Being a celebrity might sound like the dream; after all, the lifestyles of the rich and famous often include vacations to exotic locales, name-brand fashion sprees, and adoring fans literally throwing themselves at your feet. Sadly, in reality, it can be lonely and isolating—and no amount of money or fame can change that.
Some celebrities try to fill this emotional void with charitable deeds. Others turn toward more, uh… unconventional places to gain the happiness they’re so desperately searching for. Here are 12 famous people you won’t believe have bizarre connections to the occult…
1. Neil Young and Charles Manson: The famous rocker met Charles Manson long before the serial killer became infamous. In fact, Neil Young actually tried to land Manson his own record deal. Of course, this was before the Manson Family was a household name.
“I told Mo Ostin at Reprise about him, and recommended that Reprise check him out,” Young once said. “Shortly afterward, the Sharon Tate-La Bianca murders happened, and Charlie Manson’s name was known around the world.”
2. Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson: Neil Young wasn’t the only musician wooed by Manson. Beach Boys drummer and co-founder, Dennis Wilson, was seduced by the Manson Family women, and he even forged a friendship with Manson himself.
In an article released in 1968, Wilson said, “[Charlie] drifted into crime, but when I met him I found he had great musical ideas. We’re writing together now. He’s dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him.”
3. John Lennon and the Source Family: In the 1970s, a vegetarian eatery called the Source Restaurant opened in Los Angeles. Former Beatles co-founder John Lennon couldn’t get enough of their mashed yeast specials or groovy vibes…
The restaurant was run by the Source Family, a cult led by James Edward Baker—otherwise known as Father Yod—who was an admitted murderer with 14 different wives. The group also had a band and practiced sex magic.
4. Bud Cort and the Source Family: Father Yod and his ladies infiltrated Hollywood, too. Actor Bud Cort never lived in the massive mansion that housed the rest of the family, but the Harold and Maude star’s name did appear on their register.
5. Glenn Close and Moral Re-Armament (MRA): Actress Glenn Close was raised following this non-denominational cult, which welcomed anyone who subscribed to four rules: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love.
It all sounds pretty good until you find out that they had ties to the Nazi party. Close later said, “You basically weren’t allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire… it has a profound impact on you.”
6. Joaquin and River Phoenix and the Children of God: The Phoenix siblings were raised in a cult that celebrated sex between adults and children as a means of getting closer to God. Thankfully, the actors eventually left.
Though the cult no longer exists in its original form, one of its founding members renamed it the Family International. Whether or not they still practice their dark beliefs is currently unknown…
7. Elvis Presley and Paramahansa Yogananda: The Self-Realization Fellowship came to Los Angeles to spread the word about the healing power of yoga. While not a cult, it did attract its fair share of celebrities—including the King of Rock ‘n Roll himself…
According to a story the organization likes to tell, Presley showed up one day shaking his hips and talking to one of their monks. He said, “Man, you made the right choice. People don’t know my life or that I sometimes cry myself to sleep because I don’t know God.”
8. Val Kilmer and Christian Science: Followers of the Church of Christian Science, like actor Val Kilmer, believe that the physical is not real—only the spiritual world. It’s nice in theory, but not when it means avoiding medical care.
As a practicing Christian Scientist, Kilmer does not believe in seeking medical treatment. Instead he focuses on praying the illness away. That’s his right, of course, but rumors have spread that his beliefs are not proving effective against his throat cancer.
9. Andy Kaufman and psychic surgery: When legendary comedian Andy Kaufman was diagnosed with cancer, he did everything possible to treat it—including a holistic diet and chemotherapy. When that didn’t work, he tried psychic surgery.
Tragically, this was a scam. Jun Labo of the Philippines built his own cult of personality dedicated to the idea that he could heal illnesses using only his mind. In reality, it was all a trick using sleight of hand and fake blood. Kaufman did not recover.
10. Jayne Mansfield and the Church of Satan: When her career began to decline, Jayne Mansfield joined the Church of Satan helmed by Anton LaVey (pictured). The same year she hung her membership certificate on her wall, she died in a tragic car crash.
11. George Harrison and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness: After the Beatles broke up, George Harrison (third from right) dedicated his life to the Hare Krishnas. They were a relatively benign cult, though they have been accused of brainwashing runaways.
12. Gloria Swanson and Scientology: Gloria Swanson was a close friend of founder L. Ron Hubbard and his wife. She expressed interest in his organization, then called Dianetics, but quickly tapped out to spend the 1970s promoting macrobiotic diets.
Some of these stories are strange while others are just heartbreaking. It’s amazing the power these groups had over some of these stars!
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