The internet brings people together, including those who prefer to start cults using social media to gain followers. In fact, there are several cult leaders on Instagram who use the photo and video service to speak to their followers and convince others to join.
Teal Swan, Bentinho Massaro, and Sherry Shriner are just some of the leaders of Instagram and YouTube cults out there. They have harnessed the power of the internet to send their messages of lizard people, aliens, and other beliefs to thousands of people they may otherwise not have been able to reach.
Swan began posting videos to YouTube in 2012 and quickly garnered a following known as the Teal Tribe. Who is Teal Swan, the Gucci Guru, and what's the real story behind her cult?
Teal Swan claims she grew up in a Mormon Satanic cult that tortured and murdered children. She adds that she was responsible for "mentally programming" the other children and forced to torture them.
On other occasions, Swan says she was taken to a mortician's office, sewn into a corpse, and left there for 12 hours, and forced to participate in necrophilia and bestiality. Her other accusations include being held captive in a hole in the ground, drugged, impregnated, and forced to have three abortions.
After allegedly receiving death threats, the New Mexico-born Swan moved to Costa Rica. Several of her followers did the same, forming a community around their guru. Swan only lives in the community part time, but there are 20 full-time residents.
They say the focus of the place is "a heart-based lifestyle" and "a physical safe space." The community is also home to a center Swan uses for workshops, which brings followers from all over the world to listen to and meet the woman they turn to for direction concerning trauma, living with authenticity, death, and more.
A former friend says that upon hearing the news of a follower committing suicide, Swan reacted by complaining she'd lost a client and the death could undermine her credibility as a guru. Swan claims she is the survivor of four suicide attempts, but in the same video asks suicidal people seeking her advice to "know that you can always kill yourself tomorrow."
She also called death "delicious" and "a reset button," while saying it's okay to kill yourself if your vibration can't be corrected by a healer.
In videos on Swan's YouTube page, she calls herself a revolutionary in the tradition of people like Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi. She sees herself as a game changer preparing her followers like an army to change the course of the world.
Swan believes she descended from aliens and there are 2,000 other people like her on the planet. She claims she is working with 11 of them in her mission on our planet - acting as "an intergalactic Green Peace" - to overtake the evil aliens currently in charge of Earth.