Whether it be drugs, alcohol or scandalous sex stories, whatever a celebrity gets up to in their spare time is always going to fascinate the majority of us. With the media hounding their every step, it is likely that one of these supposed role models is going to slip up one way or another. However, it’s how far they go that really intrigues us, with some celebrities going as far as joining strange religions and cults. But what really is a cult? Classified as a religious or social group, cults have a reputation for being somewhat extremely…. awful. Considered to be controversial to say the least, cults throughout time have a history of spreading racist ideologies and committing social deviance. From, terrorism, polygamy and extreme religious beliefs, to modern day Nazism and even Donald Trump, the use of the word is as loose as the practice itself.
So what happens when a celebrity so much as sniffs the idea of joining a cult? Career suicide of course! As a number of famous faces have been connected to such strange and idiotic practices throughout history, it can be difficult to understand just what on earth they were thinking in the first place. However, with a variety of them born into such weird and wacky operations, you can only feel sorry for those that really had no choice. As brainwashing is a major player in the world of cult organizations, it only makes it clear that celebrities are just as susceptible to persuasion as us normal folk. So, to highlight just how dangerous these cults can be, here are 15 examples of celebrities that have joined, or have been involved in weird creepy cults.
15. The Arquette Family
Born into the now renowned Skymont Subud commune in Virginia, USA, David Arquette and a number of his other famous siblings, practiced what is now known as the Indonesian spiritual movement. Described as a representation of the ‘power of God’, Subud encourages its followers to live in ultimate seclusion, away from the noise and distractions of the world. Living there until the late 70s, Arquette’s parents believed that the commune would benefit their children’s life. However, as struggling drug addicts themselves, their choice in religion was a little concerning. During an interview in 2011, Patricia Arquette, David’s older sister, claimed that it had originally started with a bunch of friends who were intent on building a utopian society, despite there being no electricity or bathrooms. Upon remembering the commune, Arquette later recalled “I don’t think there was even running water”. With Subud groups in just under 85 countries all over the world, the religious cult shows no signs of slowing down.
14. Tom Cruise
With Scientology one of the more famous ‘religious groups’ out there, there has been wide speculation on whether or not the religion is actually a cult at all. As one of their most famous recruits, Tom Cruise has often been connected to the founder of Scientology himself, L. Ron Hubbard, as well as promoting the group on a number of occasions.
The church of Scientology is by far one of the most controversial groups in Hollywood today. Claiming that human beings are immortal, and are in fact spiritual beings that have had past lives, including a number of extraterrestrial cultures, the Church of Scientology has managed to pick up a number of followers, with a huge amount of them recognizable celebrities. That’s right, not only is Tom Cruise an avid supporter but also, Kirstie Alley, Leah Remini, John Travolta, and Paul Haggis have all been connected to the group— Haggis eventually resigned from the church and refers to it as a cult.
13. Joaquin Phoenix
Much like the Arquettes, Joaquin Phoenix and his family, of which include the late actor River Phoenix, were brought up among a number of Californian hippies in the religious group, ‘Children of God’. Designed to spread a message of salvation, the Children of God movement devised an ideology based on the practice of ‘revolution and happiness’. Using sex to win converts, the founder of the movement gave himself the title of ‘King’, instructing all followers to refer to him as such.
Later commenting on the group, Phoenix claimed that his parents were initially brainwashed, believing that they had found something positive rather than the actual truth, proclaiming “I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out,”.
But the Phoenix’s were not the only celebrities embroiled in the cult as Rose McGowan later revealed that her family had also been brainwashed by the commune, detailing shocking accounts of sexual abuse within the camp. She later recalled, “you had no contact with the outside world, things that are completely unacceptable became normal. I remember watching how the cult’s men were with the women, and at a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women. They were basically there to serve the men sexually, you were allowed to have more than one wife”.
Taking the world by storm over the last few years, Kabbalah has actually been around for a lot longer. Originating from Judaism in the 12th and 13th century, Kabbalah is designed to focus mainly on the spirituality of human beings rather than the religion itself. Transitioning over time, Kabbalah is now attributed to a number of Hollywood A-listers, who have seemingly ruined the group’s authenticity. Despite recruiting a long list of followers from Lady GaGa, Mick Jagger, Ashton Kutcher, and Britney Spears, it is Madonna who seems to be the group’s most prominent and vocal advocate. With problematic statements constantly surrounding the practice and their followers, accusations such as exploitation, breaking up marriages, and orchestrating fake miracles have given the group its fair share of controversy. Nevertheless, the group seems to be getting stronger as more and more celebrities are spotted wearing the token thin red wristband— looks like Kabbalah is here to stay.
11. Paul Reubens
Best known for his character Pee Wee Herman from the popular Pee Wee Herman Show, Paul Reubens‘ career has had a number of ups and downs, mainly due to his arrest for ‘pleasing’ himself in a public movie theater and for owning videos of under-age sexual entertainment.
