The Most Evil Cult Leader In History? | Roch Theriault | Part One

(Roch Theriault. Picture credit:

It's hard to know where to begin with the story of Roch Theriault, who was the leader of one of the most infamous cults in Canadian history. I've read a lot about cults over the years and I have to say that this cult leader was one which I believe to be, in my opinion, the most evil in history. 

I have to give a shoutout to the amazing Jean Nicolas for requesting that I cover this case of which I didn't really know anything about. Jean is a native from Canada and did warn me that this case was pretty heavy going. When I first started researching it I thought it was going to be a run of the mill cult story but the more I read, the more horrified I became.

The details in my coverage of this case will be quite disturbing and I will try to be as sensitive as I can but there will be some horrendous themes mentioned to do with torture, sexual assault, child abuse, murder and necrophilia. 

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So, where to start? I think we should look back to Roch's childhood. He was born on the 16th of May 1947 in Saguenay, Quebec in Canada and was said to have had quite a normal childhood but Roch would later tell his followers and Psychiatrists that his childhood was traumatic at the hands of his father. Roch claimed that he was abused as a youngster but his father as well as relatives and people who knew the family well, denied this. Roch was a bright child and enjoyed reading but he was known for making up stories to shock people and gain attention. He dropped out of school in the 7th grade and began to study the Bible. His father was a member of a religious group called ''The White Berets'' and Roch would be forced to dress in the group's uniform as well as go from door to door. Roch hated this and he was often bullied by the neighbourhood kids because of this. He began resenting being a catholic and started to have a dislike for religion as a whole. There didn't seem to be any red flags from Roch during his childhood and he got on so well with his parents and when he got older, they agreed to help him set up his business where he made wood sculpted items. 

Roch discovered from an early age that the more disturbing the stories he shared, the more attention and sympathy he gained from people.

As he entered into adulthood, he met and fell in love with a girl named Francine Grenier and it wasn't long until they were married and had two sons. Everything seemed to be going well until Roch was suddenly struck down with horrendous stomach pains and vomiting due to ulcers. He had to have two operations and it look a long time for his body to settle down. Due to the health problems, he fell into a depression and Francine later recalled how a lot of his personality had changed. Roch would be very protective of her before and would insist that she wear full length dresses, after the operations, he began telling her to wear short skirts and dress in a sexy manner. He also became fixated on sex. He would tell his wife that he was off somewhere to sell his wood sculpted items but what he was really doing was meeting other women. 

Roch was quite popular with the opposite sex and always liked a drink but Francine noticed that ever since the operations, not only did she suspect him of having a number of affairs, she also noticed that his need for alcohol was getting worse. He would use his business as an excuse to be out of town to see the other women behind Francine's back, one of which he grew very close too, Gisele. 

Roch began to have financial problems and lost his house and it was around this time that Francine left him and he stayed with Gisele. Roch portrayed himself as a strict catholic and pretended to sleep in his truck at night so that people wouldn't think that he was having extramarital sex.  Also around this time, he became interested in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and it wasn't long before he became fixated and convinced Gisele to join.

Being so devoted to the church he revamped his whole lifestyle and quit smoking. He also became a vegetarian. Roch stood out from the other followers for his constant dedication and he had such a way with words that made people listen. He was charismatic and explained things in a way that made them understandable. He was trusted with the job of taking leaflets (with information about the church) around and spreading the word. It got to the point where Roch was so good at engaging people that some of the followers started to look to him as a mentor. 

Roch was happy in this position and enjoyed being admired and praised but he wanted people to follow him and him only. The people who seemed to admire him the most were some of the younger followers and he soon convinced them to leave the church and follow him. The other advantage Roch had was that the followers all spoke French but he had the ability to speak both French and English. The young followers saw this as another sign that Roch was someone with a gift. 

In 1977 he gathered his young followers together who were all aged between 18 to 24, there was also a young married couple who brought their six-month old baby with them. 

All of these young people were quite bright, some were at University. The group didn't have anywhere to hang out at first so they would all go to Gisele's house and often stay there. They hung on Roch's every word and believed him when he said that ''Christ is coming soon''. He convinced them to walk away from their careers and University. 

Around this time, Roch had gone hiking by himself and told his followers afterwards that when he had reached a certain spot he had a vision that the sky became so bright and God was talking to him. He claimed that God had said the very ground he was standing on was a holy and sacred place. 

Roch described himself as a ''healer'' and boasted about healthy living. He moved his followers to Sainte-Marie in Beauce which was about 65km south of Quebec city where they opened a clinic which focused on healthy living and organic food. He insisted also that everyone was to wear the same uniform which was an ankle length tunic. The men were to wear beige tunics and the women were to wear green whilst Roch's was dark brown.

Once they were out there and settled, things seemed to be going really well. They were making money and new followers joined them. People were selling their belongings and giving the money to Roch and Gisele was growing more and more concerned that one of the young women would catch Roch's eye. Gisele persuaded him to marry her and they did a week later but this still didn't calm her fears and she continued to grow uncomfortable at Roch's interactions with the female members of the group.

Roch found himself in trouble in March of 1978 after he convinced a married man to bring his ill wife to his healthy living clinic to be cured of cancer. The man believed everything that Roch told him and took his wife out of the hospital and off of the medication she was being given by qualified Doctors. Roch's treatment consisted of organic food and grape juice.  The woman sadly passed away. He later told his followers that he visited the woman and kissed her forehead to which she came back to life but he decided that it was best that she be with God.

This same year he decided to pair off some of his followers and have them married despite the fact that none of them were involved in romantic relationships with each other. 

Gisele was still unhappy in her relationship with Roch but found herself pregnant with his child. She wanted to leave and gave him an ultimatum. Roch wasn't happy about this and flew into a rage, punching her in the mouth and kept her in a room for two days.

The police had been keeping an eye on the group after word spread around about the married woman who died at the clinic. Roch was feeling the pressure and told his followers that the world was going to end on the 17th of February 1979. He convinced them again to move with him, after drifting to various locations before finally hiking for two days and ending up in an isolated hill bedside a lake which Roch named ''Eternal Mountain''. 

Roch ordered the group to build a cabin whilst he sat back, watched and gave out orders. In between the young people working 17 hours a day with very little to drink and hardly any sleep, he would have a couple of them hike to the nearest town to bring him back junk food. He would punish anyone who dared to complain about the lack of sleep, tiredness or lack of food by restricting their water and food intake even further.

He told his followers he couldn't help with the building of the cabin because he had stomach pains and cancer. Some of the followers did leave at this point and surprisingly, Roch didn't do anything to stop them.

Once the cabin was completed he insisted his followers call him ''Moses'', he also changed their names too. The followers also referred to him as ''Papy'' and Gisele as ''Mamy''. Gisele discovered that Roch had slept with one of the female followers whilst she was 6 months pregnant. She was so upset that she tried to leave which enraged Roch. Again, he got physical with his pregnant wife by throwing her to the ground and strangling her before releasing his grip and she promised she wouldn't dare leave again. 

With Gisele and the other followers under his complete control (he used the lack of food and sleep deprivation to make them weak) he began marrying the females of the group and having sex with them in an attempt to impregnate them so they couldn't leave.

Continued in part two...

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1 comment:

  1. Wow what a horrible person to do that to his wife and being pregnant with his child. strangled and locked up for trying to leave and to make sure no harm to the babe. Well written and to the point. I can't wait to read part two 🌹❤️🌹❤️☕☕