The 10 Craziest Cults You've Never Heard Of

You already know all about Scientology, the Manson Family, and Moonies, but there's an expansive world of obscure cults and religions whose bizarre beliefs and rituals make things like alien worship—and even murder—seem tame. Here are 10 of the most insane sects you've probably never heard of.

1. Aetherius Society

Founded in the mid-1950s by a former British taxi driver, Aetherius is a New Age religion whose belief systems are built around the idea that a series of "Cosmic Masters" (mostly from Venus and Saturn) control the fate of humanity. Additionally, they focus heavily on prayer and "spiritually charging" the Earth to make way for the "Next Master, a messianic figure who will descend to earth in a flying saucer armed with "magic" more powerful than "the combined materialistic might of all the armies." 

2. Ho No Hana Sanpogyo

This modern Japanese sect is often referred to as the "foot reading cult" based on the claim that its founder—who also claimed to be the reincarnation of both Jesus Christ and Buddha—could diagnose followers' problems by simply examining their feet, and that they would die if they weren't examined appropriately. According to his methods, traits like short toes indicated a short temper and fat toes meant your life would be filled with good fortune. However, the whole ruse unraveled when followers fought back against the steep $900 fee he charged for each "inspection." 

3. Chen Tao

Otherwise known as the True Way Cult, Chen Tao was formed by a former professor who was clearly insane. His beliefs included that the universe is 4.5 trillion years old, our solar system was created by a nuclear war, we each have three souls, and that humanity has been rescued on five different occasions by God descending in a flying saucer. However, the 160-member group essentially disbanded after a failed prophecy in 1998, when founder Hon-Ming Chen predicted God would appear on a single TV channel in North America—whether or not you had cable—at 12:01 a.m. on March 31. 

4. Order Of The Solar Temple

This secret society's beliefs and activities involved a mix of early Christianity, UFOs, New Age philosophy and Freemason rituals. They were a mostly peaceful organization with some unconventional beliefs (i.e., death is only an illusion and life continues on other planets) until the infant son of one of its members was sacrificed in one of the group's lodges because he was believed to be the Antichrist. Shortly after, a number of people in the inner circle committed mass suicide and others were found mysteriously shot or smothered to death, all dressed in their ceremonial robes.

5. Freedomites

Originally formed in Saskatchewan in 1902 after a fracturing of different religious groups who had fled Russia to escape persecution, the Freedomites insist on three different things: communal living, nudity, and anarchy. They became most famous for their all-nude public demonstrations to show opposition to the material tendencies of society, and in the '20s and '30s even burned and bombed a whole slew of public buildings (while naked, of course) to show their disdain for the government.

6. Movement For the Restoration of the 10 Commandments

A breakaway movement from the Roman Catholic Church, the Movement was founded in the late '80s in Uganda, and revolved around the strict adherence to the 10 Commandments as a means of avoiding damnation in the apocalypse. Among the odder tenets were weekly fasts and the outlawing of both soap and sex. The sect began to unravel after the world failed to end at the start of the new millennium (as leaders predicted), resulting in a mass murder involving a series of poisonings, stabbings, and a massive church fire.

7. Aum Shinrikyo

Combining extreme and idiosyncratic interpretations of religions ranging from Buddhism to Christianity, Aum was founded in 1984 and considered fairly controversial from the beginning for its doomsday prophecies, which involved a third World War, instigated by the US. Then, things got violent. It was discovered that they engaged in outrageously dangerous initiation practices and were murdering members who tried to leave the organization. The group was officially designated a terrorist group after they were found responsible for a coordinated sarin gas attack on five trains in the Tokyo subway system that killed 13 and affected more than 1,000 other commuters in 1995.

8. The Creativity Movement

Based in Illinois, Creativity was officially formed in 1973 to unite white people through a common "racial religion." While much of their belief system involves a naturalist philosophy and abiding by an extremely healthy lifestyle, their supreme value is that what is good for white people is the highest good. And it's exactly that type of thinking that has earned them a place on a list of Neo-Nazi organizations by the Souther Poverty Law Center.

9. John Frum

Founded on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific, this fascinating cult revolves around the image of an American World War II serviceman, who is thought to bring wealth and prosperity to the isolated island. It originated in the early '40s when 300,000 American troops were stationed in the area and armed with tons of supplies and cargo related to their mission. The troops eventually left along with much of their gear, but the followers of John Frum held out hope that they'd return, building symbolic landing strips to encourage other American planes to stop by and bring goods.

10. Raëlism

Founded in 1974 by the French race car driver Claude Vorilhon, Raëlism teaches that human life was created intentionally by a bunch of aliens who later sent messengers in human form to check in on things, including Jesus and Buddha. On the surface, their values are quite agreeable, considering they advocate world peace, sharing, democracy, nonviolence, and a liberal view of sexuality—but they most certainly have their strange side. For instance, in the late '90s the organization founded a cloning company, and made the bold claim (with zero scientific proof) that they'd actually cloned a human in 2000.

Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor and would love to hear what that cloned baby has to say these days.

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