Better known as a parody religion, the Church of the SubGenius was designed to satirize a number of present and past religions and beliefs. Focusing on the philosophy of J.R. Dobbs, a salesman/prophet from the 1950s, SubGenius provides a mix of cultural references among religious satire. Founded by Ivan Stang, the group undermines a number of faiths, causing the media to write it off as a joke. With most people defending the movement as honest to its cause, the faith has garnered a collection of celebrity supporters, with David Byrne and Paul Reubens the most prominent.
Causing controversy as of late, ex-member and known anarchist, Bob Black alleged that the group had started to take on some of the cult-like aspects of other groups that they were supposed to be satirizing in the first place.
10. Neil Bush
Famous for his work and involvement in promoting the religious movement known as the Unification Church, Neil Bush, son of former President George W. Bush, has often been subject to accusations of brainwashing. Formed in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, a political activist who often referred to himself as the second coming of Christ, the practice itself is an extended branch of Christianity. Surrounded by allegations of brainwashing its members and participating in criminal activities, the church has undergone many controversial events.
Extremely homophobic, Moon has often been condemned for encouraging hate crimes, once professing “gays will be eliminated”. Supporting Moon’s idea of building a tunnel that would link Alaska and Russia, Bush endorsed the project, joining Moon on a promotional tour around the world, strangely announcing that he supported “efforts by faith leaders to call their flock into service to others”. Mocked worldwide, since Mr. Bush senior refused to comment on the subject and Moon died in 2002, Mr. Bush junior was left to defend the Unification Church all by himself.
9. Michelle Pfeiffer
Michelle Pfeiffer first became involved with the practice known as Breatharianism upon her arrival in Los Angeles. She later claimed in an interview that she had no idea she was actually involved in a cult until she met her now ex-husband, who incidentally was writing a movie about the Unification Church. Convincing her that the group was a little on the dodgy side, Pfeiffer resigned immediately.
Proclaiming to its followers that the essence of food and water is actually not necessary to human life, Breatharians explain that sunlight is in fact the only thing you really need to survive. Extremely dangerous and massively incorrect, the practice has lead to a number of people dying due to starvation or dehydration. Charging a variation of fees, the prices for joining the group can range from $10,000 to $100,000, with a requirement that you pay via wire transfer. Sounds legit right?
Named OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis or the Order of the Temple of the East), the group is mostly known through one of its more high-profile members, English author Aleister Crowley, once dubbed the ‘wickedest man in the world’. Initiated into the group, Crowley quickly began implementing his own ideas and objectives based on the law of Thelema.
Modeled after a form of Freemasonry, OTO is also based on an initiatory system, much like Freemasonry itself. With a strong fraternal affiliation, OTO teaches spiritual and philosophical ideologies, along with a number of rituals and ceremonies. With a long list of celebrities associated to the practice, the group seems to be getting stronger, despite the number of controversial comments that surround it. Its gained followers such as David Bowie, John Lennon, Rihanna, and Kayne West, but Jay Z seems to be the group’s biggest advocate— it’s no wonder he is often seen regularly showcasing the group’s motto, “Do What Thou Wilt”.
7. Glenn Close
With her parents joining the extreme conservative group MRA, The Moral Re-Armament cult, when she was seven years old, Glenn Close recently revealed what it was like growing up in such an intense environment. Branded as an international moral movement, designed to increase one’s spiritual perspective and encourage all members to continue at church, the group was quickly beginning to radicalize its followers.
Founded by American minister, Frank Buchman, the political movement was advertised as a form of morale during the second world war. Although the union held some Christian roots, the philosophy of the group was based on the ‘Four Absolutes’, of which included absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love.
Managing to escape the group when she went to college, Close recently discussed her time within the MRA, stating “you basically weren’t allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire”. Now renamed the Initiatives of Change, the group continues to recruit new followers, even after the death of Buchman, who passed in 1961.
6. Winona Ryder
Moving to the Rainbow commune, an organization that apparently didn’t believe in organizations, at only 7 years old, Winona Ryder had no idea how much the next few years would influence her. Surrounded by her parents’ prolific friends, such as author Michael Horowitz, Allen Ginsberg, and LSD fanatic Timothy Leary, Ryder was constantly around inspiration.
Although not considered to be an extreme or dangerous cult, the Rainbow commune believed everybody to be equal, therefore a leader was never implicated. Encouraged to live off the land, become self-sufficient, and live without electricity or any other technical devices. Ryder, her family, and seven other families lived peacefully for seven years.
Deciding to become an actress at an early age, probably due to the types of people she was often around, Ryder successfully made the transition from childhood star to movie star. Despite a few bumps along the way, shoplifting being one of them, Ryder recently rebooted her status as a Hollywood A-lister, in the popular Nextflix drama, Stranger Things.
