Born in Synanon: The disturbing true story behind cult documentary

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Typically speaking, the word “cult” refers to a relatively small group of people who demonstrate unwavering dedication to a set of beliefs and practices set out by a magnetic, self-appointed leader. Archetypes include Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Marshall Herff Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate, and, more recently, NXIVM led by Keith Raniere.

While you might assume the world would learn from past mistakes, the complex psychology behind both the influence of cult leaders and the people who follow them continues to see the birth of new groups, many of which have been the subject of recent documentaries such as Love Has Won and Escaping Twin Flames.

One that dates back even before Charles Manson and Jonestown is Synanon, which much like other cults, started out with seemingly pure intentions, only to descend into violence and infamy under its leader Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich. Here’s what you need to know about the group, as well as the new docu-series Born in Synanon.

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