11 Of The Scariest Cults In The World

If you thought you were going to have an easy time falling asleep tonight, you thought very wrong. The moment that any of us hears the word “cult” our brains are thrown down rabbit holes where we can end up imagining all kinds of terrifying groups of individuals carrying out ancient rituals that would fit right into a horror novel. These 11 cults in particular really push the boundaries of what we thought was even possible in the realm of cults. Consider yourself warned.

1. Church of the Lamb of God

Referred to by the media as the Mormon Manson, the Church of the Lamb of God was started by Ervil LeBaron in Chihuahua, Mexico. LeBaron was able to convince his followers that he had received instructions directly from God. These instructions included the use of a discontinued Mormon doctrine that was called “blood atonement.” This doctrine called for the killing of sinners to purge them of any evil. Lebaron also ended up having 51 children with 13 different wives. Over the span of a couple of decades LeBaron ended up with hundreds of followers that reportedly murdered more than 25 people under the orders of LeBaron.

2. The Manson Family

You can have next to no knowledge about the world of true crime to have heard of Charles Manson. To this day any mention of Charles Manson’s name carries the grim weight of remembering all the atrocities he carried out. Manson founded his group in San Francisco back in 1967, and then a year later he moved to Los Angeles, where he tried and failed to establish himself as a musician. Manson was also completely obsessed with the Beatles song “Helter Skelter”, and would use the term whenever he was describing a race war that he was convinced would kickstart an apocalypse. Back in August 1969 Manson sent out a group of his followers to a home located in Benedict Canyon, and ordered them to murder everyone inside of the home. One of these victims included Sharon Tate. The night after that attack was carried out, more of Manson’s followers murdered Rosemary and Leno LaBianca at their. home in Los Feliz.

3. Branch Davidians

The Branch Davidians made their first headline debut after the notorious Waco Siege in 1993. Back in 1981, David Koresh took command o the group that was headquartered at a commune that was called Mount Carmel. When allegations came out about instants of child abuse occurring within the commune, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives tried to raid Mount Carmel. A gun battle broke out and 10 people ended up being killed. Next, the FBI ran a siege that endured for 51 days, and resulted in the compound being obliterated by fire. Koresh and 76 others were killed. The last and perhaps most haunting detail is that the Branch Davidians had started the fire themselves.

4. Rajneesh Movement

Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh became famous during the 1960s when he would travel around India and openly condemn socialism along with the orthodoxy of mainstream religions. Rajneesh also supported a more “openminded” stance on human sexuality. This is when he locked in a nasty reputation for being a “sex guru.” Further on down the road after Rajneesh had opened up a facility that was called Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon, numerous legal battles erupted over the ashram’s actual construction, and the crimes that were being carried out by certain followers of the movement. One of these crimes was a huge-scale food poisoning attack by using salmonella bacteria. This is also the first recorded bioterrorism attack in the total history of the U.S. Somehow though, Rajneesh was able to run his ashram until he died in 1990.

5. Synanon

While arguably one of the most dangerous cults of all time, Synanon began as a drug rehabilitation program. It was founded by Charles Dederich in 1958. Synanon then was reimagined as an alternative community that was focused on carrying out group truth-telling sessions. This was referred to as “The Game.” Throughout the years, Dederich went on to become completely consumed by a lust for power. Dederich would demand that his followers pay astronomical fees, and also force them to do extreme physical labor. Dederich also created a “hit list” that was designed to isolate anyone who tried to have his community discontinued. Synanon wasn’t shut down until 1991. This was due to tax fraud, the destruction of evidence, and terrorism. Dederich would die six years later.

6. Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo was founded in 1984 by Shoko Asahara in 1984, and it first made the news in the late ’80s when accusations came out that Asahara was requiring members to donate money to the group, and also holding people in captivity. Asahara was convincing his followers that a doomsday was around the corner, and would be kickstarted by a world war that was started by the United States. Asahara decreed that only his followers would be able to survive the event. I mean, come on. Asahara would eventually be stentenced to death in 2018.

7. True Russian Orthodox Church

The True Russian Orthodox Church was founded by Pyotr Kuznetsov. Back in 2007, about 30 members of the group ended up staking out a Russian cave that was located near the village of Nikolskoye. Kuznetsov had asked for them to wait there until the world would, as he said, end in 2008. Oh, he also never went into the cave with them. They were convinced that credit cards and barcodes were products from Satan, and they’d also threaten to try to kill themselves if there was any mention of authorities attempting to enter the cave. As it all progressed, the cave’s actual roof almost ended up collpasing in 2008, and then in May of that same year the cave was blown up following when authorities took out the bodies of the followers that had passed.

8. The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

This sect was started in the Kanungu district of Uganda during the 1980s. The sect would attempt to teach its members that they were required to follow the Ten Commandments to ensure that they’d survive the apocalypse. There seems to be a prominent apocalypse theme with these cults. The leaders of this sect were convinced that the apocalypse would arrive by 2000. Then after January 1, 2000 arrived without any reality-ending hiccups, members began to grow doubtful over their leaders’ claims. The leaders ended up setting fire to the Movement church, and upwards of 530 people were killed inside.

9. Order of the Solar Temple

The Order of the Solar Temple was started in Switzerland in 1984 by Joseph di Mambro and Luc Jouret. The Order of the Solar Temple gathered its inspiration from the medieval Knights Templar. They were also convinced that the world was going to hit peak world-ending apocalypse mode by the end of the 1990s. Things took a horrific turn in the year of 1994 after di Mambro reportedly demanded the murder of an infant in Quebec. Then, later that year over 50 members of the group were murdered or died by suicide. Crazily enough though, the Order of the Solar Temple is still running to this day, and includes several hundred members.

10. Peoples Temple

Back in the 1950s, Jim Jones started the Peoples Temple. Jones claimed that he was all for promoting both socialism and equality, with some Christianity mixed in as well. Jones would stage fake faith healings by essentially having crowd actors that would in nightmarish fashion literally pull chicken livers out of the attendees’ mouths. As time progressed, Jones arrived at the conclusion that the world was speeding toward a nuclear war apocalypse event, and relocated his followers to the South American country of Guyana. The group would live there for a few years, but when ex-members started coming out and condemning the Peoples Temple, San Francisco Congressman Leo Ryan went ahead and traveled to Jonestown to further investigate the claims of abuse instances. The security guards that had been stationed at the temple shot their guns at Ryan’s group when they arrived, while at the settlement itself, Jones was ordering his followers to consume a cyanide-laced beverage. Things naturally came to an abrupt halt from there.


Keith Raniere began NXIVM in 1998. He set up the group under the disguise of being a self-help focused organization that had numerous workshops in addition to classes on empowering onself. NXIVM would end up gaining over 18,000 followers, spanning across North America until 2017. It was then though that certain members of the group came out and exposed all the abusive acts being carried out within the group. Women specifically were recruited under the completely made up pretense that they would be entering into a supportive sisterhood. The reality though is that they were entering a sex cult. The group would eventually be shut down, and all defendants outside of Rainiere ended up pleading guilty to charges that included heinous crimes like sex trafficking, forced labor, and wire fraud.

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