Dozens of records responsive to “Ramtha's School of Enlightenment” were recently obtained from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office by Expanding Frontiers Research. The Yelm, Washington school is under the direction of J.Z. Knight, who claims to channel Ramtha, a purported Lemurian warrior who supposedly battled residents of the mythical Atlantis 35,000 years ago. The records consist of law enforcement reports and their accompanying digital images, video files, and audio files.
The material was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, circumstances resulting from a collaboration between this writer and EFR Executive Director Erica Lukes. The records suggest a trend of vandalism and harassment directed at the facility and its staff, with several such incidents reported to the Sheriff's Office by security personnel of the property. The reported perpetrators were often former students or people with some type of apparent prior relationship with the staff and 80-acre compound, referenced in police reports as “JZ Knight's Mansion” or the “Ramtha Mansion.” The accused were at times described as suffering from serious mental health issues.
Neither J.Z. Knight nor a spokesperson from the Ramtha School of Enlightenment immediately responded to a request for comment about the law enforcement records and related circumstances.
Judy Zebra “J.Z.” Knight was born Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, New Mexico. She would later claim Ramtha first appeared to her in 1977. This resulted in Knight becoming a popular guest on the 1980s television talk show circuit. She published a book, A State of Mind, in 1987; opened the school in 1988; launched JZK, Inc., in 1994; registered several Ramtha trademarks (her claims to exclusivity held up in court); and banked millions of dollars from followers, supporters, and business ventures. Knight lives in a reportedly 12,800-square-foot home on the school grounds, where she purports to disseminate the teachings of Ramtha, but, with all the abundance that befell the Roswell native, her alleged enlightened warrior consultant was apparently unable to guide her around some knee-wobbling missteps.
In 2011, several hundred truth seekers attended an event at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, hoping to hear wisdom of the ages. What they got, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported, was drunken ramblings peppered with curse words. “F--- God’s chosen people! I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” Knight reportedly let fly, along with bigoted remarks about “poison” Mexicans, homophobic references to gay men, and other statements unbecoming of an omniscient being. The implications were that it was pretty standard J.Z. stuff, and it hadn't previously made its way to watchdogs like the Southern Poverty Law Center because use of cell phones was just then surpassing Camp Ramtha's ability to keep it more under wraps.
Allegations periodically surfaced of improprieties and mistreatment of devotees. A local doctor, for instance, was so concerned about what was taking place at the school that in 2014 he wrote the county health department and asked it to look into the health and safety of Knight's followers.
Knight's influence on the UFO subculture (she reportedly told her following extraterrestrials first brought grapes to Earth 450,000 years ago) and, in particular, the Mutual UFO Network, got a lot of discussion in private circles and after-hours gatherings at UFO conferences. Newsweek, however, publicly served up the issues in 2018. The magazine cited turmoil within MUFON and reported resignations stemming from the blatantly expressed bigotry of “deep-pocketed donors like J.Z. Knight.” The piece further reported Knight was a member of a “high-tier” group of “Inner Circle” MUFON contributors. The circle included John Ventre, who shared Ramtha's tendency to rationalize talking bigotry trash.
In 2020 local news media reported Knight coughed up over $70k in campaign contributions to Republican organizations, making her among President Trump's biggest donors in Thurston County. Interestingly and for whatever reasons, Knight also financially supported Democrats at state and local levels, even after she was ousted from the party in 2012 for her remarks seen on video as described above. Democrats have at times responded to Knight's donations by declining the funds, yet rather than return the money, forwarded it to causes such as the Anti-Defamation League.
Law Enforcement Records
EFR initially sought records in June through the FOIA from the FBI on the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. The request resulted in receiving FBI documentation, pictured below, that in 1999 it was contacted by an individual expressing concern the Ramtha group might be subversive or otherwise suspect. FBI noted it determined the group had come to the attention of the Thurston County Sheriff's Department, prompting an EFR FOIA request to the Washington law enforcement agency submitted in August.
Records subsequently received from Thurston County Sheriff's Office include a 2007 report that Lee Nguyen was attending one of Knight's seminars when he approached another attendee and inquired if they were interested in buying hand grenades, rifles, and other explosives. The incident was quickly reported to a security guard, who confronted Nguyen and banned him from future events at the property. The Sheriff's Office noted in its report that a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was advised of the situation and subsequently suggested he believed he had received another tip on Nguyen from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Mr. Nguyen was back to the property in July 2013, at which time he was charged with violating a civil anti-harassment order and second degree burglary. Police were summoned when Nguyen scaled a wall at the gate J.Z. Knight was using to get to her home, which was located about 70 yards from the gate. Asked why he did this, Nguyen reportedly replied, “The fathers told me to.” Urged to explain further, he stated the fathers were his spiritual advisors.
