Pop Culture


1965 – Help! Directed by Richard Lester. A fictional version of the Indian criminal cult Thugees

1981 – Ticket to Heaven (a cult based loosely on the Unification Church)

1984 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom features a cult group inspired by Thuggees.

1985 – Witness, set among the amish sect of pennysylvania

1992 – Malcolm X. Shows his connection to the Nation of Islam

1999 – Holy Smoke! Shows a woman under the influence of a “Guru”

2003 – Latter Days – based on a gay relationship involving a closed Mormon missionary

2011 – Martha Marcy May Marlene. A woman adjusts to life outside a cult


Simpsons “Joy of the Sect”

Family Guy – Chitty Chitty Death Bang

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

AHS Cult


Phase Two Review

Look at cults Masons, Rosacrucians
How do they start in the first place?
How can people believe them?
Are there common points between the cults?
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
What separates religion and cults?
Tactics to join – Conspiracy, what is a conspiracy?
Thought reform framework
Space, where they live, set up, secluded
Real verses fake personas
House building
Cult information centre
Hot Fuzz
Negan from the Walking Dead
Citizen structures

Research Proposal Document

Research Proposal Document

Project Name

Jennifer Moodie
Cults v.0.1


This project will be built upon the idea of totalist cults, their psychologies, reasonings and beliefs. I am fascinated by the idea of hierarchy that can be found within cults, as well as the tactics employed by cult leaders to shape their followers.

One commonly quoted definitions of “cult” were at an ICSA/UCLA Wingspread Conference in 1985:

‘A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members,  their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986)

Much of my research has been based upon the psychological foundations of a cult, their leader and their followers. I have looked at specific cults as independent organisations, including perhaps the most famous cult in history, The Peoples’ Temple. What I have found is a vast collection of charismatic personalities within the self-professed messiahs of these cults. So much so, that I’ve often found myself being compelled to study these people with openness to their beliefs and teachings.


Professional goals:

  • Create a game that challenges the idea of totalist cults
  • Explore the possibilities of a serious or entertaining look into cultism.
  • Create something that can be used on multiple platforms (digital and physical)
  • Incorporate research into totalism, thought reform, hierarchies and radicalisation
  • Say something meaningful about how the human brain is easily manipulated
  • A fully functioning prototype that could forward to professionals in the industry or publishers.

Personal goals:

  • A completed game that says something about the environment surrounding cultism in a fun and informative way.
  • Develop an understanding of psychology and mental health (this ties in nicely with totalist cults and their thought reform methods)
  • Developed digital skills in coding
  • Create more prototypes of possible games and mechanics

User Experience


Identify and define the intended audience with research to back this up

Competitive Analysis

Compare how your work will differ, offer improvement or enhancement of the competition.

Critical Analysis

What are the topics you are researching specifically that are not games related? Academic books, journals, articles

Project Content


List of components you will be producing for final deliverables

Functional Specifics

Technical, software, hardware for development and concepts for distribution of project.

Project Structure

Proposed methodologies like agile, SCRUMM, Lean UX, Kanban, diagrams as appropriate. What happens next? How will you start the next phase? How will you user test?


A week-by-week summary of what you want to achieve

Design Appendix


create and specify presentation covering mechanics, colours, typography, language, texture, feel, edited reviews of sketchbooks, notebooks, research, concepts, moodboards, artwork, prototypes

Sketchbooks and Notebooks


Examples of screen layouts, characters, graphics, mood boards, colours, include iterations, feedback, models, sprite sheets.


Self-contained functioning prototypes list



Development Screencaps

Video or audio narration for key parts of the project.


Structures & Hierarchy

The Thought Reform Movement first began in September 1951, following a speech by premier Zhou Enlai calling for intellectuals to reform their thought.
From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_reform_in_China>


Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China is a non-fiction book by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton on the psychology of mind control.

