The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

The Reich Stuff


1050The main building at Orgonon contains the museum and observatory. CLUI photo by Michael Kassner
ORGONON IS A PLACE IN the countryside near Rangeley, Maine, with an unusual observatory, the Orgone Energy Observatory, built in 1948 by psychologist Wilhelm Reich, who used it for research until his arrest by federal agents in 1955. Though the observatory is not in use anymore, it stands as a monument to Reich and his life's work, and inside, the Wilhelm Reich Museum contains Reich's home library, art studio, and laboratory preserved just as he left them. Orgonon's 175 acres also contain hiking trails, and conference facilities, and a bookstore selling Reich's works.

A student of Sigmund Freud, Reich was a controversial figure in the Vienna of the 1920s and 1930s. He publicly called for the need for a “sexual revolution” as founder of Sex Pol, the Austrian Sexual Party. He was an early campaigner for adolescent sexual education and for popular access to contraceptive and abortion services. He broke with Freud on the need for widespread social change to combat individual neuroses. In his studies of human orgasm he identified a life energy present in all organic substances which he called “orgone.” The quest to identify, study, and harness orgone energy would occupy Reich for the rest of his life.

Reich fled from Vienna to Oslo after the Nazis took power. He caught the last ship for the United States before WWII and settled in Forest Hills, NY (Queens). He chose Rangeley as the site for his Orgone Energy Observatory not only for its isolation and scenic beauty but because the site had properties which made it advantageous for the collection and observation of orgone. The Observatory sits on the side of a hill, facing east, and overlooking a lake. Orgone would blow in from the Atlantic Ocean, be funneled towards the site by surrounding mountains, and be concentrated in the Rangeley lakes area, trapped over the lake by the western mountains behind Orgonon.

Reich had grand plans for Orgonon and for the beneficial uses of orgone for mankind. The museum features three cloudbusters, devices used to affect weather patterns by increasing or decreasing orgone potential in clouds or in the surrounding air. The museum maintains that cloudbuster-produced rain averted a drought affecting Maine farmers in 1953.

From October, 1954 to April, 1955, Reich studied desert conditions in Arizona. He believed desertification was related to the presence of DOR (deadly orgone radiation) and that the process was being accelerated by nuclear testing and DOR from space. Reich hoped that one day intensive use of cloudbusters might be used to make the desert green and to counteract the negative effects of nuclear radiation in the environment.

While Reich was in Arizona, the medical establishment and the federal government finally executed the legal process they had initiated in order to stop him: Reich was arrested for violating an injunction that prohibited the interstate transport of orgone energy accumulators used to treat cancer patients. FDA agents seized all remaining accumulators along with research data, books, and laboratory equipment, and allegedly burned much of it in bonfires in Portland and New York. Reich died of a heart attack at the age of 60 in the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisberg, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Orgonon in 1957.

Reich requested in his will that his remaining research be sealed for fifty years until the world was ready to understand the significance of orgone research. His papers will be made available to the public in 2007.


1057The astrolabe antenna (left) is mounted on the roof of the observatory to detect Orgone Energy. Rangeley Lake is visible below. One of the cloudseeders (right) built by Reich, on display at the observatory. CLUI photos by Michael Kassner