Today marks the second month since I escaped from the most twisted cult you have never heard of. Well, I guess that is how cults work – you do not hear about them until something terrible happens. This cult officially referred to themselves as the Third Reincarnation of the King (TRK). The TRK lived deep in wilderness of Utah, and the locals knew not to mess with them, so they could live undisturbed according to their bizarre ideology.
Groups like the TRK are everywhere in the United States. Some are death cults, others are far right militias, while others are apocalyptic prophecy groups. The FBI is pretty much only focused on Islamic terrorist groups these days and no law enforcement agency wants another repeat of the Waco, Texas tragedy. So, groups like TRK get to do pretty much whatever they want so long as they stay far away from civilization.
In a way, I consider myself luckier than most of the children that were brought into the TRK. I was one of the oldest children when the cult first formed. Many of the families that established the TRK were formally part of a far-right cult named Church of the Blessed. A power struggle between two of the church elders led to a schism. Those who broke away followed Charlie Stocke, a self-professed prophet, who led his new congregation into the backwoods of Utah to form the TRK. Members of the TRK quit their jobs and sold all their possessions so that Charlie could build paradise on Earth.
Life was great at first. Charlie taught that he was the third reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that he would build a paradise on Earth for us. Under Charlie’s direction we settled on a large parcel of land near the Nevada border. The compound was meant to be entirely self-sufficient. We grew our own food, generated our own electricity, and set up a filtration system to provide fresh water from a nearby river. Everyone, except for Charlie, lived together in a large communal building. No one, besides Charlie, had permission to leave the compound. Everyone else went about their daily duties. We all believed that we were living life as God intended us to. Free from a society corrupted by man.
Well, that all changed quickly. The first winter was incredibly difficult. We all approached life with a, “God will provide” attitude, which actually meant, “Charlie will provide.”
After a few months, our food supplies ran out. Charlie started making trips to the nearest town to buy food for all seventy-two of us. He told us that God was testing us and that only the most devoted would receive nourishment from the hand of God. A pecking order soon developed where the most fanatic members of the cult became “true believers” and received more food from Charlie. More independent families received less food, were put on prayer lists, and became targets during Charlie’s daily sermons.
Charlie used the prayer list as a tool to beat the more independent families into submission. Families on the prayer list were broken up and were no longer able to speak with one another. Each member of the family had to be supervised at all times by one of Charlie’s true believers. My family made it onto the prayer list for reasons unknown to me. We all worked hard and participated in all the activities. It is likely we just weren’t fanatic enough and Charlie wanted to make examples of us.
Winter soon passed and we could plant crops once more. Charlie bought more livestock for the farm and declared that money was the work of the devil and that from this point on we would be completely self-sufficient. I suspect that most of the money ran out and Charlie was just making excuses. There likely wasn’t that much money to begin with. Most of us were lower-middle class and didn’t have much to give to the cause even after selling all that we owned. This is when I first started to have doubts about the whole paradise on Earth message that Charlie was feeding us every day. I had to keep my thoughts to myself, though, because my family was still on the prayer list. We were constantly watched, and even a sideways glance at another person on the prayer list would bring harsh repercussions.
The situation deteriorated further as our crops failed and the livestock became ill. We lived on rice and beans that was left over from the food supplies Charlie had bought during winter. Charlie’s solution to our lack of food was seven hour sermons where he claimed that the devil was among us. He anointed a group of fanatical young men as the “King’s Zealots.”
They were basically Charlie’s henchmen. They got to eat at Charlie’s table during supper and a special building was built for them to live in.
Families were forced to work eight hour days in the fields under the scrutiny of the henchmen. Most of the crops died before harvest arrived. None of us were farmers. We had no clue what we were doing. We would have to weather the coming winter with a dwindling supply of rice, beans and potatoes. Most of the livestock had been slaughtered and eaten by that point. I remember seeing the misery written on most of the families’ faces.
Everything changed for the worse when Charlie’s henchmen caught a family trying to escape. Charlie announced that he had discovered the devil in our community. The mother and father were to be stoned to death and the children would be adopted by other families. Charlie instructed us all to collect stones from the lake. We all had to watch as his henchmen tied the condemned to a tree. Charlie’s henchmen handed out stones to all the men and instructed them to begin stoning a mother and father. I vaguely remember my father refusing and calling out to Charlie that this was murder. The next few moments blurred together as I heard Charlie command his henchmen to tie my father up with the other two. He then commanded the men to begin stoning. For a moment, no one moved and I thought that reason might finally prevail over this insanity. Then one stone flew and hit the woman in the shoulder. She screamed to Charlie for mercy but he only laughed and told us that he could see the devil standing behind the three of them. He screamed for everyone to kill them before the devil could infect anyone else.