In the book, Lifton outlines the “Eight Criteria for Thought Reform”:

  1. Milieu Control. This involves the control of information both within the environment within the individual, resulting in a degree of isolation from society.
  2. Mystical Manipulation. The manipulation of experiences that appears spontaneous but is, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority, spiritual advancement, or some exceptional talent or insight that sets the leader and/or group apart from humanity, and that allows reinterpretation of historical events, scripture, and other experiences. Coincidences and happenstance oddities are interpreted as omens or prophecies.
  3. Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
  4. Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
  5. Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
  6. Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.
  7. Doctrine over person. Members’ personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
  8. Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_Reform_and_the_Psychology_of_Totalism>


Cults (From Bacchus to Heaven’s Gate) – Michael Jordan

The First Cults
The Assyrians of the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia – created the Cult of the Sacred Tree
Osiris and the Cult of the Dead
Artemis at Ephesus

Radical Religion Cults
Christian Radicals
Quakers and Mormons

The First Christian Scientists
Children of God
The Peoples Temple
Branch Davidians
Temple of the Sun
The Rajneeshis
The Patriots
The Nine O’Clock Service
Exit Road

Satanic Cults
Black Magicians & The Black Mass
Hellfire Clubs
Witches of Salem
Anton Szandor La Vey
Modern Satanism


A cult is typically a small, non-mainstream group that revolves around one charismatic leader.

A destructive or ‘totalist’ cult exploits vulnerabilities in their followers to bring about thought reform with unethical psychology techniques.

Totalist cults may include:

  • A charismatic leader that the members can follow
  • Deception during the recruitment stage of the true intentions of the group.
  • Thought reform methods used on members
  • Isolation in physical and psychological forms
  • A demand for absolute devotion and loyalty
  • Strict control over members

Cult members have not devoted to their leaders’ ideas but the leader themselves. That is why a charismatic leader is crucial to running a totalist cult. This leader is usually considered some form of god, messiah, prophet, or possessing some other holy status.

What makes for a good cult member?

  • Dependency –

An intense desire and need to ‘belong’ or find their place in the world. This usually stems from low self-esteem issues.

  • Unassertiveness –

A reluctance to say no when asked to do something.

  • Gullibility –

Needs to be able to believe someone without questioning their logic

  • Low Tolerance for Uncertainty –

This person likes things to be told to them in black and white. This is good, this is bad. This is allowed, this is not.

  • Naïve Idealism –

A blind belief that everyone is good and has good intentions and motives.

  • A Desire for spiritual meaning –

Wishing for a higher purpose in life.

Four main ways to bring about ‘Thought Reform’

  • Deception –

Most cults will mislead new members, showing them only the positive sides to joining and ignoring any negative parts of cult life or illegal activity that takes part within the cult.

  • Isolation –

Isolation for periods of time can cause deep introspection, confusion, loss of perspective and a distorted sense of reality. The longer they are isolated, the more fearful of outsiders they become.

  • Induced Dependency –

Cults demand absolute unquestionable devotion to the cause. Any and all aspects of a members life before the cult that reflect any individuality are slowly phased out; Ultimately, feelings of worthlessness and evil become associated with freedom and critical thinking.

  • Dread –

Finally, control by fear. Cult members are usually fearful of the leader and try hard to stay in their leaders’ good books.

Here are the typical traits of the pathological cult leader (from Dangerous Personalities) you should watch for and which shout caution, get away, run, or avoid if possible:

