view:  full / summary

Karen Zerby's Guilt

Posted by Natacha Tormey on September 24, 2016 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (4)



Karen Elva Zerby legally changed her name to Katherine Rianna Smith in 1997 and uses the following pseudonyms: Mama, Mama Maria, Queen Maria, Maria David, Maria Berg, Maria Fontaine.


She is the current leader of The Family International, formerly known as The Family of Love and The Children of God. She proclaims herself to be one of Jesus’s favourite lovers and a prophetess who will lead God’s true Christian army in the last days of the world’s existence.

She succeeded her husband, David Berg, and is now married to Berg’s former right hand man, Steven Douglas Kelly, who legally changed his name to Christopher Smith and who uses the following pseudonyms: Peter Kelly, Peter Amsterdam and King Peter.

Karen Zerby’s location has been kept a secret for over 40 years, though she was last rumoured to be living in Ajijic, Mexico. She has been accused of being involved in the abuse of her son, Ricky Rodriguez, who went on to murder another of his abusers, his former nanny, before killing himself. Details of the abuse he suffered is described on

‘In photographs and written accounts published by The Family in the Story of Davidito, Sara Kelley documented the sexual abuse of Ricky Rodriguez and other children by a number of adults, including Karen Zerby. The Story of Davidito indicates that Zerby intentionally had sexual intercourse in her son's presence, permitted others to photograph his sexual abuse, permitted these photographs and written accounts of the abuse to be published in Family publications distributed to thousands of Family members, and allowed Kelley and other adults to sexually abuse him, including allowing and encouraging adult women to fondle his genitals and perform fellatio on him.

‘In chapter 61, “Return to Madrid!”, Sara described a number of acts of child sexual abuse that occurred one night in the David Berg household in 1978, when Ricky Rodriguez was 3 years and 2 months old. Among other things, Kelley described how Karen Zerby had sexual intercourse with Michael Sweeney (Timothy Concerned) on the floor as her son watched. Kelley also noted that while she was sexually molesting Zerby's son later that night, Zerby, Sweeney and Alfred Strickland Kelley stood outside the door listening.’

She was also accused of having sexual intercourse with her son when he was twelve years of age.

For legal reasons I am forced to add here that Karen Zerby has repeatedly denied all allegations of abuse, despite the photographic and literary evidence in ‘The Story of Davidito’ book, and despite her son’s testimony (amongst others) in the suicide video left behind.

A copy of the video can be found here, though I must warn you, it is not for the faint hearted and is certainly not suitable to be viewed by children:

Zerby’s Role in the Abuse of Minors

In the 90s, when the cult’s practices were exposed and several international judiciary bodies began to investigate allegations of child abuse, Karen Zerby conveniently placed all the blame on her recently deceased husband, David Berg.

After all, Berg was the founder and leader of the cult when sexual abuse was most rampant. His name was written in black and white on several compromising letters to his followers, in which child abuse was encouraged.

But Zerby’s role was well known within the cult, and is the reason so many ex-members are furious that she is currently living a carefree, wealthy life, rather than one behind bars, which is exactly where she belongs.

Zerby confirmed her status in a letter she wrote to her followers in 1994, in which she announced Berg’s death and quoted his words, ‘Maria isalready my manager and tells me what to do’. These words came as no surprise to cult members as she had long been Berg’s secretary, muse and the primary influence behind his writings. In fact, for at least two decades it was understood that she was in fact running the cult behind the scenes. Her aging, alcoholic husband had long been unfit to run the organisation and she had taken over the daily management of the cult with Steven Kelly.

Nothing was published and sent out to cult members without Zerby’s involvement and approval, which is why it was incredulous that she went on to claim that she had played no part in the child sex letters that Berg sent out...or the ‘Story of Davidito’ book, in which she featured heavily.

In fact, Zerby would just like us all to forget about everything that happened prior to her official takeover in 1994.

No chance.

My Message to Zerby

For as long as I live, I will continuously remind the world of your involvement in the crimes that YOU, The Family International’s leaders and some of its members committed in the past. The past does not disappear, nor can it be erased, no matter how many phony, insincere apologies you make - in which you take every opportunity to insist that you are blameless.

You are to blame. You were actively involved in the writing, editing and publishing of all the letters that were sent out throughout the 70s and 80s, in which child sex was promoted and encouraged - letters which gave the green light to every pervert in the cult to abuse children in their care. Thousands of children were sexually abused consistently over a long period and you and your management team were not only fully aware of this, but condoned such practices. To deny it is an insult to every one of your victims, as is your lame attempt to hide behind your deceased paedophile husband, David Berg. You were present when he abused minors and the words and images in The Davidito Book provide ample evidence that you too were directly involved in the sexual abuse of your son and his childhood friend, Davida.

I do not know if the law will ever catch up with you. You have played a clever game and have gotten away with it so far, but one day you will pay, be it via the hand of justice or karma.

Until then, our voices will continue to rise up against you. You cannot silence or intimidate us because we know who you truly are and the crimes that you have committed. That is why you fear those of us who speak out. You issue statements through your lawyers, just like you did when I appeared on the ‘This Morning’ show, and yet you stop short of taking legal action against people like me, whom you claim to be liars. Why is that? Because you are guilty and you dare not step forward with a legal case for defamation because you know that we are just waiting for a chance to meet you or your representatives in a court of law.

