Captivating Cults

A brief summary about the most notorious U.S. cult killings


Peoples Temple:

Religious Utopia

Founded in 1955 by pastor Jim Jones, Peoples Temple was a christian “church” that used communist values and preached racial equality. By 1970, the church had expanded to multiple locations and claimed to have hosted over 20,000 members. However, behind the rose-tinted glasses of the church, layed a dark truth. During the course of the church, Jones was suspected of religious tax evasion and brainwashed members using similar techniques to North Korea’s. With negative media coverage about his teaching and actions becoming popular, he took around a thousand of his loyal followers, moved to Guyana and set up a socialist “utopia” called, “Jonestown”. As time went by, Jones had made people refer to him as Jesus Christ and members were forced into manual labor. Word of horrible condition got around and on November 18th, 1978, congressman Leo Ryan along with a team of journalists, went to investigate the claims, but were soon shot down as they arrived at the airstrip — but not before a journalist captured a few seconds of the gunfire before being killed. Jim Jones later that day convinced his followers that soldiers will be coming to take and torture them, and soon called for a meeting where the civilians would unknowingly drink cyanide-laced kool-aid. 909 people laid lifeless on the ground of Jonestown, along with leader Jim Jones who sat in a chair with a single bullet-wound to the head. The Jonestown massacre was known as the largest single loss of Americans before the attacks of 9/11.

Heaven’s Gate:

UFO doomsday

Heaven’s Gate founders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles believed that they higher level-minded people from an extraterrestrial version of heaven called, “Next Level”. Heavily influenced by the “Book of Revelation”, they thought the only way to  leave their human bodies and return to this heaven, was to die and be transported back by a spaceship. Applewhite and Nettles soon sought out other believers and officially founded the cult. They cult remained peaceful and enforced strict celibacy towards the followers. As time progressed, Applewhite created a website for the cult to recruit even more people to follow out the suicide mission, “The Demonstration”. On March 26th, 1997 in Rancho Santa Fe, 39 of the cult members were found dead with purple tarps over their bodies — only revealing brand-new black nike shoes. Surviving members still keep the infamous website up and running to help spread their beliefs.

Manson Family


Founded and led by Charles Manson, this short-lived cult is most known for violently murdering nine people, including hollywood actress Sharon Tate, during the summer of 1969. The “family” consisted around a hundred people in which Manson and his followers lived on a desert ranch and participated in heavy psychedelic drug use. Manson taught the members of an impending apocalypse called Helter Skelter, where the world would incite a race war with each other, which would ultimately lead to the extinction of white people. Manson and his followers would then hide out on the ranch and emerge as leaders of the new world. But as time went on, no advances were made to spark the war. So, on August 9th, seven members of the cult set out on the two-day bloody rampage that made them internationally famous. After each murder, members would write in the victim’s own blood, “Helter Skelter” across the walls. This belief was publicized and played key figure in the murders. Soon the seven members were caught and sentenced to life in prison. Although being known as a criminal-mastermind, Manson was never physically involved with any of the murders, but planned them in great detail. So, the Manson trials had controversy surrounding the on whether Manson should be tried for first degree murder.