Cults are a mind-boggling aspect of civilization. The question always arises, how is it possible for people to get caught up in that type of madness? Even scarier is when the cult turns deadly. How could a group of people possibly go through with the murder of another person? Yet, if the right people get together, it does happen—and it’s always terrifying.
10The Vampire Clan
Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Rod Ferrell was obsessed with dark subjects, specifically vampires. However, Ferrell took things a bit further by declaring that he actually was a 500-year-old vampire named Vesago. While it’s not unusual for people to role-play, Ferrell’s dark obsessions would have tragic consequences.
Though born in Kentucky, Ferrell spent some time living in Eustis, Florida, where he met Heather Wendorf at their school. Wendorf was immediately drawn to Ferrell and was fascinated by the “vampire clan” that he ran back in Kentucky. The pair performed rituals in which they would drink each other’s blood. After Ferrell moved back to Kentucky, Wendorf confided in him that she was miserable at home. Ferrell soon came up with a solution to “save” Wendorf.
On November 25, 1996, Ferrell and his vampire clan, which consisted of Scott Anderson and two teenage girls, drove to Wendorf’s home. The girls took the car and brought Wendorf to see her boyfriend so she could say goodbye. Meanwhile, Ferrell and Anderson walked into the house, where Ferrell grabbed a crowbar and beat 49-year-old Richard Wendorf to death as he lay asleep on the couch. The pair claimed they were going to leave 54-year-old Ruth unharmed, but she came across the two teenagers in her home and threw hot coffee on Ferrell, which angered him into beating her to death as well. Ferrell then burned his symbol, a letter V, into Richard Wendorf’s body, before stealing his car and picking up the girls. Heather’s sister found the bodies when she returned home from work that night.
The vampire clan drove to New Orleans, but they quickly ran out of money. When one of the girls called her mother to ask for cash, the police quickly tracked down the clan. All but Heather Wendorf confessed to the crime. Ferrell was given a death sentence, making him the youngest person on death row at the time (his sentence was later reduced to life in prison). Heather Wendorf was acquitted of involvement in the crimes after a grand jury found she did not know what Ferrell intended to do.
9The Fall Rivers Cult
Operating in Massachusetts in the late ’70s, the Fall Rivers Cult was led by 25-year-old Carl Drew. Drew was a pimp who used Satanism to terrify the prostitutes who worked for him. He claimed to be the son of Satan himself and demanded that his orders be followed without question.
The group may have had up to 10 members, all of them associated with the Fall River sex trade. Between 1979 and 1980 they held numerous ceremonies deep in the local woods. During these seances, Drew would speak in a different voice and a different language.
At first the rituals involved sex and drugs, but things took a turn for the worse when Drew decided there needed to be human sacrifices. The first to die was 19-year-old prostitute Donna Levesque. Her hands were bound and her head was beaten in with a rock. Her body was dumped under the bleachers at a local high school. She was found on October 13, 1979.
The second murder tied to the cult was that of Barbara Raposa in November 1979. Her body was found on a pile of stones resembling a crude altar. Her skull had been crushed and her hands had been bound.
The cult’s third victim was 22-year-old Karen Marsden, who was killed in February 1980. Marsden had been present at the murder of Levesque, which apparently terrified her so much that she decided to go to the police. On that fateful night, Marsden’s head was beaten in with a rock, before Drew broke her neck with his bare hands. According to cult devotee and prostitute Robin Murphy, Drew finally handed her a knife and ordered her to slit Marsden’s throat. Drew then cut an X into Marden’s chest and used her blood to mark an X on Murphy’s forehead. Finally, Drew pulled and kicked at Marsden’s head until it came off.
After Marsden’s death the cult was rounded up. Two members, including Carl Drew, were given life sentences. Drew claimed he was innocent and has tried to appeal the case many times. Robin Murphy testified against the rest of the cult members and was given a lighter sentence. The judge also allowed her to apply for parole after 20 years.
In 2004, Murphy was released, but was caught violating her parole and sent back to prison a year later. In March 2012, Murphy recanted her statement while applying for another parole. She claimed to have lied about the whole thing. However, many who worked on the investigation believe she was actually one of the masterminds of the crimes.
