Lynn and Phil Ritter: Ex-Synanon Members Are Leading a Quiet Life Together

Although Synanon was established back in 1958 by Charles “Chuck” Dederich as a storefront rehab for drug addicts, it sadly eventually evolved into a cult that thrived on violence. This much has actually been carefully explored in HBO’s ‘The Synanon Fix,’ a documentary series that shines a light upon this organization’s rise and fall through the eyes of those right there. Amongst them were actually members turned victims Lynn and Phil Ritter, whose experiences spanned not just the happy days but the days of brutalities plus orders of attempted murders.

Who Are Lynn and Phil Ritter?

It was reportedly around the late 1960s that public school teacher Lynn first came across ballot counting company CFO Phil in a Synanon Game Club, only for them to soon fall head over heels. These clubs were actually for non-members/non-drug addicts, aka squares, to participate in a form of attack therapy so as to let loose in every way possible and come out a better version of themselves on the flip side. According to this couple’s own narrative, while the former felt like she was in her element in these surroundings, the latter hated it since it wasn’t like him to be so open and vulnerable, yet they still found common ground with one another.

It thus comes as no surprise they ended up tying the knot just a short while later, only to then join Synanon as a whole once it became a cultural movement/commune more than anything else. They were genuinely happy here because they felt an unwavering sense of belonging, but things changed towards the mid-1970s once Chuck announced firm-wide vasectomies. This couple did already have a daughter they were raising in this environment, but when their leader decided kids were a distraction and that all males should get vasectomies and all female abortions, it simply became way too much for Phil.

Phil thus decided to approach the local law enforcement, but because Chuck’s orders were for over 18-year-olds alone and members were allowed to leave at any time, they couldn’t do much. Nevertheless, because of his actions, this UC Berkley graduate was thrown out of the commune, and it nearly resulted in a divorce – he and Lynn did separate but maintained contact for their daughter. But alas, even this shifted a short while later as the matriarch ended up kidnapping their only child and taking her to a safe house in New York so as to avoid all connection with her estranged husband on orders of high-ranking Synanon leaders.

Then came Phil’s decision to sue Synanon and threaten to subpoena Chuck so as to make him admit to his possible involvement in helping to hide his daughter under oath, but to no avail. Merely a few days later, on September 21, 1978, he was ambushed by two men right outside his home when returning from a grocery run – they brutally beat him with “clubs of some sort.” He was actually beaten to such an extent his legs were broken in a few places and his skull was fractured, following which he fell into a meningitis-induced coma for about two weeks. He thankfully managed to recover and even Lynn ultimately realized she was on the wrong side of things, leading to a happy reunion for them.

Where Are Lynn and Phil Ritter Now?

As per reports, Lynn and Phil did believe in a communal alternative lifestyle for years to come, but they ultimately decided to lead rather ordinary lives once they couldn’t find another one to join. So today, in their 70s, they’re based in Sammamish, Washington, where they’re surrounded by their daughter, grandchildren, as well as several other loved ones while trying their best to lead a quiet, content life. In other words, this alternative healer and affordable housing finance consultant plus climate activist are currently doing their best to move on from their past while staying true to one another at every step of the way. They’ve been married for over five decades now.

Read More: Josh Silvers: Ex-Synanon Member is Now a Proud Restaurateur