From Estero to Waco: SWFL cult may have bigger influence than once thought

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It’s a place trapped in time. It’s what remains of the cult that once called the area home.

“In 1894, a man named Cyrus Teed found this land and brought his followers down to build a commune,” author and FGCU professor Lyn Millner explained. “They were religious utopians, they were celibate, and they believed that they lived inside of the Earth.”

They were called the Koreshans. What’s left behind is either on their old property in Estero or in the archives at FGCU.

Millner, who wrote a book about the Koreshans, said Cyrus Teed believed in a “hollow earth” and believed he was the messiah – taking the name “Koresh.”

“Koresh is the Hebrew transliteration of Cyrus. He believed that he was King Cyrus from the Bible,” she explained. “And he believed that he was the Lamb from the Bible that was sent to save humanity.”

He wasn’t. And after Teed died, the cult went into decline. The land was eventually given to the state, which turned it into what’s now known as the Koreshan State Park.

But, as it turns out, the small cult from this corner of the world had a bigger influence than once thought – an influence far beyond Southwest Florida.

30 years ago, near Waco, Texas, a weekslong standoff between an apocalyptic religious group and federal agents ended in tragedy. A fire broke out at the group’s compound, claiming dozens of lives, including children.

“The ATF raid and the FBI siege of the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel has had an impact that has lasted 30 years,” author Jeff Guinn told NBC2.

Guinn’s new book explores the failures of the ATF and FBI and the rise of cult leader Vernon Howell, who would later take on the name of David Koresh.

Among the revelations: that Koresh’s prophecies were plagiarized.

“The genesis of this is in Fort Myers,” Guinn explained. “I was able to come to Fort Myers, use these archives, and in them, find, in Teed’s newsletter – The Flaming Sword – word for word, a hundred years almost before David Koresh ever surfaced, all the same prophecies that Koresh would later use.”

“Without Cyrus Teed, I don’t know what would’ve happened in Waco,” he continued.

Guinn discovered it was one of Koresh’s predecessors, Lois Roden – a former leader of the Branch Davidians – who discovered Cyrus Teed and fed Koresh his prophecies.

But how?

It turns out Teed’s followers published a book after his death. It is extremely rare and hard to find. But Guinn found it – in a tiny library – in Waco.

“And again, the writing in it is exact. There is no question that word for word, David Koresh was basically citing Cyrus Teed, not the angels of the Lord,” Guinn said.

During the standoff in 1993, Guinn said a religious scholar had identified the connection. He said it could’ve changed everything but blames the feds for not doing more with that knowledge.

“If the FBI had been open enough to listen to Dr. Phil Arnold, who originally discovered the possibility of the link, there would be some people alive today, probably, who died on April 19th, 1993,” Guinn said.

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1 comment

  1. Turns out that cult leader David Koresh copied his “prophecies” from another cult leader in Florida. But this revelation doesn’t change the fact that Koresh was q psychopath obsessed with death and destruction.

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