Initiation is one of those controversial topics that has gotten increased negative press in the last few years. It generally signifies new membership into a club or group, and while some examples of initiation can be fun and bring people together, others are downright traumatizing. Popular on college campuses, most fraternities or sororities still have rites of initiation, but the focus is now being put on making the experience fun and mildly embarrassing, rather than something that causes a new member to need therapy.
For the vast majority of high school and college teams, at least in the United States, there is at least some form of initiation; and these days, most of them are alcohol-based. More often than not, a good time is experienced by all members, whether a veteran of the group or a newcomer, that sometimes ends up with a hangover and some funny memories.
Of course, sometimes a hazing ritual goes too far. There are examples of people dying or being seriously injured during initiation stunts gone wrong. Whether a fraternity, sports team, or college club, there is a great deal of concern over what constitutes legitimate initiation and what constitutes punishable hazing. However, in the world of criminal gangs, where there is concern for nothing more than loyalty, initiation rites take a different and terrifying form. There is little supervision, no governing oversight other than the hierarchy, and quite literally the only purpose of these is to test would-be members to see if they have what it takes to serve the purpose of the group.
Some are disgusting, some are dehumanizing and shocking, while others are just confusing. Here are fifteen of the most troubling and horrifying gang initiation rituals around the world.
15 Hell's Angels - A Smelly "Baptism"
Probably the most famous of any gang on this list, the Hell's Angels have hundreds of chapters in dozens of countries across the globe. When one thinks of a motorcycle gang, these are the guys who come to mind. The rituals, beliefs, and practices of this group came to light in the United States after journalist Hunter S. Thompson spent a year with a California chapter of the gang, publishing a book (amazing read, by the way) titled Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.
Their initiation ritual may not be practiced by all chapters these days, but it is pretty simple and disgusting. When a new member is ready to be "patched in," they are instructed to go buy a new pair of jeans and a denim jacket. The members then gather a large amount of fecal matter and urine and proceed to dump it on that new recruit. There is then a period of time during which those clothes cannot be washed.
14 18th Street Gang - 18 Second Beating
The 18th Street Gang has grown from a small group in Los Angeles to a criminal empire with influence that stretches and indeed dominates the streets of areas of central America and Mexico, along with having operations in several European countries. They specialize in the usual street crimes including robbery, car theft, drug trafficking, assault, and murder, but the 18th Street Gang is also known to have been involved with human trafficking and illegal immigration initiatives.
The 18 second beating is a theme for this gang, and they often employ it as a disciplinary measure when proper respect isn't shown to a leading member or if a member goes against the gang's rules. When a new recruit is deemed ready for membership, several of the more capable members wail on him for a period of 18 seconds, and as long as that recruit fights back (against 5-6 usually larger men), they will then be welcomed into the gang.
13 Triads - Blood Cocktail
The Triad is the most widely-recognized of Chinese gangs and has chapters all over the world; basically anywhere in which there is a large Chinese community. There are members in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and of course, all across Asia. Like any good criminal organization, there is an interesting ritual for all new members, although there are some variations for different chapters. One ritual involves saying a pledge after drinking a mix of wine and the blood of a sacrificed animal (usually a goat or chicken). Other chapters of the gang make this cocktail but use the blood of other members and recruits, along with wine and ashes to make it. In some of these sects, failure to keep this nasty concoction down is punishable by death.
12 Junky Funky Kids - Vicious Beating
The Junky Funky Kids, who operate in areas in and around the Cape Flats part of Cape Town, South Africa, are just one of several dangerous gangs that operate in those areas. They are affiliated with local prison gangs and often stock their ranks with young children, some in their early teens (not an uncommon practice for gangs in general). They are primarily poor children and in some cases orphans.
There are a couple of rituals that are listed among their practices for new members, including r*ping a woman and sustaining a brutal beating. That beating often takes the form of "running the gauntlet," in which a recruit is forced to run between two lines of members who are armed with...well...whatever weapons they can get their hands on. Anyone who gets through that is considered tough enough to be a member.
