ByMarcus O'Shea, writer at Creators.co
Resident RPG nerd and SoulsBorne fanatic. Can be spotted by their floofy hair.
Marcus O'Shea

Outlast 2, the terrifying sequel to the cult-hit survival horror game Outlast, is out. Cult is the right word here, as Outlast 2 takes us from the real-world inspired halls of the Mt. Massive Asylum to the isolated deserts of Arizona, where a freaky Christian cult has set up shop. Care to meet them?

Four Terrifying Real-Life Cults That Inspired Outlast 2

The team at Red Barrel Studio may have given the cult of Outlast 2 their own signature over-the-top movie flair, just like the Asylum in Outlast, but their inspirations are terrifyingly real. America has been host to some of the most disturbing cults in modern times, and their stories are eerily similar to many details in .

Branch Davidians

[Credit: Susan Weems /AP]
[Credit: Susan Weems /AP]

Originally a part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Branch Davidians splintered from the main body of the church over theological differences. One branch, located at Mount Carmel, came under the influence of a charismatic young convert named Vernon Howell, who soon renamed himself to David Khoresh.

After seizing control of the community of over 50 people from the current leader, George Roden, Khoresh began to abuse his newfound power. He took several 'spiritual wives' from among the community and then several years later declared himself to be the perfect mate for all female members of the community, capable of producing a higher race of children who would eventually rule the world.

David Khoresh, photographer unknown
David Khoresh, photographer unknown

After allegations of child abuse (several of Khoresh's 'spiritual wives' were teenagers) and illegal firearms possession and sales began to surface, authorities began to investigate the cult. ATF agents received a warrant to search the Mount Carmel compound near Waco, Texas, but decided to raid the compound early rather than serve the warrant.

What followed was a two-month long siege after members of the Branch Davidians (now renamed to 'Followers of the Seven Seals') fired on ATF agents, killing four and losing six Followers in the ensuing gun battle. At the end of the siege, FBI agents attempted to force Khoresh and his followers out of the compound by firing tear gas. A fire erupted and engulfed the compound, killing 76 members of the cult, including Khoresh himself, who perished in the flame, still refusing to leave his tiny kingdom.

Heaven's Gate

[Credit: Heaven's Gate website]
[Credit: Heaven's Gate website]

A bizarre combination of fundamentalist Christianity and new age beliefs, Heaven's Gate was a cult founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettes, who believed themselves to be the two witnesses to the end times described in the Book of Revelations, and that Applewhite was the reincarnation of Christ himself.

In addition to believing they were key players in the apocalypse, the pair believed that their rapture would come at the hands of extraterrestrials, who would take them and their followers up into their ship after their deaths, to transport them to the promised land.

After gathering a core group of followers, the cult disappeared from the public eye in 1975, when they went underground and assumed false names. For two decades they travelled the USA, begging for food and money with their followers as they recruited more members. In the early '90s, Heaven's Gate (then renamed to "Higher Source") began to recruit via the internet, finding new followers for their UFO-based cult through chat rooms and early online culture.

In 1996, Heaven's Gate rented a 9,000 square foot residence near San Diego, which they dubbed 'The Monastery.' By this point, the group had become increasingly reclusive, and rumors were spreading that the coming Hale-Bopp comet would be a signal of their final transcendence.

A year after renting the monastery, on March 19, 1997, Marshall Appelwhite (Nette had died some years earlier) recorded a message claiming that mass suicide would be "The only way to evacuate this Earth." He claimed that a space ship was following in the wake of the Hale-Bopp Comet, which would elevate the faithful after their death.

A week later, on March 26, 39 bodies were found on the grounds of The Monastery, including Applewhite himself. Each of them lay peacefully in their bunk, a plastic bag around their head, a purple cloth covering their upper body. They wore identical black outfits embroidered with a patch reading "Heaven's Gate Away Team" (an ironic Star Trek reference, seeing as one of the dead was the brother of Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura). Each of them carried three quarters and a five dollar note in their pockets.

People's Temple

[Credit: US Army]
[Credit: US Army]

The People's temple are better known by the location of the eventual tragedy that occurred, Jonestown. This group, responsible for perhaps the most famous incidence of mass suicide in modern history, was a strange fusion of new age Christianity and Marxist teachings. The People's Temple were originally established in the US, and attracted support and a strong African-American membership for their progressive views on race and socialism, even enjoying some clout in politics.

Things changed in 1977, when a series of media investigations and high profile defections by members of The People's Temple put the cult on the defensive. Jim Jones, the leader of The People's Temple, had already established a sort of compound colony in Guyana at the time, and overnight, several hundred members of the cult moved to the tiny Caribbean country.

A photo of Jones leading a congregation before he fled the country, photographer unknown.
A photo of Jones leading a congregation before he fled the country, photographer unknown.

The Jonestown compound, as it was called, was meant to be a model for socialist utopia. However, the entire settlement was built on unusually poor soil, and the closest body of water was miles away. The arrival of Jones and his followers quickly overpopulated the compound, and the presence of the cult's leader meant a massive crackdown on the freedom and behavior of those who were living there.