That is why you will never again be able to walk around in public without looking over your shoulder - because you just don’t know who will spot you next.

That is why you will never be able to settle into a peaceful retirement – because you don’t know when will you get that knock on your door.

What a life full of anxiety you must live...perhaps that is karma already at work.


Writing about History: Truth or Dare

Posted by Natacha Tormey on September 23, 2016 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

This article was fist published by Women Writers, Women Books at


I was recently confronted by a reader, who took it upon herself to inform me that the main character in chapter 1 of my book, 'Cults: A Bloodstained History', did not exist. 'Everyone knows that Joshua is a mythical character', she scoffed at me. As if that was not enough, she went on to verbally assassinate chapter 2. 'I may as well tell you that your second chapter is incorrect as well. The zealots did not commit suicide. They chose to die rather than be taken as slaves by the Romans. They had no choice really; death was their only option.'


I am quite certain that this is not the last time I will hear such comments and I accept all opinions on my book, though I would like to express my own in response. Firstly, it is nigh on impossible to get all of your facts right when you are writing about a situation that happened several thousand years ago. For one, the internet is crammed full of inaccurate information and even highly respected historians often disagree on facts and have opposing views on events.


I went to extreme lengths to obtain the most accurate information possible about all the characters in my book. Having quickly realised that the internet was full of inaccuracies, I travelled six hours to Chester where I spent two days at the amazing Gladstone Library, reading through every account I could on Joshua, the zealots of Masada and other characters in my book. I gleaned a significant amount of information but even though these books were written by renowned historians, I found that they often contradicted each other when it came down to the cold, hard facts.


What does a writer do when faced with such a situation? The same thing that a journalist does - go with the source that you trust most and the facts you believe are accurate. What other option do we have? Should we give up on writing a book simply because we cannot travel back in time to interview the subjects in person? It is rather unfair that authors of historical books are so often at the receiving end of criticism.


Sure, there are authors who fail to do their research and I would be the first in line to criticize any writer who publishes blatantly incorrect information just because they were too lazy to check their facts. But for the rest of us who try our best to provide an accurate account of historical events, please, give us a break! And now on to my second point, which applies to both the claim that Joshua did not exist and the opinion that the zealots of Masada did not commit suicide. I can sum up my response with one word. Perception.


Some people hate peas (myself included), some people love peas. Some people vehemently defend O.J. Simpson while others cannot believe that anyone would fail to recognise his guilt. It's all about perception. Wouldn't it be a dull world if we all felt the same way about everything? As an author, I share my perception in my books. I mean, who would buy a book that began with, 'Rumour has it this person didn't exist but I'll tell you about him anyway...'?


When it comes down to it, writing about history really is like playing a game of truth or dare. You try your very best to find the truth, but ultimately, you have to be daring enough to come out with your opinion, knowing that you may face criticism from readers who disagree with you. Writing about history, particularly when it concerns religion, is a big task to take on. Not only does it involve an enormous amount of research but it also puts you, as the author, directly in the line of fire. There is nothing that sparks conflict like religion.


I remember when I started my first job in Human Resources my manager told me that there were five topics I should never bring up in order to avoid conflict at work: politics, sport, sex, money and religion. What can I say, I am attracted to trouble and when faced with negative comments I put on my best PR smile and follow the great example of the penguins in the cartoon, Madagascar.


'Smile and wave; just smile and wave!'

Why The Term Misery Memoir Offends Me

Posted by Natacha Tormey on February 2, 2016 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

This post was first published by Women Writers, Women Books at

I may as well start off bluntly.


I simply hate the words ‘misery memoir’.


I can recall the first time I heard it. I was speaking to a sales account manager at a well known publishing house in London and she used those words in reference to my book. They were one of three publishers who were interested in my book – that is, my memoir – which in no way I view as ‘miserable’.


Quite frankly, I felt insulted and disappointed; insulted because I felt as if my entire life had been reduced to some sort of pity-fest, and disappointed because it became very clear to me that the person who said it had absolutely no idea what the book was about or who I was as a person. Yet they were sitting in front of me, trying to convince me that they were the best publisher for my book.


Although I was an unpublished author, I wasn’t prepared to hand my story over to just anyone and, needless to say, this publishing house was not selected to publish my book.


The whole experience made me feel as if I had been branded a helpless victim, who was selling the only thing she had – her past – in a one off book that was destined to make a quick buck as a mass market paperback before, ultimately, haunting charity shops with a crass 50p sticker splashed across its cover.


I couldn’t help but feel that the term ‘misery memoir’ cheapened my story. I have never been one to indulge in self-pity and those who know me personally will attest to the fact that I loathe being on the receiving end of sympathy. I have never seen my past as a tale of misery and I certainly did not publish my book with the intent that my life be viewed in that way.


Yes, I grew up in a very challenging environment – having been born and raised in the notorious sex cult, ‘The Children of God’. Yes, I was abused throughout my childhood. Yes, it took me over a decade to recover and find a semblance of happiness in my life – but none of that makes my story miserable.