The stones flew freely and I watched in horror as they connected with my father’s face. A large stone smashed into his jaw and I saw him spit broken teeth out of his mouth. My mother cried out and attempted to run to my father’s side. A man standing near Charlie picked up a stone and carefully aimed it at my mother. The stone hit her in the temple and she fell limply to the ground only feet from my father. Only my father remained conscious. The muscles in his neck bulged as he attempted to break free from his bonds. Charlie, with a wide smile on his faced, walked up to my father with a large rock in his hand. He loudly declared to the entire group that these stones were the tool of God to cast Satan out of our community. He raised the rock high and brought it down upon my father’s head. Charlie ordered that the bodies be left where they were as a reminder that there was no place in this community for the devil.
That night two families were caught trying to escape. I can still hear their shrill screams and Charlie’s maniacal laughter in my nightmares. Charlie now called his henchmen his apostles and declared that the rest of us lived in sin. Only Charlie and his twelve apostles could eat from the winter store of food. Everyone else had to fend for themselves. Others lived off roots, bark and what little food Charlie handed out after his sermons.
Nine people died of starvation that winter and four more were executed when they were caught stealing food or trying to escape. Only forty-seven of us were left in the TRK. Charlie had established his own little fiefdom with his lords and peasants. Thirty-four of us toiled from sun up to sun down doing whatever tasks the Charlie or the apostles commanded of us. Usually we spent our time in the fields trying to scratch out a living from the soil.
By this point everyone, myself included, had resigned ourselves to our fate. Only Charlie, his apostles and maybe a few of their wives still believed that they were creating paradise on Earth. However, even the apostle’s support began to waver once their food supplies ran out and they were forced to forage for food with the rest of us. Rumors of cannibalism began to spread as the elderly and weak disappeared. These rumors were eventually confirmed when a young boy saw two of the apostles lead an elderly couple into the apostles’ kitchen. They were never seen again and the faint smell of cooking flesh could be smelled if the wind was right.
One morning, on my way to fish at the lake, I stumbled upon a secret conversation among two of Charlie’s henchmen. I heard the smaller man say to the other, “The King plans to end it soon, says God is calling him and his apostles back to heaven.”
The larger man responded, “What do you mean, end what?”
“God is calling us back to heaven. We must answer that call and join the fallen,” the smaller man replied.
“You don’t really believe that? I’m not going to die for that lunatic. It was good for a while but it’s gotten real bad, Charlie doesn’t even have food for us. I’m out of here you can stay if you want,” said the larger man.
“There is no leaving us, we cannot risk you revealing our location to the authorities,” said the smaller man.
A struggle ensued and one of the men was knocked unconscious. The larger man dragged the body into the lake and set off in the opposite direction from the compound. At that moment, I had to decide. Head back to the camp and meet certain death or secretly follow the rogue apostle and hope that he knew how to get back to civilization.
It was an easy choice. I had been through too much to feel guilty about leaving the others behind to their fate. My family was dead, and I am no hero. I was going to get out of this alive, or die trying. I stayed as far as possible behind my fellow escapee. He seemed to have sustained an injury during his struggle and moved very slowly.
By the second day his pace slowed to a crawl, and he eventually stopped to rest. Pangs of hunger gnawed at my stomach and my head pounded from thirst. I decided to confront the man after he stopped moving completely. I needed water if I wanted to make it out alive, and he was sure to have some. He attempted to stand when I emerged from the brush, but I put my foot on his chest. I recognized him as the man who had thrown the stone that killed my mother. Thoughts of revenge crossed my mind but I quickly pushed them away. This guy was not going anywhere. A large gash on his neck looked infected. He likely wouldn’t make it through the night.
I took what little supplies he had in his bag and set off again in search of safety. I reached a small country road later that night and hours later came upon a main road. I flagged down a vehicle which promptly drove me to police station. The first police officer treated me as a deranged runaway. Their commanding officer, a local who had lived in the area his entire life, believed my story immediately. I guess the area was popular among crazies and cults trying to live off the grid.
The problem was that I could not tell the police where exactly the compound was located. It took two days of aerial searches for them to locate the TRK compound. They expected to find everyone dead. Instead they found Charlie and his apostles burned alive. It looked like someone or something had eaten most of the flesh off their bodies. The remaining members of TRK were never found. The FBI got involved and sealed off the compound. The FBI’s working theory is that the remaining TRK members finally rebelled and killed their oppressors. They are now believed to be roaming the Utah wilderness eating anything edible they come across.