The Strangest Cults You've Never Heard Of

If you're like me, you have a relentless fascination with cults. It's not unusual for humans to be obsessed with cults and cult history, but there's no denying that some get more airtime than others. That leaves strangest cults no one has ever heard of to fall by the wayside, even though they're just as bizarrely fascinating as their more well-known cousins. Much of the reason these little-known cults are, well, little-known is because their actions weren't particularly gruesome or newsworthy (and didn't infringe on the lives and rights of people outside of the cult); indeed, their group activity was kept pretty secretive, or their members didn't survive for too long. Either way, though, they're all still pretty spooky.

Of course, some of the better known cults are really well-known. Charles Manson and his "family," for example, who lived in various ranches in the California desert, have become particularly famous. You've likely also heard of the Jonestown cult, where 912 members drank poisoned Kool-Aid in the late 1970s. (It's where we get the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid," meaning, "To become a firm believer in something; to accept an argument or philosophy wholeheartedly or blindly.")

But for all you curious minds who can't get enough cult information, here are four lesser-known, strange cults you've never heard of before.

1. Ho No Hana Sanpogyo

The founder of this Japan-based cult, Hogen Fukanga, claimed to be a reincarnation of both the Buddha and Jesus Christ, but that's not the strangest part. Fukanga also said he could diagnose people's problems by simply reading their feet, and if he didn't diagnose their feet, he told them they would die. Followers were charged 900 dollars per foot inspection — until those same followers eventually realized they were being had, leading the cult to unravel.

2. The Ant Hill Kids

This Canadian cult was lead by Roch "Moïse" Thériault, who is considered to be one of the most infamous criminals in Canadian history. In the 1970s, he set up a commune in preparation for the apocalypse, which he claimed was due to arrive in February of 1979; his offer of guidance and spirituality was attractive to a number of people, and they became his followers, the "Ant Hill Kids." Nine women in the group were treated as concubines, being required to have sex with Thériault and the commune's other men. They would have 20 children between the nine of them.

Thériault reportedly had both drinking and control problems, which came to a climax one day when he chopped off the arm of one of his female followers. The follower ran to the hospital, leading to his arrested; in 1993, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years of jail time.

3. Blackburn Cult

The Blackburn Cult, also known as the “Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven,” was started by May Otis Blackburn and Ruth Wieland Rickenbaugh Rizzio in the early 1920s. The mother and daughter pair claimed they had seen angels that would lead them to gold and oil; furthermore, they said that these angels also apparently told them that Jesus was going to return. The duo and their nine followers (which made up the Great Eleven) moved out to Simi Valley in California, where they built cabins and temples.

A number of mysterious incidents and disappearances were alleged to be the work of the cult; a woman, for example, was allegedly burned in a homemade brick oven to cure her of some ailment and died two days later. Additionally, the body of a 16-year-old girl involved in the cult was found under the floorboards of her adoptive parents' home; her body had been preserved by ice, spices, and salt, and next to her remains were the bodies of seven dead dogs. She had been dead for three years. These incidents were never proven to have been connected to or caused by the cult.

In 1929, May Otis Blackburn was accused by a former member of the cult of defrauding him out of $50,000; a subsequent investigation led to Blackburn being charged of defrauding the cult followers out of over $200,000. She was also suspected of being involved in the deaths of the burned woman and the dead teenager. Blackburn was convicted of eight counts of grand theft in 1930; she later won an appeal and was released. One report notes that Blackburn was released and the cult moved to Lake Tahoe, not to be heard from again; others state that Blackburn died on June 17, 1951.

4. Order Of The Solar Temple

The Order of the Solar Temple, for the most part, was a peaceful cult with beliefs rooted in Christianity, New Age philosophy, and UFOs. They believed that life was an illusion, and after it was over on Earth, it continued on other planets (which is honestly not that different from the ideas of heaven and hell that persist in a lot of Judeo-Christian religions). The strangest thing about the group, however, is this: 74 of its members were involved in murder-suicide acts between the years of 1994 and 1997 — all of the people involved were dressed in ceremonial robes, making the whole thing seem planned. However, this didn't spell the end of the group; current estimates place its number of members between 140 and 500.

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