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When you read about killer cults and dangerous cult leaders like Charles Manson, it’s hard not to be fascinated. The kind of experiences that people have when they’re in cults are surreal, terrifying, and push the limit of what the human experience is defined as.
Most of the time, the people that true crime authors focus on are either the cult leaders or their followers. However, there's one sector that might have a much closer look at cult life than most others. They're witnesses to the inner workings of the leaders, and often end up in situations very few would actually imagine possible.
So, what ends up happening to cult leaders' wives? We decided to take a look to find out.
Leona "Candy" Stevens, Wife of Charles Manson
Charles Manson was a cult leader who made his followers believe that there would be a massive race war that would happen. They would be the ones to bring peace after "Helter Skelter," and in order to do that, they would have to prepare for the apocalyptic battle.
Manson had not one, but two wives in his lifetime. The first dumped him shortly before he became a cult leader. Candy Stevens left Manson in 1963, not before she had a child with him. All that is known of her is that she was a prostitute at one point.
Not much is known about her, or her son. However, it is known that the two never spoke to Manson and made an active attempt to avoid the limelight after the Manson Family Murders.
Marceline Baldwin Jones, Wife of Jim Jones
Jim Jones was leader of the People's Temple Cult, which made international headlines after staging the largest mass suicide in recent history. In the cult's Jonestown compound in Guyana, over 900 people died in the event—all at the behest of Jones.
Marceline Baldwin Jones was his wife, and throughout their relationship, followed him. The two had a son, and Marceline herself was a devout follower.
However, she was also heavily abused. Word had it that Marceline knew of multiple Jonestown women who had slept with her husband. He also openly dated a woman named Carolyn Moore while married. Moore bore him a son.
He often lashed out at her, and it was clear that she feared for her life. Despite everything, she clearly loved him. Marceline had threatened to leave Jones, but Jones threatened to take her children away. She stayed, and often chastised others for critiquing her husband.
Marceline realized, though, that the Jonestown compound was destined for awful things. In an essay, her son, Steven Jones, mentioned that Marceline worked to get him to escape, even though she, herself refused to go.
During the Jonestown Massacre, Marceline resisted Jim Jones and continued to refuse to drink the poison until she saw the last child die. In the Jonestown tape, you can even hear Jones pleading with her to take the poison, "Mother, mother, mother."
After witnessing all the death around her, battered and bruised, she took the poison. She died next to her husband.
Merrianne Jessop, Wife of Warren Jeffs
Merrianne Jessop was one of 78 women who were married to Warren Jeffs, the polygamist cult leader who ran the Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints. Merrianne, as well as many other wives, were married as young as 12 years of age.
She was 12 when she married the cult leader and is the youngest wife Jeffs had. Jessop was brainwashed into thinking this was normal, and in tapes, was heard being commanded by Jeffs to "not worry about the pain" when he broke her virginity.
Most disturbingly, Jeffs forced all his other wives to watch when he consummated the marriage. He also recorded the events, which made prosecutors' jobs very easy.
When investigators questioned her, Jessop claimed that Jeffs couldn't do anything wrong because "Heavenly Father is the one that tells Warren when a girl is ready to get married."
Shockingly, Merrianne did not seem to be able to shake the brainwashing after Jeffs' arrest. In 2009, she returned to the FLDS compound. Willie Jessop, her father, believes she will be safe as long as Jeffs is in jail. No one really knows much about her current life.
Karen Zerby, Wife of David Berg
A lot of cult leaders' wives tend to be abused and do what they can to flee the movements started by their men, but not Karen Zerby. She was the wife of David Berg, the start of what was known as the Children of God.
The Children of God, known nowadays as The Family International, is a sex cult that has made the news for the practice of sexually abusing the children of followers and using them as bait for pedophiles who would later join the cult.
Karen was not only alleged to sexually abuse the children alongside her husband; she's now the official leader of the Family International after her husband passed away.