I strongly believe that by sharing my experience, I am lucky enough to be in a position to spread hope to those who are facing difficulties in life. I also believe that by speaking out against religious cults, I am doing what I can to raise awareness of the dangers that surround religious fanaticism and, who knows, I may have even played a part in dissuading someone from joining a cult.


Over the past year, I have received numerous personal messages from the parents or siblings of cult victims, who contact me to express their thanks as my book has given them hope that one day, their loved one will break free and will return to them. In fact, the great majority of the feedback I have received has been incredibly positive.


I detect no misery; not even the faintest whiff.


I have to say, the politically correct term, ‘Inspirational Memoir’, doesn’t quite float my boat either. I don’t understand the need for memoirs to be categorised or given a sub-genre label when the word ‘memoir’, in itself, says it all. For more information, read the blurb on the back of the book. After all, the entire point of a blurb is to give a description of the book’s topic.


My book is not an account of a miserable childhood but a testament to the resilience of the human mind. It is proof that we all possess an internal compass, one that guides us back to the right path if we allow it to. Despite having been brainwashed from birth, the voice inside my head never left me. From the earliest age it whispered to me, telling me that everything I was being told was wrong, and that I needed to escape one day.


Like so many other memoirs, it is a book about survival, hope and the promise of a brighter future.


There is no misery in that.


Apostle Paul & Female Oppression

Posted by Natacha Tormey on January 26, 2016 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever wondered why nuns cover their hair?


With so much talk of the Muslim burqa, I was rather taken by surprise when someone asked me why nuns wear a headdress. Well, it’s not as common these days but there are still denominations that observe this tradition.


I decided to do some research and I was rather astounded by what I found.


I would like to take you through the first 9 verses of a chapter in the Bible (King James Version), to explain why Christian women began covering their hair in the first place, and why this practice is in no way connected to the man who started Christianity – Jesus Christ.


1 Corinthians 11:1-9


To give you some background, 1 Corinthians is a letter that Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Corinth, Greece. He had heard reports that they were misbehaving and that there was discord amongst its members. And so, he wrote a very long, long letter which was, in lay-mans terms, a literary spanking. Let’s take a look at the first nine verses of this chapter.


1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.


Here, Paul is basically reminding his disciples that he is of higher rank than them as he is ‘of Christ’, therefore everything he says should be accepted as Christ’s words. Cult leaders often instil this idea in their followers, in order to maintain control over them.


2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.


Just in case they hadn’t understood his point in the first verse, Paul is reminding his readers that they had better obey him.


3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.


Well, straight in there. According to Paul, men are above women in rank and therefore we humble creatures should allow men to think for us.


4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.


5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.


6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.


What Paul is saying here is that, during spiritual events, men should not cover their head and yet women must...don’t worry, we are about to get heated now!


7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.


8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.


Yes, you read correctly. Men are apparently made in the image of God and we poor women are not worthy to show our heads as we were made from men – a by-product so to speak – so we are basically subhuman.


9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.


Ladies, Paul is now telling us that we were created for men. Play things? Slaves? Baby makers? He doesn’t specify, though he makes it rather clear that we were created specifically to be of some use to the male population. How interesting, considering that women are the bearers of life and therefore, without them, there would be no human race.


As you can see from these verses, God did not instruct Christian women to wear headdresses, nor did his son, Jesus Christ. It was in fact Paul, a man who had never even met Jesus but who converted to Christianity in his adult years, after claiming to have received a vision of Christ. This man took it upon himself to speak in the name of Christ and dish out his view that women, as inferior beings, are not worthy to uncover their heads in the presence of God.


I’m sure it is now apparent that Paul was a sexist pig, but just in case you need more evidence, let’s take a look at another one of Paul’s gems.


1 Timothy 2:11-15


11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.


12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.


13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.


14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.


15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.


And so, my fellow subhumans, as we are responsible for Eve’s terrible sin (something along the lines of eating fruit she wasn’t meant to in the Garden of Eden), we are to shut up, learn from the men around us and never, ever question their authority over us. Paul is generous enough to leave us a get-out clause though – if we are really well behaved and produce children for our masters husbands, we just might get some leniency.


Voila! A brief summary of the madness that goes hand in hand with organised religion.




Living by Faith? No, thanks!

Posted by Natacha Tormey on May 21, 2015 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Living by Faith was a term I heard constantly throughout my childhood. It represented the cult’s belief that true Christians should live as Jesus’s disciples did – by trusting God to supply their every need.


As much as the principal was commendable, the reality was far more depressing. We relied on donations of food, clothing and money to survive which meant that on one day we could have a full plate in front of us, and the next, we could be back on a meagre diet of rice and eggs.


You did not choose your clothing, but wore whatever had been donated and allocated to you. When one child grew out of an outfit it was passed on to another, and another, and another, until it was in tatters. I am all for recycling materials but dressing your children in worn out clothing out of choice seems less honourable to me.


