Cults

Mystery. Manipulation. Murder. Cults are associated with all of these. But what really goes on inside a cult? More specifically, what goes on inside the minds of people who join cults and leaders who start them? Every Tuesday, Greg and Vanessa (co-hosts of the podcast Serial Killers) explore the history and psychology behind the most notorious cults. Cults is a Spotify Original from Parcast.

True Crime
History
Society & Culture
1
James King & The New Gnostic Church Pt. 2
By 2004, James King and Barbara Loran were well-versed in violating ethical boundaries. But that year, the church leader and his mistress crossed a new line when they groomed and seduced the 17-year-old daughter of two congregants.
36 min
2
James King & The New Gnostic Church Pt. 1
In 1990s Washington, James King held dozens of devoted followers in his thrall. He used emotional “processing” sessions to prey on women, while his mistress — a chiropractor who wanted to cultivate “Godlife” — became his number one recruiter.
35 min
3
Best of 2021: Murder on Cielo Drive
As we look ahead to the new year, we want to take one last chance to say thank you for the year that was — and present our "Best of 2021"! Please enjoy this episode from our fan-favorite podcast, Solved Murders.
44 min
4
The Christmas Rapture
On Christmas Eve nearly seventy years ago, Dorothy Martin and the Seekers stood outside in Chicago and sang carols. They were waiting for a spacecraft that would shepherd them away from Earth — and the impending apocalypse.
38 min
5
Charles Manson & The Beach Boys
The Manson Family’s infamous murder spree may have been partially inspired by The Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter” but it was The Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson who opened doors in Hollywood for their charismatic cult leader. From our friends at Sinister Societies, hear how Charles Manson almost became the next great pop hit of the ‘60s.
32 min
6
Cul-de-Sac Sex Cult Pt. 2
After a decade of abuse at the hands of Colin Batley, a young woman made a desperate escape. Early one morning, with her baby in her arms, she ran out of the cul-de-sac that Batley and his church called home and never came back. Now, out from under his grasp, she could bring Batley down.
34 min
7
Cul-de-Sac Sex Cult Pt. 1
In 1980s London, Colin Batley started a church based on the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley. Batley soon moved his congregation into a quiet cul-de-sac 200 miles away — where, behind the façade of suburbia, he and his followers sexually assaulted children.
35 min
8
Yoga Cults Pt. 3
We end our three-part special in Japan, where a yoga teacher named Shoko Asahara preached a violent, apocalyptic dogma.
40 min
9
Yoga Cults Pt. 2
Vanessa is joined by Lanie Hobbs from Crimes of Passion, a Spotify Original from Parcast, as they investigate the life of Michael Roach — Princeton grad, certified Geshe, and so-called king of Diamond Mountain, his spiritual retreat in Arizona.
39 min
10
Yoga Cults Pt. 1
How do quests for enlightenment get so sinister? Today, we’re looking at three stories of yoga gurus and guides who were loved — then loathed — for their practices.
31 min
11
The Psychic’s Skull
When a psychic who’s been experimenting with ketamine goes missing in 1979, her brother suspects she’s been kidnapped by a cult. Today’s episode on Marcia Moore is from Unsolved Murders, a true crime podcast and Spotify Original from Parcast. Follow Unsolved Murders for new episodes every Tuesday!
34 min
12
Apollo Quiboloy
Millions of followers. A powerful political ally. And his very own Garden of Eden. Televangelist Apollo Quiboloy spent decades turning his small congregation into a multinational religious empire.
34 min
13
House of Yahweh Pt. 2
After predicting a nuclear war, Hawkins offered salvation to his increasingly isolated followers. But cracks began to appear in his kingdom.
32 min
14
House of Yahweh Pt. 1
In the 1980s, a prophecy about two brothers and an ad in The National Enquirer drew hundreds of people into the House of Yahweh — a church in Abilene, Texas helmed by a deeply unsavory and swindling man named Bill Hawkins.
39 min
15
Waco Siege & The Branch Davidians Pt. 2
Nearly two decades after the Waco Siege, people are still wondering what transpired at the Branch Davidian compound.