5. Angel Haze
Raised among the followers of church group The Apostolic Faith, musician and rapper Angel Haze fled the community at 16 years old, claiming “we all lived in the same community, within 10 minutes of each other. You weren’t allowed to talk to anyone outside of that. You weren’t allowed to wear jewelry, listen to music, to eat certain things, to date people, you weren’t allowed to do pretty much anything”.
Founded in 1906 by Florence L. Crawford, The Apostolic Faith group can be found all around the world, promoting born-again ideologies and Christian perfection. Criticized for the amount of control that the church has on their members’ lives, it has been reported that radio, television and the use of a doctor were all at one point considered a sin.
Looking back, Haze often comments on her religious experience stating,”I think of religion as something that stains the person, it’s a mindset you can never get free from, it’s always in the back of your head. Even mine! I think, am I going to hell for this? Then I have to remind myself that I don’t f***ing believe in hell!”
4. Jaden Smith & Kylie Jenner
Joining a cult is one thing, but forming one is a whole new situation all together. When news broke that Jaden Smith and pals Kylie Jenner and Moisés Arias (that 20-year-old who was photographed shirtless in bed with a 13-year-old Willow Smith), were forming an organization designed to protect themselves from negative energies, the whole world rolled their eyes.
Likely just another attempt to thrust themselves into the spotlight, the group, named ‘The Orgonite Society’, even has its own Instagram account— yawn. With their own set of relics and memorabilia, the Orgonite Society produce their own bizarre pyramids and hockey pucks, intended to balance energy and cleanse the air around them. Not your average crafting club, the cult is loosely based on the findings of psychoanalyst and sex-obsessed Wilhelm Reich, who coined the term ‘orgone’, meaning cosmic-erotic energy.
Raised in a household that was strongly influenced by Scientology, it was only a matter of time before Jaden formed his own cult, and will likely get bored and form another one. As for Kylie partaking, who know’s what goes on in her head.
3. Angus T. Jones
Best known for his role as Jake Harper on the popular American TV show, Two and a Half Men, Angus Turner Jones has been somewhat ‘off’ as of late. Upon leaving the series, Jones became extremely critical of the show’s content, labeling it ‘filth’, and encouraging fans and the general public to stop watching. Saying that his religion had conflicted with his role, Jones often made it clear just how uncomfortable he was with the variety of adult storylines his teenage character had had throughout the later seasons.
Releasing a video for the mysterious ForeRunner Chronicles, a ministry that claims Satan is using music and the fashion industry to take over the world, Jones again slammed the popular TV show. With comments such as “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can’t. I’m not OK with what I’m learning, what the Bible says and being on that television show”. Friends and family began to worry, and his mother admitted that she feared her son had been brainwashed by the cult and its founder Christopher Hudson.
2. Andrew Keegan
Following in the footsteps of Jaden and Willow Smith, Andrew Keegan has also started his own cult, on the basis that he wanted to ‘activate high vibes’— whatever that means. The once notorious teen pin-up, famous for movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You and The Broken Hearts Club, founded the organization in 2014, naming it Full Circle.
Loosely following certain aspects of Hinduism, Full Circle claims to be a ‘new religion’, in which Keegan states that all people from all different backgrounds and beliefs can come together in peace and harmony. If only it were that easy huh? With its headquarters smack in the middle of Venice Beach, the chosen building once housed a Hare Krishna temple (how fitting). Labelled a cult by many, the Full Circle temple was recently raided by the Californian Alcohol Beverage Control, due to the distribution of the alcoholic drink Kombucha. Getting a slap on the wrists for not owning the correct paperwork, the Full Circle house was briefly shut down. Despite the minor setback, Keegan’s Full Circle is still as popular as ever, with some followers dedicating their whole lives to his mission.
1. Dennis Wilson
Co-founder and drummer for legendary band The Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson was also a talented songwriter, credited for the surfer appeal that The Beach Boys claimed to possess. However, as well as talented, Wilson also had a roving eye, which often got him into trouble on a number of occasions.
When driving home on the way back to his Sunset Boulevard mansion, Wilson spotted two teenage girls hitchhiking for a ride home. Convincing them to come back to his digs, Wilson unknowingly embarked on the worst decision of his life. The girls were a part of the Manson Family, a cult led by the deranged and menacing Charles Manson. Invitations were quickly sent out, using Wilson’s home as a crash pad/cult headquarters. Instead of telling them to leave, Wilson became fascinated and allowed Manson and his followers to stay for as long as they wanted.
Spending up to $100,000 on the squatters, of which included penicillin shots for a rancid outbreak of gonorrhea, Wilson apparently even wrote a couple of songs with the future serial killer himself. However, as quickly as the relationship began, it just as swiftly turned sour. Manson threatened Wilson with a bullet, resulting in a fist-fight. As Manson went on to commit a series of shocking crimes, Wilson wisely distanced himself. He later drowned in Los Angeles at age 39.