I didn’t realise the impact that ‘living by faith’ had on me until I received my tax return a few days ago. As I stared at my tax bill (that was far higher than I had expected) I felt a sick, nauseous feeling in my stomach. I felt the ice cold tingle of anxiety creep over my body as my stress levels shot up into outer space. For hours I paced around the house, my eyes moist and my hands clammy. My entire day had been thrown into disarray and I couldn’t focus on anything else.


By the time my husband came home, I was positively frantic but his response was to laugh at the state I was in. After a ten minute conversation, I realised why he was laughing.


There was nothing to worry about.


Yes, I owed Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs a lot more money than I had put aside, but really, as I am not a millionaire (unfortunately) we weren’t talking about an astronomical, jump-off-a-bridge sum. The amount was painful but by saving each month I had ample time to pay it before the deadline, which was 7 months away.


I found myself thinking about my OTT reaction in the days that followed and I realised that I was imitating the reaction that adults in the cult would have whenever an unexpected bill came in or a fundraising event was not as lucrative as they had expected it to be.


And it was then that I understood just how stressful this ‘living by faith’ environment was for the children growing up in the cult. Every moment of every day was filled with uncertainty. We never knew what would be in our plates or if the electricity would be cut off. Even at the youngest age I felt the anxiety around me. If finances were low, we would be made to pray for a ‘miracle’, preferably with tears streaming down our face to show God how desperate we were. The adults went about their daily chores looking stressed, as if they were about to fall apart. Worry was etched on their faces and it stayed there until the next ‘miracle’ arrived. When it did we would rejoice and celebrate, but we always knew that it was a matter of time before the next desperate moment arose.


The older I got, the more affected I was by this unstable lifestyle as my understanding of the severity of our situation was clearer. By the age of 12 I was as anxious as the adults around me. Never knowing how we would pay for next week’s food shopping kept me awake at night and it made me feel sick when I riffled through charity clothing to find outfits for my younger siblings.


Living by faith is great in principal and I actively encourage any adults to adopt the lifestyle if they so wish to. But for heaven’s sake, leave your children out of it. You may think that you are earning an extra jewel on your heavenly crown but really, all you are doing is dumping a truckload of anxiety on your children. Kids need stability to thrive and I would know that because I had absolutely none growing up. Parents cannot always provide material stability but through their behaviour and words they should reassure their child that they are in control. The child then feels safe as ‘the adult is handling it’.


As with the tax return, every so often I am reminded of these little ‘issues’ I still carry around because of my past. I am just lucky that I have a great husband there to bring me to my senses and remind me that the world is not about to end.


Our cult leader, David Berg, wrote us long letters instructing us to ‘live by faith’ – he wrote these from large, expensive houses where he had fine dining, a harem of women, swimming pools and crates of fine sherry at his disposal.


Guess who paid for that?


The Fast

Posted by Natacha Tormey on March 10, 2015 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I was recently reminded of a very bizarre ritual that took place on an annual basis in the cult that I grew up in - The Children of God aka The Family International. It was an anticipated event that would take place in the days running up to the cult leader, David Berg’s, birthday in February.


They called it ‘The Fast’.


For three days each year, members were ordered to fast, pray, and read countless hours of Berg’s messages to his ‘flock’. The self-proclaimed prophet and ‘king’ often used this event to introduce new doctrines or ‘moves of the spirit’ as he liked to call them. God must have been a busy man in February because there were always hundreds of pages of ‘prophesies’ included in these messages.


Only pregnant women and children under 12 years of age were exempt from fasting. Everyone else was put on a liquid diet for three days and the whole commune would go into lock down.


And boy, did the commune become an eerie, bizarre place for three days. And may I clarify that by saying that, I am not implying that it was a normal place the rest of the year...


A handful of cult members were assigned to look after the younger children and do the cooking but everyone else was required to gather in the communal living room for hours and hours ‘Inspiration Time’, ‘Devotion’ and praying.


But first they were allowed to consume breakfast. A buffet bar would be set up at one end of the massive dining room (there were over 100 members living in these large communes) offering a sickly choice of various mushy foods: papaya blended into yogurt, watery yellow custard and chicken broth that looked more like dishwater, all served in industrial sized bowls with stainless steel ladles hanging off the side.


I can see it now as if I were there. Silence filled the dining room for the duration of breakfast. Everyone was preparing their minds for the spiritual orgy to come. After all, each one had to make a real effort to appear more spiritual than the others, in the hope that their holiness would be noticed by the ‘shepherds’ (the leaders of communes).


The next three days would become the biggest spiritual tournament in the cult and with so many competitors, the stakes were high. Only those who really, really showed their love for Jesus would come out on top.


Put it this way, it was the cult’s 'who-is-more-spiritual' X-Factor show.


After breakfast, everyone moved to the communal living room where rows of chairs and benches had been set up in a circular shape, leaving an open area in the middle where two chairs stood. Anyone lucky enough to sit in those two chairs had to be really, really holy, such as those given the great honor of leading ‘Inspiration Time’ or the shepherds who would be reading out the messages from Berg and leading prayers after that.


With a hundred (or more) pairs of eyes on them, the pressure was on as serious brownie points could be earned if they were deemed to be particularly ‘on fire’ for the Lord (not literally on is a term they used for people who demonstrated inhibited passion for Christ, which could also be interpreted as acting like a crazy person in the name of Jesus).


