Power of Persuasion: Inside the Deadliest Cults From Across the World

cults deadly followers leader world
Source: Mega

Sep. 18 2023, Published 11:07 a.m. ET

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Cults can provide a sense of belonging for some people. They preach safe spaces where like-minded people can come together in safety.

But, sometimes the cults turn deadly either by their own hand or because of their actions. 

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Here are some of the deadliest cults from across the globe. The details of their believes and the way the followers died led to countless headlines and worldwide shock. 


cults deadly followers leader world
Source: FBI

Formerly known as the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ, the religious organization led by Jim Jones lasted between 1950 and 1978. Starting in Indianapolis with just a few members, Jones eventually expanded his congregation, leading to their relocation to the jungles of Guyana in 1977. Once the Peoples Temple moved to Guyana, that is where things began to go wrong.

A group called the “Concerned Relatives” began to ask for politicians to investigate the Peoples Temple, according to PBS. U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan took the initiative to travel to Guyana. While the beginning of the trip went well, on their last day in Guyana, several members of the Peoples Temple asked Ryan and his associates for help to escape. A knife attack against Ryan occurred shortly after, leading to a shootout at the airstrip, killing the congressman and four others, according to History.

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During the attack at the airstrip, Jones ordered his members to assemble at the pavilion. Seeing an end to his religious organization in Guyana, he made all of his members drink juice mixed with cyanide and sedatives. Parents and medical providers injected the deadly mixture into the children’s mouths while the adults drank the mixture directly out of a cup.

Over 900 Peoples Temple members died on Nov. 18, 1978, including Jones, who killed himself with a gunshot to the head. 

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cults deadly followers leader world
Source: Mega

After being accused by the government of having illegal weapons on their property, the Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh, received an unwanted search warrant by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Feb. 28, 1993.

The simple search warrant led to a 51-day standoff between the Branch Davidians and the ATF, after shots were fired, but it’s still in dispute who pulled the trigger. The next couple of weeks involved the ATF and FBI using multiple tactics to encourage Koresh and his followers to surrender, according to Vox.

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On April 19, the battle came to an end after the FBI used military-grade weapons to enter the compound. A fire broke out, leading to 76 members of the Branch Davidians, including Koresh and many children, losing their lives.

Almost three decades later, there is still a debate about whether the ATF conducted the raid against the religious organization in the correct manner. 

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Weird crimes

After suffering from a near-death experience in 1972, Heaven’s Gate leader Marshall Applewhite began the cult in 1975, persuading several members to relocate to Colorado. The group held the belief that an alien spacecraft would take them to heaven’s kingdom. 

The spacecraft never arrived, and in 1985, Applewhite’s partner and recruiter, Bonnie Nettles, died. 

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Heaven’s Gate regained popularity during the 1990s, as Applewhite  began to recruit new members, relocating them to a home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, according to History

In March 1997, the comet Hale-Bopp famously orbited close to Earth. During what is considered by many to be one of the most memorable space moments during the 1990s, Heaven’s Gates members began to drink a mixture of phenobarbital and vodka. After consuming the drink, all of the members laid down to die, believing that a spaceship would take them to another place, according to Britannica

Police found Applewhite and 38 of his members dead on their cots in the Rancho Santa Fe home. Before the mass suicide occurred, Applewhite created a video explaining the group’s plans of leaving on an alien spaceship.

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cults deadly followers leader world

On March 17, 2000, hundreds of members from The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God died from a mass homicide ordered by the cult’s leaders. Many of the members died from a church fire in Kanuga, Uganda, while others perished due to murder by stabbings or poison, according to Encyclopedia

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At first, many believed the fire was a mass suicide, but later, evidence led to the possibility of multiple homicides. The organizers allegedly ordered the homicides after a presumed apocalypse announced by the leaders did not happen. 

At the time of the tragic event, Josepth Kibweteere and Credonia Mwerinde led the religious organization. Both leaders died on the day of the mysterious fire with the rest of their members. 

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cults deadly followers leader world
Source: Mega

On March 20, 1995, members of the cult, Aum Shinrikyo, left bags of the deadly toxin Sarin on a subway in Tokyo, Japan. Led by Asahara, Aum Shinrikyo believed the world was coming to an end, and those who weren’t members would go to hell unless the cult members murdered them.

Passengers on the subway noticed the suspicious punctured bags on the subway and immediately began to have symptoms. Victims started to choke and vomit, with more severe cases causing blindness and paralysis. After the horrendous domestic terrorist attack, 13 people died, according to BBC

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Police linked the cult to the attacks after an attempt to replicate the same episode with hydrogen cyanide in other subway stations. 

Police arrested and charged several members in connection to the March 20 attack, with 13 members receiving death sentences, including the leader. 


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