Cult leaders are so charismatic, they have the ability to brainwash people into doing almost anything. They give up their jobs, family ties, and money all to belong to an organization that promises eternal salvation. But a cult goes to a whole other level when people are willing to commit mass suicide for their beliefs.
10. The Burari Family
In 2018, the Chundawat Family of Burari, India committed mass suicide in their home. There were 11 people between the ages of 15 and 77, and they all hung themselves side-by-side. For their friends and extended family members, this came as a complete shock. They seemed like your average happy middle-class family, and no one saw it coming. At first, the police assumed that this was murder, until they searched the home, and found 11 individual journals that said that they planned to kill themselves in order to “attain salvation.” But things get even weirder.
On the side of their house, 11 pipes were jutting out of their walls. Some people theorized that they believed each of their souls needed a portal to escape the home. One of the family members, Lalit Bhatia, took intricate notes in a journal about his plans for their family’s suicide. Police tried to figure out what religion this family believed in, but the only clue was that he was studying Japanese art of Reiki, which is a form of “energy healing.” He claimed that he was speaking to his dead father, and that he demanded the sacrifice. Bhatia could not speak, because of an injury to his throat. So he wrote down all of his instructions; “In your last hours, while your last wish is fulfilled, the sky will open up and the earth will shake, don’t panic but start chanting the mantra louder. I will come to save you and others.”
9. Friend of the Truth Church
In 1986 in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, police found the charred bodies of seven women. They were just 500 yards away from their small church, called “The Friends of Truth.” It was obvious what had happened, because there was a gas can near their bodies. Police believe that they were practicing “self immolation.” This was the idea that by killing yourself, you are becoming a martyr and sacrificing yourself for the rest of the world, similar to Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of humanity.
But unlike many of the mass suicides that were ordered by the cult leader, the followers took it upon themselves to do this. It turns out that the founder of the cult had died in the hospital the night before. They had made a suicide pact to all die together. The women left behind notes, saying, “We are only trying to keep our promise. This is not forced upon us.”
8. Heaven’s Gate
In the introduction video of the Heaven’s Gate cult, the founder Marshall Applewhite says, “Planet Earth is about to be recycled. Your only chance to evacuate is to leave with us.” They truly believed that when the Hale-Bopp Comet passed by Earth, it was their one and only chance to be taken up in a spaceship to have their souls rescued by an alien race.
On March 26, 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate committed mass suicide at their compound in San Diego, California. Everyone was neatly tucked away in their bunk beds, as if they were sleeping. One caretaker stayed alive while everyone poisoned and choked themselves by putting a plastic bag over their heads. They were all wearing matching black uniforms and Nike Decades sneakers, and each person had exactly $5.75 in their pocket. Each one of them had a patch on their armbands, which said “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” The original Heaven’s Gate website is still online, so if you want to know more about the beliefs of this mind-boggling cult, it’s only a few clicks away.
7. “Benevolent Mother”
In a South Korean town called Yongin, a woman named Park Soon Ja was the owner of a factory. She claimed that she was a Christian, and that she was receiving visions from God about the end of the world. She started an orphanage in the center of town, and forced the children to work as free labor in her factory. She demanded that her employees address her as “Benevolent Mother.”
Over the years, she tricked at least 220 people into giving her money, and accumulated over $8.7 million. In 1987, she gathered her disciples in the attic of the factory, and told them that it was time to ascend to Heaven. They were so loyal to her that they began committing mass murder and suicide. Some of the followers stayed alive to clean up as people died, because the bodies were stacked on top of one another in neat piles. There were 29 women, four men, and many children who were left under Park’s care. The bodies were found by Park’s husband when he went looking for her. He had no idea that his wife was running a cult.
6. The Bride of Christ Church
You may have heard of the phrase “Holy Roller” used to describe an overly enthusiastic Christian person who is overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. But that was an actual nickname of a cult. In 1903, an Oregon man named Edmund Creffield found local Pentecostal Christians to join his own sect of Christianity called The Bride of Christ Church. His followers were mostly women, and they gave up all of their money to be part of the group. Creffield would instruct them to roll around on the floor while they prayed. This would disorient them, and he had sex with many of his female followers, claiming that they would give birth to the second coming of Christ. When the men in town found out what he was doing, Creffield was tarred and feathered, but his followers remained loyal.
Since they didn’t have much money, the followers were forced to steal peaches from a nearby orchard to stay alive. In the end, Creffield served time in jail, but many of the women were still devoted to him. One of the women shot and killed him. After his death, one of the followers committed suicide, and another was sent to an insane asylum, because she was trying to kill herself in a ritualistic suicide, too.
5. The Adam House
In 2007, a family in Mymensingh, Bangladesh walked hand-in-hand towards a train that was speeding toward them. Nine people jumped in front of the train, crushing their bodies on the track. When the police investigated their home, they found that there were nine coffins already purchased, and they had already dug their own graves. They also found nine individual journals.
