in the sweat lodge. They have since been released from the hospital.

A self-proclaimed philosopher, Ray is a well-known instructor and developer of programs claiming to teach individuals how to create wealth from all aspects of their lives: financially, mentally, physically and spiritually. He is a frequent guest on popular shows such as Today, Oprah, and Larry King Live.


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