Cult leaders are fascinating with their charming personalities and unusual beliefs. However the ones who have a tendency to return to thoughts first are often males. That may lead you to marvel: Are there even feminine cult leaders? Sure, there are . . . and they’re ugly.

10 Anne Hamilton-Byrne


What do you do while you’re satisfied that you simply’re the reincarnation of Jesus Christ? You collect a small following on a distant property and begin a sadistic cult. That’s what Anne Hamilton-Byrne did in Australia within the Seventies and ’80s.

There, she projected herself as a motherly Christlike determine, however appears could be deceiving. Genuinely, Hamilton-Byrne was beating youngsters for not displaying devotion to her. She was additionally making ready them for the approaching apocalypse by bleaching their hair and giving them similar, creepy haircuts.

She adopted many of those youngsters—typically illegally and sure by way of some kidnappings. In whole, she stored 28 youngsters on her property as she ready them for the apocalypse. In actuality, she was on LSD more often than not and forcefully injected the kids with LSD, too.

As punishment, she would starve and beat the children viciously, scaring them into submission. She was caught after some youngsters escaped and alerted the authorities, who then rescued the opposite youngsters.

9 Clementine Barnabet


Within the early 1900s, life couldn’t have been straightforward for a black girl in Lafayette, Louisiana, which is why Clementine Barnabet sought solace in voodoo. As a youngster, she turned the chief of a voodoo cult named the Church of the Sacrifice, which shortly gained a following.

Her preaching turned lethal when her followers started murdering folks with axes as they slept—40 in whole. Her followers did this to point out their devotion to her as excessive priestess of the Church of the Sacrifice. Apparently, they believed that immortality might be gained by way of human sacrifice.

None of them dedicated these crimes mercifully, both. The victims have been all brutally slaughtered and dismembered. Barnabet herself is liable for 17 axe murders and is taken into account to be the first black female serial killer.

8 Aimee Semple McPherson


Aimee Semple McPherson was one of many first superstar preachers. She rose to reputation within the Twenties as a result of she was a wonderful preacher who seemed as glamorous as a movie star. She additionally made her church providers appear theatrical, very like some “megachurches” immediately.

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McPherson promoted herself at Foursquare Church as a healer who spoke in tongues and will allegedly treatment the blind. She was groundbreaking in her efforts to evangelize as many individuals as doable by having a well-liked radio broadcast and doing a number of on-camera sermons (which you will discover on-line).

Her character was charming, however she is usually criticized for loving her superstar standing a bit an excessive amount of. All of that got here to an finish when she took a swim in 1926 and didn’t return. She was discovered a month later in Mexico claiming to have been kidnapped.

It was a hoax, after all, and McPherson was introduced again to the US on prison costs. She continued preaching in Echo Park till her demise in 1944.

7 Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi


Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi is a religious chief who’s the face of a rising fashionable meditation cult that’s structured a bit like Scientology. The smiling guru appears innocent, however the sari-clad founding father of the Sahaja Yoga Motion has been criticized for brainwashing followers and disrupting households.

Her empire is rising, nevertheless, with an estimated 30,000–100,000 followers worldwide. Her followers meditate to an image of her. Though the motion claims that followers are solely meditating and are free to go about their each day lives nevertheless they need, most followers commit their free time to evangelizing and selling their nice guru.

Former followers declare that they have been inspired to interrupt off ties with relations who disagreed with their newfound enlightenment. Moreover, youngsters born into the faith are thought of “soldiers of Sahaja Yoga.” Dad and mom are requested to ship their children to a Sahaja faculty in Rome on the tender age of 4 after which to a faculty in India.

These practices are presently occurring and proceed to develop each day as Shri Mataji opens Sahaja facilities world wide.

6 Bonnie Nettles


Bonnie Nettles cofounded Heaven’s Gate with Marshall Applewhite, whom she met at a theater faculty. However she died two years earlier than the cult’s mass suicide. The cult believed in Christianity with a curious mixture of alien paranoia. They believed in UFOs and killed themselves to achieve a spaceship that was supposedly following the Hale-Bopp comet.

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Sadly, Nettles developed most cancers. However she believed that it was unimaginable for her to die as a result of she and Applewhite would ascend to house collectively. Nettles died from most cancers, however Applewhite advised his followers that she merely left her Earthly type.

5 Ching Hai


Ching Hai is a religious chief who is usually depicted in portraits of glowing gentle. Her estimated 500,000 followers worldwide adore her for beginning the Quan Yin Technique, which is a meditation cult that promotes inside lightness and peace.

The Quan Yin Technique is usually praised for its promotion of the self, advocating for ladies to be impartial and search gentle from inside relatively than steerage from a person. Ladies are additionally inspired to hunt steerage from Ching Hai herself.

As with most meditation cults, it sounds completely innocent from the skin. However Ching Hai has additionally discovered a approach to monetize the Quan Yin Technique’s peaceable practices: by creating a series of vegan eating places known as the Loving Hut. You could find a Loving Hut location in a number of locations across the globe, giving vegan goodness to anybody who desires to pay for it.

However that’s not all. Ching Hai can also be cashing in on her religious life-style by way of a clothes line, a jewellery line, and numerous books and CDs.

4 Hak Ja Han


Bear in mind the Moonies? Nicely, they didn’t go anyplace. Reverend Moon could also be lifeless, however the Unification Church (aka the Moonies) was handed all the way down to his spouse, Hak Ja Han, and he or she is ensuring issues run easily.

She modified the identify of God from Heavenly Father to Heavenly Dad and mom and revised her personal narrative to appear as necessary as her husband’s. She claims that Satan tried to kill her when she was born and that God selected her particular lineage, the “Han” household, because the chosen folks to combat in opposition to Devil.

3 Brigitte Boisselier


Brigitte Boisselier could also be an uncommon alternative for this listing as her management position in Raelianism is extra cooperative than others. However she nonetheless holds the bizarre distinction of being a director of the cloning division of Raelianism, the assumption that people have been descended from aliens.

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Boisselier is a chemist who claims to have overseen the primary undertaking to clone a human with the Raelian undertaking known as Clonaid. The present chief of Raelianism was so impressed by Boisselier that he declared her to be subsequent in line to guide the whole cult after he passes.

Because the group’s spokesperson, she travels to do talking engagements concerning the group’s progressive Raelian beliefs . . . in addition to the approaching doom of humanity and the salvation that solely the aliens will deliver.

2 Valentina De Andrade


Brazilian cult chief Valentina de Andrade based the Superior Common Alignment cult, which believed she was receiving messages from aliens in house. One message she claimed to obtain was that anybody born after 1981 was evil and needed to be killed.

That’s when Valentina and her followers started their horrific apply of killing youngsters. They finally tortured, raped, and mutilated 13 children. She escaped authorities and managed to seek out freedom in Argentina, the place she continued to evangelise her beliefs.

1 Silvia Meraz Moreno


Silvia Meraz Moreno is maybe probably the most infamous girl on this listing as a result of her crimes have been so heinous. She was the coleader of the very violent cult of La Santa Muerte (“Saint Loss of life”) in Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico, which made human sacrifices to appease the gods.

However these weren’t keen sacrifices. Their first sufferer was Cleotilde Romero Pacheco, Moreno’s 55-year-old buddy. Quickly, the cult killed two youngsters. Silvia even killed her own grandson by beheading him. The cult buried the our bodies outdoors town. However the police found the our bodies whereas investigating an unrelated crime in 2012.

Stephanie has written for Slate, Atlas Obscura, The AV Membership, Refinery29, Historical past Hustle, YackYack, Reductress, and extra.


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