Following a custody dispute with defected former members Timothy and Grace Stoen, Jones became increasingly paranoid. He faked attempts on his own life, claimed that the US government was out to kill him, and began to import quantities of cyanide in anticipation of what he called a 'revolutionary suicide.'. His mental and physical health began to decline, and he started heavily abusing various drugs.

[Credit: C-Span - YouTube]
[Credit: C-Span - YouTube]

On November 14, 1978, after a concerted campaign by former members of the Temple alleging various crimes and human rights violations against the cult, a delegation lead by congressman Leo Ryan was sent to visit the Jonestown compound. Over the course of the visit, multiple families reached out to Ryan and his group, requesting to defect and be transferred back to America—a further 11 members fled the compound as a group, heading into the nearby hills when they sensed something dangerous might occur at the camp.

Despite the assurances from Ryan that he would file a 'generally good report' about Jonestown, the paranoid and despondent Jones was sure that all was lost. Members of the compound's security team followed the delegation to the nearby airstrip and attacked as the group was boarding two planes. They opened fire and killed five people, including congressman Leo Ryan, then fled the scene.

An aerial photo of the compound [Credit: US Army]
An aerial photo of the compound [Credit: US Army]

After the shooting, Jones became convinced that the USA would attack their compound, and ordered the cult to participate in a 'revolutionary suicide.' Over 900 members of the People's temple died that day, either from Cyanide injections, squirting the poison from syringes into their mouth, or drinking it mixed with flavor-aid packets (which is the origin of the term 'drink the kool-aid').

It's still disputed to this day how many of the deaths were voluntary, and how many were forced or committed under duress, though the disturbing recording of the incident hints that many did not follow the order willingly. Jones himself was found dead in the aftermath, his head resting gently on a pillow, dead of a gunshot wound to the forehead.

Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints

[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]
[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]

The most current, and perhaps most direct influence for Outlast 2's Arizonan cult, is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This offshoot from the Mormon Church was one of many that began after the main church banned polygamy in 1890. Sects devoted to continuing the practice broke away and started their own towns. One such place was Short Creek, which the FLDS started and controls to this day.

Depending on your view of polygamy (and Mormonism), the FLDS started as a fairly benign organization. The church built up their isolated town with their own hands, forming a community in the almost unreachable desert near the Grand Canyon. Things changed in the late '90s when the current prophet, Rulon Jeffs, passed away. His son Warren Jeffs assumed control of the church, and launched a cult-like reign of terror that has continued to this day.

[Credit: Erin Siegal/Redux - Rolling Stone]
[Credit: Erin Siegal/Redux - Rolling Stone]

Since coming into power, Jeffs has further isolated the town. Internet and television are banned, as are most games and forms of fun. Since the '40s, all members of the church had been putting their property and much of their earnings into a church-controlled trust in order to communally own the town. Jeffs took advantage of this to evict members of the church he declared to be 'apostates.' Men who were exiled this way had their wives 'reassigned' to men that Jeffs trusted, or indeed, to Jeffs himself, who currently has over 80 wives, many of whom he married when they were as young as 12.

In 2002, authorities began to investigate Jeffs on charges of pedophilia after rumors of his activities spread outside the isolated town. By 2006, he was on the FBI's most wanted list for multiple counts of sexually assaulting a minor. He went into hiding, moving between safe houses owned by the cult, until he was caught later that year on a routine traffic stop. In his car were 3 wigs, 16 cellphones and $56,000 in cash.

[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]
[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]

Despite now being in jail for life, Jeffs hasn't relinquished his stranglehold over the town of Short Creek. He communicates through coded messages sent to his wives, issuing increasingly bizarre decrees and sermons on the coming apocalypse. The town is now violently divided between members of the cult and 'apostates' who were emboldened by the leader's arrest into legally reclaiming their property.

Now, half the town is surrounded by high walls and barbed wire fences, and almost all stores in the town have been shuttered to prevent apostates using them. SUVs with tinted windows prowl the streets, the agents of Jeffs church, and anyone who opposes him finds themselves the target of mysterious attacks and harassment.

[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]
[Credit: Trent Nelson - Rolling Stone]

More disturbing than anything though, is Jeffs' newest initiative, the United Order. This secretive group is a cult within a cult, an inner circle who are rumored to be breeding a new 'royal bloodline' from 15 'seed bearers.' These seed bearers are now the only members of the church allowed to impregnate the women of the United Order, who have been declared the property of the church.

Children born from these disturbing unions are carted off to secret compounds, where they become property of the church, isolated from the outside world. According to the apocalyptic prophecies of Jeffs, who spends so often praying in his cell that his knees often have open wounds, they will be the new race to inherit the earth.

Outlast 2 is out now and is available from Steam, PSN and Xbox Marketplace.

Chilled by the stories of these real cults? Got a story or fact of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!

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