What do you think of when you hear the word “cult?” Do you envision people wearing white robes and engaging in weird and creepy rituals? Do you envision guys with freakishly long beards who invite people into a journey inside their mind so they can achieve inner peace? Or, does something more sinister come to mind like the Children of the Corn? The word “cult” can evoke all kinds of images because there are all kinds of different cults.
There’s doomsday cults, political cults, racist cults, terrorist cults, and you definitely can’t forget about the religious cults. Some cults will preach love and harmony and say that they want to change the world for the better. Other cults will do the same exact thing while engaging in more sinister behavior behind the scenes.
While some think that people who get involved with cults are nothing more than wackos with nothing better to do with their lives, some cults have managed to snag a celebrity or two. Some celebrities join cults later in their lives while others were born into them. Certain cult leaders will target celebrities and try to bring them into the fold so the cult can get financed, or they’ll target celebrities and win them over as trophies. And it’s not an uncommon thing for celebrities to join cults. Here are some of the cases of celebrities who were involved with dangerous cults.
15. John Lennon — Source Family
The Source Family was a spiritual commune housed in the Hollywood Hills. The founder, Father Yod, owned The Source restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., which was an all-natural vegan joint founded on the “dietary wisdom found in the teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Essene Gospels of Peace.” Father Yod’s teachings mixed Judeo-Christian traditions with Eastern mysticism, pagan rites, Native American rituals, and more.
Early in the history of the Source Family, Yod was a positive figure who had a powerful impact on his followers. But then, his beliefs started becoming a little extreme and he started taking on more wives. He had 14 of them. It’s unclear just how much John Lennon was involved with the Source Family or if he was even involved with them at all, but it’s true that he dined frequently at the restaurant.
14. Lisa Marie Presley — Church Of Scientology
In some countries, the Church of Scientology has gained legal recognition as a religion. Everywhere else, it has been the subject of plenty of controversies as numerous critics condemned it as not only a cult but a commercial enterprise. It’s an incredibly secretive organization created by a sci-fi author named L. Ron Hubbard, who believed that the best way to make money was to start a religion. He believed that Scientologists should target prominent individuals and bring them in as trophies.
Lisa Marie Presley grew up in the Church of Scientology but didn’t like it. She said, “I was surrounded by people who were not well-intended. Basically, it was a big sinister situation, where there was like, kind of intel and covert ops going on, and a whole effort to control me that I didn’t know about…They were taking my soul, my money, my everything.” She finally left the Church in 2014.
13. Glenn Close — Moral Re-Armament (MRA)
When she was young, Glenn Close, along with her family, left her grandfather’s estate in Connecticut for a “very glamorous, exclusive hotel” in Switzerland, which served as the MRA’s headquarters. The MRA was founded by Rev. Frank Buchanan, an anti-intellectual fundamentalist who believed that only those who received special guidance from God were free from sin. Glenn said of her time there that she “basically wasn’t allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire.”
The cult prohibited any kind of free-thinking and pretty much dictated how the members lived and what they said. While studying at the College of William and Mary, Close had an epiphany where she realized just how dangerous the MRA was, so she left. She credits the group with giving her the natural ability to act, as she had to pretend she agreed with their beliefs.
12. Joaquin Phoenix — Children Of God
Joaquin Phoenix was born into the Children of God. His parents joined the group in the 1970’s, and they traveled all over Central and South America with it with their children. The Children of God has gone by many names since its inception in 1968. It was originally called Teens of Christ, then the Children of God, the Family of Love, and The Family. Now, it’s known as The Family International.
Over the years, the Children of God has incurred controversy following reports of s*xual abuse of young children. David Berg, the preacher who founded the cult, wrote in one of his letters, “God created boys and girls able to have children by about 12 years of age.” Phoenix said that his parents realized that the Children of God was a cult by this point and they left.
11. Peaches Geldof — Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)
People looked at Peaches Geldof as the type to go with whatever was trending at the moment. She was involved with the Church of Scientology and Judaism at different times in her life. So, when she revealed that she was a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis on Twitter, many people thought she would eventually get bored with it and move on to something else. Except, she didn’t.
Geldof proved that she was a loyal devotee to the cause, having the organization’s initials tattooed on her left forearm and encouraging friends to take part in “a belief system to apply to day-to-day life to attain peacefulness.” The OTO was founded by occultist Aleister Crowley, who was once called “the wickedest man in the world.” His form of worship included sadomasochistic rituals with men and women and spells which he said could bring forth malicious gods.
10. Jayne Mansfield — Church Of Satan
The Church of Satan wasn’t like other cults. It was a place for people to party. And as a result, many celebrities opted to join in, eventually turning the Church of Satan into a very prominent and profitable religious organization. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church, created it in the first place as an escape from mainstream society. He attracted people who were willing to do anything to get into the entertainment industry and make themselves known.
At the time, during the mid-60s, Jayne Mansfield’s career was in a decline, and she didn’t have the same popularity she used to have. Looking for a way back into the limelight, she joined the Church of Satan, and LaVey invited her to become his high priestess. Allegedly, in 1967, Mansfield hung her certificate of membership in her bedroom. Later that same year, she died in a car accident.
9. Michelle Pfeiffer — Breatharianism
When Michelle Pfeiffer was first starting out in Hollywood, she became involved with a “very controlling” couple who were proponents of Breatharianism. Breatharians believe that humans can live off sunlight without the need for food and water, gathering all the vitamins and nutrients they need to survive from the sun. It’s a controversial practice that has resulted in multiple deaths over the years. Pfeiffer was put under strict ordinance by the extremely controlling couple.
