Whether you are a true crime aficionado or not, most of us are pretty familiar with some famous cults that have surfaced through news outlets, media, and even film adaptations. The Manson Family, Children of God, The Branch Davidians, and (Scientology?) are usually the more famous cults that start conversations. But what did these cults really believe, and how did these people end up there? Stick around and we’ll break down the freakiest cults for you.
Heaven’s Gate was an apocalyptic new-age cult run by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, whom called themselves “The 2”. Starting from the seventies and ending in the late nineties, The 2 were able to convince 37 people that the apocalypse was upon them, and in order for them to be saved, they would need to board a “spaceship” to seek salvation from Earth. Marshall told these people he was, in fact, an alien and hailed from the planet, “The Next Level”. Yeah, weird. These 37 people joined The 2 and left all of their belongings behind to follow Marshall and Bonnie to their deaths. His followers ended their lives dressed in Star Trek like gear with a Phenobarbital Apple Juice cocktail. Their bodies were found in San Diego each on their own bunk beds with purple sheets covering their faces.
The People’s Temple of Jonestown
This is the famous cult that coined the phrase, “Drinking the Kool-Aid”. Jim Jones convinced 900 people to follow him into death at his temple of doom. Most of his followers had come with him from his San Francisco group, “The People’s Temple”. Jim preached socialist and progressive ideas, and was even backed by San Francisco politicians. Being such a suspicious cult, him and his followers moved to Guyana (Jonestown) in South America to escape the paranoia Jim felt in the US. Sadly, he convinced his followers that the only way to be free was to die with their leader. He made his followers, including new recruits in Guyana to drink Cyanide Kool-Aid, starting with the children. People who refused to drink to concoction were shot on command. Jones died lastly with a gunshot to the head.
Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas
David Koresh took a small town religion to the next level when he became leader of the Branch Davidians. The cult was super religious and believed they were in the final stages of the second coming of Christ. David took over the cult after kicking the previous leader George Roden out. David believed he was in fact Christ, and he had property over every woman and child in his compound. After much tension between David and George, Texas officials were alerted that there may be illegal weaponry possessed by the Davidians, which led to the invasion of the church. After a long and grueling standoff with the FBI, David shot his followers to ensure their loyalties to himself and set his church on fire, dying with them.
The Manson Family
Charles Manson started his “family” in San Francisco, before moving to the Los Angeles area in the seventies. The Manson family were one of the few cults that weren’t religious, but instead preached free love and other mixes of ideals, like Satanism and even Scientology. The failed musician believed a race war was inevitable and it was his family’s sole duty to carry this idea on. Though Manson himself never was accused of killing anyone, he commanded his loyal followers to murder people around the Los Angeles area, attempting to make the crime scenes look like they were committed by African Americans. The most famous of the murders was that of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her friends in the Hollywood Hills. His followers wrote eery messages on the walls of people’s homes to gain media attention. His followers later admitted to the murders, but showed no remorse because they believed in Manson and thought it was “the right thing to do”.