Escaping A Cult: My Story

This happened many years ago now, around 2014, and I don’t typically like to talk about it. Still, I have come to think that maybe telling the story will be helpful to others who have been in this situation. I was very nearly initiated into a cult and before that point, I was hanging around with the people in the cult before realizing what was going on. It’s not as easy to tell what people’s intentions are when you are that close to something insidious.

A Circle Of Friends?

In the beginning, everything seemed completely normal. It was very much just a circle of friends who were into similar things. Very specifically, this had to do with a television show and artwork about the television show. I am not going to be naming what show it was to help protect my identity and the identity of other people but, trust me this happens. It also happens in far more than just one fandom. In fact, since getting out of this fiasco I’ve seen it happen a dozen more times in a dozen more places. I’m just lucky (or unlucky enough) to have the experience to recognize it when it's going on.

That being said, it all started with someone who I am just going to refer to as Jade. She ran a blog about this TV show, as all of us in the group did at the time. Jade’s blog was one of the more well-known and popular blogs but she wasn’t the most popular or the most special. Known enough to draw a crowd but not known enough that she wasn’t able to stay covert. It was the perfect storm to create the cult that she wanted to create.

When I first met Jade it was because she and I liked the same character on the show and we had gotten to talking about that character. Over time, I found out that Jade really loved fan art for the show and specifically for that character. I had a friend who I will just refer to as Kris, who did fan art for the show and was looking to get exposure for it. Jade’s blog was a good place to start at the time. Before I go any further I am going to mention that no one should ever do work for exposure, even my artist friend was aware of that but she said she didn’t care even if it was a ‘stupid idea’ because at the time she wasn’t a professional artist just a hobbyist. The long and short of it is, don’t ever do for free what you deserve to be paid for or no one will ever take you seriously enough to pay you.

Moving right along, I introduced Jade to Kris and this led me to be introduced to the rest of Jade’s friends. Her inner circle as I will be calling it. At the time, Jade’s inner circle was only allowed to talk to people she approved of. Not that she gave any sort of reason for this but they definitely followed her rules on that and everything else. The vast majority of them had also already met her in real life. Kris and I had not. Jade was very careful with her identity and never actually put up photographs of herself where you could see her face and when she did chat on Skype (as that was the go-to voice chatting program back in the day) she never did it on video. The only way to ever see what Jade looked like was to meet her in person and the only way to meet her in person was to get an invitation. The only way to get an invitation was to get on her good side. By which I mean, you had to be the type of person she could use for personal gain. None of which was clear to me at the time, either. I’m writing a lot of this in hindsight.

The Little Pet Names

Jade would give anyone who was invited into her inner circle a little pet name or nickname. It didn’t seem weird at the time because all of the nicknames were just characters from the show, seemingly characters that the person matched up with the best. It was cute, in the beginning, honestly. The only problem that I had with this was that Jade had already taken the character name that I wanted to be. She insisted there could only be one of those characters but she would find me another one. I said I wasn’t really that interested in being another character. Though I threw out a few names of other characters they were already taken or reserved, so it was going to have to be up to her. Meanwhile, Kris got her name, and another friend I’ll just call Meg got hers. Though I was included in their conference calls and group chats all the time I remained the only one without a name.

Things started to get a little suspicious to me. It was only bit by bit and also only probably because I’ve got a bachelor's in psychology. Not that I think it makes me an expert (it doesn’t) but I knew there was something off about Jade. She didn’t ever use her real name, only the character’s name (you had to call her by that) and she claimed this was because she was that character in real life. Even going as far as to claim that the show was about her, and it was all real. At first, I took this as some attempt at roleplaying, a deeper more intense kind called LARPing. As more time went on, it became harder and harder to tell if she was just making it up or if she actually believed she and her friends (all of the ones with character names) were pretending or actually believed themselves to be these characters.

The Sleep Deprivation

One might ask how someone could possibly sleep deprive you over the internet but it can happen well before you are aware of it. I like to think of myself as a fairly smart person even if I’m no genius. Jade got me into this weird pattern of staying up all night to talk with her inner circle in their conference calls. She claimed that she had to have them so late because different people were in different time zones and we all needed to figure out a time zone that was fair enough for us to talk. She also claimed that it had to be on voice all the time because she couldn’t trust anyone if she couldn’t hear their voice. (I later found out this was more likely due to the fact that she didn’t want the conversations recorded like they would be in text transcripts if they were all typed out).

If I was was tired of this, and it was interrupting my life, why did I keep doing it, some will ask. Well, as I mentioned, Kris was there and she wanted to do art for Jade to get exposure. Kris was my link to Jade and I was Jade’s link to Kris. Though Jade was getting more and more on my nerves, Kris asked me to just play along and be nice until she was able to finish the art project that she had promised. Once that was over, I could stop talking to Jade if I wanted because it would be done. Kris really wanted this opportunity to showcase her artwork and get more followers of her own and I didn’t really blame her. Since Kris was my friend I did what she asked and I was nice. I went to the meetings when they were required and I didn’t fight with Jade even though a lot of the things she claimed were outright bizarre or stupid.