29 min
16
Waco Siege & The Branch Davidians Pt. 1
On February 28th, 1993, ATF agents raided a compound in Waco, Texas, belonging to a religious group known as the Branch Davidians. A 51-day standoff ensued, ending in a violent siege.
28 min
17
Wisconsin’s Vatican Conspiracy Sect Pt. 2
By the 1990s, Rama Behera was living lavishly in his compound in Shawano, Wisconsin, while his followers traveled from far and wide to hear his divine message.
33 min
18
Wisconsin’s Vatican Conspiracy Sect Pt. 1
After Rama Behera came to the U.S. from India to attend college in the 1970s, his life changed forever when he claimed Jesus Christ contacted him. He dropped out to become a missionary, and settled on a compound in Wisconsin.
38 min
19
Alistah Laishkochav’s Seaside Sect
Alistah Laishkochav was a New Zealand man who thought he was a messiah. To the world, the former police officer maintained a big happy family with his nine wives.
33 min
20
The Ramtha School of Enlightenment Pt. 2
Judy Z built a business empire by channeling Ramtha and his Atlantean wisdom. She converted her home into a headquarters and held gatherings for thousands of followers from all over the world. By the 2000s, she began using her influence and cash flow to step into politics — gaining favor until 2016, when she started catering to QAnon believers.
38 min
21
The Ramtha School of Enlightenment Pt. 1
Judy Z spent her early life in poverty before making a living as a cable salesperson in the early 1980s.
37 min
22
Queen Antoinette’s Corrupt House of the Lord
In the mid-2000s, Toni Ellsberry claimed to hear the voice of God, and ruled over her followers in a small Baltimore apartment. But when a toddler there died of starvation, One Mind Ministries began to crumble from within.
33 min
23
Buddhafield Pt. 2: A Hawaiian Escape
Fleeing to Austin, Texas in the early ‘90s was supposed to be a clean break for “The Teacher” and his followers. For a while, it was.
31 min
24
Buddhafield Pt. 1: A Poisoned Oasis
Jaime Gomez came to the U.S. from Venezuela in the 1960s looking for stardom, but when careers in dance and film didn’t materialize, he shifted focus.
32 min
25
Miracle of Love Pt. 2
After Gourasana passed away, his wife Kalindi took over Miracle of Love and propelled the group to new heights. She held increasingly demanding seminars that broke down attendees until they joined the fold. As time wore on, Kalindi’s enthusiasm and exploits brought many of her followers to the brink, and she showed no signs of slowing down.
34 min
26
Miracle of Love Pt. 1
By 1987, David Swanson and his wife Carol Seidman had been on a decades-long journey to find enlightenment.
34 min
27
The Church of Wells Pt. 2
The Church of Wells cemented its place in the small Texas town by being uncompromising and radical.
33 min
28
The Church of Wells Pt. 1
When Baylor University students Sean Morris and Ryan Ringnald met in the mid 2000s, they both felt the world around them was spiritually empty.
32 min
29
Brother Julius and The Work Pt. 2
By the 1980s, The Work was a real estate empire worth millions. But Julius didn’t concern himself much with the business. Instead, he focused on preaching armageddon and engaging in “special work” with his young female followers.
38 min
30
Brother Julius and The Work Pt. 1
While stationed in the South Pacific with the Navy during World War II, Julius Schacknow had a divine vision. Armed with the knowledge of his supposed destiny, he established a devoted following in New England in the 1970s.
41 min
31
William Miller Pt. 2: The Great Disappointment
As the Adventist movement spread across the United States, and as the date of Miller’s predicted apocalypse approached, his followers prepared to leave the world behind.
39 min
32
William Miller Pt. 1: Grandfather of the Advent...
The origins of the 19th-century preacher who founded Millerism, revived belief in Jesus’ imminent return, and landed himself at the center of a historic religious crisis in America.
37 min
33
Jeong Myeong-seok: The Bride Collecting Messiah...
By the late 1990s, the Providence movement had expanded its reach internationally. But when word got out about Jeong Myeong-seok abusing his “spiritual brides,” he fled.
36 min
34
Jeong Myeong-seok: The Bride Collecting Messiah...
After cutting his teeth in the rapidly growing unification movement in South Korea in the 1970s, Jung Myung-seok began having grander ambitions — as the new messiah of a religious movement.
