Popular Celebrities Who Have Ties to Dangerous Cults

Our society tends to put celebrities on a pedestal. But in reality they’re just like us — although some take their habits to the extreme. And sometimes they get looped into crazy, eccentric lifestyles.

It’s hard to believe, but some of the popular celebrities we see in movies and on TV associate with dangerous cults. Many of the stars cut ties, but others remain involved. One cult even tricked an iconic actress into joining them (page 10). 

1. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise holding a microphone at a press conference.

The Top Gun star has some wacky beliefs. | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

As one of the biggest supports and defenders of Scientology, Tom Cruise is hard to take seriously these days. Although he keeps a large part of his belief system private, he has called Scientology “a beautiful religion” and doesn’t hide the fact that he’s heavily involved.

Next: This celeb and his siblings had an odd upbringing.

2. Joaquin Phoenix

joaquin phoenix

Luckily, Joaquin Phoenix’s parents came to their senses. | David Buchan/Getty Images

Joaquin Phoenix has been candid about being raised in the Children of God cult with his siblings. His parents joined the controversial cult in the ’70s, but eventually became disillusioned with the organization (currently called The Family International) and broke free.

Next: The “Godfather of Grunge” tried to help a cult leader.

3. Neil Young

Neil Young

Singer Neil Young | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Neil Young’s support of infamous criminal Charles Manson may surprise you. But as Young developed his solo career, he took Manson under his wing as the cult leader pursued a music career. Young even tried to get Manson a record deal with Frank Sinatra’s record label shortly before the gruesome murders that launched Manson to fame.

When police found the bodies of pregnant actress Sharon Tate along with four others, they discovered it was the work of Manson and his cult followers. Time reported the murders were far more “far bloodier and grimmer” than the homicide detectives had ever seen.

Next: The King himself got duped.

4. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, the King

Elvis Presley joined a cult that originated in India. | AFP/Getty Images

While on a quest for higher spirituality, Elvis Presley became a devotee of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, a cult that originated in India. Elvis eventually befriended the “mother” of the movement, Sri Daya Mata. Allegedly, one of the questions Elvis asked was “Why did God make me Elvis Presley?”

Next: The Children of God were in Italy, too.

5. Rose McGowan

Rose McGowan in 2014

She was able to escape, thankfully. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Actress Rose McGowan was born in Florence, where her father ran an Italian chapter of the Children of God cult. Her group encouraged its members to have sex at a young age, but fortunately, McGowan and her family fled before she had to participate.

Next: This Beatle supported a cult’s famous restaurant.

6. John Lennon

John Lennon

The Beatles’ John Lennon regularly conversed with The Source followers. | Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

A vegetarian restaurant, The Source, opened in Los Angeles in 1969. But it wasn’t just an organic restaurant; it was the center of The Source Family cult led by Jim Baker, aka “Father Yod.” Dressed in white robes, the cult followers served John Lennon organic meals often.

Before his 1975 death in a hang-gliding accident, Baker had 14 wives. Allegedly he killed two men with his bare hands. The cult managed to obtain 150 followers of its blend of Western and Eastern philosophies. At the time, many people equated The Source to the Manson family.

Next: The Fresh Prince’s children are in a secret society?

7. Jaden and Willow Smith

Willow Smith and Jaden Smith

Willow and Jaden Smith have always been an eccentric pair. | Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com

The Smith siblings are rumored to be members of the Orgonite Society, which claims to be “A Secret Society Of Individuals Who Create And Place Orgonite To Balance Gaia’s Energies.” Gaia is a Greek mythological figure who created the universe. Kylie Jenner is also allegedly a member.

Next: You’d never know this Hollywood duo grew up in a cult.

8. David and Patricia Arquette

David and Patricia Arquette

David and Patricia Arquette were born in a commune. | Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Along with their other siblings, David and Patricia Arquette were born into the Skymont Subud commune in Virginia. Started in the 1920s in India, the cult doesn’t define itself as a religion, but rather a way to communicate with God “in a different way.” Meant to be a social experiment and utopia, the commune the Arquettes grew up in lacked running water, and their parents abused them during their time there.

Next: The “Queen of Pop” finds a higher power.

9. Madonna

Rock star Madonna promotes her children's books inspired by Kabbalah.

Madonna promotes her children’s books inspired by Kabbalah. | Joel Saget /AFP/Getty Images

Many followers give a vague definition of Kabbalah. Regardless, this ancient mystical interpretation of the Bible (founded in the 1970s) has many celebrity supporters, including Madonna, who’s known to wear the red string bracelet associated with Kabbalah.