The *Almost* Initiation

Remember how I mentioned that Jade would assign character names to everyone in the group but I never got one? Well, after about a week or two of not having my own “name” in the group, Jade found a character for me to be. It was me, her, and her partner on a voice chat and she told me that I should be X character. I laughed and told her that was ridiculous because I didn’t like X character. She told me, very seriously, that the reason I didn’t like X character was due to the fact that I was that character in a past life and I was having a hard time accepting it.

This was told to me in a completely serious way. This woman, absolutely believed that people walking around right now could own the souls of fictional characters. I do believe that at that point I was sleep-deprived enough that had she said the name of a character I actually liked, I may have been on board with it. Except, I wasn’t. I fought against her so-called logic tooth and nail to explain that what she was saying made no sense. That humans could not carry the souls of fictional characters and even if they could I would never be X character that she wanted me to be. This left her to have a crying, screaming tantrum and the voice chat was ended.

The Fallout Of My “Mistake”

One would think that what had transpired wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was. A day or so later Kris contacted me and told me that maybe it would just be a better idea if I didn’t talk to Jade anymore (she meant on voice chat). The woman was batshit insane to me and I’d already been complaining about her for a long while before that point so it wasn’t hard to get me to agree to this. However, we both knew that if I stopped talking to her entirely (including text messages and skype chat) then she would get suspicious. Kris was still working on her art for Jade’s blog so I had no choice but to keep up appearances. Whenever Jade would try to rope me into a voice chat I’d make up some excuse as to why I couldn’t chat with her on voice.

As more and more time passed I watched my friends become more and more loyal to Jade instead of me. People I’d known long before I even met Jade were taking her side and really agreeing with her whacky opinions. The rhetoric that people could be reincarnated as fictional characters or could possess the souls of said characters. The group went along with any crazy rule she came up with. She would monitor their incoming and outgoing messages, tell them when they could and couldn’t post on their blogs and what they could and couldn’t post. She would have random fits where she would “end up in the emergency room” whenever things didn’t go her way or people didn’t agree with her. She would solicit donations of all types for all reasons because she claimed she couldn’t work or leave the house. Her big story was that she had a stalker who was after her and that was why she couldn’t show her face and was homebound. She was even too scared to open her own mail because she was convinced someone would send her anthrax or a mail bomb to kill her.

Even with how erratic, demanding, and outright controlling this woman was (sometimes in real life and sometimes only through cyberspace) she had people wrapped around her finger. I was even falling for it for about a month or so until that weird night that she attempted to initiate me into her cult group. I tried to warn Kris and Meg that things were not cool here. That this woman was not on the up and up and that she was using both of them for personal and financial gain (which she was). Meg was basically her bank account (along with several others in the group) and she worked Kris like a dog to get projects done even at the expense of Kris’s real job. She texted Kris so much at work that the poor girl nearly got fired.

Everything Becomes Too Much

As anyone would be, I was worried about my friends. I was watching them go from normal, level-headed people to backward brainwashed morons who believed in this fictional character reincarnation crap. It was mindblowing. Kris was and still is one of the smartest people I know. Probably even more so than I am. Meg was young and naive but not in a way I’d have said made her an idiot. Several times she even spoke up and said she was aware that what Jade was doing was wrong but wanted to be with her anyway. It was the sign of someone who seemed to think they deserved the abuse they were getting for whatever reason because, well, they were trained into thinking that.

Things came to a head when Meg announced that she was going to go visit and live with Jade for a week. Without ever seeing a picture of her or even knowing her real name she was just going to head out to this woman’s house and live with her because she was asked. Kris and I outright told her, repeatedly, not to do this. That it was dangerous and that she would very much get assaulted. Jade’s attachment to Meg was of a grooming and sexual nature. The whole group she had put together was very sexual, with her at the top. She would decide who could have sex with who, when, and what they would do (while she watched) and these people just listened to her for whatever reason. I knew that if Meg went out to see Jade, there would have to be a sexual component and Meg would not like it.

In the end, the trip that was only supposed to last a week lasted nearly a month. It bankrupted Meg and for a good portion of time, she was not talking to anyone outside of Jade’s house. Not online and not on the phone. By the time she got home she was claiming she never wanted to speak to Jade again and her parents were talking about pressing charges against the woman (something which never ended up happening, sadly). Meg would not give details of what actually happened in the house while she was there, but there were implications of sexual abuse nonetheless.

My Actual Breaking Point

Even with everything that had happened to Meg, Kris did not want me to tell Jade off. I was primed and ready to give that woman a tongue lashing about what a crazy nutjob she was and to basically just fuck off and leave my friends alone already. Kris promised me that I’d get my chance to do that, I just needed to let her finish this art project first. She was close to being done, she claimed. Eventually, over weeks that felt like years of time, the art project got finished and Jade did not credit Kris for her work. In fact, Jade didn’t credit any artist for any work that was done for her blog. The only artist that got credit for everything was Meg even though Meg had done just a fraction of the work that was demanded of everyone. As you can imagine, this pissed Kris off and since she’s always been the non-confrontational type she told me to tell Jade off. Which I did with pleasure.

