Mystery. Manipulation. Murder. Cults are associated with all of these. But what really goes on inside a cult? More specifically, what goes on inside the minds of people who join cults and leaders who start them? Every Tuesday, Greg and Vanessa (co-hosts of the podcast Serial Killers) explore the history and psychology behind the most notorious cults. Cults is part of the Parcast Network and is a Cutler Media production.
September 1939: Occultist Gerald Gardener makes contact with what he believes to be a remnant of the long rumored "Witch-Cult." His experience with The New Forest Coven would reshape his understanding of paganism, and inspire him to chart a new course for his life.
After he was publicly humiliated when his memoirs were exposed as a hoax, Castaneda retreated into seclusion. But he brought with him a few dozen committed followers, who were sexual slaves and unquestioning adherents. Although he predicted that he was immortal, Castaneda's fatal cancer diagnosis rocked his followers to the bone: resulting in even more untimely deaths.
In 1960, anthropology student Carlos Castaneda followed a Native American Yaqui guide into the desert. There, he received a divine revelation about the subjective nature of reality - a revelation Castaneda could only share by exerting extreme levels of control over every student he encountered.
Members of the Fall River Satanic cult were suspects in the murder of a young woman in 1979, but detectives couldn't find anyone who was willing to testify against them. Then, as the investigation continued, another body was found. The leaders of the Cult, Carl Drew and Robin Murphy, were escalating their violence and disturbing rituals at a shocking pace.
In 1979, biker and pimp Carl Drew joined sex worker Robin Murphy to create a Satanic cult in Fall River Massachusetts. Though some claimed the weekly meetings were harmless, the cult was soon implicated in the murder of a young woman.
Ever wonder how the stars correlate with our emotional blueprint? Gain insight in just three minutes with daily episodes that will help you navigate your day. Twelve signs, twelve podcasts. Delivering your destiny, daily.Find your daily briefing by searching the name of your sign, followed by “today,” or by visiting parcast.com/signs.
In the 1970s, Ervil Lebaron broke with his brother’s church to form his own polygamous fundamentalist sect known as the Lambs of God. By reinstating the religious doctrine of Blood Atonement, Ervil compelled his followers to murder dozens of his opponents and family members in his name.
In 1971, Ervil LeBaron received a revelation from God: he had inherited the mantle of Joseph Smith, and was destined to rule over God’s Kingdom on earth. There was just one problem: Ervil’s older brother Joel just had the same revelation about himself. Parcasters - Which UFO sighting kicked off the alien craze? It wasn’t Roswell! Subscribe to Extraterrestrial today to learn about the close encounter that started it all, the Mount Rainier flying saucer sighting. Search for Extraterrestrial on Spotify to listen now!
From within the confines of the Vacaville prison medical center, Donald DeFreeze started recruiting young, idealistic Berkeley radicals for his leftist political cult. The US needed to change. And radical change, DeFreeze knew, demanded radical action. He was willing to do whatever it took to wake Americans up to the revolution, whether that meant murder, theft, or the kidnapping of a newspaper heiress. Sponsors!Modsy - Go to Modsy.com, start a design project, and use code CULTS to get 20% off.
Crime never takes a day off, and neither do we. In our new podcast, TODAY IN TRUE CRIME, every day, we flip back the calendar and examine a true crime event from the same date years ago.In this clip, we look back at August 19th, 1970, when John Norman Collins was convicted of the murder of 21-year-old Karen Sue Beineman. Subscribe to TODAY IN TRUE CRIME for a new story every day!
Donald DeFreeze was a gun-obsessed drifter throughout the 1960s. But he didn't use his guns — he had nothing to fight for. At least, not until he was radicalized and began to build a coalition to execute his plans. Sponsors!Billie - Go to MyBillie.com/CULTS for 10% off your razor.Embrace Pet Insurance - Get your FREE quote at EmbracePetInsurance.com/ CULTS. Native - For 20% off your first purchase, visit NativeDeodorant.com and use promo code CULTS during checkout!
In the early 1980s, Hulon Mitchell, Jr.'s Nation of Yahweh became a fixture in Miami's black community. However, while Hulon used his influence to reduce crime rates, he was committing atrocious abuses on his own followers.Parcasters - On today's episode of Mythology, we take on the legendary Odyssey, bringing the incredible journey to life! Subscribe to MYTHOLOGY today to hear the most notable stories in human history as you never have before.