‘Inspiration Time’ was an hour long musical session in which a dozen or so cult-created songs would be sung (or shouted out) in unison. Two adults would take their place in the chairs in the middle of the room, guitars in hand. They would usually begin with a high energy, upbeat song that would get the crowd rockin’ for Jesus. One such song would be the popular ‘Honk! Honk!’ tune.

(In unison) Honk! Honk! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

Honk! Honk! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

(Lead singers) Well, it’s a REVOLUTION?

(Crowd shouts in response) For JESUS!

(Lead singers) For Jesus?

(Crowd shouts in response) The REVOLUTION!

(Lead singers) Holy Ghost?

(Crowd shouts in response) POWER!

(Lead singers) Power to the Lord?

(Crowd shouts in response) POWER to the LORD!

(In unison) Yes we’re talking about JEEESUS

Cuz’ we’re in love with JEEESUS

We’re gonna die for JEEESUS



Towards the end of ‘Inspiration Time’ the songs changed to slow, morbid tunes. The lead singers’ demeanors changed dramatically from spastic strumming of their guitars with wide eyes and bouncing movements to softly picking at their chords, eyes squeezed shut and their faces turned up towards the ceiling as they led the crowd in singing a love song to their Jesus. At some point in the middle of the song you were guaranteed to hear several women burst into tears, so overwhelmed were they by their love for Jesus. It would be a crime to wipe away such holy tears and so they would sit through the rest of the song with tears streaming down their face as they rocked from side to side with their eyes tightly shut, singing through their tears.


Finally, when an hour of ‘Inspiration Time’ was done, it was time for the Shepherds to read Berg’s long, drawn out messages. Three or four hours would pass and it was almost impossible not to fall asleep, although no one dared to do so as such a crime would warrant severe punishment. After all, who would not be interested in the drunken ramblings of a perverted alcoholic?


No doubt Berg’s spirit guide, ‘Abrahim the Gypsy King’ would be speaking through him, talking about how wild and free his harem of gypsy wives were as they danced around the camp fire with long skirts and no panties underneath (gospel truth people).


Those who were not struggling to stay awake were certainly trying not to faint with hunger. But luckily, lunch was served after the message reading.


Queues of pale, exhausted adults, over-12 children and teenagers would form in front of the dining room. Sighs of relief could be heard as they filled their bowls with a meager portion of...yep...papaya blended into yogurt, watery yellow custard or chicken broth.


An hour of ‘Quiet Time’ would follow in which members would retreat to their bedrooms or sit in a corner of the garden reading more of Berg’s writings and preparing for the big afternoon ahead.


After all, ‘Prayer Time’ was upon them and with it, came the infamous ‘speaking in tongues’ (the belief that a spirit is speaking through a person in a spiritual language that is undecipherable).


Speaking in tongues was a competitive sport for the adults in the cult. It was their golden chance to make themselves heard above the others. It was their one opportunity to shine like a star, brighter, longer and louder than the others.


Before any praying could be done there was a seemingly endless ‘intro’ to praying. Imagine 100 voices of all pitches and accents, chanting in unison.


Praise you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. We love you Jesus.


Over...and over...and over again.


And then, the dramatic ‘tongues’ would come into play. All it would take was for one of the shepherds to begin and all hell...I mean...all heaven would break loose.


Ah habadidum, heeba shalahab teela balalima


The men boomed out in their best 'Abrahim the Gypsy King' voice while the women screeched like castrated parrots.


Sheeeeba deeeee be deee. Sheeeeeee ba be lama shalasheeeee.


I am pretty sure God became deaf during one of these sessions.

‘Prayer Time’ would follow, which consisted of a shepherd reading out a long list of prayer requests sent out by Berg’s leadership team. More often than not, the prayers were for Berg’s failing health. Understandably, they omitted to inform us that his poor health was a direct result of his alcoholism.


An additional three hours of reading Berg’s writings would follow before members were allowed to have dinner (I will leave you, the reader, to guess what was on the menu. Hint: begins with papaya...), following which, the adult would disperse back into their bedrooms for an evening of private praying.


And the following two days were the same as the first.


However, on the last day we would have communion. Stale crackers and rose hip tea would be passed around the room, representing the more traditional bread and wine (symbols of the body and blood of Christ). As a young child I was convinced that I was actually eating the body of Christ and I was very afraid that, being nearly 2000 years old, it would make me ill. Luckily someone put me right, though I still wasn’t that keen on taking a sip of the ‘wine’ that included the saliva of fifty other people who had sipped from the same cup before me.


Luckily, when that particular torture séance was over, it was time to celebrate Berg’s birthday with a massive feast.


And that my friends, was ‘The Fast’.


And God Wept...

Posted by Natacha Tormey on January 12, 2015 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The recent events in Paris really did upset me. Not because I am French, but because I am thoroughly disgusted that in our modern day, humans continue to kill in the name of religion. How dare they assume that they are doing the will of their God? How dare they judge another human being and dish out the death penalty in the name of God.


