16 Weirdest Cults of All Time

Everyone needs to belong somewhere. Many people find acceptance and belonging within their immediate family, or within their chosen network of friends. However, there are some people who take this notion of belonging too far and form cults, where the idea of belonging hinges on a central belief that all the members share. Often this central belief is harmless, but if left unchecked, it can spiral out of control.

Here are a few of the weirdest and most destructive cults of all time.

1. Peoples Temple

The leadership of the Peoples Temple was directly responsible for the deaths of 918 people — the largest single loss of American life until the events of 9/11.

The Peoples Temple was a large cult that was founded by Jim Jones in Indiana in 1955. Eventually, Jones decided to relocate his headquarters to a remote community in Guyana in 1974. A few years after the commune was formed, the American government sent Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate reports of coercion and illegal activities, where he was shot by Temple security guards as he was attempting to leave.

Fearing retribution, Jones ordered his followers to commit suicide. At least 900 people living on the commune died that day.

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Nancy Wong / Own Work

Nancy Wong / Own Work

2. Heaven’s Gate

The Heaven’s Gate cult was formed by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, and was focused on the belief that Earth was about to be “recycled,” and the only way to be saved was to commit suicide just as the comet Halle-Bopp was entering the Earth’s orbit.

38 members of Heaven’s Gate committed suicide in March of 1997. After eating poisoned apple sauce, they all lay down neatly on their bunks to await the alien spacecraft that would transport them to a higher plane of existence.

3. The Westboro Baptist Church

Although many people don’t call it a cult, it’s hard to see the Westboro Baptist Church as a church when they have so many disgusting and unfounded fringe beliefs. They receive most of their publicity from picketing funerals, including the funerals of American soldiers who perished in combat. They believe that these deaths help atone for the “moral decay” that has overtaken America.

a katz / Shutterstock.com

a katz / Shutterstock.com

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