From counterfeit goods, to fake love interests, and even major financial fraud, you will find it all in our new show. In this Parcast Original, we examine the swindlers behind the scam, and the victims manipulated by their deceit. In CON ARTISTS you will learn about the art of the hustle, and the ways you can spot a con. In this clip, we explore the massive Ponzi scheme orchestrated by fraudster Bernie Madoff. Subscribe to CON ARTISTS on Spotify or wherever you listen to Parcast to listen to the rest of this episode!
From the moment Hulon Mitchell, Jr. was born in 1935, he was raised to think he was special. But growing up in segregated Oklahoma, he realized that black men and women lacked the same opportunities as their white counterparts. He decided he was the black messiah, destined to lead his people to paradise -- by any means possible.Sponsors!Zola - Go to Zola.com/CULTS to build your free wedding website and get $50 toward your registry.
Just before the Summer of Love, 22-year-old John Griggs discovered LSD and had an epiphany – he would serve as the Hippie Messiah and guide the world to psychedelic revolution. John set out to the beaches of Southern California where he founded a psychedelic cult and international drug ring, while blazing the trail for the recreational use of psychedelics at the height of the hippie era.Parcasters - Don’t miss all of our special Summer of ‘69 episodes by subscribing to Parcast Presents: Summer of ‘69, on Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts!Sponsors!Billie - Go to MyBillie.com/CULTS for 10% off your razor!Embrace Pet Insurance - Get your FREE quote at EmbracePetInsurance.com/CULTS right now!Modsy - This month ONLY, start a design project at Modsy.com and use code CULTS to get 20% OFF!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush!
The more Marcus Wesson retreated from society, the more extreme his behavior became. He lead his family of 16 children deep into the woods, claiming it was for their own protection. But away from prying eyes, Marcus Wesson preyed on his children.Sponsors!Gabi - Gabi - Take 2 minutes and see if you can save up to $865 when you go to Gabi.com/CULTS.
His version of faith, was placing himself on the same level as God and demanding his children serve him as such. But when Marcus Wesson needed more followers to control, instead of recruiting he turned to his daughters. They would grow their cult-family from within. Sponsors!Native - For 20% off your first purchase, visit NativeDeodorant.com/CULTS and use promo code CULTS during checkout!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you can get your first refill pack for FREE!
Along with his wife Susan, they grew The Alamo Christian Foundation from a few dozen homeless teenagers to over 3,000 followers on sophisticated compounds around the United States. Their dreams of stardom were finally achieved, but it still wasn't enough for the power hungry Alamos. Parcasters - Cults...UFOs...Nazis? If you don’t know about the Vril Society, you’re in for a treat! This group allegedly developed flying saucers for the Third Reich. Search for Extraterrestrials on Spotify or wherever you listen to Parcast Originals.
When he moved to Los Angeles in 1960, Tony Alamo was convinced that his big break as a musician was just around the corner. What he found instead was the voice of God, which commanded him to collect young and homeless followers for Jesus' return. Parcasters - This week on The Dark Side Of we dig into the trial of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and the media frenzy that followed. You might think you know the story, but the truth is much darker! Available now on Spotify or wherever you listen to Parcast!
In the fall of 2007, Judgement Day arrived on the Strong City compound. The world didn't end, as their Messiah had predicted, but it was still a portent of things to come. Sponsors!Gabi - Take two minutes and see if you can save up to $865 a year on car insurance at Gabi.com/CULTS. There are NO fees, NO forms, and NO spam.Modsy - Go to Modsy.com to start a design project and use code CULTS to get 20% off. Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush.Zola - Start your free wedding website and get $50 off your registry at Zola.com/CULTS.
In the early 2000s, Wayne Bent established his following on a compound in New Mexico that he dubbed "Strong City." But their faith would be tested when Wayne revealed God's next command: he required seven young virgins to take as Wayne's wives.Sponsors!The Farmer’s Dog - Get 50% off your two week trial of fresh, healthy food at TheFarmersDog.com/CULTS. Plus, you get FREE shipping!
