Updated: Jan 8, 2021
For people who struggle to read white on black, read this on Medium instead,
When you think of cults, you’re likely to think of one of three things:
Those sitcom episodes where — whoopsie! — the characters went on a “retreat” that turned out to be a cult.
Devil-worshipping hellfire circles of cloaked, chanting people. (The KKK?)
Religious cults like the Jahovas Witnesses — confirmed a cult by those who escaped, by the way.
That’s what I always thought of as cults, too. There was a brief intermission where two friends of mine started a “Chicken Nugget and Celebrity Worship” cult, building statues of the man out of the nuggets while wearing robes and chanting. Luckily, it was satire.
They didn’t know they were already in a cult.
Before we get started, here’s something you should know about me: I have Dissociative Identity Disorder. You may know it better by its former name, “Multiple Personality Disorder.”
A brief explanation: multiple people living in one body.
The actual definition doesn’t state multiple “people” — more “dissociated states of one person/fragmented sense of self” and along those lines. But many people with the disorder experience it as multiple people, one body.
So call me crazy, but this is one body, with multiple people living inside it. Like Cat-dog, that cartoon. Or “one vessel with multiple demons inside,” as the cult liked to call it.
The story starts when one of the main personalities, the “host” as DID-havers call it in this case, returned from their travels in Europe.
Entering a Cult: The Beginning
Hannah, a bright young man with much he wanted to do, decided to return to visit the private boarding school in which three other alters (people in this same body) were educated. It was mainly for the theater department. And, lo and behold, what luck! The school was no longer a school, but an activity center!
The theater department was thriving with life and little money, in desperate need of a star. So Hannah dropped everything and spent several years playing leading men and women.
You may wonder how they played leading men and women — this body is intersex, and passes as both men and women, especially when singing. It has the entire range of a tenor, alto and soprano. And with training, we’re moving down towards baritone too.
It was the perfect life. Jean Van Jean one night. Eponine the next. A few weeks later, Tony, besotted with Maria, in West Side Story.
The next night, a Disney princess.
On top of it, not only was Hannah playing many leading roles, but he moved on to co-directing. And directing. And helping with costumes, set design and music production.
It was a measly theater full of professional actors, many of whom trained at leading schools such as RADA and LAMDA, others who trained solo but at the same quality level. But you know how it goes — the acting business is tough to break into, so sometimes, great talents are left performing on a small stage in a musky castle, with an audience that barely allows a profit.
Extras worked for no money and a bag of chips (fries, for the Americans). The unofficial theater head (Hannah) spent over £100,000 of savings on putting on fantastic shows — with no profits, because who’s going to come to shows in a castle in the middle of nowhere?
They were fun, though, and that was the focal point. And other people within this body came out to live their dreams.
John, in an original short musical that Hannah wrote about Casanova. Dean, in Blues Brothers. Dean’s Husband in Blood Brothers. SD came to help with music. Ariana with painting sets. Hannah did all of that, and more.
Then we ran out of money. The theater had none. It closed, and it looked as though the entire establishment would, too.
Entering a Cult: The Shifting Point
Then they showed up. Buyers. And the buyers wanted to keep us all on, but not in the theater. As teachers. After all, this was a former school. And now it would be a school for black magic and the paranormal.
Hannah said no thanks and was gone. But Dean? He said hell yes.
In brains with DID, alters form during times of deep trauma and stress.
The stress that happened to form Dean was the potential that the establishment was going to close. They’d been talking about it for ages, even when we were still putting on shows.
And Dean, SD and Dean’s Husband all formed mid-watching a coping mechanism at the time: a paranormal TV show.
Ariana formed when watching another show, but fell into the same group of alters, interested in the paranormal.
Dean was literally wired for paranormal things, in this old school building. So with Dean’s instruction, all four of those alters attended the training separately. And suddenly, we spent our days teaching dark-minded adults about the history of demonic possession, different types of ghosts, black magic and tulpas.
On the side, as a thank you to the new staff, they set up a music department. That was quite cool. Dean, his husband, Ariana and two new alters formed from the stress of being a teacher started a band.
Life seemed perfect. Dean adored being a teacher, especially a supernatural teacher. And he didn’t notice the weird stuff. Only the fun things, like that whole chicken nugget and celebrity worship cult.
And when our dear friend came to stay, lost their virginity as an adult in a ex-school common room, and was the talk of the place for weeks, he was head of the “hey, remember that time …” stories.
He was into the fun stuff.
But things weren’t as fun for everyone else.
Teachers who didn’t already have a background in the paranormal were punished for the slightest mistake. Skeptics were thrown out with no money, and nowhere to go most of the time. And everyone — except those who’d already seen it/them — were forced to watch several TV shows and/or movies and follow the paranormal teachings laid out in them.
This was called “mandatory viewing.” They rush force you, but they asked you if you were finished yet, daily. There were quizzes for those who claimed they were.
But things got really weird when they started forcing people to change their last name. Legally. I figured it wasn’t such a big ask, I found it fun and deed poles are cheap.
One friend — someone who’d come because of Dean — was ecstatic. They wept, saying it was like the family they’d never had. This was one of the “secret keepers” — basically people paid £40 a week to just sit there, observe and shut up while attending classes as training.
The secret keepers, or future paranormal investigators, had extra evening classes I didn’t know about, with the “buyers” of the whole establishment.
I later learned that these were sessions of brainwashing and hypnosis. They’d tell them they could never be good at anything outside of the “family business.” Never do anything other than investigate potential hauntings. It wasn’t worth their time dealing with any outside of it.
But the reason Dean didn’t see most of this was because he got close to the buyers. He got special privileges to leave, visit other people. Take pictures and videos.
Oh, and that’s something people weren’t allowed to do inside the cult. Take pictures or videos. When the buyers found out one of Dean’s friends had been taking pictures of the common rooms, they had internet privileges revoked for two weeks every month. All they did was take a picture of a couch and a box!
So whenever Dean left the cult area, other alters came out and had their lives. It was a good life. We did a lot outside the cult. But whenever we returned, Dean was faced with … that stuff.
With the internet privileges revoked, the forced name changes, mandatory viewing and several people disappearing every evening, Dean knew something wasn’t right and started doing some research on these buyers.