  • He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
  • Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
  • Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
  • Has a sense of entitlement – expecting to be treated specially at all times.
  • Is exploitative of others by asking for their money or that of relatives putting others at financial risk.
  • Is arrogant and haughty in his behaviour or attitude.
  • Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws.
  • Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect or cult. Sex is a requirement with adults and subadults as part of a ritual or rite.
  • Is hypersensitive to how he is seen or perceived by others.
  • Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
  • Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent.
  • Has ignored the needs of others, including biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs.
  • Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
  • Needs to be the centre of attention and does things to distract others to ensure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances.
  • Has insisted on always having the best of anything (house, car, jewellery, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
  • Doesn’t seem to listen well to the needs of others, communication is usually one-way in the form of dictates.
  • Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling is part of his personality.
    Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain.
  • When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage.
  • Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.”
  • Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as “the enemy.”
  • Acts imperious at times, not wishing to know what others think or desire.
  • Believes himself to be omnipotent.
  • Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems.
  • Is superficially charming.
  • Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior.
  • Has a certain coldness or aloofness about him that makes others worry about who this person really is and or whether they really know him.
  • Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted.
  • Treats others with contempt and arrogance.
  • Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere him.
  • The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself.
  • Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – when he does he acts out with rage.
  • Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong nor does he apologize for his actions.
  • Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems.
  • Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity.
  • Rigid, unbending, or insensitive describes how this person thinks.
  • Tries to control others in what they do, read, view, or think.
  • Has isolated members of his sect from contact with family or outside world.
  • Monitors and or restricts contact with family or outsiders.
  • Works the least but demands the most.
  • Has stated that he is “destined for greatness” or that he will be “martyred.”
  • Seems to be highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
  • Uses enforcers or sycophants to ensure compliance from members or believers.
    Sees self as “unstoppable” perhaps has even said so.
  • Conceals background or family which would disclose how plain or ordinary he is.
  • Doesn’t think there is anything wrong with himself – in fact, sees himself as perfection or “blessed.”
  • Has taken away the freedom to leave, to travel, to pursue life, and liberty of followers.
  • Has isolated the group physically (moved to a remote area) so as to not be observed.

From <https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/spycatcher/201208/dangerous-cult-leaders

Type Christian new religious. Utopian social change church movement. Eclectic Pentecostal with Christian socialist and communist elements. Theosophical. New Thought.
Polity Semi-congregationalist
Locations United States (Indiana, California), Guyana
Founder Jim Jones
Congregations 7 in California
Members Between 3,000 and 5,000
Ministers James Warren ‘Jim’ Jones


Congregationalist: Protestant churches with reformed traditions

Christian New Religious: Religious, ethical or spiritual group or community with fairly modern practices.

Utopian Socialism: A label used to define the first currents of modern socialism.

Pentecostal: A renewal movement of Protestant Christianity that places emphasis on personal experiences with God.

Christian Socialist: Religious socialism based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Communism: Philosophical, social, political and economic ideology and a movement aiming for a communal society

Theosophical: AKA Bohemian theosophy refers to mystical or occultist philosophy in which one focuses on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature, origin and purpose of the universe.

Inspired by the idea of a just society that could overcome the evils of racism and poverty.

Although Jones was white, he attracted mostly African Americans to the group with his vision of an integrated congregation. In 1960 the Peoples Temple affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and four years later Jones was ordained. In 1965 he warned of a nuclear holocaust and led the movement to Ukiah, Calif.

Branch congregations opened in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the agricultural settlement Jonestown was founded in 1974.

Jones’s “apostolic socialism” was influenced by the Marxist “liberation theology” popular among Latin American clergy at the time. He mixed social concerns with faith healing and an enthusiastic worship style drawn from the black church. He also invited members to live communally in an effort to realize his utopian ideal.

A year later, Concerned Relatives, a group of former members, persuaded Leo J. Ryan, a U.S. congressman from California, to visit Jonestown. The visit apparently went well. However, for reasons still not completely understood, Ryan and those accompanying him were murdered when they reached the airport to return to the United States. Shortly thereafter, most of the residents joined together in a mass rite of murder-suicide in which they were either shot or took poison.

Following the tragedy at Jonestown, the Peoples Temple was identified as a “cult,” and Jones was depicted by the media as the epitome of an evil cult leader. Although numerous scholarly and popular studies of Jonestown have been written, the effort to understand the group and the tragedy continues. Congress has yet to release the files from its investigation of Ryan’s death.

Although some descriptions of the Peoples Temple emphasize Jones’s autocratic control over Temple operation, in reality the Temple possessed a complex leadership structure with decision-making power unevenly dispersed among its members. Within that structure, Temple members were unwittingly and gradually subjected to sophisticated mind control and behaviour modification techniques borrowed from post-revolutionary China and North Korea.

