The Dark Origin Story of Internet Spiritual Guru Teal Swan

Teal Swan at her Phila Retreat Center in Costa Rica
Photo: Nora Ballard/Matt Laumb (GMG/FMG)

Last week, Gizmodo launched The Gateway, an investigative podcast about Teal Swan an internet spiritual guru who creates hypnotic YouTube videos aimed at people who are struggling with depression. These videos share controversial messages about mental health with her devoted fans who follow her online and in person. Many people get so wrapped up in her messages, they join Swan’s intentional community and move out to her retreat center in Costa Rica.

The second episode, which was released today, looks into Swan’s backstory, which helps explain why she criticizes the mental health system, and why she focuses on suicide. And it presents some of our reporting on the death of one of her first followers.


Her messaging on death is important because she is reaching millions of people with her self-help videos.

You can listen to the second episode here:

The Gateway is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, or TuneIn. Subscribe now, so you can hear the next episode as soon as its available next week.

You can also listen to new episodes one week early and ad-free on Stitcher Premium. For a free month of listening, go to and use promo code ‘GATEWAY’.

The Gateway is hosted by Jennings Brown, produced by Jessica Glazer and Emily Pontecorvo, and edited by Bari Finkel of Pineapple Street Media. Mandana Mofidi is the Fusion Media Group Executive Director of Audio. Editorial oversight provided by Kelly Bourdet. Original score and mixing by Hannis Brown. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please email us at


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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About the author

Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo