Manson, Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate and more: 8 podcasts about cults
Mystery and manipulation are just the surface level of the chilling nature of cults. Their leaders tend to be charismatic and alluring figures that are larger than life and yet shrouded in secrecy. And when they are pushed to the front pages of our news cycles, that’s typically when tragedy strikes. With our interests so piqued on these strange sects, it’s no wonder there’s so many podcasts about cults.
In this list of podcasts about cults, you’ll find podcasts digging into Jonestown and Charles Manson, along with podcasts that cover a wide variety of cults through modern history. You’ll hear firsthand testimonials from those who escaped and hear from experts who are digging into the psychology of those who lead these factions. Or, if you’re looking for something outside of your typical cults, we have podcasts that are asking if there are more cults out there than we think in the form of celebrity stans, multi-level marketers, and colleges’ Greek life.
Check out these podcasts about cults below.
Let’s Talk About Sects
Sarah Steel’s award-winning podcast “Let’s Talk About Sects” is a product of thorough research and compelling storytelling. This cleverly named podcast is a fascinating examination of cults, religion, and sects with testimonials from survivors and victims of these factions. A bit of a hidden gem, “Let’s Talk About Sects” is a high-quality production about all aspects of cults: recruitment, retention, psychological tactics, and notable incidents.
For a comprehensive and exhaustive list of the world’s cults, Parcast’s “Cults” covers them all. Hosts Greg and Vanessa are asking what really goes on inside of a cult. Who are the people who join them, and who are the people who lead them? “Cults” deep dives into the history and psychology of infamous cults and the mystery behind them all.
You Must Remember Manson
From Karina Longworth, the woman who brings us “You Must Remember This,” comes a podcast about the strange intersection of Hollywood and cults with “You Must Remember Manson.” She examines everything: from how he met his “family,” writing songs for the Beach Boys, meeting the ill-fated Sharon Tate, and his indelible stain on Hollywood. Chronicling the murders in the summer of 1969 to how we have perceived it in the aftermath, Manson’s murders are inseparable from show business. Hear it all in this 12-part series.
Sounds Like A Cult
Have you ever been listening to someone obsess over the Royal Family, or The Bachelor franchise, or even a celebrity and thought to yourself, “huh, that sounds like a cult.” Well, you are not alone. Amanda Montell and Isa Medina also think that “Sounds Like A Cult,” and they are looking deeper into it. From celebrity stans, to SoulCycle, to marathoners (for real, who wants to run 26 miles unless they’ve been a little brainwashed), to megachurches and multi-level marketing schemes, all of these things definitely sound like a cult. For a little levity and harsh dose of the truth, find out if your obsession has made the list of technically-not-cults-but-could-be-cults.
Transmissions From Jonestown
On November 18, 1978, the largest mass suicide in modern history occurred in Jonestown. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple was a mysterious remote settlement in Guyana that became internationally known after over 900 people died by cyanide poisoning. The tapes chronicling the People’s Temple history were locked deep in the FBI’s vaults for two decades, but they’ve been finally made public. “Transmissions From Jonestown” pieces together Jim Jones’ rise from shady faith healer to mass murderer and the demise of his Temple.
“Heaven’s Gate” is taking another look at the cult that instigated a 1997 mass suicide in which 39 people took their own lives. Much like Manson and Jonestown, the event captured the attention of the globe, and there’s one question we may never get the answer to: why? 20 years later, the loved ones of those who were lost and those who still believe are telling their story here. “Heaven’s Gate” was also turned into the HBO Max docuseries Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults.
Was I In A Cult?
“Was I In A Cult?” is a podcast of firsthand accounts from those who were in, and successfully left, a cult. Told by the survivors themselves, these are stories from people born into cults and who joined them of their own volition. Hear stories from people who had experience inside of NXIVM, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Children of God and more. From iHeartRadio, it may have some listeners asking if they themselves were in a cult.
The Gateway: Teal Swan
“The Gateway: Teal Swan” is a unique look at a current cult, a new brand of spiritual guru whose hypnotic self-help YouTube channel takes aim at those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Teal Swan convinces people to move to their healing center, where they produce content and manage social media accounts. Gizmodo reporter Jennings Brown travels to rural Utah and the forests of Costa Rica to access Teal’s inner circle and understand what is happening with their teachings and investigate the death of their followers.