In July of 2001, this cult declared war on Satan and the forces of darkness. But soon, their plans unravelled around them, and five innocent people would fall victim to The Children of Thunder’s bloody war.Parcasters - This week on Extraterrestrial, we take on the mysterious Anunnaki, supposed ancient alien gods. What is their origin? What interactions have they had with our planet? Find out today at parcast.com/extraterrestrial
He believed that the voice in his head, which he called "Spirit," was the voice of God. Lead by the lord, Glenn Taylor Helzer gathered his followers in the summer of 2001 to wage a war against Satan. Parcasters - You’ve heard of Pandora’s Box, and you know you don’t want to open it. But do you know the myth behind the saying? Check out Mythology today for this anticipated episode! Available now at parcast.com/mythology
In 1980 he quickly grew his flock through acts of extreme religious affirmation, such as handling poisonous snakes and drinking poison in front of his congregants. But was Glenn Summerford a man with a deep connection to the Lord, protected by his faith? Or a thrill-seeker, on the precipice of madness?Sponsors!The Farmer’s Dog - Get 50% off your two week trial of fresh, healthy food at TheFarmersDog.com/CULTS. Plus, you get FREE shipping!
He spent most of his life in a boxing ring, trying to prove his worth with his fists. But after nearly dying from an injury in the ring in 1963, Glenn Summerford committed to turning his life around and found God. Then, God started speaking to him. Through snakes.Sponsors!Omax Health - Head to OmaxHealth.com and enter code CULTS for 50% off a one month supply plus free shipping and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
After fleeing from a destructive hurricane, in the late 1960s, Mary and Robert de Grimston led their followers on a nomadic journey around the US in search of more converts and the site of their new church. But the stress of constant relocation and pursuit of US immigrations drove a wedge between the couple. Sponsors!Omax Health - OMAX is offering 60% off a one-month supply of Ultra Pure, plus free shipping and a 60-day money-back guarantee at TryOmax.com/CULTS today!
Mary and Robert de Grimston created a flamboyant cult in 1960s London that attracted outcasts and celebrities alike. But as their communication with God sent them west, the cult soon found itself in constant danger--in the eye of a literal hurricane.Sponsors!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush.
In 1925 Willa had been dead for months, and yet she wasn't laid to rest. May Blackburn laid her in a tub of ice, mummified her, and buried her beneath her floorboards in Venice, California. The end of the world was coming, and when Willa was resurrected, so would be their queen. And so the cult prepared for the coming apocalypse, over the body of the Blackburn Cult's first victim. Sponsors!Calm - CULTS listeners get 25% off a Calm Premium subscription at Calm.com/CULTS.
Many actors wait tables while they're waiting for their big break; May and Ruth Blackburn started a cult. In 1920s Los Angeles, this mother-daughter duo swindled a fortune from their followers while promising them fortune and immortality. Sponsors!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush.Robinhood - Robinhood is giving listeners of Cults a FREE stock like Apple, Ford, or Sprint to help you build your portfolio. Sign up at Cults.Robinhood.com.
After the cult was dogged with rumors of violent conversion tactics, the Church of the Almighty God blamed the Chinese government for the negative press. A more extreme example occurred in 2014, as the cult would be accused of the murder of a woman who refused to give the group her cellphone number for recruitment purposes.Sponsors!CBS All Access - Visit CBS.com/CULTS to watch The Twilight Zone. Redeem your FREE trial TODAY.
The Church of the Almighty God preached that Jesus Christ had been reborn and walked the Earth. She was here to save their souls before the world ended. In 1991, followers scrambled to prove how devoted they were to her before the apocalypse, even if it meant killing in her name.SPONSORS!Calm - CULTS listeners get 25% off a Calm Premium subscription at Calm.com/CULTS.CBS All Access - Visit CBS.com/UNEXPLAINED to redeem your FREE trial TODAY.Upstart - Hurry to Upstart.com/CULTS to find out HOW LOW your Upstart rate is. Checking your rate only takes 2 minutes—and won’t affect your credit!
In this special crossover with Assassinations, Greg and Vanessa give insight regarding the charismatic preacher, Jim Jones, and his congregation’s move from San Francisco to the newly-constructed jungle settlement of Jonestown, Guyana in 1977. The move was intended to keep the Peoples Temple far away from the prying eyes of the U.S. government and media, who'd been looking into Jones' abuses and financial crimes.
When the cult moved to Hawaii, James Baker never expected his penniless followers to find him. But once it became clear that they were willing to follow to the bitter end, he began planning a dramatic exit of epic proportions.Sponsors!CBS All Access - Visit CBS.com/CULTS to redeem your FREE trial TODAY and watch the new Twilight Zone exclusively on CBS All Access.Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a Quip electric toothbrush.
