‘One Tree Hill’ star Bethany Joy Lenz reveals ‘cult’ she spent a decade in led by ‘domineering minister’

Bethany Joy Lenz.
Bethany Joy Lenz has revealed the name of the "cult" she used to be in.
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“One Tree Hill” star Bethany Joy Lenz has revealed the name of the cult that she used to be in, accusing them of “draining” her TV income and using “manipulation, abuse, and fear” to keep her loyal.

Lenz, 42, announced on her Instagram on Thursday that her memoir, called “Dinner for Vampires,” is “about the decade I spent in an abusive, high-demand group (aka, cult).”

She continued, “Being a writer has been a great, private joy in my life since I was about 12. This isn’t the first book I thought I’d write, publicly, but as difficult as this subject matter is to untangle, I’m grateful I get to share my story, my way. It’s a story of forgiveness and a roadmap to how manipulation works, with heartache and humor along the way. We all make mistakes and I hope Dinner for Vampires reminds you that, no matter what weird roads you’ve gone down, you’re not alone.”

The cover of her upcoming book proclaims that it’s about “life on a cult TV show while also in an actual cult!”

“An only child who often had to fend for herself and always wanted a place to belong, Lenz found the safe haven she’d been searching for in a Bible study group with other Hollywood creatives,” the description reads. “However, the group soon morphed into something more sinister — a slowly woven web of manipulation, abuse, and fear under the guise of a church covenant called The Big House Family.”

Bethan Joy Lenz will detail her cult experience in her memoir. Amazon
Bethan Joy Lenz will detail her cult experience in her memoir. Amazon
Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush on “One Tree Hill.” Warner Bros
Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush on “One Tree Hill.” Warner Bros
Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush in 2022. Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush in 2022. Getty Images for iHeartRadio

“Piece by piece, Lenz began to give away her autonomy, ultimately relocating to the Family’s Pacific Northwest compound, overseen by a domineering minister who would convince Lenz to marry one of his sons and steadily drained millions of her TV income without her knowledge. Family ‘minders’ assigned to her on set, “Maoist struggle session”–inspired meetings in the basement of a filthy house, and regular counseling with ‘Leadership’ were just part of the tactics used to keep her loyal.”

Lenz has previously spoken about her ordeal. She first revealed the news in a July episode of of her “Drama Queens” podcast, which she co-hosts with fellow “One Tree Hill” alums Sophia Bush, 41, and Hilarie Burton Morgan, 41.

“I would love to write about my experience, you know, I was in a cult for 10 years,” Lenz said on the podcast at the time. “That would be a really valuable experience to write about, and the recovery — 10 years of recovery after that. So, there’s a lot to tell.”

Sophia Bush, Chad Michael Murray, Hilarie Burton, James Lafferty and Bethany Joy Lenz on “One Tree Hill.” Warner Bros
Sophia Bush, Chad Michael Murray, Hilarie Burton, James Lafferty and Bethany Joy Lenz on “One Tree Hill.” Warner Bros
Chad Michael Murray, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton and James Lafferty on “One Tree Hill.” FilmMagic
Chad Michael Murray, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton and James Lafferty on “One Tree Hill.” FilmMagic
Bryan Greenberg, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray. FilmMagic
Bryan Greenberg, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray. FilmMagic

Per the book’s official description, “In the early 2000s, after years of hard work and determination to breakthrough as an actor, Bethany Joy Lenz was finally cast as one of the leads on the hit drama ‘One Tree Hill.’ Her career was about to take off, but her personal life was slowly beginning to unravel. What none of the show’s millions of fans knew, hidden even from her costars, was her secret double life in a cult.”

“One Tree Hill” aired from 2003-2012, following teens in a fictional North Carolina town, including half-brothers Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James Lafferty), the artistic Peyton Sawyer (Burton), who eventually married Lucas, and Peyton’s best friend, Brooke Davis (Bush). Lenz played Lucas’ best friend, Haley James Scott, who later married Nathan.

Even outside of a star being in a cult, the show was beset by controversy, as creator Mark Schwahn was accused of sexual harassment by the cast and crew in an open letter in 2017.

Bethany Joy Lenz accused the cult of “draining” her TV income, without her knowledge. FilmMagic
Bethany Joy Lenz accused the cult of “draining” her TV income, without her knowledge. FilmMagic
Bethany Joy Lenz said she left the cult because of her daughter. FilmMagic
Bethany Joy Lenz said she left the cult because of her daughter. FilmMagic

Lenz was married to musician Michael Galeotti from 2005 to 2012, and she gave birth to their daughter in 2011.

According to her book, she found the “courage” to leave after becoming a mother, to “spare her child from a similar fate.”

On a November episode of Southern Living’s “Biscuits & Jam” podcast, Lenz spoke about how her “One Tree Hill” co-stars helped her transition back to normalcy, after her time in the cult.

“I feel like a lot of the people there, whether consciously or subconsciously, knew that just their presence and being an encouragement and letting me know that they still loved and cared about me in spite of the fact that I was a little weird, that made a big difference. It made me feel like there was a safety.”

She continued, “When it came time for me to leave that group, I did still feel like there were many open arms and that felt really, really good, and it was very helpful.”

Bethany Joy Lenz has credited her “One Tree Hill” co-stars Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton with helping her move past the cult. AP
Bethany Joy Lenz has credited her “One Tree Hill” co-stars Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton with helping her move past the cult. AP
Bethany Joy Lenz has announced the release date for her memoir. Getty Images for Thatâs 4 Entertainment
Bethany Joy Lenz has announced the release date for her memoir. Getty Images for Thatâs 4 Entertainment

On Thursday, she told People about overcoming her past.

“Recovery looks different for everyone, depending on your experience of trauma,” she said. “I had to start from a baseline of my personal understanding of God and the experiences I had had. And then there was a lot of going back to who I was before and remembering that, and then acknowledging that there was so much I just didn’t know.”

The Post reached out to Lenz for comment.

“Dinner for Vampires” will hit bookstores on Oct. 22, 2024.