Random Ephemera

5 Infamous Cults That Spent Time in Texas

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4. The Children of God

The Children of God started out as a Christian movement in the late 1960s, founded by a charismatic leader named David Berg, but is best known for a creepy '70s-era policy advocating sexual relationships between children and adults. Understandably, that, along with recruiting strategies such as "Flirty Fishing," wherein female members of the group would sexually seduce potential new members, did little to gain The Children of God mainstream acceptance. In late 1969, the group of around 200 moved from Arizona to establish a colony on 425 acres near a Texas ghost town called Thurber. Under Berg's guidance, they began using Biblical first names, and gave all of their possessions to the group. Occasionally leaving the settlement to make dramatic appearances at the University of Texas campus dressed in rags, they would proselytize their weird brand of fundamentalist hippie Jesus freak religion. During the group's tenure at their Texas compound, the cult members supposedly took part in frequent orgies directed by Berg. In 1971, the group left the Texas colony after being evicted, but continued though the 1970s, until being rebranded as "The Family," and then as "The Family International," which continues to the present day, supposedly without the child sexual abuse and Flirty Fishing.

3. Zendik Farm

In 1920, Lawrence E. Wulfing was born in El Paso. Wulfing led a bohemian life and became a writer and environmentalist. He eventually changed his name to Wulf Zendik and formed the Zendik Farm in California in the late 1960s. Zendik and his longtime common law wife/girlfriend, Arol Wulf, moved the commune around many times over the following decades, settling for a period in the early 1990s in Bastrop, Texas. The group saw themselves as Eco-warriors, and lived a supposedly self-sufficient lifestyle, farming and spreading their philosophy by sending out members to sell their magazine in large cities around the country.

I often encountered one of those proselytizing members of the group selling their newsprint zine outside of the Record Exchange, and he seemed like a typical hippie deadhead type to me. Encounters with the group were frequent outside bars and clubs in Austin during the early '90s, and stories of the group's activities leaked out as well.

More cult than commune, the Zendiks had a dictatorial power structure, with the aging Wulf acting as a sort of spiritual leader, while Arol called a lot of the shots and members beneath them toiled away from dawn until dusk. More cult alarms went off when stories of the group's social and sexual practices were made public. Essentially, members had to ask the group for permission in advance to couple up, and were required to publicly review their sexual experiences afterwards. Members were also required to turn over any notable worldly possessions to the group, as well as any sources of income. After a few years in Texas, Zendik Farm moved on, and seems to have finally collapsed after the deaths of Wulf and Arol following years of declining membership.

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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.