The Alamo Foundation presents itself as a Christian organization, but evidence indicates it's a dangerous cult that preys on the weak, lonely, and marginalized. Tony and Susan Alamo founded their ministry in 1967, prompted by Tony's alleged 1964 message from Jesus about the coming apocalypse. Tony even claimed those who didn't join would die and go to Hell.
As membership increased, so did the Alamo Foundation's secrets. Rumors about violence and drug-laced food only scratch the surface of the abuse allegedly inflicted upon members. All the while, the Alamo Foundation - like the Children of God and Jim Jones's The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ - shrouds its horrifying manipulation in the guise of religious belief.
Tony And Susan Alamo Began Their Ministry In The Late '60s
Tony Alamo (born Bernie Lazar Hoffman) and Susan Lipowitz (born Edith Opal Horn) married in 1966. The two shared failed careers in show business - he in singing, she in acting - along with dreams of financial success. In 1967, Tony and Susan began their ministry on the streets of California, before founding the Alamo Christian Foundation two years later.
They preached the return of a vengeful Jesus Christ who would send the Foundation's faithful "Jesus Freaks" to Heaven and condemn the remaining people of Earth to Hell. Other tenets of the organization included blaming the Catholic Church for Nazis, denouncing drugs, and claiming demons caused homosexuality, all shared in one-page newspaper ads over the years.
Disenfranchised Young People Were The Cult's Target Demographic
In 1973, Rolling Stone's Tim Cahill went undercover in the Alamo Foundation. Approached on Hollywood Boulevard, an unsmiling "Jesus Freak" spoke to him and provided a pamphlet with information about the organization. The member then gave Cahill the time and place of a bus headed to the cult's location.
After his short stint in the Foundation, Cahill discovered most of the members had been in and out of jail before joining. Cahill described them as living at or below the poverty line, which theoretically made promises of a place to stay, food, and community more appealing. In exchange, cult members prowled the streets collecting more "believers" for the Alamos.
The Alamos Spent Millions While Their Members Starved
Taking advantage of their Foundation's tax-exempt status as a religious organization, Tony and Susan Alamo lived in mansions in California and Arkansas. The couple had health food air-lifted into the compound, Susan bought furs and diamonds, and Tony showed a preference for custom clothing and Cadillacs.
In stark contrast, Foundation members lived inside shoddy homes with moldy carpets. They were given limitations on air and heat usage, and how many times they could flush the toilet. Many subsisted on food from the compound's cafeteria, which sometimes provided spoiled rations. The members even "volunteered" to work for free at the Alamos' businesses, turning their prophets a massive profit.
The Alamos Used Common Brainwashing Techniques
After escaping the cult in the early '80s, Judy Shapiro shared some of the Alamos' alleged techniques with People magazine in 1983. Members found the runaway Shapiro in Hollywood in 1970. They convinced her to move into their then-new headquarters in Saugus, CA. Over the course of her 11 years with the Foundation, Shapiro said the cult leaders used sleep-deprivation, isolation, unpaid work, and other techniques to brainwash members.
Further, unmarried men and women in the cult were not permitted to speak to one another. Susan Alamo arranged all marriages within the Alamo Foundation and determined the number of children each couple could bear.