Is ‘The Clearing’ Based on a True Story or a Book? Explained

Is The Clearing Based on a True Story or a Book

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The Clearing is a new upcoming psychological thriller television series. It revolves around a woman who confronts her past to protect children from being abducted by the cult, and it’s bound to be an interesting watch. Elise McCredie and Matt Cameron created the series, and considering that the premise of the series doesn’t sound too far from something that could realistically happen, many interested fans are wondering whether The Clearing was based on a book, a true story, or both? 

The Clearing was based on a book written by J.P. Pomare called ‘In the Clearing,’ and it is a fictionalized account of an Australian-based new-age cult called ‘The Family.’ So the series is fully based on a book and partly grounded in reality as the whole account and the episodes are fictional in nature, but the background is a real-world experience that the cult members could live through. 

Now that we’ve covered that The Clearing is both based on true story and fiction, it’s time to analyze to what extent. If you’re interested in more, stay with us and keep reading!

What is the book “In the Clearing” About? 

The book “In the Clearing” was written by J.P. Pomare, a name behind some of the best psychological thriller books released in the last few years, such as ‘Call Me Evie,’ ‘Tell Me Lies’ and ‘The Wrong Woman.’ 

The book that we’re dealing with today is called ‘In the Clearing,’ and under its fabricated storyline lies an ugly underbelly of a real-life Australian-based cult called ‘The Family.’ 

IN the clearing j p pomare

The book follows two women, one called Amy and the second called Freya. Amy has been a long-time member of the cult and is doing her best to please her superiors and older members. However, their balanced life and a modicum of routine are in danger when a new member joins that doesn’t fit in and refuses to stay at the cult’s grounds. 


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The second point of view belongs to Freya, a former cult member that is trying her best to continue her normal life after escaping from the clutches of the cult. Freya’s seemingly normal life is shaken to its core when a young girl from her town goes missing, and some of the patterns from her past start repeating themselves, in addition to a certain person from her past reappearing to haunt her once again. 

The cult that both the TV Show and the book are based on is real 

Plenty of accounts exist about the cults, both real and fictional in nature, but the whole real story surrounding ‘The Family’ is truly chilling. 

 The Family, also known as the Santiniketan Park Association and the Great White Brotherhood, was an Australian New Age group that emerged in the 1960s. Led by yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne, the group mixed elements of Christianity, Hinduism, and other Eastern and Western religions, believing that spiritual truths are universal and unwavering. The children within the group studied scriptures from various religions and followed the teachings of popular spiritual leaders like Sri Chinmoy, Meher Baba, and Rajneesh.

The central belief of The Family was that Anne Hamilton-Byrne was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and a living god. According to their philosophy, Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were enlightened beings who descended to Earth to assist humanity, and Hamilton-Byrne was considered to be on par with these spiritual teachers. One of Hamilton-Byrne’s adopted daughters, Sarah Hamilton-Byrne, later described the group’s beliefs as a mix of Christianity and Eastern mysticism.

The group had an inner circle that claimed to be the reincarnations of the Apostles of Jesus and used this belief to justify their actions and get away with truly horrifying things. 

Anne Hamilton Byrne
Anne Hamilton-Byrne Source

The Family traces its roots to 1964 when Raynor Johnson hosted regular meetings of a religious and philosophical discussion group led by Hamilton-Byrne at his home called Santiniketan in Ferny Creek, located on the outskirts of Melbourne. Johnson also delivered a series of weekly talks titled “The Macrocosm and the Microcosm” at the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne. The group bought an adjacent property in 1968, named Santiniketan Park, where they built a meeting hall called Santiniketan Lodge in an attempt to expand the cult grounds.

The members of the group were predominantly middle-class professionals, with approximately a quarter of them being nurses and other medical personnel. Many of these cult members were recruited by Johnson himself, who referred them to Hamilton-Byrne’s hatha yoga classes.

The eventual downfall of the cult came from Anne’s adoptive daughter Sarah Hamilton-Byrne. She was expelled from The Family due to her rebellious behavior and arguments with her adoptive mother. With the help of a private investigator and others, Sarah played a crucial role in bringing The Family to the attention of the Victoria Police.


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This led to a raid on August 14, 1987, at a property called Kai Lama, where all the children associated with The Family were removed. Afterward, Sarah pursued a career in medicine and became a qualified doctor. She also discovered her adoption and eventually reunited with her biological mother.

Following the 1987 raid, Anne Hamilton-Byrne and her husband, William, left Australia and remained outside the country for six years. In June 1993, they were arrested by the FBI in Hurleyville, New York, as part of Operation Forest, an investigation involving law enforcement agencies in Australia, the UK, and the US. They were extradited to Australia and initially faced charges of conspiracy to defraud and commit perjury by falsely registering unrelated children as their own triplets.

How much of ‘The Clearing’ was based on a true story? 

Even though the Family serves as the main inspiration behind the book and the TV show, what you will see is not a real-life account of the experiences. The events that are going to unfold in the series are only inspired by the testimonies of the former members, and they weren’t based in reality. Everything is highly fictionalized and modified to create a perfect blend of psychological thriller and mystery. 

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