When James Baker started his health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip in the 1970s, he had no intention of creating a spiritual commune. But opportunity knocked, and soon, he was the leader of a yoga-based cult in Hollywood Hills that launched Baker to wealth and fame. When the cult came under scrutiny, Baker ran. And to his surprise, his people followed. Sponsors!CBS All Access - Visit CBS.com/CULTS to redeem your FREE trial of CBS All Access.Robinhood - Robinhood is giving listeners of Cults a FREE stock like Apple, Ford, or Sprint to help you build your portfolio. Sign up at Cults.Robinhood.com.
For roughly 15 years, this guru was a beloved spiritual leader with hopes of opening a worship oriented theme park. In 1985, everything changed when a vicious attack resulted in a head injury, coma, and ultimately a sinister personality change. He started using brutal tactics to keep his followers in line, including violence, espionage, and his own personal hitman. Sponsors!Calm - CULTS listeners get 25% off a Calm Premium subscription at Calm.com/CULTS.
For 26 years, he was the guru and leader of the New Vrindaban cult in West Virginia. Kirtanananda Swami would turn this vacant land into a 1200-acre sanctuary for all faiths complete with an enormous gold palace. What seemed like an idyllic paradise, was actually just a plot to steal member’s money. Swami was successful in swindling $10.5 million in just four years. Parcasters - To learn about an iconic event in American history, check out our our new episode on John McCain on HOSTAGE, wherever you get your shows. Listen now at parcast.com/hostageSponsors!Upstart - Hurry to Upstart.com/CULTS to find out HOW LOW your Upstart rate is. Checking your rate only takes 2 minutes and won’t affect your credit!
By the 1970s, Comrade Bala's small collective had gone completely underground. His followers lived in constant fear of advanced Chinese technology capable of reading their thoughts, and killing them at any moment. Amidst the chaos, Comrade Bala fathered a child who would spend the first 20 years of her life in his strange home, a slave to the Maoist Collective. But when she finally escaped, she would be his downfall.
His communist cult was started in 1974 in hopes of convincing working class citizens of England to rise up against their capitalist overlords and join forces with communist China. After two "members" escaped in 2013, it was revealed Aravindan Balakrishnan was enslaving women in the basement of his London flat. One woman born into the cult never had contact with the outside world before her release.Parcasters - For more stories about captivity and thrilling escape, check out HOSTAGE. This week, we’re covering the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker and her 24 years spent living among the Comanche. Listen now at parcast.com/hostageSponsors!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a quip electric toothbrush.
This Cult’s beliefs often steered members to protest against the Canadian government. Due to their lack of regard for laws and public policy, officials began rounding up Freedomite children between 1953 and 1959. Two hundred children were brought to a compound called “New Denver” where they were imprisoned in a filthy, overcrowded institution and would suffer lifelong effects. Sponsors!Torrid - Go to Torrid.com and use Promo Code CULTS15 for $15 off every $50 you spend! That means you can get up to $150 off a $500 order!
Reigning over Shepherd’s Camp throughout the 1990s, Victor Barnard was the king of his own Eden. As he becomes more and more abusive to his followers, one of them begins plotting his demise. When she finally strikes, she will prove to be a cunning viper that finally exiles Barnard from paradise.Sponsors!Upstart - Hurry to Upstart.com/CULTS to find out how low your Upstart rate is! Checking your rate only takes 2 minutes—and won’t affect your credit!
After spending years indoctrinated in the Way International, Victor Barnard started his own cult in the early 1990s and moved off the grid to an isolated campground in Minnesota. With the blessings of their parents, he married a dozen pre-teen and teenage girls. One of these women would later speak out against the abuse she suffered and fight to bring about his downfall. Parcasters - After this episode of Cults, check out our new show Extraterrestrial and learn about the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill. Listen at parcast.com/extraterrestrial
This alleged cult’s vineyard has produced wines that were served at former President Ronald Reagan’s birthday party, and other illustrious restaurants in the pacific northwest. Robert Earl Burton used elements of mysticism to lure vulnerable followers to his group, but his shaky past threatens their future.Parcasters - After this episode of Cults, race over to Hostage to hear about the incredible story of Shergar, a derby winning horse ransomed by IRA freedom fighters. Listen now at parcast.com/hostage
In 1970, his fellowship began with just two members huddled around a dining room table in Northern California. But within a few short years, Burton’s influence would reach across the globe, preparing thousands of members for an apocalypse. And while their eyes were turned towards the heavens, he stole their children behind their backs.Sponsors!Quip - Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GetQuip.com/CULTS right now, you can get your first refill pack for FREE.Torrid - Go to Torrid.com and use Promo Code CULTS15 for $15 off every $50 you spend! That means you can get up to $150 off a $500 order!