The family became obsessed with religion after the death of their patriarch, Abdul Adam. When he was dying in the hospital, he wrote strict instructions that told his family to bury his body in the backyard. Based on what they wrote in their journals, the family seemed to had been studying a variety of religions to try to see which one was the best. They did not believe in any particular religion, but they believed that Adam and Eve had the purest connection to God. The family members were between the ages of nine and 60, and they were all convinced that killing himself was the only way to attain salvation. Because of these notes, the family is now known as simply “The Adam House.”
4. The Order of the Solar Temple
A man named Joseph De Mambro founded a group in Geneva, Switzerland called The Order of the Solar Temple in 1984. He claimed that he wanted to revive the Knights Templar, which was a Catholic military order founded in the year 1119. The idea became very popular, and the group even spread to Canada.
The group was relatively small, with just a few hundred members, but they all believed that the world would end sometime in the 1990s. So, in 1994, they were instructed that armageddon had come, so 53 people committed suicide. When the world didn’t actually end, you would think that the remaining members would have realized it was all a sham… But, no. In 1995, 16 more members killed themselves, and in 1997 five more did, bringing the grand total to 74 people.
3. The Branch Davidians
The Branch Davidians was established in 1955, and it went on as a sect of Christianity for years before a man named David Koresh became their new “prophet” in 1990. He told everyone that God chose him to lead them through the end of the world, and prepare their souls for judgement day. His followers lived on a massive compound in Waco, Texas. Koresh believed in polygamy, so he married several underaged women. He was also obsessed with collecting firearms, which he claimed would help them prepare for the upcoming apocalypse.
In 1993, the police heard that Koresh was stockpiling illegal weapons. When they came to investigate with an arrest warrant, it lead to a shootout between the police and the Brand Davidians, leaving several people dead and wounded. The FBI tried various peaceful tactics to get Koresh to leave the compound. They flashed bright lights, and played loud music. A few followers managed to escape into police custody. But after 51 days of waiting, the attorney general gave the go-ahead for the FBI to raid the compound. Four hundred canisters of tear gas were shot into the building. They hoped that the people would leave, but no one did.
Just a few hours later, the building caught fire. Police and FBI rushed in to try to save people, but it was too late. Eighty members of the Branch Davidians died, including David Koresh. While this is considered a mass suicide, some church members claim that the FBI is responsible for their murder.
In the 1970s, Jim Jones founded a cult called “The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project.” He adopted several children from different races, calling them his “rainbow family.” He said that he wanted to start a new Utopian society in the South American country Guyana so that people of all races could live together in harmony, free from racism and sexism.
He convinced his followers to build a town in the middle of the jungle called Jonestown. As time went on, Jim Jones became increasingly paranoid, and he wanted to test the loyalty of his followers. So he would pass around fruit punch, saying that it was poisoned, and that they needed to commit “revolutionary suicide.” After they drank the juice, he would say he was just testing their loyalty, and that they were not poisoned at all. Many people were scared, and regretted moving to the jungle. They were made to work very hard without much reward, and it was clear that Jim Jones had manipulated them.
Many people were concerned about the People’s Temple, because their friends and family members were no longer in contact with them. In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan decided to fly to Guyana to investigate. Journalists from NBC News accompanied Ryan, as well. When the journalists interviewed people, they learned that many of them were being forced to stay, and they wanted to go back to the United States. Fifteen people chose to defect from the People’s Temple, but Jim Jones wasn’t having it. He sent gunmen after the crew, and killed several people. The rest managed to escape with their lives. Jones knew that this was the end of his paradise, so he ordered his followers to drink poisoned grape Flavor Aid. Many others were forcibly injected with poison. Some managed to escape into the jungle, but in the end, 909 people died.
1. The Movement For The Restoration of the Ten Commandments
In Uganda in the 1980s, Catholicism had been established by missionaries in the local area. A former sex worker named Credonia Mwerinde claimed that she had visions from the Virgin Mary, and that it convinced her to change her ways. A local politician named Joseph Kibwetere believed her, and began to say that they needed to start their own religion.
A group of five men became the new leaders of the religion, and they called the sect The Movement For The Restoration of the Ten Commandments. Over 4,000 people were said to have joined the group. They kept almost all of the same traditions as the Catholic church, including priests, nuns, and the iconography. The one major difference was that all of the members were forced to wear uniforms, and they were severely punished if they broke any of the ten commandments.
They were a doomsday cult that believed that the end of the world was coming, and they were taught that Noah’s Ark would save them from the end of the world. In 1998, the BBC reported that cult was forced to shut down, because they were forcing child labor and kidnapping. However, the truth was much darker than that. In the year 2000, they discovered that 923 members of their cult were left in mass graves, making this the largest mass suicide in history. There are those who believe that the religious leaders murdered all of these people, instead, but it is a mystery that will most likely remain unsolved.