Problems continued for Lee Nguyen when he once again returned to Ramtha's ranch in November of the same year, 2013, and was charged with criminal trespass. Following a Ramtha event, Nguyen reportedly covertly entered the property as attendees were being escorted off the grounds. The circumstances were apparently by no means out of the ordinary.
On October 20, 2010, 85-year-old Charley Wayne Napper, aka Ala-A-Ram, was charged with malicious mischief after he was interrupted from cutting out a section of fence to gain entry to the compound. Reportedly a former student and an already return trespasser, Mr. Napper was confronted by security and asked what he was doing, to which he replied rescuing J.Z. Knight. He was warned by security that the police would be called, so he left. Law enforcement caught up with him later, at which time he indicated he believed Knight was being held against her will. The man further stated he communicated with Knight telepathically, and that was how he knew to rescue her. He was then advised, the officer noted in his report, charges were being pressed.
Later the same afternoon, Mr. Napper returned to ram the main gate. Police reported that, when they arrived, he was found still sitting in the driver's seat of a blue van which was resting against the gate it was used to damage.
By 2011, things went from bad to worse when Napper was charged with threatening to kill a staff member. He reportedly left multiple profane messages, guaranteeing an imminent death, on the person's business phone voice mail. A police officer confronted Napper in a Safeway parking lot and subsequently arrested him. Asked if he would prefer to leave his van or have it towed, Napper told police to tow it, requesting they retrieve some gold coins from the vehicle. The Sheriff's Office documented two gold coins were found inside ski gloves in the van and would be placed in Napper's belongings. According to the report, Napper suggested there were more gold coins in the van.
On an afternoon in June 2021, Wilburn Hutchinson, reportedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, went on a reckless spree that resulted in repeatedly ramming his truck into school gates, apparently leaving the scene, then returning to trespass again. The final round involved violently resisting arrest. It took multiple police officers and their various accessories to get Hutchinson into the back of a patrol car, and from the looks of the accompanying photos, he didn't get the worst of the brawl.
Video evidence of Mr. Hutchinson returning as a security guard attempts to sort out the situation:
Additional footage and angles of Mr. Hutchinson's "gate approaches":
Images of the finally detained Wilburn Hutchinson and documentation of an officer involved donnybrook:
The strange trend includes Carmen Iones, a former employee of the school who kept returning in 2008, apparently against the wishes of the staff. She would later return on the day of an event in 2010, only to be escorted to the security office and detained until police arrived.
And then there's the case of the trio who were chased off the property, only to return three days later and cut their way through the fence, Louisville Slugger in tow. “I find it alarming that we have people on our property with baseball bats,” a security guard said in a statement to the Sheriff's Office.
Micah Gehman busted through the gate one night in a truck, causing an estimated $10,000 in damage. After security pulled a gun on him, Gehman declared religious and political asylum. He would later tell the Sheriff's Office he thought the stunt would be a fun way to meet Ramtha and that she would appreciate it. “I must have misread her,” he reportedly added.
There was an individual arrested for repeatedly returning to the property after warnings but persisted because they wanted “to make things right”; a big guy with a bald head who was reportedly released from jail not long before he was walking the perimeter of the property with a machete (neighbors told police he was “usually” out at night screaming and waving the machete); and a man who blocked the main entrance gate two days in a row, complaining of numbness in his body, saying he'd been poisoned, and wanting those in the compound to help him. Police surmised it may have been a diabetic issue.
Diabetes was not the cause, however, one night in 2018 when two vehicles collided head on at a location listed as “Ramtha's Mansion.” Two intoxicated drivers, the report documented, two DUIs and two tows needed.
Some of the more thought provocative reports involve welfare checks. The morning of March 23, 2020, a call was apparently received by the Thurston County Sheriff's Office from a telephone located in the security office of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. The caller hung up, and the dispatcher subsequently tried unsuccessfully to call them back, noting it sounded like the line was disconnected. Within a few minutes officers were on the scene and spoke with employees who said they were cleaning the security office, realized they may have accidentally called someone, and unplugged the phone to ensure they didn't do it again. There's that.
The afternoon of August 2, 2023, the Sheriff's Office received a similar incoming call from a cell phone yet was apparently unable to communicate with the caller. Subsequent investigation led to a wellness check conducted at Knight's 80 acres, where officers documented they were assured it was simply a mistake and were told, “Phone went wacko.”
Was that wacko or Waco?
Browse the records obtained by Expanding Frontiers Research, which include many more images, video clips, and documents, as well as audio files of oral statements recorded by police. The Thurston County Sheriff's Office release of records responsive to Ramtha's School of Enlightenment has been added to our FOIA Documents section located in the Expanding Frontiers Archive.