What happened to Teal Swan as a child? Harrowing backstory explained

Bruno Cooke June 10, 2022
What happened to Teal Swan as a child? Harrowing backstory explained


Teal Swan is a self-declared spiritual teacher – she calls herself a “personal transformation revolutionary” and “spiritual catalyst”, per the BBC. In a 2014 interview with Idaho News’ Chris Oswalt, she detailed multiple claims of what she says happened to her as a child in Utah and Idaho, much of which is discussed in a recent episode of the Mormon Stories Podcast.

WARNING: Content of a disturbing nature ahead

What happened to Teal Swan, according to her own telling? ‘Intense’ backstory explained

In an interview running over almost two and a half hours, originally shot and recorded on 5 August 2014, Teal Swan talks at length about what she says happened to her during her childhood in Utah and Idaho.

Because of the interview’s length, it’s impossible to go into everything she says about her alleged history of abuse.

However, there are a few main points. The first is that, when she was “really young”, Teal says she started “exhibiting these types of abilities”. 

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The Deep End | Official Trailer | Freeform

The Deep End | Official Trailer | Freeform

“I would put my hands on people and they would experience healings, or I would talk to them from the standpoint of their dead relatives,” she says.

She then goes on to describe being forced as a minor into numerous sadomasochistic, pornographic and satanic rituals. “From six years old on is where it really got intense.”

She describes feeling “majorly ostracised” by her family and being “kept” by an abuser who would take her in the middle of the night to take part in “cult rituals”.

Diana Hansen Ribera challenges some of what Teal Swan says happened to her during her childhood

In a three-and-a half-hour conversation with Mormon Stories Podcast hosts Dr John Dehlin and Samantha Shalley, Diana Hansen Ribera casts doubt on some of Teal Swan’s claims.

Ribera claims to have been a childhood friend of Teal Swan’s – Teal was Mary Teal Bosworth at the time. They apparently became friends when Ribera was nine years old and Teal was 11 or 12.

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Source: YouTube [Mormon Stories Podcast]

“I was with her fairly intimately pretty early on in our childhood, and I never saw any physical signs. I even met the alleged abuser when I was younger,” Ribera claims.

“She was a very confident, outgoing child. There was nothing that would’ve stood out to me as something that had happened. She did have bizarre behaviours, but nothing that I think would point to abuse, to the level she claims.”

What have other outlets written about Teal Swan’s story?

In the weeks and months after Teal Swan talked about her childhood in the interview, several outlets reported on her story.

“Teal Swan says her life consisted of abuse, both physically and sexual and murder,” wrote interviewer Christopher Oswalt for ABC6 On Your Side.

Lauren Messervey wrote in a blog for HuffPost saying Teal’s “story of specific ritualistic abuse” was unique to her but would resonate with “millions of people”.

More recently, however, Salon published an article on Teal in which it describes her as “the controversial spiritualist or scammer”. The article recalls the 2017 documentary Open Shadow: The Story Of Teal Swan, the blurb of which says it documents Teal’s “transformation from a victim of ritual abuse into an international spiritual luminary”.

However, the Salon article argues that Teal Swan “makes a living off of scamming” individuals.

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Freeform’s four-part docuseries The Deep End, also about Swan, concluded this week.

Teal’s author bio on the Hay House website describes her as an “internationally recognised spiritual leader and an influential new voice in the field of metaphysics”. It also repeats Swan’s claims that she was “born with a range of extrasensory abilities including clairvoyance, clairsentience, and clairaudience”.

If you have been affected by this story, you can contact the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, National Sexual Hotline. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1 (800) 656-4673. You can also contact the Department of Defense Safe Helpline for Sexual Assault on 1 (877) 955-5247.

You can also call the Samaritans for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected] or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch in the UK. In the US, please visit Samaritans USA for more information.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.