Often spotted at the Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles, Madonna is known to avoid performing on Friday evenings, the onset of Shabbat. Former Kabbalah supporters include Roseanne Barr, Jeremy Langford, Elizabeth Taylor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton.

Next: A cult tricked this seasoned starlet when she first moved to Hollywood.

10. Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns

As a fresh face in Hollywood, Michelle Pfeiffer joined a cult. | Warner Bros.

20-year-old Michelle Pfeiffer was duped into joining a cult when she was new to Hollywood. She befriended a couple who were personal trainers and followers of “breatharianism,” a belief system that food is not necessary and sunlight can provide all the nourishment the body needs. When Pfeiffer’s first husband, Peter Horton, was cast in a movie about cults, she promptly realized she was in one herself and severed ties with her “friends.”

Next: This cult was close to a fatal attraction.

11. Glenn Close

Alex and Dan are having drinks at a booth and looking at each other.

Michael Douglas and Glenn Close starred in Fatal Attraction.| Paramount Pictures

At seven years old, Glenn Close’s parents joined the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) cult, an extreme conservative group. The belief system was based on “absolutes”: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. Close actually credits the cult with helping her acting career since she had to pretend she believed what she was told. Yikes.

Next: Stranger days for this Stranger Things star

12. Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder in Stranger Things | Netflix

When she was just seven, Winona Ryder and her family moved to the Rainbow Family commune in California, a counter-culture, hippie group. She lived there for three years with no electricity or running water.

Next: Superman beat Scientology.

13. Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve in Superman: The Movie

Christopher Reeve expressed interest in joining Scientology. | Warner Bros.

The late Christopher Reeve considered joining the Church of Scientology in 1975 at the age of 22, studying at the New York headquarters. He dismissed the cult after inventing a story about a past life as the commander of a warship in ancient Greece to an auditor, who backed up his blatantly false claim with an E-Meter.

Next: This actress broke free from Scientology, and it hasn’t been pretty since.

14. Leah Remini

Leah Remini

Remini made sure everyone knew she was leaving Scientology. | Neilson Barnard/iStock/Getty Images

Leah Remini made a very public break from Scientology in 2013, and it was not an amicable parting. She has detailed her unpleasant experiences in the 30 years she was a member on 20/20 and other shows, and she even created a documentary called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Next: Would you drink blood for your religion?

15. Jayne Mansfield

High priest of the Church of Satan poses with actress Jayne Mansfield.

Founder and high priest of the Church of Satan Anton LaVey poses with actress Jayne Mansfield. | JoBlo Movie Trailers via Youtube

In the ’60s, the Church of Satan appealed to stars due to its partying ways and the founder Anton LaVey’s media attention. So actress Jayne Mansfield attempted to revive her career by reportedly joining the cult.

LaVey and the Playboy centerfold filmed Satanic rituals involving LaVey wearing devil horns and a cape, and Mansfield drinking fake blood against a background of tiger skins. The duo allegedly put a curse on her then-boyfriend — and a series of terrible events followed.

Mansfield and her boyfriend died in a gruesome car crash in 1967. Her three children (including Mariska Hargitay of future Law & Order fame) survived.

Next: Good vibrations turned bad

16. Dennis Wilson

Beach Boys

Dennis of the Beach Boys was good friends with Charles Manson. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The co-founder of the Beach Boys is known to have befriended Charles Manson and his deadly cult in the 1960s after picking up some of Manson’s “girls” as they hitchhiked. Manson and his cult eventually moved into Wilson’s home, supplying the Beach Boys with women and drugs. Wilson eventually booted them out, but he never got over his guilt.

Next: A cult is to blame for this musician’s brother’s death.

17. Christopher Owens

Christopher Owens

Christopher and his family lost his younger brother because their cult didn’t believe in modern medicine. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

Musician Christopher Owens and his family were members of the Children of God, traveling through Asia and Europe to help recruit new members. They left when he was 16, but not before his brother died as a baby because the cult members didn’t believe in modern medicine.

Next: This rapper and singer escaped the church from hell.

18. Angel Haze

Angel Haze

Haze’s religion had a lot of strict rules. | Ian Gavan/Getty Images

25-year-old Angel Haze was raised in the community of the Greater Apostolic Faith, a Pentecostal Christian denomination. But this was no ordinary Christian church — she says members lived in the same community and couldn’t wear jewelry, listen to music, eat certain things, or talk to anyone outside of the faith.

Next: This cult leader originally belonged to another cult. 

19. Charles Manson

charles manson mugshot

Manson came up with his own cult. | California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images

Charles Manson reportedly studied Scientology in his early years, eventually using philosophies he’d learned from the church to recruit members into his own cult. It appears that Manson never actually believed in the principles of Scientology, but rather, he used them to control others’ minds.

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