VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
These interviews with cult leaders will give you the creeps. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Most Disturbing Interviews with Cult Leaders. Our countdown of disturbing interviews with cult leaders includes Keith Raniere, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and more!
Most Disturbing Interviews with Cult Leaders
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Most Disturbing Interviews with Cult Leaders
Something especially disturbing about cult leaders is how normal they can pass themselves off as, relatively speaking. That certainly describes NXIVM co-founder and convicted felon Keith Raniere, who in 2020, was sentenced to 120 years in prison on an array of counts, including trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor. In this interview with actress and fellow NXIVM member, Allison Mack, Raniere initially might just seem like a rambling pseudointellectual. But when you see how much he has Mack hanging onto his every word, in spite of their incoherence, it becomes all the more apparent how he was able to have so much dangerous influence for so long.
As a teenager in the late 90s, Rod Ferrell was part of a group known as the "Vampire Clan," claiming he himself was one of those mythological bloodsuckers. After a shocking home invasion in which he brutally murdered the parents of a friend, Ferrell was arrested and eventually pled guilty. In interview footage, taken from the HBO documentary, “The Vampire Murders,” Ferrell speaks about his crimes with a chilling deficit of remorse. If anything, he seems to be reveling in the carnage and trauma he caused. He might’ve not been an actual vampire, but Ferrell’s actions were shockingly inhuman.
In 1995, the world was shocked after 13 people were killed and hundreds, if not thousands, more were harmed by a chemical attack, inside the Tokyo subway system. The culprits behind this devastating act was Aum Shinrikyo, a doomsday cult led by Shoko Asahara. This 1991 interview taken from the talk show “TV Tackle,” gives a glimpse into Asahara’s mind. When he talks about death in particular, it's hard not to be shaken, considering the fatalities, including ones before the Tokyo attacks, he was responsible for. He speaks with measured calm. But his actions and influence led to utter chaos.
Another infamous doomsday cult leader was David Koresh, who led the Branch Davidians until he was killed following a 51-day siege at their compound, just outside of Waco, Texas. Koresh promoted himself as a prophet, and his fanaticism led to the deaths of 86 people. In an interview with Australian news program "A Current Affair," we get to know Koresh from his own words, and it’s disconcerting, to say the least. He speaks brazenly about his supposed divinity, and his likening himself to Jesus Christ only becomes more unsettling when considering what it eventually led to.
As the leader of the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones had an insidious influence that led to the death of 909 followers, the greatest number of American civilians killed in a single act until the 9/11 attacks. There isn’t much in terms of available interview footage of Jones. But what we could find paints a disturbing picture. When confronted by a reporter about his organization, Jones swiftly gets defensive and starts deflecting, speaking out against negative claims about Jonestown, the settlement he established in Guyana. Knowing what would eventually happen to his followers only makes his statements all the more frightening.
Perhaps no cult leader from the 20th century has inspired more fascination and revulsion than Charles Manson, whose influence led to the deaths of seven people, including actress Sharon Tate. In his first interview from prison, conducted in 1981 with Tom Snyder for “The Tomorrow Show,” Manson is combative and unrepentant as he’s asked about the horrifying acts committed by his followers. Though Snyder does his best to control the interview, it's clear that Manson isn't looking to cooperate in any way. Subsequent interviews give even further indications of just how disturbed he was. But the scariest part of any of them is realizing just how much coercive power he seemingly had.
Which of these interviews disturbs you the most? Let us know in the comments.