In the 1970s, the Temple established a more formal hierarchy for its socialistic model. At the top were the Temple’s Staff, a select group of eight to ten unquestionably obedient college-educated women that undertook the Temple’s most sensitive missions.


The Rajneeshpuram

The city was on the site of a 64,229-acre property known as the Big Muddy Ranch.

Within three years, the neo-sannyasins developed a community, turning the ranch from an empty rural property into a city of up to 7,000 people, complete with typical urban infrastructure such as a fire department, police, restaurants, malls, townhouses, a 4,200-foot (1,300 m) airstrip, a public transport system using buses, a sewage reclamation plant and a reservoir.

Funding flowed in to support construction from a global network of lucrative communes, as well as sannyasins who sold their earthly possessions and donated the proceeds toward the effort. These devotees were also taught that labour was a form of meditation, and willingly worked long hours to make Rajneeshpuram a reality.

With devoted labourers working to create a dam and build power production infrastructures, a city quickly began to develop, Within a few years, the population went from a few hundred to over 7,000. The city even had a mass transit system consisting of 85 school buses.

Bhagwan preferred to get around by car, usually driving the streets with one of his ninety-three Rolls Royce’s.

Rajneeshpuram created a program called ‘Share-A-Home’ and began to bring in hundreds of homeless people from around the country, offering them a place to live. They also encouraged them to vote in local elections. These residents were usually drugged with a powerful anti-psychotic called Haldol, in an effort to convince the homeless to vote for Rajneesh.


Images From <https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/qvj8ev/rare-photos-from-jonestown-the-deadliest-cult-in-american-history>


Jonestown was a remote settlement in North Guyana established by the Peoples Temple as ‘The Peoples Temple agricultural project’

Jim Jones chose Guyana, an English-speaking socialist country, because the government included prominent black leaders, whom Jones believed would afford black Temple members a peaceful place to live.


500 members of the Peoples Temple went to Guyana to begin construction of Jonestown in 1976. Jones told his followers it was to be a socialist sanctuary and paradise, or a benevolent communist community.

‘I believe we’re the purest communists there are.’

Jones’ wife Marceline described Jonestown as

‘dedicated to living for socialism, total economic and racial social equality.’


School study and night-time lectures for adults revolved around Jones’ talks on revolution and enemies. They had lessons on:

  • Soviet Alliances
  • Jonestown Crisis
  • Mercenaries and defectors

Daily Life

  • Temple members lived in small communal houses, some with walls woven from Troolie Palm.
  • Food stores only held rice, beans and greens, with occasional meat, sauce and eggs.
  • In Jones’ home, he had a small refrigerator containing eggs, meat, fruit, salads and soft drinks.
  • Jonestown had no dedicated prison or system but used punishment on members with disciplinary problems. Methods of punishment included imprisonment in a small plywood box, forcing children down to the bottom of a well at night, along with beatings. Those who attempted to flee were captured and drugged with the likes of Thorazine (anti-psychotic), sodium pentothal (barbiturate general anaesthetic), chloral hydrate (sedative), Demerol (Opioid pain relief) and Valium.
  • Armed guards patrolled the area around Jonestown day and night to enforce rules.


Jones based much of the rules and regulations of Jonestown on the North Korean regime of eight hours work, eight hours of study. Study time was usually used to employ mind control and behaviour modifying techniques, which would work better on tired Temple members after a long day of manual labour. Many of these techniques were influenced by North Korea and Mao Zedong’s China.


6:00am – Wake up, breakfast, prepare for the day ahead.
6:30am – Start manual labour work
11:30am – break for one hour lunch
12:30pm – return to manual labour work
5:00pm – Finish work for the day, head to the pavilion for communal dinner
5:30pm – begin night-school
10:00pm – night school ends, sleep.


