The type of unchecked power that comes with starting a cult often seems to translate to sexual relationships as well. Unsurprisingly, that "free love" attitude means there are lots of kids of cult leaders. From Charles Manson to Jim Jones, plenty of notorious figureheads had children who were born into a cult.
Children of cult leaders often struggle with that notoriety throughout their life. They might be expected to take a leadership role in the organization after their parents step down, or maybe they opt to cut those ties completely. But cult leaders' kids have to face issues most children would never even dream of. How do you live down the fact that your father orchestrated the biggest mass suicide in history? And how do you adapt to seeing the outside world for the first time in decades?
If you're the child of cult leaders, the biggest challenge of all is often confronting your own past. Here's how some of the kids of famous cult leaders moved on with their lives.
Jim Jones’ Son: Stephan Gandhi Jones
Stephan Gandhi Jones was away at a basketball game in Georgetown when his father, Jim Jones, ordered the Peoples Temple mass suicide in 1978 at a compound in Guyana, dubbed "Jonestown." Reverend Jim Jones gave the order when California Congressman Leo Ryan came to investigate reports of abuse and false imprisonment, only to end up among more than 900 dead (a third of whom were children). Stephan Gandhi Jones was 19.
For many years, Jones struggled with the guilt of survival, his father’s grim legacy, and his own subsequent substance abuse. He sought treatment, and eventually, the father of three settled into a quiet life in California.
"I don’t care what you think of my father," Jones wrote in 2015. "I don’t care what you think of his ancestor or progeny. I am no apologist."
Charles Manson’s Potential Sons: Charles Jr., Charles Luther, and Michael
Since murderous mastermind Charles Manson had a tendency to say things like "You’re all my children," it’s been difficult to prove the paternity of several kids he may have fathered. He has three possible sons.
Charles Manson Jr. was born in 1956 to Rosalie Jean Willis. Manson Jr. took his life in 1993.
Charles Luther Manson was born on April 10, 1963 to Leona Rae "Candy" Stevens. Charles Luther Manson's whereabouts are unknown.
Michael Brunner was born in 1968 to Mary Brunner. He apparently lives as an anonymous citizen.
L. Ron Hubbard’s Son: Ronald DeWolf
The founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, passed in 1986. His son was born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard Jr., but later changed his name to Ronald DeWolf after rejecting Scientology. He went on to become one of Hubbard's most notable public detractors.
In a 1983 Penthouse interview, DeWolf harshly criticized his father and revealed many sordid details of their personal lives and Scientology's doctrines, though he later disavowed his statements. DeWolf passed in 1991 at the age of 57.
Shoko Asahara’s Daughter: Rika Matsumoto
Shoko Asahara (born Chizuo Matsumoto) was the leader of Aum Shinrikyo, a sect responsible for a Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The attack killed 13 people and injured thousands more. Asahara was put on death row.
One of the 15 children Asahara fathered, Rika Matsumoto, was 12 when her father was brought in. In 2015, she published a memoir about her life on the 20th anniversary of the attacks. Matsumoto, who was considered a key figure in the cult, found post-Aum Shinrikyo life difficult, saying that she could not find work, a place to live, or a school that would accept her.
Matsumoto sought to have her father examined to see if he was actually mentally ill. "I do not intend to say my father is innocent, but I want to know the truth - if or how he was involved in the crimes," Matsumoto said. "I want to hear from him in his own words what really happened."