I do believe in a higher power (God, Allah, Yahweh, ‘The Energy' etc) but I imagine that the almighty looked down on these crimes and wished that he had never created the human race. Such blind ignorance, such hatred and such lack of regard for human life is appalling.


Unfortunately this is not the first or the last act of religious terrorism that we will witness in our lifetime. Such is the power of brainwashing. Religious fanatics will never stop. They will never change their ways. They will never voluntarily give up their cause.


I would not dare to suggest that I could offer any valid solution to this dilemma but the point I am trying to make is that governments and security bodies have failed to understand the core of the problem. Terrorist groups cannot be handled in the same manner as an invading army. They are not fighting for land, but for a cause that they are prepared to die for. Declaring war on them only serves to glorify their cause even more. It works exactly the same way with religious cults. The more negative attention they receive from the press and authorities, the more ‘special’ they believe they are, giving cult/terrorist leaders the perfect line to feed their followers to increase their loyalty even more. During my childhood in The Children of God (aka The Family International) the leaders used every one of these 'opportunities' to re-inforce their agenda. They would tell their followers ‘The world is persecuting us because they know that we are the elite army of God. They are trying to stop us from fulfilling our mission for God'. By putting out this message, their followers felt further segregated from society and became even more dependant on the cult.

Every terrorist that dies is a martyr. They are glorified and guaranteed a wealthy, lavish lifestyle in the afterlife. But what about those they kill? What are they?

There is much to reflect upon in the wake of such a tragedy. Let us hope that our governments take time to reflect before they decide on their next move.


EXCERPT OF 'Cults: A Bloodstained History'

Posted by Natacha Tormey on August 29, 2014 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Chapter 6





The word had been painted in blood across the front door of 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles. Inside, the lifeless body of a heavily pregnant woman was one of four found on the property. Lying in a pool of blood, the beautiful actress was barely recognisable. Who was behind such a horrific crime? As the story hit news headlines worldwide, local police authorities were on a mission to find out.

Thirty-five years earlier, on 12 November 1934, sixteen-year-old teenager Kathleen Maddox gave birth to a boy in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy that came about as the result of a drunken fling with military colonel, Walter Scott. Maddox came from a religious and violent household. To escape her mother’s beatings, the young girl turned to a life of alcohol abuse and promiscuity, often running away from home and disappearing for days at a time.

For several weeks, Maddox called her son ‘no name Maddox’ until finally settling for Charles Milles Maddox. When she married William Manson a few months later, Charles was given his last name which he retained for the rest of his life, despite the short duration of their marriage.

Maddox’s alcohol abuse escalated when she found herself single again. When intoxicated, she became uncontrollable, often landing in trouble with police or putting herself in dangerous situations. On one occasion, she sold baby Manson to a childless waitress for the price of a jug of beer, but fortunately her brother found out and returned to the bar to retrieve him.

The rest of Manson’s childhood was miserable. At five years of age he was sent to live with relatives in West Virginia when his mother was incarcerated for theft. When she was released three years later they were reunited, only for the young boy to become entangled in the chaos of her lifestyle. They lived like vagabonds for several years; Maddox prostituted herself to fund her addictions and they stayed in run-down motel rooms in crime-ridden areas. Manson became a child of the streets from the age of eight, keeping company with drug addicts and homeless drunks in his area.

At the age of thirteen his mother handed him over to social services to be placed into foster care but just ten months later he escaped the Gibault School for Boys in Indiana and turned up on her doorstep, begging her to take him back. She refused, leaving Manson no other choice but to fend for himself on the streets. His freedom was short lived. He was arrested for theft shortly after and spent time in several juvenile centres before being sent to a reform school in Indiana.

For four years the school became his home. According to his own account, it was a house of horrors where he and other children were tortured and raped by the guards and older children, which led him to escape at seventeen years of age. He fled to Utah where he again turned to crime, resulting in his arrest for car theft and robbery. This time he was sent to a federal prison, where a year into his stay, he sodomised a fellow inmate while holding a razor blade to his throat. Manson later claimed that he had been subjected to homosexual assaults and beatings during his stay in this facility. He was eventually transferred to the high security Federal Reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he was given the opportunity to progress with his schooling. Despite having an IQ of 121, Manson was illiterate and his education was equal to that of a nine year old. Studying appeared to have a positive effect on him and by 1954 he had progressed to that the level of a twelve year old.

After a couple of years of impeccable behaviour, he was released on parole.

He married Rosalie Willis and before long they were expecting their first child. But Manson could not stay away from trouble and he turned to theft once more to supplement his low income. He was convicted of car theft for the second time and was sent to a jail in California. During his incarceration, his wife gave birth to their son, Charles Junior. For the first year she and her son visited Manson regularly, but then she began a relationship with another man and the visits dwindled until they ceased all together.

In late 1958, Manson was released on parole and sure enough, his life of crime was reignited. Theft, drug dealing, pimping and cheque forgery were among the criminal activities that landed him back in jail. During his brief period of freedom he had married a prostitute, Candy Stevens, who claimed that she was pregnant with his child. He showed no interest in fatherhood which led Stevens to divorce him shortly after the birth of their son, Charles Luther.

