“Do you want to pet my tiger” would probably be one of the most amusing pickup lines you would have ever heard? Back in the day, Doc Antle used it on girls on whom he preyed upon. He enticed young girls by showing them his exotic animals and made them come to his Zoo and work for him. Before they realized what they had signed in for, they were swamped with dirt and found themselves walking on a quagmire.
“Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story” is a three-part documentary that focuses on the life of the controversial figure, popularly known as Bhagwan Antle. His ex-wives, his employees, and those who were somewhat part of his life, tell the horrors that he had to go through and how they still cannot erase it from their memory. The series has been directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chalklin.
Doc Antle, who currently runs a Safari in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for obvious reasons disapproves of the testimonies of the people in the documentary. But let’s try to fathom what made Doc Antle who he is today. Let’s try to understand his motivations and inspiration.
The Connection Between Doc Antle & Swami Satchidananda
The U.S.A in the 60s was very inspired by the spiritual way of living. From Osho to Satchidananda, many spiritual gurus found their footing in the west. India was a country where people didn’t have the liberty to leave their responsibilities behind and be a part of a cult. A majority of people were still striving for their daily needs. India was headed somewhere else. As a nation, it was looking to grow and prosper, so finding one’s spiritual self was never on top of the charts. The irony is that a cult made for finding one’s spiritual self also needs a tremendous amount of funding.
Since Yoga and such practices originated from India, people didn’t obsess over it because it was not something new for them. They had always known about a yogic lifestyle and had implemented it from time immemorial. So alluring the general people into something like this wouldn’t have been possible in India. The west was obsessed over it. For them, this was a new concept.
In the United States, the environment was such that it became a breeding ground for many cults. The population was less, there was more land to spare, and people from affluent families like Doc Antle, idolized spiritual Gurus like Swami Satchidananda.
Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle idolized Satchidananda, the chief proponent of Yogaville, and wanted to create a similar model for himself. He wanted to run an organization where he had absolute autonomy. Where people just submitted themselves to him. Where he controlled every aspect of an individual’s life.
So Doc Antle made his first Zoo just minutes away from Yogaville, in Virginia and named it Buckingham.
The Great Escape
Radha was one of the lucky ones who escaped from the clutches of Doc Antle. She was 14 when she ran from her home to live with Doc and be married to him. But soon, she realized that what she had imagined differed greatly from reality. At 17, she made a heroic escape when Doc was not present on the property. But not everybody was able to escape.
Betsy Brahmi Rogers was Doc’s first wife, and after a point, she realized that he had been cheating on her with multiple women. Once a girl entered his premises, there was no way out of it. Sumati Steinberg, also an ex-wife, was among the many people who had to bear the consequences of Doc’s action. She got pregnant and had to go through a lot of mental torture. Doc Antle was clear that he would want her to abort the baby, but Sumati being the strong woman that she was, went through with it.
Sumati always said that what Radha did was the epitome of bravery and she never imagined that she would be able to pull off something like this. To escape from the captivity of Buckingham Zoo was not an easy deal.
For every cult to work, you need a propaganda that promises to be greater in its essence. Doc’s propaganda was that he was doing a favor by running a zoo. He considered himself a conservationist. He said that with sheer confidence. Doc tells the camera without even flinching an eye that his intentions cannot be questioned since he was the flagbearer of animal rights.
But the employees had some other narrative. The cubs often didn’t survive, and a lot of times, cruelty was inflicted on them. He was involved in the illegal sale of cats. In 2020 Doc Antle was charged with a felony for wildlife trafficking and a misdemeanor under the endangered species act.
Antle wanted to showcase himself as this Guru who had understood the meaning of life. That’s how you make people surrender their logic and coerce them to fully surrender to the prevailing power. But his propaganda didn’t last for long. People started realizing the truth. They knew that he was a predator clad in monk’s clothes. He sold the idea of being one with nature and talked about things that were much greater than the materialistic aspects of this world. On the hindeside, though, he was dealing marijuana and earning a lot of money through it. There was a vast inflow of cash in the Buckingham zoo that was unaccounted for.
‘Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story’ Ending, Explained – How Did Mark Die?
Mark Richard Topping was much more than just an employee. He was more of a partner. He was involved in the dope deals that Doc Antle was doing at that time. Things were not going well between the two. Mark had some issues with Doc. He also approached Sumati for a date when she had broken up with the Doc.
Mark was a much better animal trainer as compared to Doc Antle. He wanted to learn and adapt the scientific ways and means of training a wild animal, whereas Doc was the kind of guy who believed that there was no scope of improvement in his techniques.
Mark mysteriously fell off the cliff while on a trek with Doc. Nobody knew what had exactly happened. A day before he fell, there was a heated argument between him and Doc. nobody came to know the reason behind the argument. He had sent a letter to his brothers, on which he had clearly stated that Doc Antle is not a trustworthy person. He could tell lies very conveniently. Doc also owned a massive sum of money, from the dope deals to Mark.
It could never be established what exactly happened on that fateful day, but people knew that it was not a mere accident. Everybody had this gut feeling that Doc Antle had a role to play in the whole fiasco.
Mark had told his family and friends that soon, he was going to stop working for Doc. He saw how Doc Antle liked to exploit his staff members and was not ready to give into it.
Doc knew how to capitalize on the fascination that people hold for exotic species. From producing a movie about tiger cubs to proclaiming himself the advocate of animal rights, Doc created a separate world where he was the undisputed emperor.
Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story is a 3-Part Netflix Documentary Series directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chalklin.