The Most Famous Cults in United States History

Cults In America

Peoples Temple Cult Mass Suicide - Wikipedia

America is famous for many things, mixing peanut butter with jelly, hot dogs, massive cars, the mob, and of course crazy ass cults. As much as us humans have somehow managed to take huge steps forward in technology and science, there's no getting away from the fact our brains are easily manipulated. Our need to find reasoning in everything we do, including living, can find some of us going down a bit of a rabbit hole. That's where cults step in ...

There are many strange cults throughout America's history. Some believe that even the current US government is part of a satanic cult collective, and judging by some of the symbolism we see in the media today that might just be the case. Many of your favorite celebrities are, or have been,  in some kind of strange cult. Michelle Pfeiffer was once a member of the Breatharian Cult  which believed you didn’t need to eat or drink to live, all you needed was the sun ...

Here are some crazy cults in america that have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons throughout history.


Scientology is probably one of the largest and now most famous current religious cults in America today. Founded by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard back in 1948, the church as recruited many famous celebrities among its followers. Before he founded Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard was once quoted saying “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” Unfortunately the success of this cult proves that humans really are easily manipulated and not so clever after all.

Scientology was based on Hubbard’s system of Dianetics, which he called “the modern science of mental health”. Scientologist believe in what they call the 'Thetans' which are the souls of murdered space aliens. Thetans have to be spoken to telepathically and told to leave humans (or you) alone so one can become "clear". These aliens were once part of a galactic confederation that existed 75 million years ago, ruled over by the evil galactic overlord Xenu.

Branch Davidians

The Branch Davidians were formed by David Koresh in 1959. Koresh had originally joined the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists, but was soon expelled due to his radical views and beliefs. Koresh believed he was a messiah and that every women on the planet were his spiritual wives. Koresh formed the Branch Davidians in Texas and believed the end of the world was near, they also stockpiled a huge an armory of weapons.

The Branch Davidians were soon under the spotlight due to Koresh’s disturbing sexual practices which including marrying underage girls and sleeping with the wives of the other church member’s. The cult was considered dangerous due to the large weapons stash on the compound and in 1993 this came to a head thanks to a controversial raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The ATF took part in a 51-day siege of the compound and was covered 24/7 by American news agencies. In the end tanks were brought in to fire tear gas into the sides of building of the compound, but fires broke out instead. A total of 77 Branch Davidians died including 22 children in the fires which eventually tore through the compound.

Heaven’s Gate

The Heaven’s Gate cult made the headlines in 1997 when 39 members killed themselves. The cult members believed that by taking their lives they would reach a spaceship which was flying behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. It was later discovered that Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles were the founders of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Applewhite claimed to have had a vision while having a near-death experience in the 1970s, Bonnie Nettles was his nurse at the time. They were convinced they were “The Two” mentioned in The Book of Revelation 11:3 and began to attract followers and form the cult.

The Heaven’s Gate group committed suicide by taking cyanide and arsenic, vodka, and phenobarbital mixed with pineapple juice. They were dressed in black clothing and even had armband patches that said “Heaven’s Gate Away Team”.

The Manson Family

Charles Manson is probably one of the most notorious cult leaders in existence. He founded a cult called “The Family” in San Francisco in 1967. The Manson Family was a non-religious cult, but Manson himself had beliefs based around Scientology, and Satanism. Manson prophesied that America would go through what he called “Helter Skelter”, a race war he named after the Beatles song. Helter Skelter would be won by the African Americans, but they would eventually turn to the whites for leadership in the future. The Manson Family planned to hide during the Helter Skelter race war, but emerge afterwards to lead the African Americans.

Manson tried to manipulate the beginnings of the race war by allegedly ordering the killings of nine nearby people which he’d frame on the African Americans. The most famous of the victims was the pregnant wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, along with coffee heiress Abigail Folger.

Peoples Temple

The Peoples Temple cult was formed by Jim Jones, one of the most infamous cult leader in American history. Jones attracted many African-Americans from the 1950s to the 1970s, due to his favorable views on racial equality. Peoples Temple, first relocated to Utah, because he believed this would give the cult the best chance of surviving the coming nuclear war.

By the 1970s Jones had acquired a decent level of political power and had church denominations built in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 1977 the cult was exposed by the New West Magazine so Jones relocated his congregation to “The Commune” in Guyana, South America.

U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to Guyana to meet up with Jones but things went wrong Ryan. Jones’s people didn’t great Ryan with open arms and instead shot and killed him. Jones knew that US authorities would soon be on their way in retaliation for Ryan’s murder so he ordered a mass suicide. At least 900 members of the Peoples Temple cult drank a poison mixed with Flavor Aid, it’s believed many were forced to take the drink against their will ...