Criminality certainly spans across many genres. There’s the clumsy crook, the evil killer, the broke burglar, the list goes on. But, cult leaders certainly take the prize for being the most creepy. Most folks think that cult leaders simply manipulate vulnerable people into believing in what they have to say. This is true, but most cult leaders often commit atrocious crimes during their warped power trips.
Here are 3 of the most infamous criminal cult leaders in history. And yes, they’re all quite creepy.
1) Charles Manson
In the late ’60s, Charles Manson recruited a ragtag gang of lost, strung out, hippie children off the streets of San Francisco, brought them out to the desert, and started a cult known as “The Family.” Manson used the combination of geographical isolation and drugs to completely brainwash his followers. It was even said that Manson would force “The Family” to all drop acid together and watch him perform dramatic simulations of Christ’s crucifixion (guess who was playing the role of Jesus). Eventually, his followers truly came to believe that Manson was the son of God.
Manson eventually manipulated his followers to brutally murder several people, including actress Sharon Tate and her unborn baby. During the trial, his followers continued to express their allegiance to Manson and his twisted Helter Skelter ideology. Manson was found guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He has been in prison for over three decades, and has received more mail than any other prisoner in U.S. history.
2) Marshall Herff Applewhite
Most of us can still remember the gruesome details that surfaced in the late 90s after the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. Who could possibly organize something so horrific? Cult leader Marshall Applewhite stands guilty as changed. Like Manson, Applewhite believed he was a highly evolved prophet and was somehow able to convince other people of his godliness.
Applewhite used a strange combination of scripture and science fiction to weave together a twisted narrative which led his innocent, naive followers down the path of suicide. Applewhite and his partner, Nettles, believed they belonged to the “Level Above Human” — a physical place that exists “somewhere between heaven and outer space.” These two self-made aliens/angels were on a mission to help us mere mortals reach “the next level.” To them, the human body was just a vehicle and that to ascend from this world people had to separate from all that was human in themselves, including their earthly needs and desires (aka leave your body via suicide). They believed that a UFO would soon take them back to “the next level” after completing their mission.
Sadly, Applewhite and Nettles were successful in their quest for recruits. In 1995 when the Hale-Bopp comet was discovered, Applewhite saw the comet as a sign that their savior-spaceship had come for them at last. When the comet was closest to the Earth, Applewhite and his followers took their own lives by consuming a lethal mixture of vodka and barbiturates. Police later discovered 39 bodies, including Applewhite and Nettles who were the last ones to kill themselves. The Heaven’s Gate deaths remains the largest mass suicide to ever take place within the United States.
3) David Koresh
Koresh was another self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect. He insisted that he was God’s “seventh messenger,” and that he would set off a chain of events that would ignite the Apocalypse. When the Branch Davidians began to collect firearms in preparation for doomsday, the ATF tried to raid their compound in 1993, and after a 51-day standoff, the compound went up in flames, killing Koresh and approximately 80 of his followers.
Aside from illegally stockpiling weapons, Koresh was also accused of multiple sex crimes against underage girls and child abuse. Koresh was known for selecting girls from his flock to bear his “soldiers.” One of Koresh’s spiritual wives was actually the 13-year-old younger sister of his legal wife. During his reign, Koresh fathered 15 children with several different women within the cult. Former members claim that Koresh demanded sexual access to all cult women, including the underage girls.
The Lure Of The Cult
Most rational human beings hear someone claim to be a prophet, or an alien, or GOD and think, “That person is nuts!” But the sad truth is that people are more vulnerable to brainwashing and cult mentality than you realize. Some lonely folks are so desperate for acceptance, love, and belonging that they are easily seduced by these crazy (yet convincing) cult leaders.
Individuals most susceptible to joining a cult often share a similar mentality. Prior to joining a cult followers are often:
- Dissatisfied with their lives
- Desperate for a change
- Wanting to believe in a single truth
- Seeking a new society
- Ready for action
Cults are often a destructive cultural manifestation operating at the whims of a delusional, criminal leader. These are just three of many cult stories that ended in tragedy.
About The Author: Jessica Ruane is fascinated by cults. She is a San Diego based blogger and writes about crime, social justice, and police dogs at blog.instantcheckmate.com.