8The Carny Cult
In 1991, William Anthony Ault was working for a traveling carnival in the US. His coworkers Jimmie Penick, Mark Goodwin, and brothers Keith and David Lawrence were involved in a Satanic cult—and Ault wanted to join. When the cult rejected him, Ault turned to blackmail. He knew about the murder of an 18-year-old boy in Fulton County, Georgia, committed by Penick and Keith Lawrence earlier that year. However, the cult had a different plan to ensure Ault wouldn’t talk.
On September 25, 1991, after the carnival had closed, the five men were driven to a secluded area and Ault was asked to lie on a makeshift altar. The four cult members then tied and gagged him. Keith Lawrence said a prayer to Satan before Penick picked up a knife and cut Ault from his neck to his stomach. The men then took turns cutting his abdomen and chest, making an inverted cross. Finally, Penick asked Ault if he was ready die before slitting his throat. The four men later cut off Ault’s head and hands and tried to burn them, before throwing his body in a field. Then they took the money Ault had on him and went to Arby’s.
The police were tipped off to the location of the body by Mark Goodwin’s father, and the cult was arrested a short time later. Penick was given a 60-year sentence, Keith Lawrence was given 20 years, and David Lawrence and Goodwin were both given eight years.
When asked about their Satanic connections, Keith Lawrence said that Satanism was “like a drug: “You get high, and once you’re over it, you’ve got to inject even more than the first time.”
7The Santa Muerte Cult
Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, is a folk saint in Mexican culture. She is the personification of death and helps people on their journey into the afterlife. She is often depicted as a skeleton in a gown and is used to remind people of their mortality. Most worshipers offer candy, cigarettes, and incense to her statue. But one small cult in Sonora Province took things a bit further.
It all started with the disappearance of 10-year-old Martin Rios in July 2010, followed by the disappearance of 10-year-old Jesus Martinez in March 2011. Both boys were known to frequent the house of Jesus’s step-grandmother, Silvia Meraz. Police were already suspicious of Meraz because of the parade of people visiting her house—they thought she might be running a brothel. When a 55-year-old woman disappeared, the police finally decided to search the property.
Once inside, the police quickly discovered the bodies of the two missing boys, one under the floorboards and the other buried in the yard. Police also learned that the body of the 55-year-old was buried in a different location. All three had been murdered by a Santa Muerte cult led by the 44-year-old Meraz. Eight members of the cult, who were all relatives of Meraz, were arrested and charged with the murders. Once in police custody, some of the accused confessed. The murders took place at night, by candlelight. The victims’ wrists and throats were slashed on an altar. Their blood was drained and collected in bowls before being poured around the altar in a sacrifice to Saint Death.
6Superior Universal Alignment
Starting in 1989, in the town of Altamira, Brazil, young boys began to go missing. The disappearances continued for the next four years, and it is estimated that 19 boys disappeared. None were older than 15. Only six bodies were found; all had been castrated with medical expertise and then left to die in the jungle.
Another five boys managed to escape, some after being castrated, and went to the police. Yet the law did nothing until 2003, when police were finally able to bring charges against the Superior Universal Alignment sect, led by a woman in her mid-seventies named Valentina de Andrade. Other cult members included a doctor, a successful businessman, and a policeman. All prominent members of society, they had used their influence to avoid prosecution for years. After they were finally arrested, the three men were given sentences which ranged from 32 to 77 years. In a move which astonished many, Valentina de Andrade was acquitted of the murders.
The cult believed that children born after 1981 were evil and needed to be exterminated. They also believed the world was going to end and that a spaceship would soon arrive to take them to another planet.
Born in Papua New Guinea, Stephen Tari began studying to be a Lutheran Minister before eventually abandoning that calling (it’s unclear if he chose to leave the school or if he was kicked out). He traveled deep into the mountains of New Guinea, where he started his own religion, calling himself “Black Jesus.”
The cult grew to have about 6,000 members, despite their controversial use of “Flower Girls”—specially chosen young girls who served as concubines for Tari and other cult leaders. At one point, Tari claimed to have 430 of them.
In October 2006, Tari and members of his cult were apparently involved in a ceremony with 13-year-old Rita Herman, whose mother had offered her up to Tari. During the ceremony, Tari raped Rita before stabbing her to death. It was also reported that Tari and the mother ate her flesh and drank her blood, although both denied this.
