A cult can be most easily defined as a group of people that share unusual beliefs, most often spiritual or religious. However, things typically are not so simple. Cults often engage in socially deviant practices, and their beliefs are based around a charismatic leader. Leaders gain control over the group and are capable of making them do anything they wish.
Throughout history, many cults have been founded in the United States. The majority of them dealt with illegal activities and ended up as cautionary, often shocking tales.
Children Of God
Children of God was a cult founded by David Berg. He and his followers were notorious for engaging in promiscuous sexual activities and using sex to lure in new members. They believed that having sex with the members of the Children of God was the key to salvation. As is the case with many other cults, children were involved in this promiscuous sex and were even raped. They also didn’t allow the children to go to school.
Famous late actor River Phoenix was a member of the cult, along with the rest of his family, and he claimed that he was forced to engage in sexual activities when he was four years old. In the 1990s, the cult was investigated by the CIA and Interpol, and David Berg died the next year.
The Branch Davidians are a subset of the Davidian church. The cult was founded by David Koresh, who joined the Davidian church branch in Waco, Texas, in 1981. When he joined, he started to engage in behavior that could be described as disturbing, to put it mildly. He married a 14-year old girl, and after he took over the entire Waco branch of the Davidians, the rest of the cult members followed his crazy behavior.
They started exhuming corpses, believing they could resurrect the dead, and also gathering firearms. After the FBI learned of this, they surrounded their compound, and a long gunfight ensued. The cult members did not want to give up, and the siege lasted for 51 days, ending in a fire that killed 76 people.
The Peoples Temple
The Peoples Temple was a cult founded by Jim Jones in 1955. At first, people believed that it was a project where everyone could live as equals and uphold Christian values. People that joined were encouraged to share everything they had with one another. Jones built his beliefs on socialist ideology and racial equality. He grew the church as a platform for social justice activists; however, the members themselves had no idea about his plans, which were far more sinister.
He founded a commune in Guyana in 1974. He called the place Jonestown, and he envisioned it as a closed socialist community where people would grow their food and would live completely separate from the rest of the world. He thought that the United States had begun falling under the fascist rule and wanted to move away from that.
In time, some members of the cult wanted to leave because they started disagreeing with Jim Jones’ vision. However, he ordered armed soldiers to kill those trying to leave, and in the aftermath of the killing, forced the rest of his cult members to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide mixed with Kool-Aid.
Heaven’s Gate Cult
Marshall Applewhite was staying in a psychiatric hospital in 1972, where he met a nurse, Bonnie Nettles, who shared the same fascination with Biblical mysticism as he did. She believed that she could talk to aliens who wanted to meet with her and that she had a divine mission. They became close and, over time, developed a set of esoteric beliefs that grew into a cult that ended up with 41 followers. The purpose of the cult was to contact aliens.
In 1975, all of the members of the cult sold everything they had to travel around the U.S. with Applewhite and Nettles while preaching about their destined meeting with aliens. This lasted for two decades, and on March 19th, 1997, the members were led to believe that a comet will pass by earth with a UFO they would be able to board. They believed they would do that by committing mass suicide. Their dead bodies were found a week later.
The Manson Family
Arguably the most famous cult in the U.S. history was the Manson family. The events surrounding them defined the late 1960s and the 1970s, and they are still the topic of many books, movies, and TV shows today. This cult was led by Charles Manson, who thought of himself to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. After getting released from prison in the 1960s, Manson began to gather people around him, in hopes of building a large following. He promised them drugs and free love, which was tempting for the lost youth of that age. This was also during the rise of the hippie movement, which made his promises all the more interesting.
A large number of teenagers joined his cult, and during their time there, they were encouraged to engage in different forms of sexual activity. Those who declined to do so were raped. Manson believed that a war between races was approaching, so he taught his followers how to use weapons. This culminated in August of 1969 when he sent several members of his cult to go on a killing spree.
They started in Hollywood, by killing the actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time, along with some friends of hers. This event shook America to the core, it was a gruesome murder of a celebrity, and everyone heard about it. The perpetrators were caught and sentenced to life in prison. Manson wasn’t present during the killings. However, he was convicted because he was leading the violent cult.
The Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints
Warren Jeffs, a Mormon leader, founded this cult with an extremely long name. He separated from the Mormons because he wanted to lead a polygamous life, which the Mormon religion disavowed. Under his rule, underage girls were forced into marriage with him, and it is believed that various crimes were being committed, such as rape and incest.
In 2008, the cult was investigated by child services, and they saved 439 children from the clutches of Warren Jeffs. A lot of the children were in their early teens and already married to older members of the cult. Jeffs himself married girls anywhere from 12 to 15 years old. He and many other male members were arrested for sexually assaulting children.
Adolfo Costanzo founded the Santeria Cult in Mexico City. He was born in a traditional Roman Catholic family in 1962 in Miami. Throughout his youth, he was fascinated with the Santeria religion. This religion draws its influences from Voodoo and Roman Catholicism. It is a weird combination of the two, obsessed with the occult world. Costanzo’s mother and grandmother were both supposedly Santeria priestesses, so that’s probably where he developed his fascination with the religion. He started exploring it further, getting deeply involved with some of its darker aspects. That is something even the most avid followers of Santeria stay away from.
However, Adolfo Costanzo trained to become a Santeria sorcerer, moved to Mexico City, and began working with local crime syndicates. He was charging the gang leaders money, and in return, he would promise to protect them by using the mystical forces of Santeria. Of course, this was a giant fraud. However, the number of his followers was continually growing. With that, he was accumulating extremely large amounts of money. If someone dared to oppose him and refused to pay, they would disappear, meaning he would kill them. The police finally caught him, and it is believed that he murdered anywhere between 23 and 50 people.
Who was the famous actor that was a part of the Children of God cult?
Famous late actor River Phoenix was a member of the cult, along with the rest of his family, and he claimed that he was forced to engage in sexual activities when he was four years old.
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