Tomorrow marks the premiere of Hulu’s new series, The Path, starring Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy, and Michelle Monaghan. It focuses on a fictional cult known as the “Meyerist Movement,” and the incredible trailer is filled with the bevy of images you’d typically imagine when you think of the word “cult” including snakes, mysterious drinks, and light-studded devices strapped to people’s heads.
The show looks creepy and intense to say the least, but what is creepier by far are the real life cults that The Path takes after. We can watch power struggles, faith tests, and a weepy Aaron Paul all we want, but the actual groups that put their members through horrible tests and unspeakable acts remind us that people’s beliefs can be manipulated and taken advantage of.
One such organization that preyed upon people was The People’s Temple. The group used behavioral and mind control tactics — much like the techniques North Korea employs — and was most notably responsible for over 900 deaths in the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. The mass murder/suicide came from the infamous cyanide-laced Flavor Aid, a staple among cult connotations today.
The Children Of God, which later transformed into The Family Of Love, The Family, and now the Family International, is a cult still in existence. Its leader, David Berg, opposed anti-pedophilia laws, and its members over the years included actors Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan, who was raised in the group before she escaped. The religious organization also preached something called “Flirty Fishing,” which involved using sex to recruit new followers.
Another creepy group, The Branch Davidians, stockpiled illegal weapons and faced allegations of pedophilia. You might know them better as the cult involved in the 51-day standoff and eventual shootout at Waco, which resulted in the deaths of the group’s leader, 82 members, and four ATF agents.
The Chicago Rippers were a satanic cult founded by a former employee of John Wayne Gacy. The cult was known for kidnapping, murder, and mutilating bodies. Its crew of four individuals were suspected in the disappearances of 18 women in Illinois in the early ’80s before their eventual arrests.
The Order of the Solar Temple was a group that believed that the Knights Templar still exist and that it was okay to kill a baby they thought was the Antichrist. After its founding in 1984, the cult found attention in the ’90s after the murder-suicide of 74 of its members.
So while the Meyerist Movement seems to have the horror of cults down, it just doesn’t get scarier than the groups we’ve seen in real life.