3 Most Macabre Cults of History

People have a habit of inventing fictions they will believe wholeheartedly in order to ignore the truth they cannot accept.

- Libba Bray


There’s something wrong with me. I however don’t know if my morbid curiosity is the cause or the consequence - since a very young age I was drawn to the macabre and the obscure, there was a disquieting urge in me to dive into the dusk. I would have wonderfully fitted in the late victorian society; obsessed with mystery, the afterlife and séance. One of the grandest subjects of my fixation? Cults - damaged, crooked and wicked cults (to be honest I don’t know which psique fascinates the most; that of the followers, or the one of the leaders). Making a list of the three worst cults would of course call for the Manson Family and Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, yet today I rather present to you the lesser known (yet equally horrific) sects.

Heaven’s Gate


Heaven’s Gates was a doomsday alien cult leadered by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles (big Star Trek fans). The grand finale of this sect was arranged with the passage of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 when Marshall talked 38 of its followers into committing suicide so that their souls would climb into a spaceship they believed was behind the comet.

Applewhite collected people from poor neighborhoods, convincing them that Earth was going to be recycled, and the only way to be saved was by giving up everything they were; their gender, family, friends, and sex. Everybody in the sect wore uniforms to help them conceal gender and hide their human forms (identical black Nike sneakers for everybody). Many of these believers (including Marshall) voluntarily castrated themselves in order to control sexual urges.

Unlike Jonestown, no force or violence was used to convince the cult members to kill themselves - quite in the contrary, the suicides were highly coordinated (actually the most coordinated mass suicide in cult history). The event lasted two days, on the last one - before they day was over and just as the comet approached - they ate poisoned pudding and fastened plastic bags on each other’s heads.

Today only 4 original members of Heaven’s Gate are still alive - and they not only still believe the teachings but also maintain the Heaven’s Gate page.

Order of the Solar Temple


This cult was founded in Switzerland in the year of 1984, tracing its roots very deep into the medieval Knights Templar. Their leader, Joseph di Mambro (who called himself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ) believed the world would end in the 1990s.

Joseph persuaded female members to engage with him in sexual ceremonies (claiming they gave him the spiritual strength to do his holy duties) and convinced the rest of his members that his son was conceived through theogamy, or "marriage" with the gods (making him into a demigod) while his daughter was conceived immaculately.

Initially the group's goals were based around survivalist behavior and doomsday prep (the members in Canada started an organic farm that's still in operation today), yet this dogma quickly morphed into a new credo with the message that life on Earth was an illusion and the only hope was to surrender their earthly bodies in order to be reborn on an unnamed planet orbiting the Dog Star, Sirius.

Everything took a grotesque turn on September 30, 1994 when two followers of the cult, Antonio and Nicky Dutoit along their 3-month-old baby, were found stabbed to death in Montreal. The family was killed by other members under the orders of Di Mambro, who stated that the Dutoits' newborn was the antichrist (some say that his anger was due to the fact that the Dutoits had named their child Emmanuelle, same name as one of di Mambro's own demigod children)

By this point the Order of the Solar Temple consisted in over 400 followers. However the leadership felt that they were being persecuted, and so they decided to anticipate the coming end of the world, claiming that members should leave the earth prematurely. Days before the first mass suicide, Di Mambro recruited 12 of his closest and highest ranked followers with whom with he recreated Jesus’ Last Supper. Inner circle members drank poison while others had bags over their heads and received shots in their brains. They all wore white ceremonial robes and were arranged in a circle.

Later that year, more than 50 members of the group were murdered or died by suicide, their farmhouse in Switzerland was set on fire with 23 people inside and 25 more victims were in burned in other parts of Switzerland, 15 more were found in Canada and additional members died by suicide in 1995 and 1997.

The following year another 16 bodies were found in the French Alps, also burned and similar in ritual to the first mass suicide, children included.

Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments


It is hard - if not impossible - to look for a photograph of this cult in Google Images without coming across terribly gory and explicit crime scene images consisting of hundreds of carbonized bodies. The photograph above (showing Credonia Mwerinde, one of their leaders) is one of the rare non-sensationalist photos available. If you want - and carry inside of you a morbid curiosity - you can take a look at the others yourself.

Founded by four ex-Roman Catholic priests, two ex-nuns and one ex-prostitute, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was formed in Uganda during the 1980s. Through visions of the Virgin Mary, leaders were convinced that the Roman Catholic Church had abandoned the Ten Commandments and that it was their duty to restore them in order to survive the apocalypse (which they believed would occur on Dec. 31, 1999).

In anticipation of doomsday, followers sold all of their possessions and gathered. However, when the end of the world didn't come, leaders quickly altered their prediction and claimed that the Virgin Mary would come and save those faithful to the sect on January 1st, and then - when this didn’t happened - their changed their date once more to March 17, 2000.

Nevertheless members began to question their leaders along with their prophecies, demanding the return of their money, goods and property. On March 17 leaders summoned each one of their followers to the Movement church for one last celebration, boarded up all exits and set the building on fire, killing more than 530 people (including dozens of children). Authorities later discovered the bodies of more victims at the group’s other properties in Uganda and concluded that the leaders had orchestrated the killing in response to turmoil caused by their repeated failure to predict the apocalypse.

Mwerinde is believed to have survived. Ugandan authorities issued an international warrant for her arrest, however - until this day - she hasn’t been found.

According to Wikipedia:

- On September 2011, Mwerinde and several other prognosticators who incorrectly predicted various dates for the end of world were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for ‘‘teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations’’ -


“Even admirable human desires for love, for belonging, and for meaning can be manipulated by unscrupulous individuals to benefit themselves” 

― Noah Berlatsky

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