36 min
35
Faizrakhman Sattarov and the Underground Russia...
In the 1960s, Faizrakhman Sattarov experienced a holy vision when sparks shot down from a trolley car in Russia.
37 min
36
“Jesus Army” Noel Stanton Pt. 2
By the late ‘80s, Stanton had fully embraced military metaphors in the Bible, mobilizing his Jesus Army to wage war against sin and save British souls.
36 min
37
“Jesus Army” Noel Stanton Pt. 1
During WWII, while serving in the British Royal Navy, Noel Stanton had an encounter with an evangelist that changed his life.
38 min
38
Serial Killers Crossover: “The Narcosatanist” A...
After amassing wealth and influence as a spiritual advisor in the 1980s, Adolfo Constanzo set his sights on the lucrative drug trade in Matamoros.
55 min
39
Serial Killers Crossover: “The Narcosatanist” A...
Schooled in the darkest corners of his family’s Afro-Carribean religion, Adolfo Constanzo decided to make his fortune using magic granted through animal sacrifices.
48 min
40
“Be’er Miriam Seminary” Aharon Ramati
For over a decade, a self-described rabbi ran a seminary in an orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem.
38 min
41
“Hermes Far Eastern Shining” Gerald Hart Attril...
Increased government scrutiny in the early 2000s didn’t stop Hermes Far Eastern Shining from growing into a small business empire.
31 min
42
“Hermes Far Eastern Shining” Gerald Hart Attril...
A fast-growing cult in Australia absorbed hundreds of people into its fold in the late 1990s.
36 min
43
“Fiat Lux” Uriella
Deep in the heart of the Black Woods on the border between Switzerland and Germany, an eccentric spiritual medium named Uriella set up a commune for her growing community of fanatical followers.
38 min
44
“The Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of...
In the 1990s, Ronald Weinland began issuing doomsday prophecies from his online pulpit.
33 min
45
“The Church of the Creator” Ben Klassen and Mat...
When Ben Klassen died by suicide in 1993, Matthew Hale picked up his mantle as leader of the sputtering Church of the Creator.
41 min
46
“The Church of the Creator” Ben Klassen and Mat...
After a short but controversial run in politics, Ben Klassen founded the Church of the Creator in 1973.
42 min
47
“Miracle Healers” Pt. 4: U.S.A.
From creating costly “healing instruments” to engaging in group sex activities, the Gentle Wind Project claimed to address traumas through spiritual energy work in the 1980s and ‘90s.
39 min
48
“Miracle Healers” Pt. 3: Tanzania
Known as “Babu” to locals, former pastor Ambilikile Mwasapile gained international attention after claiming in 2010 that he had found a cure for cancer, diabetes and AIDS.
32 min
49
“Miracle Healers” Pt. 2: Brazil
Around 2007, a new miracle healer stepped on stage in Brazil, claiming to cure cancer, heart disease, and HIV.
31 min
50
“Miracle Healers” Pt. 1: Russia
Ukrainian psychotherapist Anatoly Kashpirovsky led hypnotic TV healing sessions in the late 1980s and ‘90s, drawing millions of viewers across Eastern Europe.
35 min
51
“The Light of the World” George Feigley
Described as “hypnotic” and “disarming,” George Feigley used his silver tongue to convince countless people that he was a scholar and religious figurehead.
40 min
52
“The Aetherius Society“ George King Pt. 2
In 1959, George King traveled to Los Angeles to complete his interstellar mission.
37 min
53
“The Aetherius Society“ George King Pt. 1
When an angel appeared before him in a dark forest, George King knew his life would be special.
38 min
54
“The King of the Ozarks” James Ellison Pt. 2
In the 1980s, rigorous training and illegal weapons turned Ellison’s once peaceful commune into a murderous militia.
41 min
55
“The King of the Ozarks” James Ellison Pt. 1
Expelled by Lincoln Bible College in 1962 for being too radical, James Ellison spent the next decade preaching about God’s judgment and establishing a commune in Arkansas, where he transformed his followers into a heavily armed white supremacist terror organization.
36 min
56
“New World Comforter” Allen Michael Noonan
In 1947, a 31-year-old sign painter experienced a supernatural event that left him convinced he was the newly anointed savior of the world.
