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A Weekly Podcast Devoted to Exposing Cults Around the World

By Edward GermanPublished 6 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
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Cults is a weekly podcast that takes an in-depth look at the inner workings of a cult. The podcast is one hour long and typically in two-part episodes. The hosts are Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson of the Parcast Network, which is a part of Cutler Media. The two hosts discuss the history of the cult's origins with a focus on the psychology of the cult leader. A new episode of the series is released to the internet feed every Tuesday. The series debuted on September 27, 2017, with an episode on the Manson Family. Since the release of the first episode, Parcast Network has produced 38 shows and still counting. Stories have ranged from cults started in the United States to cults originating in other countries. The episodes include famous cults to relatively obscure ones. The series has discussed famous cults such as the Branch Davidians and the members of The People's Temple. However, the show's host makes a point to cover lesser-known cults or cults that have evolved into something else, some of which are the Oneida Community, The Church of Euthanasia, and The Brethren.

The series is well researched for its content, which includes the cult leader's background, cult activities, and the cult's aftermath. The podcasters do go in-depth about the cult leaders often cite experts in psychology in regard to their motivations. One such expert is Robert J. Lifton, a psychologist, who has written extensively on cults. He has been quoted in at least two episodes so far while other experts get mentioned at other times. There is also a disclaimer announced during the podcast in regards to co-host Vanessa Richardson; it will state that Vanessa is not a licensed therapist or psychologist, she has just done extensive research into the subject matter and can convey analysis of the cult leader.

What is a cult?

According to Wikipedia, a cult is defined as a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs. Most cults are reported to be harmless, however, some cults have been shown to be dangerous or criminal. It is the criminal cults that the podcast seeks to explore.

A Cult that Came to America

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

This episode of cults discusses the early life of the cult's founder Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. His education and spiritual development are some of the topics discussed in the first episode on the cult. Bhagwan's decision to leave India for America is also examined as well.

Part 2 of the Rajneeshpuran cult discusses one of the worst bioterrorist attacks in U.S history. This was perpetrated by one of the cult leaders Ma Anand Sheela. The cult at this time had moved from India to the U.S. and settled in Oregon. After some disputes with the local community in regards to the cult instituting its own town, cult members resorted to criminal means to obtain their goals. This included contaminating the local food supply, the drinking water, and a failed assassination attempt on a government official.

Heaven's Gate

Marshal Applewhite

This is the first episode of the series I listened to. It discusses the UFO cult Heaven's Gate led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. I still remember the News Media reporting the mass suicide of the cult members on TV. It seemed unbelievable that such a thing would happen; however, it shows the power that cult leaders can exert over their followers. Part 1 of the series discusses Marshall Applewhite and his career as a music teacher. The episode explains how he met Bonnie Nettles and then formed the cult based on the UFO mania from the 70s.

Part 2 of the story on Heaven's Gate focuses on the followers of the cult. The host examines their motivation to join the cult, why they made recordings of their beliefs, and why the cult website is still in use today, and also how Marshall Applewhite's incarnation for theft led him to make some changes to the cult's ideology. This would lead to the cult committing the largest mass suicide on US soil.

The Children of God Cult

David Berg

This is a religious cult I have always wondered about ever since I first heard about them during my teen years. I remember how an ABC news special had told the story of how one parent got out of the cult and sought custody of her children. She had to struggle to get custody of them and it was equally hard to get them back to the U.S. This cult was founded by David Berg and was an offshoot of the counterculture movements of the 60s. The cult attracted men and women in their early 20s who had dropped out of college or were dissatisfied with their current religious beliefs. Berg had started an evangelical mission in Southern California during the 60s and the cult grew from there.

Part 2 on The Children of God cult investigates the cult's most controversial practice, "Flirty Fishy." This involved female cult members having sex with non-members in order to gain converts. There was also alleged abuse of the member's young children within its ranks. The allegations prompted David Berg to leave the country to avoid prosecution. In the end, the cult reinvented itself after the death of David Berg. The cult became a minor evangelical sect working toward mainstream acceptance.

The Nuwabian Nation

Dwight York

This story on this cult is one of my most compelling stories I have heard on Cults so far. I was so intrigued by this group that I listened to both parts together. The cult leader Dwight York, a man who sought only financial gain from his followers, who were required to live in near poverty while he lived in luxury. Dwight York told his followers that they were descendants of an alien race from another planet and they should prepare for the coming apocalypse. York had started his cult in New York state; however, during the 90s, he relocated the cult to rural Georgia. Once there, York built an elaborate compound with pyramids and ancient Egyptian architecture. He had one of his followers run for public office but was unsuccessful due in part to his alienating the local community. Afterward, York was investigated for child abuse and then later arrested on molestation charges. His compound was raided by the police and his followers were removed from the site. York was convicted on multiple charges and now serves a life sentence in a supermax prison. Despite this, his followers still carry on his beliefs.

Why I Love Listening to This Podcast

I have always had a fascination with religious cults. This podcast helps satisfy a curiosity about certain cults I had heard about in the past and informs me on some I never even heard of. I appreciate the extensive research done by the writers of the podcast and historical presentation of the series. The show is done in a very professional manner with some sound effects and sound bites from the news archive. It helps make the podcast very informative as well as enjoyable. So, if you are interested in learning more about cults, Cults podcast is a good place to start.

Where to Find the Podcast

You can find more information on this podcast by going to the website. Cults is also available on Apple, on Google Play Store, on Sticher, and on Tune In. If you prefer social media, Cults can be found on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.


About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

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