Most Infamous Cults In History

Illustration for article titled Most Infamous Cults In History

People have long been fascinated by cults, and by what possesses someone to join these tightly knit, secretive, and often violent social groups. The Onion looks back at the most infamous cults in history.


The Manson Family:

The cult led by Charles Manson attempted to incite racial violence inspired by perceived coded messages in the Beatles’ White Album, even though Rubber Soul was the Beatles’ intended race war album.

Branch Davidians:

This bizarre Texas offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, led by David Koresh, were eventually slaughtered at the hands of rival cult leader Janet Reno.


There, we said it.

Peoples Temple:

Leader Jim Jones achieved infamy in 1978 after ordering over 900 of his followers to give Kool-Aid an undeserved bump in name recognition.


The Family International:

Formerly the Children of God, this cult formed around the belief that Jesus joins them during sexual intercourse, in a scandalous rejection of the commonly held Christian belief that it’s both Jesus and the Devil.



The most successful cult based off a book since the ignominious Pride & Prejudice–inspired Darcyists sowed panic through 19th-century England.



These guys actually sound pretty cool.

Heaven’s Gate:

In 1997, 39 members committed suicide so their souls would reach an alien craft trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, which scientists can’t prove didn’t happen.