37 min
57
“Chino Shoho” Yuko Chino Pt. 2
When her doomsday prophecies failed to materialize in the early aughts, Yuko Chino faded from the headlines.
32 min
58
“Chino Shoho” Yuko Chino Pt. 1
As a young woman in 1960s Japan, Hidemi Masuyama took nightly walks in the nude, talking to entities only she could see.
35 min
59
The Sodder Family Tragedy: 75 Years Later (Pt. 3)
For decades, family members and sleuths have tried to determine what really happened the night of the fire.
35 min
60
The Sodder Family Tragedy: 75 Years Later (Pt. 2)
In the aftermath of the fire, a startling number of tips, twists, and witnesses came forward regarding the fate of the Sodder children.
36 min
61
The Sodder Family Tragedy: 75 Years Later (Pt. 1)
Early Christmas day in 1945, Jennie Sodder woke up to her house on fire.
32 min
62
“Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo”: Hogen Fukunaga
In the late 1980s he claimed to be the final savior of the world, but behind Hogen Fukunaga’s grandiose claim was a shrewd businessman who scammed millions from loyal followers.
42 min
63
“Lord RayEl”: Raymond Elwood Howard-Lear
He’s not your typical cult leader: Lord RayEl doesn’t have a large church, or host large gatherings.
35 min
64
“Attleboro Sect”: Roland and Jacques Robidoux P...
After starving his infant son in 1999, Jacques Robidoux and his followers went to drastic lengths to bury the evidence.
38 min
65
“Attleboro Sect”: Roland and Jacques Robidoux P...
Shunning mainstream religion, school systems, and science, this small Massachusetts sect withdrew from secular society in the ‘70s.
33 min
66
Conspiracy Theories Crossover: Bohemian Grove P...
Deep in the heart of the redwood forests is a 2,700-acre plot of land that’s home to an exclusive gentleman’s fraternity.
41 min
67
Conspiracy Theories Crossover: Bohemian Grove P...
Deep in the heart of the redwood forests is a 2,700-acre plot of land that’s home to an exclusive gentleman’s fraternity.
42 min
68
“Sky Kingdom”: Ayah Pin Pt. 2
Branded religious deviants by local leaders and the Malaysian government, Ayah Pin and his followers argued for their freedoms in Syariah Court.
34 min
69
“Sky Kingdom”: Ayah Pin Pt. 1
In the mid 1990s, a strange compound sat hidden amongst the hills of northern Malaysia — a wonderland complete with themed buildings and a giant teapot.
34 min
70
Satanic Panic Pt. 5: The Real Victims
In the years since the Satanic Panic, it's become obvious that the crimes people were accused of never really happened.
41 min
71
Satanic Panic Pt. 4: The Rise of Evangelical Ch...
Emboldened by power- and money-hungry conmen, Evangelical doomsdayers set the stage for an epic showdown of biblical proportions.
43 min
72
Satanic Panic Pt. 3: The Cults That DID Exist
From Adolfo Costanzo and the Narcosatanists to the gruesome Chicago Rippers, these horrific groups showed that fears of murderous devil-worshipping cults weren't entirely unfounded.
40 min
73
Satanic Panic Pt. 2: Serial Killers
In the 1980s, “Satanic Panic” was a mass hysteria that consumed communities and ruined lives—all over things that never even happened.
38 min
74
Satanic Panic Pt. 1: Origins
In the 1980s, “Satanic Panic” was a mass hysteria that consumed communities and ruined lives—all over things that never even happened.
40 min
75
“The Palmarian Church”: Clemente Domínguez Gómez
In the late 1960s, a listless young man craving significance began claiming he could see and hear messages from the Virgin Mary.
39 min
76
“Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness”: John-R...
At the height of his power in 1983, John-Roger Hinkins hosted a star-studded awards show for his “movement.”
35 min
77
“Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness”: John-R...
After waking up from a nine-day coma in 1963, Roger Hinkins claimed his body was housing a spiritual personality named John.
34 min
78
“The Gatekeepers”: Chris Turgeon
In 1990s Everett, Washington, a charismatic man named Chris Turgeon started a small group Bible study with a few of his friends.
