Friday, November 4, 2011

More on the Mullet Cult

As I commented in my Amish Beard Wars post, I find it way more hilarious than I probably should that there's an Amish leader out there named Sam Mullet whose followers go around cutting hair and beards. It's as if growing up with that name draws you to bad haircuts or something. CNN has a new article up with some further information about Mullet's Amish sect that calls itself the Bergholz Clan, and the closer you look at it the more cultish it appears to be. You should read the whole thing, but some highlights are quoted below.

The CNN article features testimony from a former member, Aden Troyer, who was once married to Mullet's daughter Wilma but left the group in response to what he describes as cultish behavior on the part of its leader.

They say Mullet has created rules and punishments for breaking those rules that Amish folks had never heard of before.

The Amish typically resolve disputes within their community without the interference of law enforcement. But they say Mullet takes this to a whole new level.

"The way he's been treating and talking to people, he is not an Amish guy," Troyer said. "He is not your typical peaceful, loving Amish person."

Troyer said he eventually realized what he was getting caught up in and moved away from Mullet's compound, along with his two daughters.

There's a problem: Wilma did not. Three years after their marriage in 2004, the couple divorced, and Troyer received full custody of the girls.


Based on testimony from two of the beard-cutting victims, Ohio law enforcement officials believe that Mullet's group is behind the attacks, though Mullet himself was not personally involved in any of them. Nonetheless, he is suspected of ordering his followers to carry them out, and those targeted all had been involved in various disputes with the group.

Mullet's name emerged recently after several Amish-on-Amish beard-cutting attacks, in which most of the perpetrators are believed to be followers of Mullet's breakaway group.

Last week, the FBI announced that it was investigating the incidents to determine whether any federal laws had been broken. No further details were given.

Local law enforcement officials and members of the Amish community believe Mullet has created a cult and is singlehandedly responsible for orchestrating the beard-cutting incidents and other crimes in recent years. Mullet has not been charged with any crimes.

Above and beyond the beard-cutting attacks, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla has heard other alarming reports from the Bergholz compound, and on one occasion was threatened by one of Mullet's sons - and here I though the Amish were supposed to be pacifists.

One came from a man who said Mullet put him in a chicken coop for 15 days in the dead of winter over a religious disagreement. The victim would not press charges.

"He was convinced that (Mullet) was doing him a favor," Abdalla said. "That's like me hitting you in the head with a two-by-four and telling you I'm doing you a favor … and you agree and say, 'Yes, you have done me a favor.' That's how domineering (he is)."

Because of Abdalla's involvement in these incidents and Mullet's distrust of law enforcement, the two have been at odds since Mullet moved to Jefferson County in the mid-1990s.

Abdalla said he even received death threats from one of Mullet's sons, which he believes was orchestrated by Sam Mullet.

"It was two in the morning, (and he's) telling me I'm a dead SOB," Abdalla said. "He was charged with threatening, harassing, what have you. He went to court (and pleaded guilty)."

That certainly sounds like cultish behavior to me. Not only that, the author of the article spoke with Sam Mullet himself and found the man evasive to say the least. While Mullet claimed that this was simply because he did not want to argue his case for the media, his terse comments don't make him sound particularly innocent.

"Can you perhaps respond to these allegations that you're running a cult?" I ask.

"People say a lot of things," Mullet says, a small, confident grin on his face.

"Are you running a cult?"

"No. It's not a cult."

"What about the allegations that you're behind the beard-cutting crimes?"

"Beard-cutting is a crime, is it?"

Another minute or so goes by as I attempt to glean more information. He repeats his claims from earlier that people "say a lot of things" before he politely dismisses me and heads back inside.

I could just as easily imagine those same words coming out of the mouth of Jim Jones or David Koresh, minus the beard-cutting comments of course. That's not to imply that Mullet is as dangerous as either of them proved to be - after all, beard-cutting is not really on par with poisoned Kool-Aid or stockpiled illegal weapons. But the psychology stikes me as remarkably similar.

While the term "cult" is often leveled indiscriminately at minority religious groups, there are some real distinctions between new religious movements in general and groups that are genuinely cultish in nature. Cults can more properly be characterized as organizations that seek to dominate the lives of their followers and in many cases lash out at perceived enemies. But the fact is that no cult leader believes his or her group is a cult - to them, it's just the way things are.

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2 comments:

Trina said...

I can't believe this Sam character has gotten away with this for all these years. I hope they give him LIFE and then yet another LIFE sentence. He has brainwashed his members. It's not only crazy, but SAD!

Ananael Qaa said...

Unfortunately if nobody is willing to press charges nothing he's done is going to be prosecuted. If he can be linked to the beard-cutting attacks he can be charged in connection with those assaults, but at this point that's about the only chance prosecutors have to put him in jail. That's the trouble with going after cult leaders.