Being social creatures, humans feel the need to belong, to have an identity that’s representative of something greater than ourselves. Cults exploit this necessity, offering members community in exchange for freedom. We’ve all heard the horror stories of Jonestown or the Heaven’s Gate suicides. But today, let’s explore three of the lesser-known strangest cults.
The Ashtar Galactic Command: Two Cults at War
The story of the Ashtar Galactic Command begins with a man named George Van Tassel, who—from the early ‘40s to late ‘70s—operated a small airport in Giant Rock, California. Tassel claimed that an extraterrestrial being named Ashtar visited him in 1953. Ashtar supposedly told Tassel the secrets of time travel, something that he—Tassel—attempted to capitalize on by seeking funding for the creation of a time machine. (Despite receiving funding, Tassel never did build said time machine.)
According to Tassel, Ashtar continued to communicate with him telepathically for many years. Apparently, Ashtar chose him specifically to relay the secrets of the universe to his growing base of followers. One of these followers was a science fiction writer named Bill Rose. Rose didn’t like Tassel’s “portrayal” of Ashtar. He more or less hijacked the character from Tassel, creating his own cult dubbed the Ashtar Galactic Command. Many of Tassel’s followers migrated to Rose’s cult, thus creating what is undoubtedly the most famous beef in the realm of ufology.
What Does the Ashtar Galactic Command Believe Anyway?
Well, the answer is not exactly straightforward. Aside from Tassel and Rose, many other followers have claimed to be “channelers” of Ashtar. Information from some channelers conflicts with that from others. As a result, the cult has had difficulty establishing its core beliefs. However, the organization’s website makes the following claim:
“We are here to assist Earth and humanity through the current cycle of planetary cleansing and polar realignment. We serve like midwives in the birthing of humanity from dense-physical to physical-etheric bodies of light, capable of ascending into the fifth dimension along with the Earth.”
If you understood that, you’re smarter than we are. Clearly, the Ashtar Galactic Command is one of the strangest cults in existence. We suspect that many of its members may have, at least for a time, only been involved “ironically.”
Ho No Hana Sanpogyo: Pay to Have Your Feet Read
Founded by Japanese electrician Hogen Fukunaga (better known to his followers as “His Holiness”), Ho No Hana was a “foot reading cult.” Yes, you read that correctly. In 1987, after a supposed spiritual awakening, Fukunaga came to the realization that he was simultaneously a reincarnation of Jesus Christ and Buddha. He also realized that people’s feet were windows to their souls.
Somehow, he attracted loyal followers who not only believed his claims to have been a God, but were willing to pay him $900+ to examine their feet for spiritual purposes. Believe it or not, these foot readings made Fukunaga a multi-millionaire. He even attracted the attention of Yogesh Gandhi—a distant relative of Mahatma Gandhi—who supported Fukunaga financially.
Of Course It Was a Scam
Fukunaga didn’t stop with mere foot reading sessions: after examining the feet of his subjects, he would lie that they had fatal diseases, the only cures for which were expensive scrolls that he claimed would ward off evil. He even performed seminars that sold for up to $45,000. However, over 1,000 of his followers eventually wised up and filed lawsuits against him. Then, in 2001, Fukunaga was arrested for fraud. He hasn’t been heard from since.
We’re not sure how one gets to the point at which Fukunaga’s “treatments” sound like worthy investments. We’re just happy that we’ve yet to experience the level of desperation it takes to fall for one of history’s strangest cults.
The Freedomites – An Ironic Title
The ironically named Freedomites originated in Saskatchewan, Canada in the early 20th century. A collective of Russian immigrants, they chose to isolate themselves from Canadian society and preserve the traditions of their heritage. Seems relatively normal, right? Well, things get a lot stranger from here.
Aside from being one of the world’s strangest cults, the Freedomites were also a nudist colony. They believed that clothing symbolized the shackles of civilization. They would not get birth certificates for their children and refused to put them in public schools. As a result, members of the cult would grow up without the ability to read or write, leaving them no option but to remain within the community.
For the sake of the children, the Canadian government tried many times to intervene. For example, public nudity was made illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. In protest, a gang within the Freedomites—called the Sons of Freedom—would commit a series of arsons, burning the homes of government officials.
The Government Didn’t Help Much
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the community in 1953. They mass-arrested the adults for nudity and took the children into custody. For six years, the government kept these children in camps with dire conditions. They supposedly endured even more abuse there than they did within the cult.
The Freedomites still exist today, though they are now more akin to a Russian-speaking colony than an actual cult. Thankfully, the community no longer practices arson, and the children now have birth certificates and receive education. And yes, the Freedomites now wear clothes.