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Thriller Thursday: A Cult Following

How many of you are watching the new Fox series The Following? So far, it’s lived up to the hype. The serial killer with an obsession for Edgar Allen Poe (James Purefoy) is one of the most interesting and diabolical I’ve seen, and the cast of characters is stellar. Kevin Bacon has been great as a tortured former FBI agent and  expert on the serial killer who is now terrorizing a community.

But the coolest part? After an escape from prison, the bad guy is captured in the first episode. But it’s too late–the cult he’s been forming while in prison has already sprang into action.

I won’t give you any more spoilers, but the show is definitely worth watching.

So naturally I had to do some research on cults. We’ve all heard of the Manson family and the horrors David Koresh created at Waco, but they are just the tip of the freaky iceberg.

Visit this awesome article to read about cults you’ve (likely) never heard of.

What I find most interesting about cults is the idea that one enigmatic leader could convince intelligent people to believe in what they’re selling. And we’re not just talking a religion that is allegedly whacko but harmless (i.e. Scientology) but a group that convinces itself that killing others or themselves is somehow for the greater good. What are these people missing that allows them to become so susceptible?

What if Manson had approached you? Or Koresh? Or Jim Jones? What would you have done? What do you think men like these three had that made them so prolific?

Back to Fox’s The Following – are you watching? What do you think?

17 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: A Cult Following”

  1. Not watching The Following. I’m tough, but I can’t take the animal stuff. Even though most of it is just implied.

    Now. As for cults. You have Netfix, I know. You need to watch Witness to Jonestown if you haven’t seen it. It’s a documentary (which you know I love). We saw it several years ago when it premiered on whatever channel paid to have the documentary made. It scared the fire out of me. Jim Jones was diabolical. Really. And the stuff he did to those people and the peer pressure that kept them in his thrall will horrify you.

    • So far the animal stuff has been limited to one, but it was tough.

      I have seen that Witness to Jonestown is on Netflix, and every time I want to watch it, I’ve got a kid in my ear, lol. I’m going to try to watch it soon. Sounds very good.

      • The Following: I probably should watch it. We’ve missed so many episodes now that I’ll wait for it on Netflix.

        You totally need to try out Witness to Jonestown. Very worth your time. Hearing the people who were there talk about what happened will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

  2. I haven’t actually watched TV in a little over a year. Looks like I’m missing some great stuff. When I start watching again, I’ll have to check this one out. I’m with Catie on Jim Jones. I’ve read a lot about him. Utterly horrible.

    • Wow! You are a stronger person than me, lol. I watch a lot less than I used to, but I still watch to wind down. Of course, I end up zoning out half the time.

      Will definitely check out the JJ doc.


  3. The Following competes with Elementary. Lucy Liu and Sherlock Holmes trumps a fanatical following. Did catch Cult last night on CW. I liked it.

  4. I haven’t seen The Following. My hubby watched the first episode and wasn’t crazy about it. But it does interest me. And I have looked into cults somewhat. One of the most interesting findings to me is how they manage to turn everyone into the same personality. That is, if you gave members personality tests before they go in, then administered the same test to them after they’d been in the cult for a while, the results would show that they have skewed their personality to align with the one accepted type.

    • Honestly, the first episode is probably my least favorite. I’ve like seeing how he orchestrates this people even from behind bars, and his mind is truly diabolical.

      Yes! That is a very creepy things about cults. I can’t imagine being on either side.


  5. *raises hand* I’ve personally been IN a religious cult, for three years as a teenager, and still have contact (some stronger than others) with others who were members who’ve left. Let me know if you want to talk about it.

    Cults are not good, but MOST of them have very benign, even wonderful aspects. While the creepiness may be obvious to those on the outside, it’s like any abusive relationship – the independence and sense of normality is so gradually eroded, those “in” generally don’t even realize it’s missing. Those who are very young, or who come from troubled families, are especially vulnerable to the sense of family cult life can offer.

    • Sorry I am just getting to this, Beverly. Wow on your story. I would love for you to do a guest post on this topic if you are interested. Please let me know. I think many of us would be interested in your perspective.

  6. It’s scary how attractive that lifestyle can be to people, isn’t it? I actually know of someone close to a family friend who dropped her life over here in NY to travel to California to *marry* a convict on death row. She’s got her own mental problems, but you would think you’d realize these people are good at manipulating others. It’s scary that an adult human being, someone you would hope would have a lick of sense and perhaps a dose of intelligence, would realize how dangerous someone like that can be. It’s fascinating to me, but also down right horrifying. I hope you do more posts on cults. I’d love to learn more about them!

    • It is, but it’s easy to see, if you are lonely and looking for guidance, how people can get sucked in–to an extent. It’s harder for me to fathom those who commit crimes due to cults.

      Wow on your family friend. That is just…wow. Yes, these people are certainly master manipulators. I hope your family friend keeps safe.


  7. I read a ton of books on Manson back in the day (believe it or not) because it was bizarre to me how people could live like that and do those things. Personally, I think the sex and drugs made a huge difference in his particular “family,” but most of the psychopaths are so normal-looking it’s spooky.

    • Manson simply blows my mind. Getting people involved in a cult is one thing, but what he did…and what he got them to do… is just unreal. You are probably right about the sex and drugs, but I’ve seen the Sharon Tate crime scene pics, and it’s incredible what those people did under his orders.


  8. Margaret Thaler Singer’s “Cults In Our Midst” is, in my opinion, the best entry-level book on the social-psychological mechanisms that cult leaders use to recruit and control people. The scary thing is that they really do work on pretty much anyone, if you catch a person at the right time in his or her life.

    • Thanks so much, Misha! I will definitely check this book out. I agree about cults – the manipulation and the vulnerability is terrifying. Thanks.

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