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CULT LEADER'S CALL TO SACRIFICE A VIRGIN SPARKS MASSIVE ORGY
Reverend gets the hose out to quell debauchery.
By DUNCAN WINCHELL
Senior Cult Reporter
Mt. Juliet, Tennessee: Last night, local police were alerted to a disturbance on the south side of the city. Passers-by called 911, reporting sounds of distress emanating from a large building.
Officer Jeff Lynch arrived on the scene, stating, “Our unit got a call for a welfare check on a building in the 1900 block of Little Street. When my partner and I approached, we could hear screams and moans from what sounded like a multitude of voices. We knocked and announced our presence several times to no avail.
“I radioed my sergeant, and she stated there was no backup available, but due to the nature of the situation, it was decided to breach the door and make entry into the building. Someone’s safety might have been at stake.
“We broke down the front door and immediately tripped over two people copulating on the floor. Once our eyes adjusted to the low light, we realized hundreds of people were all having sex. All except one guy at the front hosing them down and trying to whack some parrots that were dive-bombing him.
“Once I relayed the information to my sergeant, ten patrol cars showed up in minutes. Given there was no obvious crime being committed, we twenty or so officers stood quietly talking amongst ourselves and taking selfies until everyone was done. Our thinking was if anybody needed to be arrested, it would be easier post-coitus. That’s why we train for just this kind of situation.
“It took longer than we expected because of one guy. Even the sex fiends were getting impatient, calling out, ‘While we’re young, Frank!’. Apparently, Frank’s a late bloomer.
“We took turns interviewing people, but we could only stay in the building for a few minutes. The stink of sex and bird crap was overwhelming. After an initial investigation, it turned out everyone was over 21 and consenting, and no illicit drugs or alcohol were found. Frankly, I’ve found more illegal activity at a PTA meeting with too much box wine. We had no choice but to take a few pictures for Instagram and leave.”
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I was typing away at my news desk when the call came over the police scanner about a sex orgy in progress. I was shocked. However, when they got to the address, it all made sense. It was none other than the Church of Hidden Revelations and Immediate Salvation, The CHRIS as it’s known locally.
I had been after the notoriously reporter-shy “Reverend Pud” for some time. To his followers and the outside world, he is the pulpit pugilist. A flamboyant dresser and microphone screamer that extols his follower that the only way to salvation is through the good Reverend.
What happens in The CHRIS has been coffee shop gossip for years, but nothing definitive has ever come of the innuendos. Now, however, with police statements, backed up with body cam video, the reverend had some explaining to do
After leaving message after message for the Reverend, I found a stern-faced goon standing at my desk. He peered down through his sunglasses and said, “Are you Duncan Winchell?”
“The Reverend has granted you an interview.” He left a folded note on my desk, scanned the room, and walked away.
A few days later, I was standing before the inner sanctum of The CHRIS. Two more goons were on either side of the door, and after a radio call to a superior, the ornate door was opened for me.
I was expecting a large room sparsely decorated with holy relics and maybe a red carpet leading to a throne. It was a large room, alright, but it was filled with…everything. Nearly every inch of floor space was occupied with something. The only open space left were two small couches facing each other in the middle of the room, with several small trails leading to various parts of the room.
I saw the reverend in the distance with his back to me, talking on a cell phone. I tiptoed through the clutter noticing a Viking helmet here, a dozen vacuum cleaners there, a mountain of garbage bags that appeared to be filled with clothes.
On a table, a long chrome-plated tube caught my eye. It looked like a telescope of some type. I picked it up and looked through one end to get a better view across the room.
The Reverend was off the phone now and said, “That’s a colonoscope.”
“What’s that,” I said, turning it left and right, “an off-brand kaleidoscope?”
“Not really. Back in the day, doctors used a colonoscope like that to look up people’s butts.
My brain was still trying to register what he said when he continued, “And you’re looking through the wrong end.” I put it down like it was on fire and wipe my hands on my pants. “That table is for old-timey medical instruments.”
