What a month it’s been, my friends. As we draw a line under July 2020, I’ve got one thing on my mind: killer cults. Two news stories this month demonstrated what happens when dangerous occult beliefs collide with cold-blooded killers. Here’s what happened.
Our first stop on this disturbing journey is in Idaho. That’s where the bodies of Tylee Ryan (17) and her half-brother JJ Vallow (7) were discovered nine months after they vanished.
Lori Vallow Daybell and her 5th husband, Chad Daybell, are surrounded by mysterious or violent deaths. They are also allegedly ardent followers of a fringe religious movement called “Preparing a People.”
“It is not a ‘group’ and is not a ‘cult’ or something people join,” read an official statement from Preparing a People. Generally speaking, if you have to say that you’re not a cult… well, it doesn’t look good.
Chad Daybell is an author who writes exclusively doomsday books for Mormon audiences. As for Lori Vallow Daybell, it appears that she believed that she was chosen by God to be a warrior against evil on Earth.
After the children’s bodies were discovered, one of Lori’s friends came forward with a disturbing report. Apparently, Lori believed that her kids had become “zombies.” Not the kind with rotting flesh and a hunger for brains, however. Instead, she believed that their souls had been stolen by demons and replaced.
In addition to Tylee and JJ, several other people connected to the couple have died. Alex Cross, Lori’s brother, shot and killed her estranged 4th husband in December. Then Alex himself died of unknown causes. Lori’s 2nd husband also died within the last two years. And Chad Daybell’s first wife died suddenly… just two weeks before Chad and Lori were married.
Thankfully, our second story has a much lower body count–although it could have turned out much different.
In late June, investigators discovered that US Army Pvt. Ethan Melzer had secretly allied himself with the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A) in order to attack his own unit. The 22-year-old hoped to orchestrate a mass casualty attack by leaking information about their location and movements to O9A. The group, in turn, was to pass that information on to jihadists.
Melzer enlisted in the Army in 2018; the next year, he also enlisted in O9A. The group stans Hitler and bin Laden. Oh, and they worship Satan, too.
“Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group,” Audrey Strauss, the US Attorney for Manhattan, stated.
The Order of Nine Angles was founded in the UK in the 1960s. It has been linked to both Satanic and dark pagan worship, as well as neo-Nazi criminal activity. One of their goals is to establish an Aryan galactic empire.
It feels like killer cults are a relic of the 90s, like JNCO jeans or AOL online CDs. In that decade, we saw the standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, that lead to the deaths of more than 80 people. Just a few years later, in 1997, the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide. They believed that the Hale-Bopp comet heralded the long-promised alien spacecraft coming to take them to heaven. 39 people died that day.
However, as we learn more about the doomsday cult in Idaho, it seems clear that killer cults are not a thing of the past. It appears that this group is an off-shoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. According to this report by a local newspaper, the secretive group involves faith healing and an alleged mission to cast out evil spirits.
In addition, they believe in extreme emergency preparedness. The “prepper” lifestyle involves stockpiling food, water, fuel, and survival gear. Their alleged doomsday beliefs, combined with religious extremism, is a dangerously toxic combination.
According to cult expert Steve Eichel, as many as 10,000 cults exist in the United States. That’s… a lot. Eichel warned people to be wary of high-pressure recruitment tactics, leaders who claim to have special powers, and any group that requires you to isolate yourself from your friends and family.