Cults have long been a symbol intrigue for many of us. Many cults form with a religious foundation and thus are oftentimes referred to as religious sects. The majority of cults have kept their way of life a secret, which often brings about an air of mystery when talking about them. But behind all that intrigue lies one similarity; they are all pretty nutty. So with that said, here are ten of the most famous and wacky religious cults in recent history:
1. Peoples TempleYou might know this cult by their more popular alias, Jonestown. The full name of this cult is the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project. This cult was formed by Jim Jones in Guyana, a city-state in South America.
This famous cult rose to prominence in late 1978 when 902 members died of cyanide poisoning. This incident was thereon referred to as the Jonestown Massacre. Although the incident was largely labeled a mass suicide, some Temple members later on went on record to say that it was actually mass murder.
2. Heaven’s GateMany of you reading this may be alive when this cult made the headlines. In 1997, 39 members of this crazy religious cult committed suicide via poison while wearing Nike sneakers and matching armbands with embroidery that read “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” The suicide was committed because many cult members believed that hitching a ride on the Hale-Bopp comet could allow them eternal salvation.
3. Manson FamilyThis is the famous cult belonging to famed killer Charles Manson. The members of this cult are referred to as Family. Charles Manson formed this quote right after spending much of his life in prison for lesser crimes (than murder). Most of the people in the Manson Family cult were females who served as servants for Manson. Not long after forming the cult, the killing sprees started.
Charles Manson, who was seen as a guru of sorts, convinced cult members to go on killing sprees that included racially charged murders. Many of these murders (unbeknownst to members) were actually committed against people who rejected Charles Manson early in his music career.
4. Branch DavidiansAlso known as The Branch, this religious cult was formed in 1955 after splitting with the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. This cult is mostly known for the siege on their compound in Waco. The siege began after the cult refused to let the ATF execute a search warrant on their ranch. And as a result, the ATF attempted to siege the building.
The siege ended up lasting 50 days. At the end of the siege, 76 cult members died, including founding leader David Koresh. 6 ATF agents also died during that siege on the compound. Although the deaths largely resulted from smoke inhalation and flames, the siege is still referred to as a massacre, more poignantly, the Waco Massacre.
5. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s CommunitiesThis crazy cult was founded by Indian mystic Chandra Mohan Jain. Started in India, the cult made its way to the United States, eventually making headquarters in Oregon in 1981. However, the cult did not last long in Oregon as they later collapse due to many leaders being found guilty of various crimes, including bio-terrorism against hundreds of American citizens.
6. Order of the Solar TempleThis religious cult was founded in 1984 by Luc Jouret, a Belgian neo-Nazi. Luc Jouret often referred to himself as the second coming of Christ and a Knights Templar. In 1994, the cult sacrificed a newborn boy (by stabbing him repeatedly with a wooden stake) because they believe the child to be the antichrist. And only days later, co-founder De Mambro and a dozen other cult members committed a mass suicide by reenacting the Last Supper. And only a few days after that mass suicide, 15 high ranking members of the cult committed suicide by ingesting poison, while 38 other members were killed by other means (including suffocation and bullets).
7. Villa BavieraThis cult was formed in 1961 in Chile by former Nazi member Paul Schafer. The cult was form to provide an anti-semetic commune for German immigrants. Although criminal activities went largely unnoticed during the cult’s more popular years, recent evidence has made light of the cult’s many criminal activities, including torture and child sex abuse.
8. Children of GodDavid Berg, also known as Moses David by cult members, founded this crazy cult in 1968. Although he initially lived in seclusion and only communicated with members via postal letters, he later on went to become a polygamist and revealed himself as the prophet for the coming Judgement Day. Members of the cult were encouraged to cut all ties with their families and friends, and devote their whole lives to spreading his teachings.
The condemned any form of autocratic governance while they embraced all forms of sexual hedonism. In fact, the cult urged its members to engage in sexual self-gratification while fantasizing about sexual intercourse with Jesus.
9. RaelianAlso known as the Raelian Movement, is a UFO religion that was founded in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon (also known as Rael). Raelism is factually known as the world’s second largest UFO religion, after the much talked-about Scientology. This cult teaches that life on Earth was artificially created by aliens, which they called Elohim. They also believe that Buddha, Jesus, and deities of other religions are all messengers of mankind’s creators.
A member of this cult made national headlines when she claimed to have conceived the first cloned human. However, the event was later proven to be a hoax, probably perpetuated to bring fame to Clonaid, which was also founded by Claude Vorilhon.
10. Aum ShinrikyoThis Japanese cult was formed in 1984 by (thereafter) convicted terrorist Shoko Asahara. The cult rose to media prominence for the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995. The attack was actually five coordinated attacks that combined to kill 13 people, severely injured at least 50 people, and caused temporary blindness in thousands of others.
There have been as many as 40,000 worldwide members of this cult at one time. Aum Shinkrikyo has been officially designated as a terrorist group by several countries, including most developed European countries and North America.