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These books, shows, and podcasts detail the craziest cults

Jul 25, 2019 · 8:18 AM
Amanda Scherker
00:00/00:00
This audio was generated using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence.
Photo credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
If you've found yourself insanely fascinated by all things cult, then you're surely not alone. Cults have captured the cultural imagination. They’re in.
But with so many top-notch books, films, and podcasts about everything from the Manson family to the Jonestown Massacre, how can you possibly know what to choose? Here are the best ways to indulge your cult obsession (without actually joining one yourself!).

1. 'Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders'

Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case. (AP file photo, 1969)
Plenty of talented writers have sought to tell the twisted story of the Manson family, but none has done so to greater fanfare than prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi. He argued the case against Manson in court. Called “the mother of all cult books," it takes readers from the night of the gruesome murders through the ultimate conviction and sentencing. It includes meticulous details you won't find anywhere else, so it's a great place to start.

2. 'Wild Wild Country'

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Photo by Bernard CHARLON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
This Netflix series narrates the meteoric rise of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s movement. Through interviews and archival footage, it recounts the way one man was able to commandeer a 64,000-acre ranch in Oregon and ensnare the tiny town of Antelope in a drama that involved biological warfare, espionage, drugs, and more. This six-part series, with each episode a bit over an hour long, is addictive as a persuasive cult leader, so viewer beware.

3. 'Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple'

The Peoples Temple compound, scene of the Jonestown massacre. (AP file photo, 1975)
This comprehensive 384-page memoir was written by Deborah Layton, who fled Jim Jones’s People’s Temple mere months before Jones orchestrated the mass suicide of nearly 1,000 of his followers. Famed writer and philosopher Isabel Allende says of the 1999 title: “This haunting book, written with candor and passion, reads like a thriller. I could not put it down." 

4. 'Heaven’s Gate' podcast

Image via Stitcher
This podcast takes you deep inside the weird, tragic world of the Heaven’s Gate cult. It follows self-proclaimed prophet Marshall Applewhite, who attracted his first loyalist, nurse Bonnie Lu Nettles, while locked up in a psychiatric unit, and then went on to build a bonafide cult. Eventually, in March 1979, he led 39 men and women into a mass suicide, convincing them that they were shedding their mortal bodies to meet a UFO. Download via iTunes and listen in one go.
(There's plenty more podcast recommendations beyond cults too.)

5. 'The Girls'

Image via Goodreads
OK, so this is technically a novel, but author Emma Cline did her homework. Released to insane fanfare in 2016, this 368-page 2016 recount of what it was like to be a female accolade of the mythical Charles Manson will have you hanging on every word because of its extreme sensory and vivid details.

6. 'Going Clear'

Image via HBO
Alex Gibney’s searing two-hour 2015 HBO documentary takes viewers inside the twisted world of the Church of Scientology, a religious movement that has attracted Hollywood stars like John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Based on Lawrence Wright’s nonfiction book of the same name, this film interviews former members and officials as they share horrific stories about life inside one of the world’s most powerful cults, recounting physical, and psychological abuse. 
There’s never been a better time to be darkly obsessed with cults. There are plenty of juicy stories about power, obsession, and perverse psychology for you to devour in the form of novels, movies, TV shows and podcasts.
Read on, and don’t trust the bossy bearded man in your life.

Amanda Scherker is an independent creator and not a representative of Bing or Microsoft.

Written byAmanda ScherkerAmanda Scherker
Amanda is a Brooklyn-base write, producer and UX designer.
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