As we snaked our way through the trail to the couches, he continued. “Here’s what they don’t tell you in Cult Leader School.”
“Cult Leader School?”
“Yes. I was pre-dental a first but changed my major. When you are a cult leader, and you get a new follower, it’s kind of expected that they turn over all their belongings as an offering to the church. It's, like, the first thing they teach you in Cult Leader School.
“What you don’t realize is you get everything. Do you know I have over one-hundred lawnmowers. All of them are old gas burners that no one wants. I don’t even have a lawn. I mean, I had a lawn. Now my porch, my back yard, and my front yard are completely covered with used appliances and sofas. Anybody driving by thinks I’m the richest man in Tennessee.”
Just then, a trio of brightly colored parrots flew across the room. “Is that where you got the parrots?”
“Oh, the parrots, or as I like to call them, the diarrhea-sky-rats. I have seven in all. Do you know those things can live for a century? I’m going to have to will them to my grandkids. I swear Kevin only joined my cult so he could get rid of those damn birds.
The birds squawked as if they knew they were being talked about.
“But as you can see, I get a little bit of everything. I have a velvet Elvis painting. At least, I think it’s Elvis. Maybe an Elvis that’s been taking Prednisone. I have a stuffed Canadian musk ox, because who doesn’t need that? If I want to see on in person, no problem, I have a 1968 snowmobile. I have some poison from Australia called Vegemite and an x-ray showing someone with a candy cane in their butt. That answers a lot of questions about last year’s Christmas party. You better believe I’m using that colonoscope for this year’s party.
I have a shotgun with the serial number removed. I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt me.
“Creepy dolls, check. Kayak with a hole in it, check. Fourteen-foot Shoney’s Big Boy statue, check. I even have three bumper-pool tables, and on one of them, the bumpers look like boobs. My followers are nothing if not classy.”
Church of Hidden Revelations and Immediate Salvation followers pray amongst the offerings.
By the time his rant was exhausted, we were each on either side of a coffee table. He motioned me to sit. He then offered me a candy dish from the table between us, “Wax bean?”
I look dubiously at the pale yellow glob in the bowl.
He took one himself and said, “If you’re going to be taken seriously as a cult, you need dietary rules, and if you want to do it right, the rules should be arcane, illogical, with no scientific merit whatsoever.”
“And you choose wax beans?”
“Wax beans, the vegetable that evolution forsake; pale, bland, limp. Its most endearing feature is wax. A perfect, enigmatic, sacred food.”
I took one so as not to offend. With the holy legume down my throat, I began my questions. “First, let me say thank you for granting this interview.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. I’ve been a subscriber to World Wide Global News for some time. I’m email@example.com. I like that your stories. They are well sourced, grounded, and tell it like it is.”
“Thank you, Reverend Pud.” I set a tape recorder between us. “So…’ Pud,’ is that a nickname or acronym of some kind?
“No, that's the name on my birth certificate. I am a twin, and my older brother, by seven minutes, is Spud. Mom thought we both looked like potatoes. She thought Spud and Pud would be cute yet respectable names.”
“Did your brother Spud go into the field of cult leadership too?”
The Reverend lit a cigarette and blew the plume skyward. “No, poor Spud went down a dark path and became a Life Coach. What a crock, right? You don’t need any kind of licensing or training to call yourself a life coach. Ridiculous and dangerous to the public, I say.”
Overlooking the eye-watering hypocrisy, I continued, “Tell me more about this call to sacrifice a virgin?”
Ignoring my question, he said, “You know what else they don’t tell you when you become a cult leader? All the writing. Every one of us has to write a manifesto and book of laws and such. It’s exhausting.
