Throughout history, the world has witnessed the rise of various cults that have left a trail of fear, manipulation, and tragedy in their wake. These cults often revolve around charismatic leaders who exploit the vulnerabilities of their followers, leading them down a dark and dangerous path. Here are 11 of the most terrifying cults in history, each with its own disturbing story.
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Led by Jim Jones, this cult is infamous for the Jonestown Massacre in 1978, where over 900 members died in a mass murder-suicide. Jones exerted absolute control over his followers through psychological manipulation and fear.
Founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, this cult believed in extraterrestrial salvation. In 1997, 39 members committed mass suicide in hopes of reaching an alien spacecraft they believed was trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
Led by David Koresh, this religious sect engaged in a violent standoff with federal agents in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The siege ended in a catastrophic fire that claimed the lives of nearly 80 cult members, including children.
Led by Shoko Asahara, this Japanese doomsday cult carried out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack, killing 13 people and injuring thousands. The cult also committed other heinous acts and believed in an impending apocalypse.
This secretive cult, founded by Luc Jouret and Joseph Di Mambro, believed in a mix of New Age and Christianity. Over the years, numerous members died in murder-suicides, believing they were transitioning to a new life on another planet.
Charles Manson and his followers, known as the Manson Family, committed a series of gruesome murders in the late 1960s. Manson manipulated his followers into carrying out the killings in hopes of starting a race war.
In Uganda, Joseph Kibwetere and Credonia Mwerinde founded this cult, which predicted the apocalypse. In 2000, over 700 members perished in a mass murder-suicide, believing they would be transported to heaven.
Before Jonestown, Jim Jones led this cult in the United States. It was marked by physical and psychological abuse, with members subjected to forced labor and coerced loyalty.
Led by David Berg, this cult promoted sexual exploitation and abuse of children in the name of religious doctrine. The group later rebranded as The Family International but faced numerous allegations of misconduct.
NXIVM, led by Keith Raniere, operated under the guise of personal development but engaged in manipulation, exploitation, and sexual abuse. Raniere and several high-ranking members were arrested and convicted on various charges.
This Ethiopian cult, led by self-proclaimed prophet Getachew Gebre and his wife, Kidist Birhane, emerged in the early 2000s. They claimed to be the final messengers of God and predicted the end of the world. Tragically, in 2005, hundreds of cult members perished in a devastating fire at their compound in Tigray, Ethiopia, under mysterious circumstances.
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