Seven death cults that match the SHIVA cult

In my thriller The SHIVA Compression, the story is driven by a secret nuclear death cult. But that’s just fiction, right? Cults like that don’t really exist. Do they?

Well, yes, they do.

Here is a list of seven cults made famous for their taste for offing folks — sometimes others, but often turning their murderous impulses on themselves.

Aum Shinrikyo – Japanese cult that bought a piece of land in Australia to perfect a Tesla death ray and split the earth in two. That dog didn’t hunt, so they concocted their own Sarin nerve gas and released it on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, killing 13 people. Charming little bunch.

Manson clan – Famous family-based cult that murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and two others in two different home invasions. Leader Charles Manson, locked up for life at Corcoran State Prison in California is still considered an emblem of violent insanity. He was a singer-songwriter for a time before forming his “family” in the California desert. If he had landed a record deal he might have been bigger than Elvis.

The People’s Temple –  Jim Jones convinced more than 1,000 members of his “Peoples Temple” to leave San Francisco and go to Jonestown, Guyana in South America (a hint that someone just might be a psychopath is when they name their new town after themselves). When Jones’s group came under investigation by U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, Jones had Ryan and four others killed and then ordered more than 900 followers to commit suicide by “drinking cyanide-laced grape-flavored Flavor Aid.”

Heaven’s Gate – Cult leader Marshall Applewhite convinced his followers that the appearance of comet Hale-Bopp in March 1997 indicated that they needed to leave the earth as quickly as possible. Seems there was a spaceship hiding behind the comet and Applewhite’s crew needed to rendezvous with it. Since NASA wasn’t about to provide a lift, the only way to get out there was to commit suicide. Applewhite and 38 followers killed themselves. No word if they got a seat on the Hale-Bopp spacecraft.

The Solar Temple – A cult group with followers in Quebec and Switzerland that believed they were related to the Knights Templar. Between October 1994 and December 1995 roughly 70 members of the temple committed suicide or were murdered. This group evidently intended to go the star Sirius. Seriously.

Branch Davidians – David Koresh was the leader of this group, which lived in a sprawling building in Waco, Texas. The Davidians were convinced that the apocalypse was soon and they armed themselves (in case the apocalypse involved shooting zombies). The Federal government went in to seize the weapons and the result was a fire that destroyed the building and killed 76 Davidians, including Koresh.

Thuggee – In India thuggee was a cult of murderous thieves, some of which were said to venerate the Hindu goddess Kali. Small thuggee bands would join groups of travelers and get to know the groups’ weaknesses. Then they would strangle some or all of the travelers using special holy scarfs and rob the bodies. The British imperial authorities did their best to bring this gang down and were successful. But the group did provide us with the term “thug” for violent nasty person.

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