11 Texas Syndicate - Killing A Rival Gang Member
While the Texas Syndicate is primarily a prison-based gang, they have many members who operate on the outside. The group was started in the 1970's in California's prison system, in response to the need for more protection for Mexican-Americans (primarily from Texas) who were in the Cali prison system. They now have allegiances with other gangs and have a membership in the thousands throughout the southern United States.
While this may not be the only initiation used by the Texas Syndicate, it is a popular one and frankly makes the most practical sense in terms of actually advancing the gang's goals. Plain and simple, many young people trying to get into this group are instructed to kill a member of a rival gang. In 2006, Andres Garcia was arrested for allegedly luring George Garza, a member of rival Valluco prison gang, and then stabbing him to death.
10 United Blood Nation - Slashing
The United Blood Nation, who still operate to this day in New York, was a gang started back in the early 1990's to protect members from Puerto Rican and Hispanic gangs, such as the Latin Kings and Netas. The gang, like most prison gangs, has members behind bars and members on the outside, and as of the 2000's, had membership that was in the thousands (about 7,000 in 2005).
There are a few different methods of initiation in this gang. Most gangs will just have their way with female members (referred to as s*xed-in) who want to join. But for males who want to get into the United Bloods, they usually have to endure a vicious beating (generally 31 seconds) or give a member of a rival gang a "buck-50," which is a slash across the face that requires a hundred and fifty stitches.
9 Aryan Brotherhood - Murder
The Aryan Brotherhood is a white supremacist gang that operates primarily within the federal prison system in the United States. They have an ultra-violent reputation that is well-earned. Between full members and associates both within and outside of the prison system, the group has an estimated membership of around 10,000, and as the name implies, it is a white gang. Although, they do have alliances with some Hispanic gangs.
Within the prison system, there is a widely agreed upon initiation requirement, and it is that a new recruit must kill someone. Sometimes, that person is allowed to chose between taking out a prison guard or a rival gang member, but other times, the decision is made by the member in a position of leadership. In some cases, a recruit is instructed to kill two people; either way, a murder is involved.
8 Numbers Gangs - The Umbrella Question
The Numbers Gangs operate in South Africa and do so both inside and outside of the prison system. Their initiation rituals vary based on whether or not a given cell of the gang is in prison or on the outside. On the outside, the operation is run very much like a business, while inside the prison is where activities are ruthless and violent, particularly within the realm of initiation.
Within prisons, there are a couple of parts to the initiation process. First, a new prisoner or prospective member is asked a question by a member. That question is something to the effect of "if it is raining, and you have an umbrella but I do not, what would you do?" If the recruit answers, "I will share my umbrella," he is deemed unworthy of membership and becomes a s*x slave. If the person answers that, he will put down his umbrella and stand in the rain (signifying willingness to share a burden and way of life). Then, he is deemed fit to join the gang. If the question is answered correctly, he is then tasked with either stabbing another prisoner or a guard.
7 MS -13 - Tons Of Options
Like a few other gangs that made it to our list, there are a few different ways to get into Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). This gang is one of the most notorious out there and has even been mentioned directly by Donald Trump, who has pledged to eradicate them in particular. An estimated 70,000 in their ranks, they are as violent as they are numerous, and what was once a Los Angeles-based operation, now has interests across the United States and in Canada. Most new members are initiated in a two-step process. First, they have to kill a rival gang member, and once their kill has been confirmed, they are brutally beaten by other members while local leaders count to thirteen slowly.
Other members have been instructed to attack strangers or cops, and of course, many of the women who get into this gang do so by offering themselves to multiple members.
6 Mungiki - Bathing In Goat Blood And Urine
Mungiki is a religious/ethnic sect in Kenya. As with some of the groups we'll cover in this list, some people will argue that the people involved with Mungiki are innocent victims in a struggle against the Kenyan government, but their operations closely mimic gang activities. In the Kikuyu language, "mungiki" means "united people" or "multitude," and the basic goals of the group include rejection of all things Western and embracing traditional African culture. Do they spread their message and beliefs through peaceful interaction and pamphlets? Absolutely not. The majority of what they do is criminal, from extortion to execution.