She said, “I wasn’t living with them but I was there a lot and they were always telling me I needed to come more. I had to pay for all the time I was there, so it was financially very draining…” When the actress was helping her first husband, Peter Morton, with research on Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s cult for a movie, she realized she was in one and she left.
8. Christopher Owens — Children Of God
Christopher Owens compared being raised in the Children of God to being raised by the Taliban. “Being told everybody else in the world is bad, rejecting technology, rejecting medical research, being devoted to God and believing America was evil and the end of the world was coming: all the same principles,” Owens once said. The singer and guitarist of the now-disbanded indie rock band Girls, said that by the age of 16, he was living with the cult in Slovakia as they traveled the world attempting to find more members.
His sister, who left the cult sometime earlier, encouraged him to do the same, and he escaped to Amarillo, Texas. Owens barely knew how to function, having never used a telephone before in his entire life. He consumed popular culture voraciously and discovered his love for music.
7. Angel Haze — Greater Apostolic Faith
As a young girl, Angel Haze’s (born Raeen Angel Wilson) mother became involved with the Greater Apostolic Faith after she “met this guy.” He was a preacher who told her that God wanted her to drop out of college. He was already married with kids of his own, but he wanted the Wilsons to move in with him under the idea that Haze’s mother would become another wife for him. She went along with it as she was in a “state of severe vulnerability.”
Haze said, “You weren’t allowed to talk to anyone outside of [the community], 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.” She remembers being told on multiple occasions that she was going to die if she didn’t behave properly. She and her mother eventually left the order after a minister threatened her mother.
6. Dennis Wilson — Manson Family
Dennis Wilson met Charles Manson through two of his female followers. The two women were hitchhiking through Malibu when they were picked up by the Beach Boys drummer (who often picked up hitchhikers) and taken to his luxurious log cabin. Wilson left for the recording studio for a recording session, but when he returned in the early hours of the morning, the entire Manson Family was waiting there for him. Wilson treated the home invasion a lot more amicably than most people would.
He hung out with Manson, who he discovered had a penchant for music. Wilson introduced him to record producer Terry Melcher, but following a failed recording session, Manson told his followers to kill everyone in Melcher’s house, not knowing that Melcher had recently leased the house to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. The house became the scene of the brutal Tate murders.
5. Winona Ryder — Rainbow Family Commune Of Living Light
Winona Ryder spent part of her childhood living in the Rainbow commune in northern California. But it wasn’t just her and her family, as she had to live with seven other families on a farm. Not only that, there was absolutely no electricity, no TVs, and no music. Ryder fought against the repression by escaping into literature. Her mother would secretly screen movies in the farm’s barn, and the future actress developed an interest in acting after watching some of the movies.
The Rainbow Family of Living Light, commonly known as the Rainbow Family, is a counterculture hippie group made up of a loose affiliation of smaller groups with no central leadership. While many of those who attend Rainbow Gatherings had their yearly meetings preach love, peace, and unity, the meetings also attract people who engage in drug abuse, theft, and violent crime. At least two people have died at the meetings.
4. Andy Kaufman — Psychic Surgery
Psychic surgery isn’t so much a cult as it is a questionable medical practice. Still, its leader has gained a cult-like following of followers who truly believe in his healing powers. After Andy Kaufman was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer in 1983, he went on an all-natural diet and tried using palliative radiotherapy, but neither could help. So, Kaufman traveled to the Philippines for psychic surgery from Jun Labo.
In psychic surgery, a “doctor” lays his hands on the patient, and through a process involving fake blood, animal organs, and plenty of theatrical movement, the patient is assured that he/she has been healed through the healing power of the mind. While it seemed to work at first, Kaufman died in 1983 from renal failure as a result of metastatic lung cancer.
3. Neil Young — Manson Family
In Neil Young‘s defense, he wasn’t really involved with the Manson Family; he was more interested in garnering a record contract for Charles Manson. Manson was an aspiring musician by the time he met Dennis Wilson, the drummer for the Beach Boys. He had a talent for songwriting, had a nice voice, and was charismatic enough for people to excuse some of his distasteful behaviors. Sometime later, Manson met Young after the latter visited Wilson’s Los Angeles home.
Despite the fact that Manson’s songs were “off-the-cuff” and “never the same twice in a row,” Young thought that the spiritual leader was pretty good. Young felt an affinity for Manson and tried to score him a record deal. He kind of succeeded; Manson’s recordings were commercially released on the album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.
2. Val Kilmer — Christian Science
Two years ago, Val Kilmer was rushed to the hospital after he started bleeding from his throat. Doctors at the UCLA Medical Center removed a tumor from his throat through invasive surgery, and Kilmer’s family believed that he had put off surgery because it didn’t fall in line with his spiritual beliefs. Since the summer before the emergency surgery, Kilmer had been neglecting his health and had trouble speaking at times. The following year, Michael Douglas said that Kilmer had throat cancer, but Vilmer denied this clams and said that he just had a swollen tongue.
Christian Science says that sickness and injury are not physical afflictions and that prayer is the only solution; if someone seeks medical treatment, it is considered an offense to God. However, Kilmer’s family is hoping that he’s a little more receptive towards medical treatment in the future before something terrible happens.
1. Rose McGowan — Children Of God
Rose McGowan spent the first nine years of her life mixed up with the Children of God, but even at a young age, she knew something was very, very wrong, calling their beliefs “absurd.” She grew up with her parents, who were zealous about Jesus on a large commune where there were no newspapers or televisions. McGowan and her family left the Children of God after they started promoting s*x between children and adults.
David Berg, believing that girls were ready to pop out babies at the tender age of 12, attempted to “do it” with one of his daughters several times. He then entered into a continuous s*xual relationship with his other daughter. Fortunately, McGowan’s father didn’t follow Berg’s example, and he and the family fled the commune in the middle of the night.
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