Sobriety center turned violent cult? ‘The Sunshine Place’ investigates Synanon through survivors, former members, and more

Society & Culture August 10, 2022
Listen to ‘The Sunshine Place’

In the 1960s, Synanon was an experimental drug rehab facility in Santa Monica, CA, referred to as “the miracle on the beach” and claimed it could cure heroin addictions. Led by its founder, Charles E. Diedrich, this controversial facility reigned over ’60s and ’70s counterculture for a decade and soon claimed it could cure any of your problems if you moved in.

Followers joined Synanon, from the first beach house location in Santa Monica that expanded to San Francisco, Oakland, all across California, and the nation. Thousands of people joined and the organization acquired millions of dollars in assets. But leading into the 1970s, Synanon’s community transformed into a dangerous and violent cult.

C13Originals’ “The Sunshine Place” is an investigative documentary series sharing the mind-boggling story of the former California drug rehab facility, a social experiment with a messianic leader that became a cult. Hear this never-before-heard story from insiders, chroniclers, former members, and people who experienced it firsthand. The podcast is narrated by Sari Crawford, daughter of Synanon’s former leader, Bill Crawford. 

Stream “The Sunshine Place” from the beginning to hear the entire investigation unfold across 8 episodes, with the first 2 parts launching on 8/10. The podcast is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, their company Team Downey with Emily Barclay Ford, and Josh McLaughlin for Wink Pictures. “The Sunshine Place” is written, produced, and directed by Cadence13’s Perry Crowell, Zak Levitt, Ian Mandt, and Bill Schultz. Previously, McLaughlin produced the true crime series “O.C. Swingers.”

“While we were familiar with Synanon, it wasn’t until we heard the deeply personal stories that we could truly appreciate its epic rise and fall,” said Susan Downey and Robert Downey, Jr., Team Downey. “We felt this was a strangely relevant and twisted cautionary tale that had to be told about the incredible lengths people will go to seek out answers and the more dangerous ones others will provide.”

Of the project, Chris Corcoran, Cadence13’s Chief Content Officer and Founding Partner said, “This is a story we were immediately drawn to and wanted to tell. It’s an honor to be able to tell incredible stories like this with such a great team in Susan, Robert, Emily, and Josh in collaboration with our brilliant C13Originals creative team.”

Tune into “The Sunshine Place” starting 8/10 with new, weekly episodes wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to ‘The Sunshine Place’

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