In 1961, Manson was transferred to the US Penitentiary on McNeil Island where he befriended notorious gang leader Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis. The crime lord taught him to play the steel guitar and introduced him to other prisoners who had showbiz connections. It was the start of Manson’s obsession with the world of music stars and celebrities.

When his parole hearing took place in March 1967, Manson was in his early thirties and had been institutionalised for the majority of his life. During his hearing, he begged the parole board to allow him to stay in prison. After all, the outside world had become an alien environment to him whereas life in jail was one that he knew well and had become comfortable with. To his dismay, the parole committee denied his request. Unbeknownst to them, they had just released a very dangerous man into a society that was radically changing and was filled with naive youngsters who were ripe for the picking.

Manson moved into a small apartment in San Francisco, where the Hippy Revolution was in full swing. The air was thick with Peace and Love vibes emanating from free-spirited youths that congregated and expressed their rejection of normal society by flaunting their uninhibited practices of free sex, drugs and frugal material possessions. The Summer of Love attracted thousands of young hippy drifters to San Francisco. Flower power tunes blared out as couples made love in the open and strangers, high on ‘love’ (drugs) hugged energetically and swapped clothes. Lost and confused souls were united on a crusade to find a higher purpose, a path to enlightenment. It was the perfect hunting ground for wannabe gurus and fanatic extremists, resulting in many cults and alternative groups being formed during this period. Manson saw an opportunity and took it.

He moved in with his new girlfriend, Mary Brunner and soon after they had a child, Valentine. Manson had complete control over Brunner, who stayed at home with their son while he strived to establish himself as a guru among the clusters of hippies that were moving through the city. His charismatic personality and intense demeanour soon lured in his first disciples, who were all female. Manson moved them into his marital home and before long his community, which he called ‘The Family’, comprised of eighteen women.

The self-proclaimed prophet seduced filled his follower’s minds with dark doctrines that were based on satanic beliefs and theories from Scientology, both of which he’d studied during his time in prison. But his seduction didn’t end there. With a cocktail of powerful drugs, music and mystical speeches, he seduced his devoted disciples and used sex as a tool to control them. The group became his harem and the women within were so deeply obsessed with him that they were prepared to go to any lengths to please him.

Towards the end of that summer, Manson bought an old school bus which they painted with bright rainbow colours, before setting off on a series of road trips. They crossed state lines, recruiting followers along the way, and it was around this time that his infamous ‘Helter Skelter’ doctrine began to form. He told his followers that a racial war was imminent and that they would need to make preparations to face it; it was the seedling that he would later develop into a Beatles-inspired message of doom.

It was in late spring of 1968 that Manson met The Beach Boys singer Dennis Wilson. It all began when Wilson picked up two female hitchhikers who he invited back to his house to freshen up, before continuing their journey. But when he returned home after a late night at his recording studio, he was astounded to find that Manson and twelve of his followers had moved into his houseme. Being the master manipulator that he was, Manson managed to convince Wilson to let them stay and together they practised their music, exchanged ideas and enjoyed the attentive services of the cult’s women, who made themselves available for sex at any time of day or night. Manson kept the women dosed up on powerful drugs such as LSD, which made them compliant and allowed him to control them fully.

Dennis introduced Manson to several contacts in the music industry, including Gregg Jakobson, who was impressed with his musical talent and funded the use of a recording studio. Manson took this as a sign that he was going to break the music industry and become a worldwide star. But the dream soon ended when, after a few months, Wilson reached the end of his tether. Supporting over a dozen squatters was taking its toll financially and he was no longer content with the living arrangements. His manager e asked The Family to leave, whereupon they moved to Spahn’s Movie Ranch in California.

It was a large ranch that had been used as a movie set for old Western movies, but which was now in very poor condition. The eighty-year-old owner of the ranch, George Spahn, was blind and unable to make any improvements around the property. He made a deal with Manson; he would allow The Family to live on the ranch for free if they did renovation work and cleaned the place up.

It was the perfect location for this increasingly bizarre cult. Away from prying eyes and with plenty of room to accommodate them, they could practise their alternative lifestyle in peace. To keep Spahn happy, Manson ordered his women female followers to assist him with daily tasks and service him sexually. It was around this time that Manson recruited several male followers, including Charles Watson joined them. Nicknamed ‘Tex’ because of his thick Texan drawl, he joined the cult after he hitched a ride with Manson and was immediately captivated by his doctrines.

Towards the end of 1968, Helter Skelter was born.



EXCERPT of 'Cults: A Bloodstained History'

Posted by Natacha Tormey on August 28, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Chapter 5




Have you ever wondered where the term ‘thug’ comes from? Today we think of a violent person, but its true origin dates back to the thirteenth century when a group of criminals, known as thugs, terrorised the population of India over an extended period. In Hindi, the word thuggee represents the acts of theft and murder that these criminals carried out, which earned them that infamous title.

   It is hard to assess just how long the thugs were in operation as their existence was only fully uncovered in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when India’s occupying British government decided to launch an investigation into a phenomenon that was taking place in rural areas throughout the country. A number of travellers had gone missing in the past few years and, after collecting data from several regions, it appeared that these disappearances had been going on much longer than they had initially thought.

