Inside the Criminal Mind season 1, episode 3 recap: ’Cult Leaders’


Episode 3 of Netflix series Inside the Criminal Mind looks at cult leaders who may lead to murder, sexual abuse, mass suicide and mind control.

Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh and Warren Jeffs aren’t well-respected by most people. However, before they became notorious as anti-social deviants, these people were all charismatic leaders, at least to their loyal followers.

Their promises are often of a religious nature, with heavy “doomsday” philosophies.

However, the hope of salvation and even political gain tend to subside when the leader’s true motivations are revealed: Personal gratification.

Inside the Criminal Mind season 1, episode 2 recap. light. Related Story

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While the episode doesn’t look at certain cults — such as UFO cults (like the fascinating Heaven’s Gate or cults with relatively benign characteristics — it does a pretty good job of showing how cults manipulate people.

Rick Allen Ross, author of Cults Inside Out presents much of the information in this Inside the Criminal Mind episode, and there is some archival footage as well.

General Trends of Cults

Most often, cults feed people’s needs or create them out of thin air. In the name of simplifying and purifying people’s lives, a (mostly) singular leader will convince people to give up their material possessions and other “sinful” aspects of life. Of course, what often happens is these end up in the leader’s possession — if he finds them valuable.

It’s all part of a program of indoctrination. Like in a military unit, people are broken down and changed. Discipline is instilled in followers, with the most loyal subjects generally rewarded and rebels (or people the leader doesn’t like) get punished.

However, to lure people in, cult leaders often seem like regular people. They just happen to prey on vulnerabilities, which all too often leads to systematic deprivations, diet control, corporal punishment, sexual abuse and even murder.

Cult leaders tend to limit follower’s access to outside information and encourage people to separate from their families.


Charles Manson was a master manipulator. He argued that the Beatle’s song “Helter Skelter” prophesied an apocalyptic (and convoluted) race war. So, he ordered his followers (the so-called “Manson Family”) to murder affluent people in Hollywood, hoping the media would blame it on “the black man” to trigger mass murder campaigns against white people.

Then, somehow, Manson would emerge from the desert and take control. Famously, many of Manson’s followers were women, and the “Manson girls” would often show up to his trial to create a media circus.

While some argue Manson didn’t do the killings, the prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, argued that he exercised near complete control of his followers.

Aside from that, it arguably isn’t different from blaming someone for placing a “hit” on someone. Just because a person didn’t literally do the deed, it doesn’t mean they’re 100-percent free of blame. Also, due to his death in 2017, it’s apparent that he wasn’t destined for eternal life, despite his claims.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jim Jones arguably could have gone a different way. Before he led over 900 people to death, he was well known for advocating racial integration. He also promised a utopia in Guyana.

Unfortunately, Jones was known for strictly controlling his followers, skin color aside, and most certainly set up “Jonestown” for isolation. In Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones confiscated his follower’s passports, rigidly controlled communication, and eventually had California Congressman Leo Ryan murdered after Ryan showed up to investigate abuse allegations.

Not long afterward, Jones ordered a mass suicide in the supposed paradise, and those who tried to escape were murdered.

David Koresh and the Branch Davidians

This portion of Inside the Criminal Mind relies on Bob Ricks, an FBI Special Agent who was prominent in the famous siege on the Branch Davidian compound, back in 1993.

Who was David Koresh?  Originally known as Vernon Howell, he became David Koresh as a way of linking himself with Biblical content. One of his weapons was knowing the Bible well and using his memorization skills to preach of himself as a messiah.

Like these other cults, Koresh’s followers gave up everything. Also, it’s argued that he creepily had sex with everyone’s wives and daughters.

Like a true apocalyptic leader stereotype, Koresh began stockpiling weapons, and his crazy cult ended up in a 51-day standoff with the FBI. Although some blame the government for what happened, Bob Ricks vehemently argues that Koresh himself set fire to the Branch Davidian compound.

Regardless of one’s beliefs on the matter, it’s obvious that this could have ended better, and would have if people didn’t fall for his deviant and all-controlling charms.

Warren Jeffs

Warren Jeffs is apparently still President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). As Inside the Criminal Mind tells us, he’s been a powerful figure in Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah.

As a polygamist leader, he used — and actually still uses — sex as a means of control. He can reassign women to new families at will, as a means of reward and punishment.

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Before his arrest, he rigidly controlled who could reproduce. Also, much like Koresh, he’s noted for an unhealthy interest in children. If that’s not enough, the Yearning for Zion Ranch is actually near Waco, Texas.

That’s it for this weeks Inside the Criminal Mind recap. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!