The Most Terrifying Cults In History and How They Ended

There is something about the idea of cults that fascinates me. Their secretive rituals, eccentric leaders, and the inevitable tragic endings. The members of these groups, who are often just collateral damage, don’t even know what they are getting themselves into. The groups are cloaked in mystery, manipulation, and deception. However, it’s not only the members that are affected by it. They have a huge impact on society as a whole. To give you a better idea of what we are talking about, we decided to examine some of the most terrifying cults in history. From their rise and beliefs to their ultimate demise.


The People’s Temple

The People’s Temple, founded by Jim Jones in the 1950s, started as a seemingly progressive movement advocating for racial equality and social justice. Even though it sounds pretty harmless at first, this would develop into a dark cult with Jones as their leader. He provided housing for the people in his cult, however they had to give all of their hard earned money to Jones.

The rules they had to live by were insane! They didn’t have control over who they would be dating, how much food they would be eating, or even how much they were allowed to sleep. By the late 1970s, Jones wielded absolute control over his followers, leading to the tragedy of Jonestown in 1978. Over 900 members died in a mass suicide/murder, shocking the world and leaving an indelible scar on history. The cause of their death was cyanide poisoning, and many of them were injected against their own will.

Heaven’s Gate

Heaven’s Gate, led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, emerged in the 1970s with a mix of Christian theology and science fiction. Believing in an imminent apocalypse, cult members thought they could transcend earthly existence by boarding an alien spacecraft trailing behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Understanding their philosophy is hard to do, considering that the story they told their followers had some massive plot holes. But what’s fascinating about this cult is that they still have a fully functioning website.

Even though Marshall tried to convince his followers that him and Bonnie were immortal beings, Bonnie’s death caused him to change his story. After the members of his cult started seeing through his lies, Marshall started panicking. His solution? Suicide. In 1997, 39 members committed mass suicide in California, believing it was their gateway to a higher plane of existence.


The Manson Family

The Manson Family was born out of the countercultural movement of the 1960s. The members? Young people who, for one reason or another, just couldn’t fit into regular societal norms. The head of the cult was Charles Manson, a master manipulator and failed musician with a questionable past. He preached a very weird philosophy revolving around Christianity, conspiracy theories, and racism.

Manson strongly believed that there would be an impending race war, which he called “Helter Skelter,” taken from the Beatles’ song of the same name. In 1969, Manson and his followers carried out a series of brutal murders in Los Angeles, including the infamous killing of actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time. The goal? To initiate the race war he was preaching about. However, Manson, along side some of his followers, were sentenced to life in prison not too long after the murder.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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