   The reason these crimes had gone undetected was because they had occurred in so many different locations at a time when communication was not all that efficient. No connection was ever made and, in most cases, the missing persons were assumed to have fallen victim to thieves on their travels, a regular occurrence in this poverty-stricken nation.

   The British would not have been so concerned had all the disappearances consisted of lone travellers or vagabonds as it was expected that, in such a poor country, opportunists were prepared to kill for just about anything. But entire caravans of travellers, containing at times large numbers of people, seemed to be vanishing without a trace. As further reports came in, they feared that whoever was behind the crimes may be far more dangerous than they realised.

   Clearly, theft was not the villains’ sole motivation. Had it been, they could have simply restrained their victims and taken their spoils. But it seemed that they were taking their time to kill their victims and hide their bodies. In most instances, those who disappeared were never seen again, dead or alive, which forced investigators to presume that all those who were missing had been murdered.

   By the early 1830s, the data they had collected brought them to the realisation that the numbers were far higher than they could have possibly imagined, with thousands of disappearances in the past decade alone. They also noticed that a secretive group called ‘thugs’ was regularly mentioned in reports and testimonies.

   The British Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentnick, requested that a taskforce be set up with the mission to uncover the workings of this group of thieves. They called it ‘The Thugs Department’. As they collected witness testimonies, they discovered that what appeared to be a cluster of rogue gangs was, in fact, an organised network of highly trained criminals who operated in separate clans all over the country. The taskforce also realised that this was not a new trend; the thugs appeared to have been functioning for thousands of years, although there were no means of determining just how long they had been active. What they did know was that these groups consisted of professional, disciplined assassins who preyed on innocent families and tradesmen that they had selected as targets. They were extremely organised, with clever tactics that had been developed over the centuries, and they appeared to be active in many locations around the country.

   It would not be an easy job for the British. The thugs had survived for so long due to their ability to mask their identities and integrate into regular society without attracting suspicion. They were so secretive that even their wives and relatives often had no inclination whatsoever of their involvement in the group. Even though society in India at that time was divided into strict castes that did not mix, the thugs’ membership group included men from all social levels. United by a mysterious bond, street vendors worked hand-in-hand with wealthy merchants and bankers. It was even rumoured that relatives of the Indian royal family were involved.

   British civil servant William Sleeman was a stern, middle-aged man from Cornwall, who had been working on the taskforce since its creation. He had been one of the first to insist that the issue was greater than the British government initially wanted to admit. Unlike the majority of his colleagues, he was genuinely fascinated with India and its culture; he had studied its religious and social complexities and spoke fluent Hindi. He was a highly intelligent man who used investigation techniques that were unheard of at that time, such as profiling and using information gathered from previous attacks to predict the location of the next one. He increased military presence in key areas and publically announced that they were prepared to offer ‘king’s evidence’ status to those who wished to break their silence and denounce their brothers in crime. By coming forward and agreeing to testify, they would escape the death penalty. It was an irresistible offer to a handful of thugs, who promptly handed themselves in.

   Once arrested, they appeared to be more than willing to not only co-operate, but also give up their brothers in crime. At first, Sleeman was suspicious of this, particularly because of their deceitful nature; eventually, however, he realised it was their undying belief in fate that was behind their actions. They were convinced that their destiny, and that of their colleagues, had been decided long in advance and, hence, to betray their identities would not change it either way.

   Once Sleeman had several prisoners, he was able to piece together their hidden world of gruesome murders and dark rituals. He began by questioning one man, Feringhea, who was the head of a thug gang. After he convinced him to turn king’s evidence, Feringhea gave up the names of his gang members and led Sleeman to a mass grave hidden in a mango grove. To his horror, the grave contained nearly 100 bodies at various stages of decomposition.

   There was a snowball effect from there; with each arrest came more confessions and the names of additional thugs were revealed. Mass graves were uncovered across the country and, as they exhumed the bodies, they discovered something that they found deeply disturbing. Although they now knew that they were dealing with a large network of criminals, they were baffled when a comparison of crime reports from different locations concluded that all the victims had been killed in exactly the same manner: by strangulation. It seemed very strange that a band of thieves would choose a method of killing that required more time and physical effort than simply using a knife or machete. But, more importantly, no regular gang of thieves would all use an identical method of killing unless there was a very sinister reason for it.


Poem to Marc from 2011

Posted by Natacha Tormey on August 7, 2014 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

You are Immortal...

Through my memories

Through each tear I’ve cried

Through each dark moment

When I felt as if I too, had died

You are Immortal...

Through each song you sang with gusto

Through your laugh that still rings in my ears

Through the depth of your words

And the compassion of your tears

It has been ten years...

Since you flew back to your real home

A splintered soul in a world of attitude

You were never ours, but on loan

As an angel sent for an interlude

And just for you...

I will succeed to make you proud

In life, in love & artistically

I’ll live the moments you never lived

Knowing you are living them with me

And just for you...

I have turned my tears into diamond gems

And have turned my pain into gratitude

For I am blessed to have been in your life

If only...for an interlude.