There was a huge falling out with me and Jade’s inner circle in which she demonized me so much that everyone (other than Kris) had to shun me. Though Kris and I still talked, Jade was working on her too. Initially, Kris said that she wasn’t going to just stop being my friend because Jade commanded her to. Over time, all of the propaganda and whatever else Jade spewed in Kris’ direction got to her. I remember one night chatting with Kris she said something to me that was word for word something I had heard Jade say before and I knew that it was over. That Kris was lost to Jade’s fancy new religion, cult, or whatever I was supposed to call it and I had just lost my friend. It was heartbreaking due to the fact that I had been trying to warn Kris the whole time. She was the reason I stuck around so long and why I’d kept up such polite pretenses with Jade and the rest of her inner circle and now all of that effort was lost.

The Horrific Conclusion

For a few years, I didn’t have contact with any of them. Not Kris or Meg or Jade. Not that I missed Jade at all but I was worried about my friends or rather former friends. The only good news in this was that they still had their blogs and social media so from time to time I would check to see what they were saying. Mostly, I was trying to gauge if they were still in Jade’s group or not which was easy to tell because of how she would publicly order them around across various social media accounts.

At some point, Kris broke free from that web of crap and we reconciled as much as we possibly could (though our friendship will never be the same as it once was). As for Meg, despite her claiming she was never going to talk to Jade again once she came home from the first trip…that turned out to be a lie. Somehow (and no one even really knows how) Jade convinced Meg to move in with her as a permanent roommate and only two months later they were living together. Jade was still using Meg as her personal bank account, forcing her to sell artwork that she would create only to give Jade the money. Meg never saw any income for herself. All the payments went directly to a PayPal account that Jade had access to. Meg, at first, would beg friends to loan her money to help pay rent/for food/etc but when these friends tried to get her to pay the money back she claimed that she never borrowed money and would block them. One by one she isolated herself from her friends and her family all thanks to the word of Jade.

Though police did get involved at some point in all of this, the people still within Jade’s inner circle would not be helpful at all. They protected her (and to this day will still protect her if you try to get any information from them). The only way I even figured out Jade’s real name was due to a slip-up someone made and I happened to catch at some point very quickly. This allowed me to look into her more as a person and confirm who I was actually talking to. I had known from early on that Jade couldn’t have been who she said she was. I also knew that her hiding behind the stories of a stalker was inconsistent and in some cases outright ridiculous as her story changed multiple times. I’d always held a theory that the real reason she didn’t show her face or use her real name was that someone was after her, and by someone, I mean the law. Upon learning her real name I was able to find warrants in three different states for her arrest. Nothing above misdemeanor level (so police aren’t going to extradite her) but she can no longer go back to any of those states or cities without risking arrest.

The last I heard about Jade (some years back) was that she had run off with Meg to…God only knows where. The police were called and when that didn’t work a private investigator was hired. It ends there. Since Meg was a legal adult by the time she ran off with Jade (even though when she met Jade she was a minor) there was nothing the police could do. If Meg said she wanted to be with this woman and her very odd harem of women then not much could be done to stop it. Sadly, it’s not illegal for someone to run off and join a cult and if they aren’t asking for help or looking to press charges, police aren’t going to break it up.

In the end, I don’t know what happened to Meg or where she is now. I also don’t know what happened to Jade or where she is now. I just know that they are still out there. Jade has, by this point, more than likely found a new cult and a new way to start living as it seems her only means of income has ever been using other people to survive. She doesn’t work, she doesn’t leave her house, and this is why. People want her. Police want her. She’s aware that if she steps outside and she is recognized she’s going to be in for some big trouble and I’m assuming running a background check with her name (to get a real job) would bring up the police warrants.

Conclusion

There are no current pictures of Jade to show around the internet. Not much is known about her other than she’s in her early 40s and this is how she operates and will continue to operate until she is stopped. She has a long history of running cults and people coming and going from her groups when they finally wake up and get sick of her. There were many more victims before Meg and I assume there will be many more victims after Meg. Due to the fact she is female and doing this, she’s having an easier time getting away with it than if she were male. Wherever she is now, she’s keeping a low profile, and quite frankly I never want to run into her or her group ever again. It does terrify me to realize how close I came to actually being in a cult and that just by sheer luck I got out of it at the right time. However, it has shaken my faith in humanity quite a bit and I don’t think I’ll ever stop having trust issues over it either.

If you would like to learn more about cults or how to recognize if you are in a cult (or one of your friends is) there’s great information on this website to read through and help you figure it out. Just keep in mind you never know who you may be talking to on the internet and cults are an insidious form of mind control. It’s not like it is on TV or in movies. By the time you may realize you are in a cult…it could be too late.