What started as a mission preaching tolerance and empathy, quickly turned sour when rumors of drug abuse and financial impropriety started to swirl. The majority of what we know about Kashi Ashram surfaced during a bitter divorce between the ex-public relations director of the group, and his wife, who was serving as a monk in the group. Parcast News - Be sure to check out Parcast’s first fictional crime show MIND’S EYE at Parcast.com/MindsEye!Sponsors!Calming Comfort - Go to CalmingComfortBlanket.com and use Promo Code “CULTS” at checkout to receive 15% off the displayed price.Upstart - Hurry to Upstart.com/CULTS to find out HOW LOW your Upstart rate is! Checking your rate only takes 2 minutes—and won’t affect your credit!
What do Julia Roberts, Ivanka Trump, and Arlo Guthrie all have in common? They were all financial backers of the charismatic housewife turned cult leader, Joyce Green. She founded Kashi Ashram in 1976 in Sebastian, Florida and began community service projects to help the LGBT and HIV-positive communities. Controversy would eventually strain Kashi Ashram, turning some of Joyce’s closest allies against her.Sponsors!Calming Comfort - Go to CalmingComfortBlanket.com and use Promo Code CULTS at checkout to receive 15% off the displayed price.Shudder - To try Shudder free for 30 days, go to Shudder.com and use promo code CULTS.Torrid - Go to Torrid.com and use Promo Code CULTS15 for $15 off every $50 you spend! That means you can get up to $150 off a $500 order!
Masonic ideals helped shape one of the most powerful nations in the world. The Declaration of Independence was signed by at least nine Freemasons. Yet, the secret society has long been associated with political controversy, witchcraft, and even murder. If you liked this episode, leave us a nice review! It really helps new listeners find the podcast!Sponsors!Audible - For a limited time, you can get 3 months of Audible for just $6.95 a month if you go to Audible.com/CULTS or text CULTS to 500 500. Caffé Monster - Available in Mocha, Vanilla, and Salted Caramel. Caffé Monster: Chill it down, Shake it up, Enjoy!Calming Comfort - Go to CalmingComfortBlanket.com and use promo code CULTS at checkout to receive 15% off the displayed price.
One of the oldest secret organizations in the world that dates back to centuries. The movements developed by the Freemasons changed the course of history. Originally founded as a working union, it evolved into one of the most exclusive international clubs controlling world politics. Sponsors!Caffé Monster - Available in Mocha, Vanilla and Salted Caramel. Caffé Monster: Chill it down, Shake it up, Enjoy!Kopari - Go to KopariBeauty.com/CULTS to make the safe switch today, and save $5 off your first order when you subscribe!SimpliSafe - Head to SimpliSafe.com/CULTS to get a special offer!
A disgruntled pastor of the Evangelical and Reformed Church creates his own religious group in 1942 after claiming he received Biblical secrets dating back from the First Century AD. By 1980, The Way International was one of the largest and wealthiest cults on Earth. Despite it’s tremendous growth, Victor Paul Wierwille’s paranoia and institutionalized methods of control ultimately led to the cult’s demise.New Shows!Parcast Network - Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe to our new podcast Assassinations!
After creating a live radio show in 1942 to broadcast his sermons, an out-of-work preacher from Ohio was quickly throw into the spotlight of an international spiritual movement. Through his hypnotic Power for Abundant Living (PFAL) course, Wierwille bought the Way International to a large farm in Ohio during a time of revolution in the 1960s. “The Teacher” appeared to be devoted to God, but actually wanted sex, money, and control.Sponsors!Caffé Monster - Available in Mocha, Vanilla, and Salted Caramel! Caffé Monster: Chill it down, Shake it up, Enjoy!
The rapid rise to power and fame went to Lavey’s head resulting in followers abandoning him and a loss of control over the Church. How did the Church of Satan fare after his death in 2001? The results will surprise you. Sponsors!Calming Comfort - Go to CalmingComfortBlanket.com and use Promo Code “CULTS” at checkout to receive 15% off the displayed price.Kopari - Go to KopariBeauty.com/CULTS to save $5 off your first order when you subscribe!
