Sunday, April 23, 2017

1970s California Cults

Here is an incomplete list of "hippie" cults, mostly from California, listed randomly:

  • Synanon. Cult leader: Charles "Chuck" Dederich. Started in 1958.  The headquarters was in Santa Monica. Started as a drub rehabilitation program, became an alternative community, and then became authoritarian, promoting violence.  The downfall started in 1978 when members placed a rattlesnake in the mailbox of an attorney who sued them.  Disbanded in 1991.  At its height in the early 70s' was earning $10 million per year, and troubled juveniles were placed there by the courts.
  • Peoples Temple.  Cult leader: Jim Jones. Started in 1955 in Indianapolis, then moved to San Francisco in the 1970s.  At its peak had 3000-5000 members.  Moved to Guyana, where 918 people died in a mass suicide/murder in 1978.
  • Children of God. Cult leader: David Berg.  Started in 1968 in Huntington Beach.  Proselytized by using "flirty fishing".  Had over 130 communities world-wide by 1972.  The original group was supposedly abolished in 1978.  Berg died in 1994.  The group still exists today (greatly reformed) with the name The Family International.
  • The Manson Family.  Cult leader: Charles Manson.  He established himself as a guru in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco in 1967.  Developed a cult following of mostly females who travelled around the west coast on a hippie bus.  He believed in a theory called "Helter Skelter", in which murdering people would start off a race war.  His followers started a crime spree in 1968-1969 which culminated in the murder of actress Sharon Tate.  Manson was sentenced to life in prison.
  • Scientology.  Cult leader: L. Ron Hubbard.  Founded in 1954, and has a headquarters in Riverside County. The attraction was that it promoted a rational philosophy of life to help them become better persons.
  • EST. Cult leader: Werner Erhard.  Founded in 1971 in San Francisco. Held a series of transformational seminars until 1984.  An unrelated but similar group exists today called the Landmark Forum.
  • Heaven's Gate.  Cult leader: Marshall Applewhite.  This group doesn't really belong here as it didn't exist in the 1970s but it kind of fits.  It ended in 1997 with a mass suicide of 39 people.
  • Self-Realization Fellowship.  Cult leader: Paramahansa Yogananda.  Founded in 1920 in Los Angeles. Yogananda died in 1952.  Daya Mata lead the group until 2010.
  • Symbionese Liberation Order.  Cult leader: Donald Defreeze.  Defreeze escaped from prison in 1973 and tried to start a revolution. Kidnapped and brainwashed Patty Hearst, who was with the SLA when they robbed a bank in San Francisco in 1974.
  • The Source Family.  Cult leader:  James Baker aka "Father Yod". This was a vegatarian/ Yoga/sex cult that started in 1969 in Hollwood.  Their unconventional ideas caused problems with local authorities, leading them to flee to Hawaii, where Father Yod died while attempting to hang-glide off a volcano. There was a movie made about them in 2012.
  • Altamont Free Concert.  This doesn't really belong here because it was an event, the Woodstock of the West, held December 6, 1969 at the Altamont Speedway, 30 miles east of San Francisco, featuring the Rolling Stones and other bands.  A fan who tried to climb on stage was stabbed to death by a Hell's Angel member who was doing security.   This event came to be viewed as the end of the hippie era.

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