He was a charismatic leader who believed he was saving his followers from sin.
And doomsday cult leader Roch Theriault wanted to ensure his believers a place in heaven following what he believed was the imminent end of the world.
To the outside world, the Ant Hill Kids were just another commune of hippies who supported themselves through self-sufficiency and baking in the idyllic Canadian wilderness.
But the chilling reality of life inside the doomsday cult, led by Theriault, was far more sinister.
Members were forced to break their own legs with sledgehammers and children being nailed to trees.
Sex abuse was rife as was being made to eat their own faeces.
Having teeth and even limbs removed was part of daily life for the 12 adults and 22 children under Theriault’s sick spell.
But the terrifying truth of what was happening at Burnt River, Ontario, was only laid bare when, physically broken and brutally abused, one of his followers escaped and alerted authorities to the horrors of life as an Ant Hill Kid.
Born in 1947, Theriault was a bright boy but dropped out of school when he was just 13 and this is when his disturbing obsession with the end of the world began.
He taught himself the work of the Old Testament and the idea the end of the world was coming manifested.
Raised a Catholic, Theriault converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and adopted their way of life.
Initially this simply meant he adopted a healthy lifestle, shunning processed foods and tobacco.
But by the mid-1970s Theriault became convinced he was the people’s saviour, the only one who could keep them safe in the war between good and evil that would lead to the end of the world.
A charismatic speaker, he soon persuaded others to join his religious movement and the Ant Hill Kids cult was born.
Theriault’s original goal was to form a free-thinking commune where people could listen to his teachings and live in freedom as equals.
From the birth of the cult in Sainte-Marie, Quebec, in 1977, Theriault banned his followers from staying in contact with both their families and the Seventh-day Adventist church as a whole.
In the following months Theriault’s delusions grew and he became convinced the world would end in 1979.
He claimed God himself had warned him to prepare himself and his commune for the end of days.
In a move he said would keep his followers safe, Theriault moved the commune from Quebec to a mountainside he named Eternal Mountain.
While he lazed, the members of the cult built an entire town, like worker ants.
It was this that gave Theriault’s cult its name, the Ant Hill Kids.
But when the apocalypse didn’t come his iron grip of the believers began to slip and they questioned his teachings.
Ever the conniving dictator, Theriault merely claimed time within the human plain and God’s was different.
But life within the Ant Hill Kids cult had already begun to take an even more sinsiter turn.
Desperate to expand his kingdom of believers, Theriault married every single female follower and got each one of them pregnant.
He fathered more than 20 children with nine mothers and the group’s numbers swelled to 40.
Each was forced to wear an identical tunic, which was supposed to symbolise equality, but merely tightened Theriault’s grip on his followers.
Then in 1984 the Ant Hill Kids moved for the second time. They set up home in a hamlet in Burnt River, Ontario, and Theriault’s drink problem worsened.
With this, the systematic sex abuse of his female followers also became more profound but in addition to this, he began to exert control in ever increasingly sinister and violent ways.
His followers were no longer able to speak to one another without his permission and couples could not have sex without his say so.
Theriault’s drinking and increasing paranoia made him convinced believers were spying on him and were considering leaving what he believed was his perfect cult.
Anyone who hinted they wanted to leave was severely punished.
Theriault would hit them with a belt initially, but this escalated and they were soon being attacked with hammers.
He would have them suspended from the ceiling, pluck out each of their body hairs individually and even used them as toilets.
As his power grew, Theriault even got his followers to break their own legs with sledgehammers, sit on lit stoves and shoot each other in their shoulders.
To prove their loyalty, cult members were told to cut off each others toes.
Even the children weren’t safe from his sick abuse.
The young members of the Ant Hill Kids were routinely sexually abused, nailed to trees so other children could hurl stones at them and held over fires.
At breaking point, one of Theriault’s wives left her newborn child, Eleazar, outside in a blizzard where the baby died.
All the child’s mother had wanted to do was to keep her baby away from Theriault’s reach.
Such was the power of Theriault’s personality he ensured none of his followers blamed him for any of the abuse they suffered at his hands.
And none of them dared question his demands, teachings and way of life.
In a desperate attempt to bring the cult back to his original teachings, Theriault would ‘purify’ his followers by stripping them naked and then whipping them.
Now believing himself to be a God-like being Theriault started performing surgeries on members of the cult – even though he had no medical training.
This included removing teeth, botched circumsicions and even castrations.
Heartbreakingly, his regime of abuse could have been stopped in 1987 when social workers removed 17 of the children from the Ant Hill Kids cult.
But amazingly, he escaped justice and his vile reign of abuse stepped up a gear.
One of Theriault’s followers, Solange Boilard, was suffering from excrutiating stomach problems in 1989.
Believing himself to be a vessel of God and capable of curing all sickness, Theriault took matters into his own hands with devastating consquences.
He laid the seriously ill Solange, naked, on a table and punched her in the stomach.
With no pain relief or anaesthetic, he then rammed a plastic tube into her rectum and poured olive oil and molasses into the tube, claiming it would ease her problems.
Solange, screaming in agony, then had her stomach ripped open as Theriault removed part of her intestines with his bare hands.
Another cult member, Gabrielle Lavallee – the woman eventually repsonsible for ending his horrific rule – was ordered to stitch Solange back together while the other women blew into a tube shoved down her throat.
She died the following day.
But her indiginity didn’t end there as, believing he could now ressurect the dead, Theriault drilled a hole into her skull and ejaculated into the cavity, ordering the men of his cult to do the same.
Her body is buried close to the commune.
Finally Gabrielle, who had already had her private parts burned, eight of her teeth removed and part of her breasts sliced off, fled.
But unable to live unless she was under Theriault’s spell, she soon returned.
The leader cut off one of her fingers and then pinned her hand to a table with a hunting knife before hacking off her arm.
Theriault was finally arrested in 1989 for abuse after Gabrielle escaped for a second time.
He was found guilty of amputating Gabrielle’s arm and jailed for 12 years.
And the police investigation into the brutal practises inside the Ant Hill Kids cult didn’t end there.
In 1993 he pleaded guilty to Solange’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Despite being behind bars Theriault fathered four more children during conjugal visits with several of his many ‘wives’.
The depraved cult leader was murdered by his cell-mate, Matthew Gerrard MacDonald.
He was stabbed in the neck with a shiv and afterwards MacDonald walked up to prison guards and told them: “That piece of s*** is down on the range. Here’s the knife, I’ve sliced him up.”
Theriault was 63-years-old – and his doomsday cult was finally over.
Stories of cult survivors and their lives
Source: Read Full Article