He is known as the real-life incarnation of the devil and would be responsible for spreading satanism into the mainstream during the 60s and 70s. Anton LaVey would go on to publish the first Satanic Bible which continues to influence people all over the world today. Sponsors!Caffé Monster - Available in Mocha, Vanilla, and Salted Caramel. Chill it down, Shake it up, Enjoy!SimpliSafe - If you’re interested in Home Security, visit SimpliSafe.com/CULTS.
In an attempt to gain freedom from the government, Vissarion’s followers disregarded their material possessions and built a remote village for their God. Sponsors!Parcast - Be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to our new podcast Kingpins!
This traffic cop turned cult leader got his followers to believe he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Sergey would go on to start the religious movement known as the Church of the Last Testament. Subscribe now to our new podcast HOSTAGE, featuring the riveting story of Patty Hearst's abduction by the Symbionese Liberation Army.Sponsors!Kopari - Go to KopariBeauty.com/CULTS to save $5 off your first order when you subscribe!
Through skilled eavesdropping, Jeffrey Lundgren convinced his followers that he could read their minds. What would happen when the "murmurs" he heard indicated that some of his followers were having second thoughts?Sponsors!Caffé Monster - Available in Vanilla, Mocha, and Salted Caramel.
He believed that he could talk to God and that he alone could bring about Zion in Kirtland. All he had to do was gain complete control over the members of his cult.Sponsors!Netflix - Starring Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen, Apostle premieres October 12th, only on Netflix.SimpliSafe - Go today to SimpliSafe.com/CULTS.
After being shut down by the FBI, Arthur Bell returned and established a tax-exempt church that would allow him to extort his followers for millions. As they lived in coarse conditions, Bell would live a lavish lifestyle funded by his members.Sponsors!Caffé Monster - Available in Vanilla, Mocha, and Salted Caramel.Kopari - Go to KopariBeauty.com/CULTS to make the safe switch today, and save $5 off your first order when you subscribe!
Imagine only working four hours a day, four days a week, eight months a year. On the heels of the Great Depression, Arthur Bell used his charisma to convince people to follow him and join Mankind United. He promised that a group of wealthy, good people called the Sponsors would create a Utopia for anyone who joined, only the Sponsors wouldn’t offer the program until Mankind United had reached 200 million members. Then his cult spread like wildfire.Sponsors!Parcast - Sign up for the Parcast Monthly Newsletter at Parcast.com.
The Hernandez Brothers Cult was founded by Santos and Cayetano Hernandez in the early 1960s in a small, northern Mexico village. What started out as a simple scam for power and money from uneducated villagers descended into blood orgies and human sacrifices after the brothers hired a sex worker to impersonate a Goddess.
By 1960, the Lumpa Church was the most influential religion in Zambia and seen as a political threat by Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda. To avoid escalating violence, the Lumpa Church moved out of the villages to establish new settlements, but Kaunda demanded they return. When they refused, Kaunda destroyed the settlements and murdered its residents.
After a life-changing vision turned her into a prophetess, Alice Lenshina rose from one of the minor tribal houses of Zambia to become the founder and leader of the Lumpa church, one of the most powerful organizations in the entire country. At its height, it had over 150 thousand followers, until it became too big a political threat for the government to ignore.
Sahaja Yoga continues to prosper with more than 30,000 members worldwide despite allegations of child abuse, tax evasion, and harassment from ex-disciples. How has the cult managed to remain so strong and what role did the death of Shri Mataji play in that success?
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi is the founder of the Sahaja Yoga Movement, a form of meditation meant to help practitioners unlock an inner awareness. She began with good intentions, as an activist in the Indian independence movement of the 1940s. As she gained a reputation for healing the sick, she grew in prominence as a spiritual leader. How did this spiritual role model turn into the leader of a cult?
Elizabeth Clare Prophet was the charismatic leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant who had no problem recruiting members. Not even her incorrect prognostication that the world would end by nuclear war in March of 1990 could shake her members’ devotion. But could their faith withstand the public disillusionment and exit of the cult by her own children?
When Mark Prophet died suddenly of a stroke in 1973, Elizabeth Clare Prophet usurped his position as the leader of Summit Lighthouse, and changed its name to Church Universal and Triumphant. After several visions and messages from her masters, Elizabeth Prophet declared to her followers that the Apocalypse was approaching rapidly. Would they believe her narrative, and follow her into underground bomb shelters to avoid humankind's impending doom?
