If you were asked to name a cult, could you?
While many people are familiar with “drinking the Kool-Aid” and the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, the reality is that cults are quite pervasive in the United States and elsewhere. Large, isolated communities perform archaic or even satanic rituals much more often than you would think.
Cults can even come under the guise of welcoming and seemingly innocent communities, often offering promises of salvation, environmental or humanitarian concern, or even just designed to help improve its members’ self-worth. Of course, the negativity comes in later, often in the shape of sexual abuse, blackmail, or extortion.
Sometimes, people you’d least expect to get caught up in something as deceitful and dangerous as a cult, including many celebrities, were either raised in or joined cults. Have you read about the childhoods of David Arquette, Glenn Close, and Michelle Pfeiffer?
But are all cults as bad as they seem? Not necessarily. These are the true stories of 12 of the most sinister and disturbing cults in the past 30 years, and they’re just as bad—if not worse—than what you’d imagine.
The Order of the Solar Temple
Based on the ideals of the Knights Templar, this secret society was founded by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret in Geneva in 1984. The group collectively anticipated the Second Coming of Christ as the “solar god-king,” and thought that his return would unify all the churches of Christendom and Islam.
A decade after its foundation, however, the cult quickly began to fall apart. In October 1994, Di Mambro ordered the killing of a three-month-old infant who he believed to be the antichrist. The baby was stabbed to death with a wooden stake at the cult’s center in Quebec. Days later, Di Mambro and twelve followers had a Last Supper, after which the cult started mass suicides and killings started across the globe, though mainly in Switzerland and Canada.
Many of these deaths happened around the times of equinoxes and solstices, and members were often found in cult regalia or laying the in shape of stars.
The Superior Universal Alignment
Founded in La Plata, Argentina in 1984, the Lineamiento Universal Superior—or the Superior Universal Alignment—was a UFO cult led by socialite Valentina de Andrade.
De Andrade claimed to have received “universal knowledge” from extraterrestrials who warned her that children born after 1981 were evil and must be expunged; she also preached that the world would end in 1986 and that aliens would only save the cult’s followers.
Starting in 1989, young boys began disappearing from the Amazonian town of Altamira, Brazil. Between 13 and 19 boys were kidnapped, tortured, and castrated in a satanic ritual; five were able to escape.
It wasn’t until 2003, however, that the crimes were officially traced back to de Andrade and other cult members, all of whom used social privilege to avoid prosecution.
The satanic hysteria of the ’80s was not without merit.
When University of Texas student Mark Kilroy went missing after a night in Mexico during Spring Break in 1989, nobody was expecting what the ensuing investigation would find.
One cult member was trailed after racing past a police checkpoint, the police were led to one of the cult’s centers at the remote Rancho Santa Elena which was stocked with hundreds of pounds of marijuana… and dead bodies, including Kilroy’s.
As it turns out, the cult practiced a mixture of Palo Mayombe, Santería, brujería, and other forms of satanic witchcraft. The cult leader, Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, had a difficult upbringing in the United States, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, practicing Voodoo and animal sacrifice while developing a reputation for being supernaturally gifted. Constanzo soon found favor with drug cartels who believed his dark magic helped protect their smuggling, and he took on a lover, Mexican-American college student Sara Aldrete, who became the high priestess of the cult.
Though Constanzo escaped police at first, forces found 15 mutilated corpses at the ranch, as well as animal and human body parts that had been used in rituals and spells. Constanzo was later surrounded in Mexico City and had a fellow cult member kill him to avoid arrest. The Narco-santanicos were charged with murder and drug-running, among other crimes. This story helped fuel the suburban fear of satanic cults across the United States.