In October 2007, one set of villagers decided they had had enough and attacked Tari’s stronghold. They beat him and carried him out of the jungle tied to a log before handing him over to the police. Tari was subsequently convicted of four counts of rape, but was never charged with the murder. But on March 21, 2013, Tari, along with about 49 other inmates, escaped from his prison.
In August 2013, Tari was in a small village named Gal, where he apparently murdered a five-year-old girl and attempted to kill a teenage girl the next day. This time the villagers took care of Tari themselves. On August 29, a mob attacked Tari and a 15-year-old follower. They hacked and slashed at him, even castrating him, before burying him in a pit in the jungle.
4The Russian Teen Satanic Cult
In the mid-2000s, in the Russian town of Yaroslavl, a group of disturbed teenagers led by Nikolai Ogolobyak started sacrificing small animals to Satan. One of the cult members claimed that after they started praying to Satan, his life got better. Perhaps that is why events escalated to the level they did.
In June 2008, the cult, which now consisted of around eight youths aged 17–19, told their parents they were going to a music festival. Instead, over two separate nights, the cult lured four younger teenagers to a forest on the outskirts of the city. Once there, they forced the victims to drink alcohol before brutally attacking them. Early reports claimed, slightly unbelievably, that each victim had been stabbed 666 times. The cult supposedly also performed acts of cannibalism on the bodies, before throwing the arms and legs into a pit with Satanic markings on it.
The bodies were discovered about two months later, and six cult members were charged with the murders. Ogolobyak got the longest sentence, at 20 years. A seventh cult member was deemed unfit for trial and was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
3Jeffrey Lundgren’s Farm
Jeffrey Lundgren got his start as a minister with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), a relatively large offshoot of the mainstream Latter-day Saint organization (also called “Mormons”). Lundgren became a lay minister with the Church in 1984 and his charisma quickly attracted followers. However, his habits soon concerned church leaders. For example, Lundgren claimed to have found a new way to interpret the scripture. His radical views, along with suspicions of theft, forced officials to remove Lundgren from his position.
After losing his position, Lundgren moved his wife and their four small children onto a farm he rented in Kirtland, Ohio. His new cult soon numbered around 20 people and Lundgren became the absolute ruler of his little kingdom. His followers were forced to give him their paychecks and participate in mandatory weapons training. In order to maintain his rule, he listened in on phone calls and banned cult members from talking to each other. Things escalated when Lundgren announced that women could achieve salvation through sexual acts—he had them dance naked while he watched and masturbated.
One of the families attracted to Lundgren’s church were the Averys. In Kansas City, Dennis Avery had been a computer operator at a bank while Cheryl Avery taught preschool and cared for their three young daughters. The couple were strongly opposed to the RLDS’s 1984 decision to allow women to become ministers. Lundgren’s fundamentalist teachings appealed to them so much that they quit their jobs, sold their house, and moved to Kirtland.
However, once in Kirtland, the Averys were not very happy and were possibly planning to leave the cult. Sensing this, Lundgren told his followers that they needed to perform a sacrifice.
On April 16, 1989, Lundgren went into town with Dennis Avery, where he made him buy two handguns and a carbine. The next day he had the Averys visit the farm for dinner. After the meal, while the Averys cleaned up, Lundgren and another cult member named Ron Luff lured the family one by one to the barn. There, Luff ran a chainsaw to mask the sound of gunshots.
Two days after the murders, the cult fled the farm. The bodies weren’t found until January 4, by which time the cult had fallen apart. The law eventually caught up with Lundgren and 13 members of the cult, who were all charged with the Avery murders. Lundgren told jurors at his trial that he was a prophet of God and “not worthy of the death penalty.” The jurors disagreed and sentenced him to death. In a last-ditch appeal, Lundgren claimed he was too fat to be executed. The court shot down that appeal, too, and he was executed by lethal injection on October 24, 2006.
2The Ripper Crew
Starting on May 23, 1981, a series of brutal rapes and murders rocked the city of Chicago. The terrifying crime spree started with the disappearance of 28-year-old Linda Sutton. She was found 10 days later; she had been raped and stabbed to death, and her left breast had been removed. This was just the first in a string of 18 murders of women. In every case, the left breast was removed.
The crimes were being committed by a group of four young men who were referred to as “The Ripper Crew” or the “Chicago Rippers.” The group was led by a former John Wayne Gacy employee named Robin Gecht. The other three members were Edward Spreitzer and a set of brothers, Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis.
