Although he had a lonely childhood and grew up impoverished, Jimmy T. Roberts found feelings of comfort and belonging in religion. We dive deep into Roberts’s life as we examine how he persuaded his devoted followers to sacrifice their possessions, jobs, and families for the sake of salvation.
With Greg Polcyn & Vanessa Richardson
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 part of the Parcast Network and is a Cutler Media production.
Ma Anand Sheela orchestrated Rajneeshpuram’s movement from India to Oregon. As Rajneesh himself faded into the shadows, the cult’s grabs for political power led to wiretapping, poisoning, fraud and murder plots. We examine how Sheela was driven towards chaos by her husband’s death, and Rajneesh’s high expectations.
Prophesied to die young and surviving near-death-experiences, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh felt discomfort with his own mortality from a young age. Over time, his spiritual studies and strong beliefs about capitalism and sexuality led Rajneesh to become a charismatic cult leader. This charisma attracted Ma Anand Sheela, the woman who rose from a 20-year-old devotee to a powerful leader in the cult that launched a deadly bioterrorism attack on over 750 Americans.
In 1992, musician and computer programmer Chris Korda founded the Church of Euthanasia with a goal to control population through suicide, abortion, sodomy, and cannibalism. We examine the controversial cult and its members, their performance art and publicity stunts, and how the Church of Euthanasia finally faded from the public eye.
At just 10 years old, Chris Korda began to feel deeply fearful of climate change, and she worried greatly about the future of Earth. After an extraterrestrial dream warning her of the dangers of overpopulation, Korda founded the Church of Euthanasia in 1992 with a mission to downsize the world’s population. We look into Korda’s life, and what motivated her to encourage hundreds of followers to avoid procreation and embrace suicide.
Michel Collin and Jean-Gaston Tremblay, the two excommunicated self-crowned popes of the Apostles of Infinite Love, gained a following after presenting themselves to have mystical powers and visions. We investigate how the cult influenced people to uproot their lives and sacrifice everything to live under strict scrutiny, isolated from the rest of the world.
After having a religious vision when he was seven years old, Michel Collin set on a path to become Pope. In 1950 he made his own dreams come true and proclaimed himself Pope of the Apostles of Infinite Love in France. He quickly spread his cult to Canada with the help of Jean-Gaston Tremblay. We explore the cult’s twisted history and the leaders’ minds.
It’s hard to believe that human sacrifice still exists today. But from 2009 to 2012, Silvia Meraz Moreno led her family to offer human sacrifices to Santa Muerte in exchange for good fortune. We examine this familial cult’s crimes, and how one community tip finally ended the family’s gruesome sacrifices.
From 2009 to 2012 in Sonora, Mexico, Silvia Meraz Moreno put together a plan to receive good fortune from Santa Muerte, or Saint Death. She led her impoverished family to believe that they’d be rewarded with wealth in exchange for human sacrifices… so the Sect of Nacozari set out to kill.
In November 2014, a baby struggling for his life was left at an ER in the Atlanta area. Suspecting abuse, police found a man who was influenced by cult leader Dwight York, who has been imprisoned since 2004. We look into how York maintains control over his followers from prison, and how this control led to a cycle of abuse.
We explore the life of Dwight York, a manipulative cult leader who used his members for financial gain. Under his leadership, thousands of followers believed themselves to be descendants of aliens, waiting to be beamed up to another planet before the apocalypse. York’s control was so strong, many people still support him now, despite 100+ years remaining on his prison sentence.
Pyotr Kuznetsov, the leader of the radical “True Russian Orthodox Church” cult, convinced his followers the world would end on May 28th, 2008. As a result, around 29 to 35 cult members created a man-made cave, and buried themselves in it for six months. Tragically, two members died. We explore how Kuznetsov rose to power, and how he convinced his followers to do everything from removing processed food from their diets to completely isolating themselves from society.
Jim Jones was a farm boy who later turned into America’s deadliest cult leader. We take a deeper look into the cult’s followers as we try to comprehend why they allowed Jones to have complete control over their lives — control and power that ultimately led them to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Jim Jones controlled the most notorious American cult of all time — the Peoples Temple. In 1978, Jones’ leadership brought on the largest mass suicide and cult murder in modern history, where over 900 people died. We investigate how Jones and his idea of utopia led to such a devastating mass murder.
In 1993, The Branch Davidians—under David Koresh’s leadership—were raided by ATF agents just outside of Waco, Texas. Following the deadly raid, The Branch Davidians and the FBI underwent a 51-day stand-off that ended in the deaths of more than 70 Branch Davidians, including Koresh and about two dozen children.
David Koresh, born Vernon Wayne Howell, became an internationally name in 1993 as he led many of his followers in The Branch Davidians, and himself, to violent deaths after a 51-day standoff with the FBI. We focus on Koresh and how his childhood filled with abandonment and rejection led to his troubling reign as a controlling cult leader.
In part two of Aum Shinrikyo, we take a deeper look at the members of one of the most notorious cults in modern history. Shoko Asahara, the cult’s leader, established deep connections with his followers. These connections created a deadly devotion as the group worked toward destroying humanity.
In the 1980’s, a Japanese Buddhism-inspired cult, called Aum Shinrikyo, formed under a leader who tried to end the world. Greg and Vanessa explore Aum Shinrikyo—one of the most feared cults in history—its leader Shoko Asahara, and the group’s desire to eliminate humankind.
Greg and Vanessa further examine how Warren Jeffs’ leadership impacted the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Jeffs inherited the role as Prophet of the Church, giving him more power and control over his followers. Jeffs abused this power, leading many of his followers down a path of everlasting pain and destruction.
Greg and Vanessa explore the twisted life of Warren Jeffs and his influence on the Fundamentalist Cult of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Jeffs’s upbringing helped shape him into a cult leader who controlled his followers’ every move—from limiting their access to education to dictating who could marry who. His desire for power and control led him to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.