Sophie de Nivervelle, Wife of Raël
Raëlism is a cult that is known for preaching a multitude of science fiction-y things. They made the news when they began to fund cloning projects, claim that their founder has been to different planets, and are strong advocates of GMO foods.
Raël had three wives, two of which divorced him due to the sheer amount of work that had to be done with the cult. Sophie de Nivervelle is his most recent wife, and like other cult leaders' wives, she married him while underage.
Not much is known about Sophie, but it appears that she's living with someone else now. Raël has denounced her on Facebook as mentally ill and incapable of receiving alien transmissions due to her use of bipolar medications.
His earlier wife may have spilled the beans on why Sophie left; she claimed that Raël would have sex with other women in front of her and her children...and expect his wife to cook and clean up after them!
She also noted that he was extremely abusive and manipulative, leaving her penniless after he dumped her.
Rachel Koresh, Wife of David Koresh
Rachel Koresh had a lot in common with other cult leaders' wives as well. Her husband, David Koresh, was the violent leader of the Branch Davidians. This cult left 51 people dead after a multi-day siege against ATF, and sadly, Rachel was one of the fatalities.
Rachel married David when she was only 14 years old, and was one of many wives he had. The two had two children, though Koresh himself fathered over a dozen more with both wives and mistresses alike. In fact, one of his mistresses was Rachel's sister.
Her father, who also lived in the Waco compound, was the one who approved the marriage. He also approved of Koresh fathering children with his other daughter.
This young girl was one of David's most devout followers, and while she was bubbly as a child, she eventually became very serious and quiet. It was probably due to Koresh's constant affairs.
During the siege, Rachel, her brother, her children, and her father all died.
Robin Popper, Wife of Father Yod
Robin Popper married Father Yod when he was just known as Jim Baker, a retired World War II veteran. By the time the 60s hit, he was Father Yod, head of The Source cult.
This was a non-violent cult that had a lot of style, owned some of the world's first vegetarian restaurants, and also had a really cool psychedelic rock band. Overall, Father Yod seemed pretty groovy.
He, like many others, believed he was the reincarnate of Jesus Christ and could resurrect the dead. After "resurrecting" a baby that was born with an umbilical cord around his throat, Yod decided it was time to bring MORE babies to this Earth.
So, he ended up having sex with a lot of underage members, despite being well into his old age. Robin called him an "old pervert on a lust trip," and was promptly demoted in her duties.
Even so, she owed a lot to Yod; she was almost a member of Manson's family right before the attacks happened.
Tomoko Matsumoto, Wife of Shoko Asahara
Shoko Asahara was the head of Aum Shinrikyo, one of the most violent and dangerous doomsday cults in history. The Aum cult became famous for their biological and chemical weapons attacks, which were meant to spark a third World War with America.
The chemical attacks killed two and injured over 500 people in the Tokyo subway, and was documented as one of the most famous murders committed by cults. Considering that the Aum were supposed to be a Buddhist offshoot, it seems like they weren't very good at living up to the nonviolent ways of Buddha.
Tomoko Matsumoto was Shoko's wife, and unlike other cult leaders' wives, she played a VERY active role in her husband's cult. She was arrested after it came to light that she approved the murder of a cult member.
Since her husband's execution, Tomoko has expressed sincere regret about the entire ordeal. She also gave the victim's family half of the 40 million yen she inherited from her mother.
Even so, she has been sentenced to serious jail time and remains a pariah in Japan.
Anonymous, Wife of Samuel Warren Shaffer
Samuel Warren Shaffer is one of the newest cult leaders to get arrested and hopefully be thrown in jail for the rest of his life. As leader of the doomsday cult, Knights of the Crystal Blade, he espoused a time where Muslims would try to overtake America and end the world.
So, of course, this meant that he and fellow cult founder should marry each other's daughters. This would already be gross if they were grown women, but the problem is that they weren't. They were 7 and 8.
Authorities charged Shaffer with child abuse and child rape and sentenced him to 25 years. The girl is in protective custody, thank goodness.