“I’m working on my third book now.” He plopped a 500-page tome on the coffee table. “Here’s the first and the most important. It’s called ‘The Holy Book of Waivers’, and it contains every kind of legal safeguard a cult leader would need. In a nutshell, it says I will give you access to god, and you will consider my teachings ‘sincerely held religious beliefs. That’s my legal stay-out-of-jail card.”
He placed a much thinner book on top of the first. “This is book two. A kind of how-to book for followers. The Book of Waivers is kind of boilerplate cult leader stuff. Not a lot of variation. But book two is my own creation for my own brand of faith. I wrote it when I was a rookie, and lately, I’ve been thinking I can do better.
“So now I’m working on book three. Kind of like my version of the New Testament.”
I pulled out a rubber chicken I’d accidentally sat down on, “If these works are considered ancient, holy relics aren’t your followers going to be suspicious.”
“Nah, religions are always finding new texts that verify the previous text. The circular argument is as old as faith itself. I’ll just tell my flock that god told me to look under a pile of laundry or in an old suitcase, and voila, new religious doctrine.
“Besides, nobody is going to complain because these rules will be so much better. For instance, in book one, we had ‘The Ten Edicts of Piety’. Those are the biggies to follow if you want salvation.
“In book number three, I whittle the edicts down to around six. I got rid of rules against killing, stealing, and lying. They really harsh the buzz of my religion. Besides, humanity has known those are big no-nos for tens of thousands of years. Before writing was even invented. Putting them in a code of ethics seems redundant.
“I’ve also been working on some life-affirming messages. It’s kind of like a religious puff piece to fill out the book. That and lots of pictures should make for a decent read. Get a load of these pearls of wisdom: ‘Don’t do drugs and Stay in school, and If life gives you lemons, punch life in the neck.’ What do you think?”
I gave a polite nod. “Those are very nice.”
“How about this, ‘A Third turns into a Turd when you take out the ‘HI’ and add a ‘U’.
I wrinkled my nose.
“OK, I’ll have to workshop that some more. But this next is Pulitzer Prize-worthy scripture. ‘The day after tomorrow is the second day of the rest of your life.’ Tony Robbins even stole that one from me.
“Tony Robbins? The motivation guy?”
“The same. If you’re a cult leader, you either love him or hate him. In the locker room, we call him, ‘Tony Robs Them’. No matter what, you can’t deny his staying power. It’s a racquet even Charles Ponzi would admire.”
He turned the manuscript sideways on the table for me to see. “With book number three, here are my first three Edicts of Piety; Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust. Give the people what they want, am I right? I’m still mulling over the other three. The fourth is definitely going to be something about hygiene. It can get pretty ripe in the church on a hot day.
“For the fifth, I’m thinking about one that says to protect and honor all other creatures. I figure, they share the planet with us and deserve our love…”
It was just then a parrot flew overhead and crapped all over the Reverend’s Holy Spiral Notebook.
A shocked reverend flicked parrot guano off his vestments, “What the…! That’s it! Where’s that shotgun? He started furiously plowing through his offerings, opening boxes, and flinging items out of his way.
I quickly followed behind him. “Now, Reverend, protect and honor all other creatures.”
“Oh, eff that. I’m not putting up with this for another eighty years.” He flipped open a box and stopped. Inside was a large collection of snow globes. “Perfect.” He gathered up an armload and started throwing fastballs at the birds.
The parrots avoided them easily, and as each globe of a famous city crashed against the wall, they would squawk in unison as if mocking him.
He ran back for more ammunition, and I yelled out, “Reverend Pud! This is beneath the dignity of your standing in the church?” He stopped and looked at me, breathing heavily. I said in a softer voice, “Hand me, San Francisco.” He looked around aimlessly. “It’s OK,” I said, “I’m sure it wasn’t on purpose. Let's get back to the interview, OK?”
With slumped shoulders, he trod back to the couch and lit another cigarette.
I gave him a moment to collect himself and asked. “I want to circle back to this whole sacrifice a virgin deal.
“Alright, alright. I know that’s what you came here to ask. CNN has been blowing up my phone ever since the news broke.”