The group control certain parts of major cities in Kenya and generally recruit youths from poor neighborhoods. Many recruits show up voluntarily, but the group does practice kidnapping and forced recruitment. Their initiation ritual for new recruits includes a pledge but also a bath in a mixture of goat's blood, urine, and tripe.
5 Latin Kings - A Drive By (Among Others)
The Latin Kings, a gang that started out back in the 1950's in Chicago, are among the largest gangs in the world. While accurate numbers are difficult to come up with (do we include associates or just full members?), the group has somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 members across the United States (mainly on the east coast), in Canada, Mexico, and in several countries in central America.
Given the size of the gang and the number of areas in which they operate, there are a few initiation rituals. In many places, it is normal to get "jumped in." Others have been initiated by murdering other gang members who were in poor standing, while others still have witnessed gang members forcing themselves on their girlfriend as a rite of passage. Finally, in areas in which the Gangster Disciples (a rival gang) operate, groups of Latin Kings may drive around showing GD hand symbols and then carry out a drive-by shooting on anyone who flashes the signal back. Then, the new recruit is expected to participate in the kill.
4 Knights Templar Cartel - Eat A Human Heart
A relative newcomer in the world of criminal gangs, the Knights Templar Cartel, which operates in Mexico, was officially founded in 2011 after the disbanding of La Familia Michiacana. Their primary operations revolve around drugs, and they have a truly terrifying initiation ritual for new members.
Aside from drug-related operations, the cartel has numerous other interests, including smuggling organs. According to a report a couple of years ago, children were rescued from a refrigerated van that was linked to this group, and they were thought to have been intended for organ trafficking. New recruits who hoped to join the Knights Templar have been forced to eat a child's heart in order to prove their loyalty to the cause.
3 ISIS - Does This Count As Initiation?
Yes, we know that there is some discrepancy listing a major terrorist organization along with prison gangs, but recruiting methods and reliance on crime for income make terror organizations like ISIS similar enough to gangs to list them here.
While many of the initiation rites we have discussed here are things that people go through to get into gangs, ISIS (ISIL, whatever) does things a bit differently. For several years, they have been using s*xual tactics to get people to join their ranks. They will brutally violate any men they wish to join their cause and catch it on video tape. The threat being that they will show it to that person's family members, destroying them in the eyes of those they love. ISIS calls euphemistically calls this process "marriage" and in many cases, the thought of joining the group is less horrifying for a victim than having to explain to family members what happened.
2 Boko Haram - Killing Parents
Again, we're listing a terrorist group among gangs, as their activities and methods are similar, but they just operate on a somewhat grander scale. This group is one of the deadliest and most disgusting on Earth and employ many methods when it comes to spreading terror. They were founded in Nigeria over a decade ago, but now operate in several African countries. While there are many Jihadis who willingly join their ranks, they often kidnap young people and force them into service. One of the first things that often happen when these kids are taken is that the local leaders will take them back to their villages and force them to kill their parents. It is a method of psychologically breaking a kid and has been used in many war zones in recent years, including Joseph Kony in Uganda and the Sierra Leone conflict.
1 Mac Baller Brims - Take A Beating Or Commit A Murder
The Mac Baller Brims are a relatively small group operating in New York City, but they have made a mark on that area through brutality both inside and outside of the prison system. Back in late 2014, police estimated their numbers to be over 500, but there is no telling how much that number has grown by now.
The gang mostly deals drugs, with Oxycontin, heroin, and crack being the big ticket money-makers. However, they also have plenty of killers who ruthlessly hunt down members of rival gangs. They have more than one ritual to get into the gang, but two of the most common are taking a brutal beating (getting jumped in) and in other cases, recruits are told to murder someone. The order to kill has been given to men as young as 14, with one kid missing his target and then getting killed by police.