Temple members initially worked six days a week from roughly 6am to 6pm with an hour for lunch. But after Jones’ health began to deteriorate, his wife took over day-to-day running of the settlement. She reduced worked to eight hours a day, five days a week, however, after the day of work had finished, Temple members now had to attend several activities in the pavilion including classes in socialism.


For entertainment, Temple members would listen to Jones reading news and commentary, main items from Radio Moscow and Radio Havana. Jones recorded his readings of the news and broadcasted them over the tower speakers so that all members could hear him through the day and night. In these news readings, Jones often hailed Kim Il-Sung, Robert Mugabe and Joseph Stalin as positive forces in the world of politics.

Temple members would be allowed to watch socialist or communist movies, under the watchful eye of Jones, who would interpret each scene as he saw fit.


Jim Jones

(May 13th 1931 to November 18th 1978) Leader/Messiah of the People’s Temple

Jim Jones was one of the most successful cult leaders of the 20th century. He was extremely charismatic, and the founder of the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ. He offered his followers a ‘utopia’ in the Jungles of South America called Jonestown.

As a student pastor, he had a strong belief against racial segregation.

He met his wife, Marceline, while working in a hospital. They had one child together and adopted several other ethnicities. He called them his rainbow family.


Members at the top of the church’s hierarchy had pledged not only their devotion to Jones but had also pledged over all of their material possessions and money. Some members even signed over custody of their children to Jones.

Psychological methods employed by Jones and his followers:

  • Physically Isolating Followers

In 1977, Jones moved his cult to Guyana, South America. Those who went with him were cut off from their friends and family outside of the organization and Jones became the sole source of information for them.

  • Creative a False Warzone

Jones made followers believe that the military was after them. He set up people who would shoot into the jungle to make followers feel as though they were under attack.

  • Torturing Doubters

Doubters would be sent to ‘The Medical Unit’ – and put into on coma-inducing drugs. Children who cried about missing the United States were lowered into a well at night.

  • Public Humiliation

He would force members to undergo mass criticism in front of the congregation. He made followers strip naked and encouraged cult members to berate them at length

  • Fake Mass Suicide

On ‘white nights’ members had to drink a red liquid that they were told contained poison to test their loyalty.

  • Starving Residents

Deborah Layton Blakely, a former member, said that Jonestown residents weren’t fed enough. Rice for breakfast, Rice water soup for lunch, rice and beans for dinner. On Sunday, they would receive an egg and a cookie

  • Breaking Family Connections

Vernon Gosney, a former member said that Jones saw family relations as sick and something that needed to be broken down. He would separate children from their parents, break up and rearrange marriages,

  • The ‘Box’

During this, a person would be stuffed into a coffin-shaped box and held underground while continually berated and reprimanded for their slights against the cult.

  • Blackmail –

He forced members to sign blank power-of-attorney forms as well as false confessions that they had molested their children or conspired to overthrow the US Government

Influenced by Karl Max and Joseph Stalin’s view on communism and socialism.

HowJonesUsedDrugsJim Jones had a habit of self-medicating, and as such he was almost always on a cocktail of perspection medication.
Drugs found on site:

  • Thorazine (chlorpromazine), 10,000 injectable doses and 1,000 tablets in a size normally given only “for severe neuropsychiatric conditions.”
  • Quaaludes, 1,000 doses of sedative-hypnotic drug
  • Vistaril, 1,000 doses. Used for total management of anxiety, tension and psychomotor agitation
  • Noludar, 1,000 pills. A sleeping aid that produces both physiological and psychological dependence.
  • Valium injectable, 3,000 doses.
  • Valium tablets, 2,000.
  • Morphine sulphate, injectable, 200 vials.
  • Demerol, 20,000 doses. A narcotic analgesic, it should be used with great caution and has multiple reactions similar to those of morphine.
  • Talwin, 1,150 doses. Similar to Demerol in morphine-like actions.
  • Seconal, 1,000 pills. An extremely dangerous sedative and hypnotic that can be habit-forming.


David Koresh

Bhagwan Rajneesh

Charles Manson 

Marshall Applewhite