“Reverend, it just seems like a passé practice these days. You really can’t point to a culture where sacrificing a virgin really solved anything.”
He stubbed out his smoke and let another. “Well, of course, I wasn’t really going to sacrifice a virgin. It’s just another cult leader gimmick. The point of all of it is to present your followers with a horrible event that will undoubtedly happen if they don’t follow your instructions. Instructions that only you know because of your mystical powers, paranormal visions, relationship with god, or whatever.
“Generally, you need to gin up some crises about every year or so. I keep a list of them in my day planner. Last year it was the end of the world; cliché, I know, but it gets the rubes attention. Before that was a global economic downturn. That always gets a “meh” response but keeps my believers from thinking for themselves. In late 2019, I hit prognosticator gold, baby, when I pulled an infectious pandemic out of my ass. Seriously, what are the chances? I was as surprised as anybody. And let me tell you, enrollment skyrocketed. The problem was most of the new converts were anti-vaxxers, so over the next few months, enrollment took a nose dive.
“With the pandemic winding down, if figured it was time to fill my believers with dread again. Then I realized I hadn’t used the schtick of sacrificing a virgin to assuage god’s wrath in quite a while.”
“But, Reverend, you weren’t going to really go through with it?”
“Off the record? I can’t have all my secrets out there.”
“Off the record.” I clicked off my recorder.
“Sacrifice a virgin? No way! First, we don’t have a volcano to chuck her into. Second, first-degree murder is not a good strategy for a long-term grift.”
I nervously watch a parrot fly overhead. “If your congregation didn’t have a spontaneous boink-fest, what were you going to do?”
“The time-honored method of all cult leaders. Fakery. I have a wonderful gal at the nearby college, Middle Tennessee State. She’s a theater major, and for a few bucks, she comes in and does an Oscar-worthy performance.
“She’s jumped out of a wheelchair for Heal-the-Lame-Fest and threw away her white cane for “Cure-the-Blind-Gala, but her best was the Diabetes-No-More-Palooza. You wouldn’t know it, but suddenly being able to metabolize sugar gets the crowd on its feet. Probably because most of my followers are Boomers.
“I’ll have to say, I was surprised my worshipers found a virgin loophole so quickly. I mean, how smart can they be if they’re following me?”
I turned the recorder back on. “How many followers do you have?”
“That’s a trade secret we all keep. It’s like big companies that get to decide what’s a profit and what’s not. It all depends on who’s asking. Besides, it’s the quality of devotees, not the quantity. Scientology has Tom Cruise, and I have the guy from the Six Flags commercials. Well, not the guy. It’s a set of triplets that are kind of a cover band for the Six Flags guy. I hear they are tearing up the Elk’s Club circuit.”
The Reverend sat back and lit another cigarette. “I think the sixth edict will be no more than one pack a day, and you can only smoke filtered cigs. And no menthol. Menthol is addictive, you know.”
After a loud knock on the door, one of the goons came in carrying several garbage bags. “Reverend Pud, we have a new member. Here are some of his clothes.”
“OK, throw them on the clothes pile” He dutifully chucked the bags on the enormous pile of clothes climbing up the wall. He turned back to the Reverend but was obviously reluctant to say something.
Pud, with a suspicious tone in his voice, said, “What?”
“Well, Reverend Pud, this new member was a … collector.”
“No!” Pud turned to me. “My followers must have some double recessive gene that makes them collect things.” He looked back to his goon, who had his head down, twisting his toe into the floor. “Well, what is it? Is it thimbles? Does he collect thimbles or decorative spoons?”
“Baseball cards. Tell me it’s baseball cards.”
“Out with it, man! What is it!”
“Damn it! OK, edict number seven - lawn care is an abomination to god, and anyone doing so will be cursed for all eternity!”
I bade my farewell as the good Reverend Pud as he began to make room for his new offerings.