3 Most Ruthless Cult Leaders in History

Cults have a certain fascination for people. These closed, secretive and often dangerous groups can be involved in any number of wicked or depraved activities. Everyone has heard of Manson, the most famous cult leader of all. A cult is nothing more than a fanatical group dedicated to a single purpose, but often the leaders are mentally ill, misguided, or megalomaniacs who thrive on their blinded followers. Cult leaders have been responsible for many atrocities behind closed doors.

You know a cult leader is bad when they start to believe they are special. That they are the ONLY person with answers or solutions. They demand total loyalty from followers and they do not like being challenged. Any questions are a threat to their authority.

These three traits are present in all of the worst cult leaders ever to live.

Jim Jones

His claim to fame is masterminding the largest mass suicide in history – The 1977 Jonestown Massacre. We’ve all heard “not to drink the Kool-aid” but this man is why. This man was a totalitarian who used fire and brimstone preaching to amass a following in North Carolina. Under his rule participants were subjected to armed guards, forced “breeding” with himself, and suicide drills. Their reasoning was that at a given time the gates of heaven would open and the dedicated followers would be granted entry – if they were ready when the leader gave the signal to take their life. After killing a senator who prior members had reached out to to stop the cult’s activities the group of more than 900 members committed suicide via cyanide while Jones and his intimates shot themselves to end his reign of terror before authorities could intervene. When police arrived they found bodies littered throughout the group’s camp, many in family groups including children.

David Koresh

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Believing himself to be the second prophet talked of in the bible he began his life as an ordinary minister. He joined a spiritual group located in Waco TX which would later become the site of their massacre bearing that name and insinuated himself with the female leader. He claimed that the pair were destined to produce the next messiah through their relationship but their lack of a child (possible because of her advanced age at 65) led to him claiming that it was God’s will he marry other women to fulfill the prophecy. The original founder of the movement disagreed strongly with him and eventually exiled Koresh and his followers from the group. While in exile the group became known for practicing rape on women of all ages including young girls as part of Koresh’ plan to produce the next Messiah which produced 24 children in total. In 1993 the ATF attempted to raid their compound which led to a 51 day siege culminating in a huge gunfight and subsequent fire that claimed most of those within.  It is still contested how the group died as federal officials fired no shots that day but many members were found dead of gunshots and the cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Warren Jeffs

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A rather controversial choice, Jeffs was previously a leader in the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Unlike these other two he still maintains a strong religious belief in what is a legitimate religion. His reign of terror took place over several years, mainly at special camps that were legitimately sanctioned by the church. His preference for underage children led to numerous instances of sex abuse and incest while his leadership allowed followers not only to follow the polygamous nature of the church but to also take underage brides as well. He was charged in 4 separate states for his policies promoting statutory rape to his followers and twice in Texas for his own sexual misconduct with minors which eventually led to his imprisonment. His admission while in jail that he was also intimate with his sister and daughter leaked to the press finally removing him from any position of authority within the church.

Asides from his sexual deviance Jeffs has produced several racially charged books with name black skinned people as marked by Cain and devils in flesh. He blames interracial mixing for having “cursed the land” and being ultimately responsible for his downfall.

While Jeffs might not have ultimately murdered anyone the reach of his reign is almost as far as that of Koresh. In 2008 over 400 children were removed from a compound under his control after an alleged member called to complain of a forced marriage at 15. While the call was eventually proved false and most of the charges did not stick it was clear to authorities that those involved were under duress not to comply with an investigation giving them reason to suspect his guilt which led to further surveillance and his eventual arrest.

Jeffs has since denounced himself as a “wicked man” and claimed that he was misled by a voice that previously told him he was a prophet. He has never apologized directly for his deeds against children or his racist beliefs, merely that he was “misled”.

3 Most Ruthless Cult Leaders in History

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