Raël recruited members through his media appearances. The more appearances he made, the more books he sold, and the more followers he got. Controversy over sexual practices at Raelian events crossed the line for some, and drove interest for others. But what would his members do when they learned of his quest to make human clones?
While on a nature walk in his native France, 27-year old Claude Vorilhon saw a small, alien spacecraft land in front of him. A four foot tall affable humanoid named Yahweh emerged and told Vorilhon to relay the encounter to all mankind — who will be judged for eternity based upon their reaction. But, who would believe him without any proof?
Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret founded The Order of the Solar Temple. They told their followers that the world would end in 1995, but if they killed themselves, they would be reborn on the star Sirius. Then one night in October of 1994, 48 members of the Orders of the Solar Temple died across two continents. How were Di Mambro and Jouret able to convince so many followers to die for something they likely knew not to be true?
Joseph Di Mambro was no stranger when it came to new religious movements. He had joined a few of them as a young adult, and when he decided to start his own, he had a hard time getting followers. With the help of Luc Jouret, the two founded The Order of the Solar Temple. Their goal was to unlock the secret knowledge of the universe, but it ultimately would lead to their deaths.
For the past 150 years, members of the Leopard Society in West Africa dressed in leopard skins and brutally murdered over six-dozen victims. The murders were so gruesome that at first, it was speculated actual leopards caused these deaths. It was later discovered that these killings were part of a cannibalistic ritual that involving the distillation of an elixir from the boiled blood and organs of the victim.
Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo founded the Narcosatanists in Mexico City in 1985. He was able to keep his few but loyal followers by his side as he murdered victims in the name of ancient gods. But the killing of an American college student would ultimately lead to the end of the Narcosatanists and the demise of Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo.
Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo spent his early life training in the mystical religions of Santería and Palo Mayombe. Those close to him placed no value on the lives of those who didn’t subscribe to the religions. As he got older, this philosophy would play a large part in his founding of the Narcosatanists.
Sun Myung Moon's church used a well-practiced set of tactics on each prospective cult member. Once inside the cult, members fell deeper into church's doctrine. What were these tactics and what made it so difficult for members to leave?
Sun Myung Moon was the son of farmers who converted from Confucianism to Christianity when he was about 10 years old. As he grew older, he became so devoted to his religion that he founded his first church, Kwang-Ya, in his mid-twenties. A decade later, he would found the Unification Church and develop it into a multi-billion dollar global business empire.
John Humphrey Noyes’ Oneida Community practiced polyamory long before the free love movement of the 1960s. But his pioneering community had a darker side to it. We’ll uncover the alarming practices intended to serve the perverse sexual needs of Noyes and the community leaders, including a sexual initiation policy for young children, a eugenics program, and incest.
John Humphrey Noyes grew up crippled by social anxiety. He overcame his anxiety when he began preaching and came to embrace Perfectionism. He would later declare that he would be the leader in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. By converting his siblings, their spouses, and his own mother, he was on his way to starting the Oneida Community.
The Twelve Tribes has numerous communities still active around the world. Since its founding in the early 1970s, the group has run afoul of law enforcement for issues involving child labor and abuse. Are the allegations unfair discrimination against its believers as they claim, or is something more sinister going on?
Elbert Eugene Spriggs Jr. felt he could never live up to his strict Christian father's expectations. After three failed marriages and numerous jobs, Spriggs had a revelation that his duty was to bring people to God - but to do that he wanted to establish a new church...one where he would make the rules.
Jimmie T. Roberts lead a religious cult known as 'The Brethren' and targeted vulnerable college students looking for belonging. Joining the group was easy, but day-to-day life was harsh. Leaving was next to impossible.
Although he had a lonely childhood and grew up impoverished, Jimmie T. Roberts found feelings of comfort and belonging in religion. We dive deep into Roberts’s life as we examine how he persuaded his devoted followers to sacrifice their possessions, jobs, and families for the sake of salvation.
Ma Anand Sheela orchestrated Rajneeshpuram’s movement from India to Oregon. As Rajneesh himself faded into the shadows, the cult’s grabs for political power led to wiretapping, poisoning, fraud and murder plots. We examine how Sheela was driven towards chaos by her husband’s death, and Rajneesh’s high expectations.
Prophesied to die young and surviving near-death-experiences, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh felt discomfort with his own mortality from a young age. Over time, his spiritual studies and strong beliefs about capitalism and sexuality led Rajneesh to become a charismatic cult leader. This charisma attracted Ma Anand Sheela, the woman who rose from a 20-year-old devotee to a powerful leader in the cult that launched a deadly bioterrorism attack on over 750 Americans.
