Much news has been made over the last couple of months about the strange circumstances surrounding Allison Mack (“Smallville”) and her involvement in a terrifying sex-trafficking cult.
From the outside, it boggles the mind and makes one wonder just how far someone has to fall to be swept up into something like this.
The International Cultic Studies Association says that there is no specific personality profile for people who become involved in cults. In fact, they say that anyone could find themselves in such a group, but there are factors that might contribute to their openness to the ideas of the often charismatic leaders of these groups.
Many people who find themselves involved in a cult do so at a time when they are going through a great deal of stress or transitions in their lives. When things are shaken up and their normal coping mechanisms are not working, this is when they’re most susceptible.
Moreover, those who do join, and the ICSA points out that only about 25% of those approached do, often do so because they find that the cult’s tenets and leaders seem to fulfill a psychological need in these transitional times that is not being met elsewhere.
This is also, perhaps, why so many cults have popped up in Tinseltown. In many ways, Hollywood is the land of transition and broken dreams where far too many vulnerable young men and women have found themselves without a place to stay, food to eat, and the basic human connections one needs to thrive.
There have been many such groups over the last 100 years in the City of Angels, and Mack is not even the most famous to have found themselves involved. Take a look at the list below.
Side Note: You’ll find no mention of Charles Manson and his “family” on this list. I feel like there’s really nothing new to say about old Charlie and I think it’s good that he’s gone and can’t hurt anyone else with his rhetoric.
If we’re going to do this, we might as start at the top, right?
L. Ron Hubbard was either a madman, a genius, or some terrible combination of both, but he managed to create a group that has insidiously worked its way into the upper echelon of Hollywood A-List society.
Members of the super secretive, highly exploitative group include Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Elizabeth Moss to name just a few.
Members of Scientology are taught to reject the teachings and ministrations of psychology and psychiatry. Hubbard argued that psychiatry was used as a tool of political suppression and blamed its practice for the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust.
The Church believes that a significant portion of the population are suppressive personalities. They are considered evil and members are not allowed to interact with them.
Further, members are expected to go through intensive sessions of purification, and the Church even has an outreach/rehab program that has been responsible for bringing many new members to the group.
One of the more sinister practices of this group, however, is its use of “Fair Game.” The Fair Game policy incites members to openly and aggressively punish and harass those that are perceived to be enemies of the Church.
The Church has been at the center of many conspiracies and controversies over the years, with ex-members such as Leah Remini coming forward to speak about the clandestine goings on of Scientology and its practices of exploiting money and demanding complete loyalty to Church teachings by its adherents.
It is, perhaps, the secrecy and the subsequent confessions of ex-members that have led the public at large to the realization that all is not well inside the organization.
The Source Family
Take one psychedelic rock band, one high-end vegetarian restaurant, and a charismatic leader and you’ll begin to put together the recipe that created The Source Family.
James Edward Baker was born in Ohio in 1922. After earning a Silver Star in the Marines, he moved to California with the intention of becoming a stuntman, but that dream fell to the wayside as he became influenced by the Beat Movement.
In 1969, he opened a vegetarian restaurant called The Source. It would soon become one of the hottest spots in Hollywood with Marlon Brando and John Lennon among the star-studded ranks of its devotees.
That’s when things began to get strange.
Baker soon changed his name to Father Yod, and began what would be known as The Source Family. The Source restaurant, which was reportedly earning up to $10,000 a day, afforded Father Yod a large mansion in which he began a commune.
Among the endeavors of his group, which included Utopian ideas and “natural living”, Father Yod also began an experimental psychedelic rock band called Yod Ho Wa 13. He sold their recordings out of the back of the restaurant to further supplement the lifestyle he was cultivating.
This lifestyle included 14 wives, only one of which was from legitimate marriage of course. In 1974, he and the core of the family moved to Hawaii, and he would die only two years later in a hang-gliding accident.
Many groups such as The Source Family don’t live long after their founders, but as recently as 2006 it was still active. It was in that year that two members, Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian, published a history of the group which spurred a minor revival of its popularity.
The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”–Revelation 11:3
That was the single verse from the King James Bible that began one of the strangest and most esoteric groups on this list: The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven aka the Blackburn Cult.
It all began in 1922 when supposed clairvoyant May Otis Blackburn and her daughter, Ruth Rizzio, received messages from the angels Michael and Gabriel instructing them to “close their doors on the world” and write a book about the sixth sense called The Sixth Seal. In addition, Gabriel promised to reveal to them the “lost measurements” which would reveal the location of all the oil and gold deposits in the world.
It was this second revelation that convinced young Clifford Dabney to give the women $40,000 and 164 acres of land on which to build a community. All they had to do was share the lost measurements when they were granted.
With the seclusion the land gave them, they soon began to host bizarre rituals in which they would sacrifice animals in front of their growing number of followers in a large amphitheater. They also, at one point, baked one of their followers in an oven to rid her of disease. She died two days later.
Cult members would work at a local tomato packing plant and every payday, their checks would be collected by 60 year old Blackburns’ 24 year old husband, Ward. He was said to have an ominous appearance with a thick drooping mustache and reportedly five inch fingernails!
When two of the cult members’ 16 year old daughter died, Blackburn pronounced that she would be reborn at the end of 1260 days and it was at that time that the book would finally be finished as well. Fourteen months later, the girl, whose name was Willa was still quite dead and her body was found in a metal coffin under the home of her parents.
A second coffin sat next to Willa’s. In it were the remains of 7 dead puppies, one for each of the tones of Gabriel’s trumpet according to Blackburn.
Eventually May Otis and Ruth were brought to trial. Astonishingly, the Supreme Court ruled that they were free to practice their religion and could not be held accountable for money that was given in a religious context.
Soon after the trial ended, The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven and its members disappeared. They were never heard from again.
The Children of God
The Children of God has gone by many names since its inception in 1968 by founder David Berg aka “Moses David” aka “King” aka “The Last Endtime Prophet,” and they’ve been at the center of controversy almost since day one.
In 1973, Berg implemented a policy called “flirty fishing” in which he encouraged female members of the cult to have sex with men who were considering joining to entice them into the fold. In fact, Berg bragged at one point that 100,000 members had been brought into the fold as a result of flirty fishing with Berg calling the women who took part in the practice “God’s Whores.”
The practice, however, also led into prostitution and the cult came under heavy criticism and some legal action over it.
Regardless the cult’s population grew and through various mission strategies, they soon found themselves with colonies or “homes” all over the world.
In the late 80s, the cult came under fire again as it was discovered that many had instituted a policy of having sex with children beginning at the age of 12. The practice had apparently gone on for years but leaders sent out an “official memo” decrying the behavior and making it an excommunicable offense.
Rumors about that the nefarious practice never stopped, however, and in Rose McGowan’s recent memoir, she wrote about her time being raised in the cult and her experiences there. In the wake of the book, other former members have come forward to corroborate what she wrote, and their stories of physical and sexual abuse are chilling to say the least.
The fallout of years of abuse has been massive including a murder-suicide committed by one of the children of the founders of the group. Ricky Rodriguez lured one of his former abusers to his home where he stabbed her to death and then shot himself in the head.
Other famous names have been associated with the group. Jeremy Spencer, founding member of Fleetwood Mac actually left the band to join the cult. River and Joaquin Phoenix were members as children, though their parents left the group over some of its practices.
Still, it survives…somehow.
Currently known as The Family International, the Children of God have never left. They’ve simply adapted for newer times.