New Book Asks Provocative Questions
About Dwight York
The Macon Telegraph/May 20, 2007
By Joe Kovac Jr.
In July 1999, Time magazine ran a 635-word item about an influx
of black strangers who had descended on a plot of rural Georgia
farmland, built "40-ft. pyramids, obelisks, gods, goddesses and a
giant sphinx," and, in the process, drummed up quite a stir.
“Space Invaders,” read the headline of a piece that noted the
cosmic-gone-country leanings of a religious-slash-”fraternal”
group. These ostracism-claiming outsiders had dubbed themselves
Of course, locals had long known of them by the summer the
national magazine blurb came out. They were “the pyramid people,”
ones who, according to some of them, were followers of a leader
who’d come to earth from another planet and settled, of all
places, in Putnam County.
The tone of that breezy write-up in Time nearly eight years ago
— and its understandably limited perception of what was truly
transpiring in the pyramid pasture — persists even to this day.
Even after the horrors that took place there have come to light.
The man from planet Rizq, or, as Dwight D. York is now known,
inmate No. 17911-054 at the supermax federal prison in Florence,
Colo., was such a master manipulator that his most despicable acts
are sometimes glossed over in memory.
We tend to remember the pyramids, then the perversion and only
then the imprisonment. And it hasn’t been that long. If you ask,
most folks don’t know how many years York was sentenced to serve
in prison. Or that he is now living under the same roof as Terry
Nichols, Eric Robert Rudolph, Zacarias Moussaoui and Theodore
Kaczynski. Or that he was sent there for 135 years for molesting
14 boys and girls as well as for racketeering.
Or, necessarily, that he was, as author Bill Osinski’s new book
refers to York, the target of “the largest child molestation
prosecution … ever directed at a single suspect.”
In “Ungodly: A True Story of Unprecedented Evil,” Osinski
probes York’s diabolical underbelly, one that for the longest time
too many overlooked. We laughed at York’s spaceship hooey and
flea-market architecture. York and his cult were akin to the image
of those who hawk pamphlets at urban traffic-light intersections.
For an instant, we often wonder “what’s their deal?” before
Though York and his followers often claimed they were not a
religious sect, it was freedom of religion, which Osinski duly
notes, that in some ways afforded York carte blanche.
Osinski, who covered the Nuwaubian saga for the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution and came to know many of its key players,
chronicles York’s early days as a pimpish New York hustler who
deifies himself to reap riches under the guise of religion and
As a GBI administrator, in hindsight, tells Osinski, “When
someone wraps themself in the cloak of religion, law enforcement
can sometimes become cautious.”
“What (York) came up with,” Osinski writes, “was called the
United Nation of Nuwaubian Moors, a concept composed of an
extra-large dose of Egyptian schlock, served with a side dish of
intergalactic mumbo jumbo.”
Osinski writes that his book is, in part, “a story about how
our society deals with, or fails to deal with, issues of race and
It is also about what happens when we look the other way, how
York made us do that, and, further, how he fooled his followers
into turning over their lives and their children “to the whims of
a demented character.”
Osinski writes that York “was the director and star of his own
blue movie of a life, except that, unlike most garden-variety
porn, his performers were children essentially powerless to refuse
his casting calls.”
Osinski explains that York’s philosophies “found a receptive
audience among those who had good reason to believe they’d been
shut out economically from access to the American Dream.”
The author relates how, in essence, York’s beleaguered
devotees, a core group of African-Americans — the tired, the poor,
the everyday adherents yearning to breathe free — were, under
York’s wing, exhausted, starved, culturally asphyxiated and
granted increasingly squalid living quarters in a compound built
on their own backs.
“All (York) wanted from the people who bought his books and
tapes,” Osinski writes, “was their unquestioned loyalty, their
free labor, sexual submission, and all their money.”
So why did so many buy what York was selling?
Osinski explores several possible answers. And he is careful to
point out that York’s followers were often anything but “misguided
“As tawdry as the reality was,” Osinski writes, “many of the
Nuwaubians sincerely believed that they were part of something
noble, that they were building something good.”
Interviews with those who worked closely with York, some of the
most revealing parts of the book, shed light on the psychological
hold York had over some of his followers. One says, “York made
evil seem fair.” Another Nuwaubian, though disillusioned, admits
still having a fondness for York “even though I know it was all
York’s grip was similar to the gravitational pull of an abusive
marriage. Once you’ve chosen to share your life with someone, as
aberrant and abrasive as their behavior may be, getting away may
not be so easy.
Bob Moser of the Southern Poverty Law Center tells Osinski,
“Once you accept Dwight York is special, then you automatically
have to subordinate yourself to that authority.”
Moser calls York’s cult “definitely a black supremacist group,”
and he says race was another factor that kept followers flowing
in. And their allegations of harassment by predominantly white law
enforcers assured them a place in the all-important
publicity-stirring spotlight. (Howard Sills, the Putnam sheriff
who is among the book’s heroes, says that in reality “the only
racial issue was that every victim York preyed upon was black.”)
While not one of those sweep-you-away narratives, the book does
what most newspapers stories fail to do. It condenses a complex
swirl of decades worth of events and accusations — ones
prosecutors actually worried were “too bizarre to be believed” —
and presents them beginning to end.
In doing so, Osinski fashions a definitive documentary.
He is critical of the Georgia press, this paper included, for
playing the early “Nuwaubian story” as if it were “a rural Georgia
sideshow.” The author contends that there wasn’t much digging into
York’s background or what was really going on at his make-believe
Egypt outside Eatonton.
Osinski also delves into how some high-ranking officials in
state government may well have played roles in catering to York,
thus hindering authorities who might have brought York’s
transgressions to light years sooner.
The book notes, too, how the Nuwaubian shtick drew high-profile
black leaders — the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton among them
— to hear claims of perceived racial injustice. Macon Mayor Jack
Ellis even had his picture taken, with Jackson, at York’s property
In an interview with York’s son, Malik, the author gets to the
heart of what turns out to have been a scam perpetrated by a
heartless soul. Malik York says his father once told him, “I don’t
believe any of this (expletive.) If I had to dress up like a nun,
if I had to be a Jew, I’d do it for this kind of money.”
As York is said to have told someone close to him, “It’s all
about the packaging.”
The man was so “out there,” at least to the casual observer,
that his weirdness somehow still reigns. So much so that even in
hindsight it is hard to grasp the nefariousness he wrought.
Maybe, in the end, it was whack-job discountability that York
sought, a smokescreen behind which to run his game.
Perhaps it was York’s persona, clownish and hokey to the hilt —
scoffed at and written off as cuckoo by the masses — that greased
the way for him to soil the innocence of so many.
Osinski adroitly quotes Flannery O’Connor, who once wrote,
“Whenever I’m asked why Southerner writers particularly have a
penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are
still able to recognize one.”
But are we?