SATIRE: Locals share stories as cult survivors

Three people escaped cult; felt safety, freedom, relief after leaving



An unexpected experience with a cult at Cougar College affects three students’ lives.

LOREN NEGRON, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Note: All names have been changed to ensure the safety of sources.

Things aren’t always what they seem at first. One event always leads to another. 

How did I get here? Cyrus thought. How in the world did I not see that coming?

Cyrus recalls meeting a man named Jimmy Jones (JJ) during her freshman year at Cougar College. She — along with her boyfriend, Howard, and best friend, Ivan — were sitting in the cafeteria when JJ approached them.

“JJ simply said hello and asked if he could sit with us,” Cyrus said. “There was something about his demeanor that made us trust him. So, of course, we said yes.”

That moment changed everything for them. 

In the span of a few months after that initial encounter, they started participating in JJ’s weekly Friday night gatherings. They played games, watched movies. Everything seemed normal. 

They were all just having fun — or so they thought.

“I knew something was weird when JJ started incorporating the reading of scripture from this book they called ‘The Order,’” Ivan said. “That was some weird sh*t we were reading.”

Even with his suspicions, Ivan continued to attend those Friday gatherings and maintain his connection with the group. He was friends with them. They gave him a sense of community, which was something he had sought for years.

Those Friday gatherings were meant to groom Cyrus, Ivan and Howard. JJ wanted them to trust him and the people in those gatherings.

For three years, they continued to attend those gatherings. And one day, JJ invited them to a special meeting.

“We went in, and I knew something was wrong. Everyone had to drink grape tea before the lights were turned off. Then, they lit some candles and started chanting some things,” Howard said. “They sang these songs afterward. I hated the singing. And no, I didn’t sing.”

JJ referred to himself as “The Founding Father.” He introduced two people as “The Eyes” and three people as members of “The Jury.” A man wearing a hooded sweatshirt sat in the back and was introduced as “The Judge.” 

Cyrus said this was the hierarchy the group was structured on, with The Founding Father at the top. The Eyes are the spies, who supervise each member’s conduct. The Judge and The Jury work together when members are found to be disobeying the group’s laws, traditions and customs.

They called themselves The Order of the Holy Warriors, Ivan said. They believe they were chosen by The Eternal Entity to purify this world from sin. Outsiders were called “The Unholy Ones.”

“That meeting scared the sh*t out of me,” Ivan said. “I left as soon as JJ stopped talking and cut all my connections from them.”

Howard said he wanted to leave the group, but Cyrus “fell in love” with their message. He stayed and continued to attend the gatherings with Cyrus.

From then on, The Gathering changed. There were no more movies and games. The Gathering would commence with the drinking of grape tea, followed by the reading of The Order. Every time JJ mentioned The Eternal Entity, members responded by saying, “Praise be to The Eternal Entity.” 

They would then visit Greek Row on the Cougar College campus after The Gathering to target “The Vulnerable Ones” — people The Order deemed weak in spirit.

Aside from those, Cyrus and Howard had to give The Order 20 percent of their monthly income. They also had to regularly report everything that was going on in their lives, from their work schedules to what types of food they bought.

“I wanted to leave,” Howard said. “But I had to protect Cyrus. I didn’t trust them. I tried to persuade her to leave, but they brainwashed her. She believed everything they said.”

A few months later, Cyrus had an awakening. During one of the gatherings, she was required to divulge every single chapter from her life. Cyrus thought her story would be known only to The Founding Father and The Eyes.

She was wrong.

JJ held a meeting with other members of The Order, without notifying Cyrus and Howard. There, JJ shared all that Cyrus shared with him. It was part of their custom for each new member’s story to be shared with The Order as part of initiation. Cyrus and Howard didn’t know that.

“I was devastated, heartbroken and pissed off,” Cyrus said. “All those people now know everything I’ve been through. The pain I felt woke me up from the deep slumber I was in. It was about time I woke up.”

By that time, Ivan had already moved to a new state and helped Cyrus and Howard leave the area. They lived far away, safe from the cult that completely changed their lives. 

A few months ago, they were notified that the group had relocated to the East Coast. Cyrus, Ivan and Howard have since returned to the area.

It has been two years since they left the cult. But all three are still healing and recovering from their experience.

“Being back home feels so weird,” Cyrus said. “Yes, they’re gone. But they’re still out there. And while they’re still out there, more and more people will be harmed.”