Before David Koresh, there was simply "Koresh." Cyrus Reed Teed was an eclectic physician from New York who experienced a "divine illumination" (Google Books) in 1869. He recruited over 200 followers to settle a utopian commune in Estero, Florida based on his revelation of a unique hollow-earth theory called the Cellular Cosomogony. Elaborate experiments showed conclusive "proof" that the world's surface was a concave sphere. Despite this, his movement failed to gain traction; relations grew increasingly strained between the Koreshans and the Lee County locals. In 1906, the aging Dr. Teed was severely beaten in a Ft. Myers street brawl (PDF, see pp. 12-14) and died from his injuries on December 22, 1908. His martyrdom sealed, the Koreshans refused to bury the remains (PDF) in the belief that their messiah would be resurrected on Christmas Day. The commune has been preserved as a state historic site where Floridians can learn more about the cult leader in their backyard. [more inside]
The Torture Colony. In a remote part of Chile, an evil German evangelist built a utopia whose members helped the Pinochet regime perform its foulest deeds... [i]nvestigations by Amnesty International and the governments of Chile, Germany, and France, as well as the testimony of former colonos who, over the years, managed to escape the colony, have revealed evidence of terrible crimes: child molestation, forced labor, weapons trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, torture, and murder. It may sound like the farfetched plot of Saw VII (or something out of Kafka) but it's horrifyingly true. [Previously]
The cult of fashion; the fashion of cults.
Olaf Stapledon was a man ahead of his time. His epic 'novel' Star Maker (1937) considered the emergence of genetic engineering, the outcome of the many worlds interpretation and delved deeper than any book before or since into the consequences of evolution on the cosmos. His fans have included the likes of Arthur C Clarke, Jorge Luis Borges and Virginia Woolf. Even his greatest detractor, C.S.Lewis, wrote an entire Cosmic Trilogy in response to his imaginings. Yet despite Stapledon's magnetic prose and extraordinary influence on speculative fiction his name remains largely forgotten by the world. Yet his words still resonate with insight: "Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of active living, and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate, ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?"