In 1992, musician and computer programmer Chris Korda founded the Church of Euthanasia with a goal to control population through suicide, abortion, sodomy, and cannibalism. We examine the controversial cult and its members, their performance art and publicity stunts, and how the Church of Euthanasia finally faded from the public eye.
At just 10 years old, Chris Korda began to feel deeply fearful of climate change, and she worried greatly about the future of Earth. After an extraterrestrial dream warning her of the dangers of overpopulation, Korda founded the Church of Euthanasia in 1992 with a mission to downsize the world’s population. We look into Korda’s life, and what motivated her to encourage hundreds of followers to avoid procreation and embrace suicide.
Michel Collin and Jean-Gaston Tremblay, the two excommunicated self-crowned popes of the Apostles of Infinite Love, gained a following after presenting themselves to have mystical powers and visions. We investigate how the cult influenced people to uproot their lives and sacrifice everything to live under strict scrutiny, isolated from the rest of the world.
After having a religious vision when he was seven years old, Michel Collin set on a path to become Pope. In 1950 he made his own dreams come true and proclaimed himself Pope of the Apostles of Infinite Love in France. He quickly spread his cult to Canada with the help of Jean-Gaston Tremblay. We explore the cult’s twisted history and the leaders’ minds.
It’s hard to believe that human sacrifice still exists today. But from 2009 to 2012, Silvia Meraz Moreno led her family to offer human sacrifices to Santa Muerte in exchange for good fortune. We examine this familial cult’s crimes, and how one community tip finally ended the family’s gruesome sacrifices.
From 2009 to 2012 in Sonora, Mexico, Silvia Meraz Moreno put together a plan to receive good fortune from Santa Muerte, or Saint Death. She led her impoverished family to believe that they’d be rewarded with wealth in exchange for human sacrifices… so the Sect of Nacozari set out to kill.
In November 2014, a baby struggling for his life was left at an ER in the Atlanta area. Suspecting abuse, police found a man who was influenced by cult leader Dwight York, who has been imprisoned since 2004. We look into how York maintains control over his followers from prison, and how this control led to a cycle of abuse.
We explore the life of Dwight York, a manipulative cult leader who used his members for financial gain. Under his leadership, thousands of followers believed themselves to be descendants of aliens, waiting to be beamed up to another planet before the apocalypse. York’s control was so strong, many people still support him now, despite 100+ years remaining on his prison sentence.
Pyotr Kuznetsov, the leader of the radical “True Russian Orthodox Church” cult, convinced his followers the world would end on May 28th, 2008. As a result, around 29 to 35 cult members created a man-made cave, and buried themselves in it for six months. Tragically, two members died. We explore how Kuznetsov rose to power, and how he convinced his followers to do everything from removing processed food from their diets to completely isolating themselves from society.
Jim Jones was a farm boy who later turned into America’s deadliest cult leader. We take a deeper look into the cult’s followers as we try to comprehend why they allowed Jones to have complete control over their lives — control and power that ultimately led them to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Jim Jones controlled the most notorious American cult of all time — the Peoples Temple. In 1978, Jones’ leadership brought on the largest mass suicide and cult murder in modern history, where over 900 people died. We investigate how Jones and his idea of utopia led to such a devastating mass murder.
In 1993, The Branch Davidians—under David Koresh’s leadership—were raided by ATF agents just outside of Waco, Texas. Following the deadly raid, The Branch Davidians and the FBI underwent a 51-day stand-off that ended in the deaths of more than 70 Branch Davidians, including Koresh and about two dozen children.
David Koresh, born Vernon Wayne Howell, became an internationally name in 1993 as he led many of his followers in The Branch Davidians, and himself, to violent deaths after a 51-day standoff with the FBI. We focus on Koresh and how his childhood filled with abandonment and rejection led to his troubling reign as a controlling cult leader.
In part two of Aum Shinrikyo, we take a deeper look at the members of one of the most notorious cults in modern history. Shoko Asahara, the cult’s leader, established deep connections with his followers. These connections created a deadly devotion as the group worked toward destroying humanity.
In 1980’s, a Japanese Buddhism-inspired cult, called Aum Shinrikyo, formed under a leader who tried to end the world. Greg and Vanessa explore Aum Shinrikyo—one of the most feared cults in history—its leader Shoko Asahara, and the group’s desire to eliminate humankind.