36 min
79
“The God Squad”: Douglas Metcalf
In 1972, self-appointed bishop Douglas Metcalf had his followers build a new heaven on earth in New Zealand.
35 min
80
“The Chicago Rippers”: Robin Gecht Pt. 2
In the early 1980s, Satanist Robin Gecht and his three followers terrorized the women of Chicago.
35 min
81
“The Chicago Rippers”: Robin Gecht Pt. 1
In the early 1980s, contractor Robin Gecht recruited three of his employees to join a violent cult.
40 min
82
“Friends Landing”: Whitewind Swan Fisher
When Whitewind Swan Fisher founded Friends Landing in 1985, it was marketed as a safe space for spiritual healing.
40 min
83
“Concerned Christians”: Monte Kim Miller
In 1985, Monte Kim Miller was an anti-cult activist, speaking at churches to warn against brainwashing and manipulation—until he began using the same tactics he preached against to extort, coerce, and compel his own followers into radical behavior.
35 min
84
“NXIVM” Pt. 4: The Fall
In 2017, news of Keith Raniere’s predatory sorority finally hit the airwaves.
43 min
85
“NXIVM” Pt. 3: The Master and the Slave
By 2006, 46-year-old Keith Raniere had made NXIVM alluring enough to attract billionaire heiresses and Hollywood actresses.
41 min
86
“NXIVM” Pt. 2: The Parasite and the Producer
In 1999, after the collapse of Consumers Buyline, 39-year-old Keith embarked on a new business venture.
41 min
87
“NXIVM” Pt. 1: The Carrot and the Stick
After acing an IQ test in 1988, 28-year-old Keith Raniere was able to brand himself “The Smartest Man in the World.”
44 min
88
“Gloriavale”: Neville Cooper
Founded in New Zealand in the late ‘60s, Gloriavale was supposed to be a sin-free utopia.
38 min
89
"Knutby Filadelfia" Pt. 2: Helge Fossmo
In 2004, Swedish Pastor Helge Fossmo used “spiritual shunning” to alienate and manipulate the congregation at his Pentecostal church.
33 min
90
"Knutby Filadelfia" Pt. 1: Helge Fossmo
In the mid-’90s, Pastor Helge Fossmo was hand-selected by the so-called “bride of Christ” to help lead a Swedish Pentecostal church.
38 min
91
“Circle of Friends” Pt. 2: Bruno Gröning
By the mid 1950s, Bruno Gröning was famous.
38 min
92
“Circle of Friends” Pt. 1: Bruno Gröning
In 1949, faith healer Bruno Gröning was thrust into the limelight after German newspapers reported he had cured a young boy of muscular dystrophy. However, with fame came increased scrutiny from the legal authorities...
37 min
93
“Conscious Development of Body, Mind and Soul” ...
As the 1980s began, Terri Hoffman and her followers seemed to be flying high.
37 min
94
“Conscious Development of Body, Mind and Soul” ...
In the 1970s, Terri Hoffman went from high school drop-out to leading New Age mystic.
39 min
95
“Christian Catholic Apostolic Church” Pt. 2: Jo...
In June of 1888, John Alexander Dowie moved his family to the United States to found the holy city of Zion.
42 min
96
“Christian Catholic Apostolic Church” Pt. 1: Jo...
His drive for independence eventually led him to create a spiritual movement all of his own in the late 1800s.
40 min
97
“Endeavor Academy” Chuck Anderson
Founded by Charles “Chuck” Anderson in the Wisconsin Dells in 1992, Endeavor Academy was a religious group claiming to be able to lead its students to enlightenment.
36 min
98
“The Rama Cult” Frederick P. Lenz
Founded by software guru Frederick Lenz in 1981, the Rama Cult operated in the Los Angeles and Tri State areas until 1998.
33 min
99
“Access Consciousness” Gary Douglas
Founded by Gary Douglas in the 1990s, “Access Consciousness” went from a mystical meditation clinic to an international media empire.
36 min
100
“The New Lighthouse Movement” Arnaud Mussy
Operating in France from 2001 to 2004, members of the New Lighthouse Movement believed that after the apocalypse, humanity would ascend to heaven with the help of Aliens. This ascension could only be possible with the help of their founder, Arnaud Mussy.
33 min