Mike Marinacci – Crazy California Cults

Mike is the author of the touchstone book about a forgotten side of Golden State history, Mysterious California. Published in 1988, it predated the “weird” travel book craze by almost 20 years, and started me on a path to meet him in 2006 when we were co-authors of Weird California. He has been studying the history of non-scheduled religious movements and groups in our home state for more than 20 years, and now chronicles these strange groups and people at Califia’s Children.

We discussed what makes a “cult.” While he is careful to label only the most dangerous groups with that name, Mike pointed out that all religions start out as a cult. People join mainly for a sense of belonging –  to be part of a “tribe.”  Many of the groups minister to the rejected and the marginalized, and not all have negative effects on the members.

We talked about the strange connection that the Santa Susanna Pass area has in the lore of  the Los Angeles area. Krishna Venta, a former convict turned religious prophet whose story bears eerie similarities to Charles Manson, settled there in 1948. He was dead by 1958, killed by suicide bombings by two disgruntled members.

We embarked on an extensive discussion of occultist Manly Palmer Hall and his influence on Los Angeles history and society. We also discussed the notorious Children Of God group and their sexualization of Christianity. Mike gave a unique perspective on Scientology’s concentration on Los Angeles and the power of celebrity endorsement. Near the end of the program, we mentioned the bizarre Incest and Homosexual Church of the Universe, which at its peak had perhaps 4 acolytes.

This entry was posted in all-around genreal weirdness, counterculture, forgotten history and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Mike Marinacci – Crazy California Cults

  1. Phil From Louisiana says:

    Just a quick note to Walter, if he’s reading this: Greg and Mike (mostly Mike) talk about the Blackburn Cult/The Cult of Eleven from about 23 to 26 minutes, but there weren’t any earth-shattering new insights or ‘aha’ moments. Still listening to the rest. (And still reading _Secret Missions_).

  2. FergalR says:

    Love your shows Mr. Bishop.
    If you haven’t already seen it – here’s a 1992 documentary where Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra interviews the Unarius UFO cult. Wacky stuff that was thought lost which you’d probably like:

    • Greg says:

      Heard about but never saw this. Thanks! This was recently shown at a revival theater here in L.A. and JB showed up to talk about it.

      I beat Jello to the punch: I interviewed them in 1988 for my first published article in Donnna Kossy’s Kooks ‘zine.

  3. Red Pill Junkie says:

    I’ve always thought that California’s weird juxtaposition of the profane and the sacred is subliminally expressed by the original name of Los Angeles –Nuestra Señora de los Angeles (our lady of the angels)– and the 1st 2 syllables in the state’s name –KALI-fornia.

    Creation and Destruction all battling for the souls of Califia’s children 😉

    I wonder if Mike knows something about an alleged religious group (or cult if you will) which supposedly had its origins in California, but later moved to South America. I found a reference to such a group –whose name I don’t know– in the controversial Friendship Island story. These are the people who (again, allegedly) would call themselves by angelic names (e.g. Ariel) and contacted some people through the use of CV radio in the 1980s. One of those people was told by the members of Friendship Island –who were like a real-life version of the Dharma initiative– to look up in the sky, and sure enough there was a UFO flying over the skies of Santiago, Chile, apparently over the control of these enigmatic individuals.

    I always was intrigued by the Friendship Island mythos. The idea of a South American ‘breakaway civilization’ who were patiently waiting for our own civilization to collapse, so they could pick up the pieces and start all over –under the guidance of what they called ‘the angels of the Lord.’ That such a group could have originated in California seems quite plausible, in light of your conversation with Mike 😉

  4. Red Pill Junkie says:

    Synchronicity!!! 😛

  5. Ariel says:

    Just wanted to comment that I really enjoyed this conversation. I found myself listening to it a second time so that I could look up the whos and wheres while you talked. I’ll definitely be taking a look at Califia’s Children and reading more about some of the topics.


  6. Laurence Zankowski says:


    The link that follows is from Todd Murphy who worked with, still might, Dr. M. Pressinger of the Shakti Helmet fame. I ran across this article back in 2000 – 2001 while living inAZ.


    Deals with Harbin Springs and more of the unusual experiences there.

    Funny the captcha access code was the term for the entertainment unions.

  7. mark james says:

    Looking for information regarding a cult now based in Fairfield, CA. Leader’s name is Larry Butler–one of several names he has used. He was based in Napa, CA.

  8. Dr Beverly Potter/ Ronin Publishing says:

    Trying to locate Michael Marinacci blogger at Califias – please contact me at the above email.

  9. Dan says:

    I want to thank you for the detailed story you Posted about Joseph Jeffers.
    It gave me insite and information I had not previously known, but suspected.
    Although you did miss his Son Jason Lincoln Jeffers who now preaches his own spirituality and will book you a private session on Skype for only $150.00 an hour.

    My widowed mother met Joseph Jeffers through the Radio in the early 1970’s.
    I was only ten years old and wouldn’t find out until 2013 that she been hiding her leukemia (CLL) from me and the rest of the family. But her sickness often sick and required hospital stays, and she was limited to walking only a few blocks at a time.

    As you described, Dr. Jeffers preached a strict diet of Fruits/Vegetables, Poultry/Fish diet. A diet I have to accredit with saving my mothers life.

    Back in the 1970’s, DDT and other horrific pesticides were being praised with their effectiveness, and restaurants were being being sold additives that kept salads from wilting and unknowingly leave Asthmatics short of breath.
    It was likely the restaurant salads she gave up (along with all Restaurant food) that stopped her asthmatic attacks. The food she bought from local farmers who didn’t use Pesticides, that she would then “Can” along, with giving up beef and pork that likely stopped her from having to go to the hospital for blood transfusions. Years after my mother found out after giving up Pork and Beef that she was allergic to pork, and beef would make her sick.
    Dr. Joseph Jeffers inspired my mother to get well, she went back to school and got her college degree, and she would later become the highly respected and leading subject matter expert at the insurance company she worked for.
    My mother followed the Teachings of Joseph Jeffers for the rest of her life. I even lived in their commune at Palatka Florida for a summer. Those who followed and lived there, I still consider the nicest and most honest people I have met today. As for me, Joseph Jeffers preaching’s of the end of the world, space ships, and that he was Yahushua (Jesus) has left me lost searching spiritually ever since. It seemed there were always two parts of his Commune. Where the Flock stayed, and where he and those who preached with him stayed. I truly understood how one can be pulled into a spiritual following, or even as in the Branch Davidian cult of Waco Texas, remaining faithful until the end.

Leave a Reply to FergalR Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *