40 Shocking Cults From Around the World

1Marshall Applewhite

Marshall Applewhite

The leader of the Heaven's Gate cult, Marshal Applewhite, encouraged castration for his followers, partly because of guilt over his own homosexuality. He recruited his first cult member in a psych hospital which he had entered to treat these urges, after being fired for having sex with his male student.

2Heaven's Gate cult

Heaven's Gate cult

The Heaven’s Gate cult had rules against even thinking about sex. It got so bad that its founder Marshall Applewhite along with seven other members opted to get castrated. They were only able to find a surgeon in Mexico, who was okay with it performing the surgery.

3Heaven's Gate Insurance Policy

Heaven's Gate Insurance Policy

The Heaven's Gate cult supported themselves by running a web design company called ‘Higher Source.’ Their clients included the San Diego Polo club and a Christian music store. The cult started when its leader Marshall Applewhite held a talk detailing the arrival of alien visitors. Most attending thought it was a joke but it was convincing enough for some to leave their families and join him. The cult was even covered by an insurance policy that would pay out $1 million per person if they were ever abducted, impregnated, or killed by aliens.

4Heaven's Gate Mass Suicide

Heaven's Gate Mass Suicide

When the Hale-Bopp comet was discovered in 1995, it was believed by some amateur astronomers and UFO enthusiasts that a spacecraft was trailing the comet. This led 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult to commit mass suicide in 1997 in an effort to teleport to the spacecraft. They used phenobarbital to kill themselves, which is also the world’s oldest anti-seizure medication. Their bodies were found with a $5 bill and 3 quarters which they believed was for the interplanetary toll. They were all also wearing Nike Decade. This line of sneakers was discontinued due to this incident.



Lifespring was a massive American cult which became popular in 1970s and 80s. It attracted many prominent people to their new age workshops. Wife of the US Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas was a member of the cult and she later became a vocal activist against cults due to her experience in the cult.

6The Family International

The Family International

Christian cult ‘The Children of God’ rebranded itself as ‘The Family International’ in 2004. They consider the goddess Aphrodite, the Snowman, Merlin, the Sphinx, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Richard Nixon, and Winston Churchill to be among the “Spirit Helpers” for the spiritual war of good versus evil. Its leader Karen Zerby who once advocated sexual activity with children later also wrote for a Christian magazine under the pen name “Maria Fontaine.”

7Mo Letters

Mo Letters

The Founder of ‘Children of God’ cult communicated with his followers via “Mo Letters” until his death in 1994. He wrote on subjects ranging from how to buy a boat, to sexy things to say while you are pretending to have sex with Jesus. All sex material in these letters was tried between him and his own children before publishing.

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8Ripper Crew

Ripper Crew

The Ripper Crew was a satanic cult and organized crime group which operating in the early 1980s in Chicago. Its 4 members abducted, tortured, and mutilated 18 women, amputating their breasts with a wire garrote to cannibalize as part of a satanic sacrament.

9The Family

The Family

An Australian cult called “The Family” believed their leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, was Jesus reincarnated as a female and her inner circle was the reincarnated disciples of Jesus.

10Ho No Hana

Ho No Hana

Ho No Hana was a Japanese sect often referred to as the “foot reading cult” based on the claim that its founder, who also claimed to be the reincarnation of both Jesus Christ and Buddha, could diagnose followers’ problems by simply examining their feet.

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