10 of the Most Terrifying Cults in History

by Binupriya Tomy2 years ago
Picture 10 of the Most Terrifying Cults in History

Cults are social groups with unusual and sometimes controversial beliefs. There are very divergent definitions of the term “cult.” One is it is a group of people who has excessive devotion towards a particular cause and are ready to go beyond any limits to support their cult. Cults, because of their dark nature, have become a subject for sociological study to learn how people can get into these. Many murders, mass suicides, and destruction have been associated with cults in the past. Here are stores of such wild cults that will leave you flabbergasted.

1 NXIVM was an American cult led by Keith Raniere and his associate as a multi-level marketing company but was later found engaged in sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor. The founder was sentenced to 120 years in prison after one victim reported the barbaric “sex cult” that abused their members physically and emotionally in the name of self-help deprogramming. 

Keith Raniere (Image to the left); Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman, seen outside Brooklyn court in 2019, doesn’t think she should go to prison for her role in the sex cult. Image Credit: Stefan Ruiz/nytimes.com, Rashid Umar Abbasi/nypost.com

Raniere, before the formation of the cult, started a business venture that was accused of being a pyramid scheme. Later, she founded NXIVM, a company dedicated to personal development. It conducted training which was subject to a non-disclosure agreement. The training and related customer base started becoming suspicious over time.

In April 2018, Raniere was arrested for sex trafficking, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. There was a secret sisterhood that started in 2015 inside the cult where the female members were called “slaves” and were subjected to corporal punishment by their “masters.”

They had nude photos and other potentially damaging information about these women which they termed “collateral.” Raniere was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering in June 2019. (source)


2 Branch Davidian was a group of Bible students led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas, who abused teenagers after labeling them his “spiritual wives.” Their property was raided by the FBI on 28 February 1993 because of the suspicion that Koresh was guilty of child abuse and possession of illegal firearms. A shootout occurred between the two groups, which led to a 51-day siege and a massive fire that killed around 80 members.  

Branch Davidian
David Koresh (Image to the left); the Branch Dravidian compound burns in Waco, Texas in April 1993. Image Credit: imdb.com, Richard Rogers/bostonglobe.com

Branch Davidian is an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventists. David Koresh and his Bible students lived in Mount Carmel. They built a compound in a rural area in Texas. They were expecting an imminent return of Jesus.

They lived simple lives and avoided entertainment of any kind. Originally started by Benjamin Roden, the cult was briefly dissolved in 1962 after the apocalyptic predictions failed. Later, Koresh came to Mount Carmel to study Bible prophecy, and the leadership of the cult was shifted to him.

His leadership ended with the end of the cult after a 51-day siege between the sect and federal agents. It started when four agents were killed during a raid on the property for making grenades and for converting semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons without a permit. The events that followed killed the 80 member group along with the leader in a fire that occurred during an FBI raid to enter the area. (source)


3 Raëlism is a UFO religion and is considered the largest UFO religion in the world. This cult believes aliens created the world and call them “Elohim.” Studies suggest that this cult formed due to the extreme alienation people face in urban settings that leads them to believe in such cults. 

Rael, the Raelians’ leader, speaking at a Raelian Asia seminar on the 45th anniversary of his revelations in 1975(Image to the left); A group of Raëlians protesting for gay rights in Wien, Austria. Image Credit: International Raelian Movement/religionunplugged.com, János Korom Dr/flickr.com via wikimedia.org

Raëlism is a UFO religion founded in the 1970s in France by Claude Vorilhon. It teaches that extraterrestrial beings created humanity with their advanced technology. They called the creatures “Elohim” and believed that Elohim had created forty prophets which include Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and Real (Claude Vorilhon) himself, being the final prophet. 

The religion believes that with the Hiroshima bomb, humans have started an “Age of Apocalypse,” and that humans should find a way to assure new scientific achievements will be used for peaceful purposes.

They also promote an ethical system with emphasis on daily meditation, sexual experimentation, and hope for immortality. The cult then went ahead with its idealism and claims to have successfully made a human clone in 2002. They are committed to creating an embassy for Elohim. (source)


4 School of Prophets is a cult founded by Ron Lafferty with his five brothers. Ron Lafferty, who was a self-proclaimed prophet, ended up in jail with a life sentence for killing his brother’s wife and child who did not follow the cult. He claimed he got a revelation from God to carry out the deed. 

School of Prophets
Ron Lafferty(Image to the left); The brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her toddler daughter Erica, who were killed by two relatives because of their strong polygamist beliefs, will be explored in a new true-crime series starring Daisy Edgar Jones. Image Credit: Utah Department of Corrections/sltrib.com, dailymail.co.uk

Lafferty, the ex-communicated Mormon cult leader, had evolving religious views as they wanted the church-banned plural marriages to be brought back. He convinced people that he was a prophet and he received revelation directly from God to remove several people. 

He and his brother, who blindly believed him, killed their sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter to fulfill these revelations. It was a small splinter group, and the police tracked them down in no time. He was sentenced to prison in 1996 after treatment for severe mental illness. He died in prison due to natural causes in 2019. (source)


5 Charles Manson’s destructive cult, the “Manson Family,” started gaining media attention for committing mass murder with a possible motive being revenge. The cult lived a very unconventional lifestyle and was expecting an imminent race war that would turn apocalyptic. 

Manson Family
Charles Manson is led from Los Angeles courtroom after he and three girl co-defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder of actress Sharon Tate and others (Image to the left); Nancy Pitman (a.k.a Brenda McCann), Sandra Good, Catherine Gillies, and Mary (Mary Theresa Brunner) dubbed “the girls on the corner.” Image Credit: nydailynews.com, Herald-Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library via timeline.com

Charles Manson was well known for his unusual ability to dominate others. He assembled a cult that the media later started calling “The Family.” He established himself as a guru and borrowed beliefs from the Process Church of the Final Judgement. He made his followers believe they were incarnations of the original Christians. 

By 1969, mass murders were committed by The Family after an L.A. drug dealer and musician was found dead. The first series of mass murders came to be known as “Tate” homicides. They occurred at the residence of Sharon Tate where three victims were shot and stabbed.

Two days later, the “LaBianca’s Murders” occurred. The police were stunned by the horrific details of the mass-murder crime scenes. Even though Manson was not directly connected to the murders, these events made him notorious. (source)

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10 Unbelievable Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True

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