The foursome would travel around the city in Gecht’s van and either lure women to the van or outright kidnap them. They would take the victims back to Gecht’s apartment in order to sacrifice them. First, they took turns raping the victim, before removing the breast using piano wire. Apparently, they subsequently masturbated onto the amputated breast before dicing it up and then eating it. This was all done while Gecht read aloud from the Satanic Bible.
Their reign of terror came to an end when the group kidnapped prostitute Beverley Washington. They raped her, stabbed her, and removed her breast before dumping her by the railroad tracks. Amazingly, Washington survived the brutal ceremony. She gave the police a description of the men who attacked her as well as the van they drove, and the Crew was soon rounded up.
Once in police custody, three members of the cult confessed to their crimes—all except the leader, Robin Gecht. As a result, Gecht could not be charged with murder, but was given 120 years in prison for the assault on Washington. Thomas Kokoraleis was given 70 years, while Edward Spreitzer and Andrew Kokoraleis were given death sentences. Spreitzer had his sentence commuted to life, while Andrew Kokoraleis was executed on March 17, 1999.
1The Children Of Thunder
Brothers Glenn (who went by his middle name, Taylor) and Justin Helzer were born into a Mormon family and were active in their church, each completing two years of missionary work. However, by his early twenties Taylor had grown to dislike the confines of religious life. He was eventually expelled from the church for drinking, doing drugs, and engaging in extramarital affairs.
In 1999, prior to Taylor’s expulsion, the brothers met Dawn Godman at a Mormon Murder Mystery. Dawn started dating younger brother Justin, although she seemed to be enamored with Taylor. A short time later, Taylor started claiming God was speaking to him and would shush people in order to hear what the Lord was saying. Apparently God gave him a plan, which involved starting a deeply unorthodox new religious movement.
In order to raise money for his new religion, Taylor decided to start pimping out women and selling drugs. When that didn’t work, he decided to straight-up steal the money. Justin was a stockbroker and Taylor asked him for a list of possible targets.
In order to steal the money they needed a patsy to launder it through. So in the spring of 2000, Taylor started dating 22-year-old Selina Bishop. Taylor told her that his name was Jordan and refused to give his last name. He also wouldn’t tell her where he lived and wouldn’t meet her friends and family. The only person to see him with Selina was her mother, who happened upon them twice.
On July 30, 2000, the Children of Thunder went to the home of 85-year-old Ivan Stineman and his wife, 78-year-old Annette. The couple had been married for 55 years and had been clients of Justin Helzer. The cult forced the Stinemans to drink Rohypnol, took them back to the brothers’ house, and made them write out two checks, totaling $100,000. Dawn Godman, in an incredibly misguided attempt at a disguise, went to the bank in a wheelchair while wearing a giant golden cowboy hat and tried to deposit the checks into an account Taylor had set up in Selina’s name. However, the bank became suspicious and Dawn ended up leaving without the checks or the money.
Back at the Helzer house, the cult had hoped the couple would die from the Rohypnol overdose, but they just lost consciousness, forcing the brothers to improvise. Justin slammed Ivan’s head into the bathroom floor until he died and Taylor slit Annette’s throat. Taylor then got Justin to cut up the bodies with an electric saw. Later, the trio prayed over the dismembered bodies.
The cult’s next victim was Selina. Taylor brought her to his home and invited her to lie on the floor for a massage before Justin emerged and beat her in the head with a hammer. The brothers then brought her upstairs to dismember her. Once in the bathroom, they discovered she was still alive, so Taylor slit her throat before cutting her body up with the saw. They stuffed the body parts from the three victims into different gym bags and threw them in the river.
Taylor realized there was only one person who could tie him to Selina—her mother. Two days after Selina’s murder, Taylor went to the apartment where her mother and a friend were sleeping and shot them both dead.
The victims were soon reported missing and the trio were quickly arrested. Godman testified against the brothers and Justin was given a life sentence without parole. Despite a guilty plea, Taylor was given the death penalty. In 2010, Taylor tried to commit suicide by stuffing pens and pencils in his eye sockets, which only ended up blinding him. On August 14, 2013, Taylor hanged himself in his cell using his bedsheets. He was 41 years old.
One of Robert’s lists can also be found in Listverse.com’s Epic Book of Mind-Boggling Lists.