Wednesday, November 19, 2008

20. "Killer Cults: Murderous Messiahs and Their Fantatical Followers" by Brian Lane (1996)

The following is from the book Killer Cults: Murderous Messiahs and Their Fantatical Followers by Brian Lane, 1996.

Regarding the title of this book (replete with its Manson cover), I have often wondered why Krishna Venta who, was not murderous but was instead murdered, is in it.


Francis Pencovic + Divine Light = Krishna Venta

Francis Heidswatzer Pencovic was, born in San Francisco in 1911. In his formative years he made a rudimentary study of theology and eked out it living from a series of lacklustre menial jobs shipyard labourer, dishwasher, that kind of thing. And when he couldn't work, or wouldn't, he resorted to crime' of an 'equally lacklustre nature - petty larceny, cheque fraud ... He came to the notice of the police in Arizona after posting a threatening letter to President Roosevelt. Using the name 'Frank Jensen' he accumulated a few more convictions, for burglary and theft.

It was while Francis Pencovic was playing his part in' the Second World War (as a conscientious objector) that he was showered with Divine Light and emerged from it as Krishna Venta, 'Son of God'. Clearly this was a revelation to be shared, so the Son of God put on the robes of a holy man and set about collecting a group of disciples who were prepared to pay for the privilege of following him; the price was all their' worldly possessions. Krishna Venta told his followers that he had been born in a valley in Nepal long ago, that he had been in Rome more than a thousand years previously and in America in the 1930s. Whether Krishna Venta believed it is doubtful in the light of his previous 'activities', but his adherents clearly did, and that was all that mattered.

All cults need a name to identity with, and Krishna Venta came up with the slightly immodest 'Fountain of the World' followed by the letters WKFL, which stood for Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love. Being a communal sect they also needed live-in headquarters. Thanks to a particularly generous 'donation', the Fountain of the World bought a two-storey stone and timber building in Ventura County, California, not far from Box Canyon.

During the years they were established there, the colony earned a local reputation as gentle, honest people who were conspicuous helpers at several neighbourhood disasters, such as brush fires and even an air crash. Other than these charitable appearances, the disciples in their distinctive .blue and green robes, the men bearded and long-haired, were rarely seen about town.

What went on behind the helpful smile was something quite different.

It was Krishna Venta's belief, or so he claimed, that 1965 would see a revolution in which the forces of Communism would overthrow the American Government. He also preached that he and his 144,000 disciples (actually at the time there were only one hundred) would govern America. The Communist take-over never happened, and Krishna Venta and his faithful never got the chance to takeover either.

On Wednesday .10 December 1958, two disaffected former cult members, Ralph Muller and Peter Kamenoff, paid a visit to the Fountain of the World WKFL. There was some kind of altercation with Krishna Venta at the door, and the Leader was heard to shout: 'What do you think I am, a hypocrite?' One of the disciples then told Muller and Kamenoff that they no longer had any right to be on the premises.

There was a moment's silence and then a huge explosion ripped apart the Fountain of the World headquarters. In the blast nine members of the cult, including Krishna Venta and the two bombers, were killed. The other victims were named as 'Cardinal Gene' Shanafelt, his wife Jane and their eleven-month-old son, Martin Baker(called 'Priest Paul'), Ethel Ray (,Priest Elvira') and Anna Noga. Of the fifty members in residence several,including three children, suffered various degrees of injury. The tragedy would have been worse but for the fact that Krishna Venta's wife, Ruth, had earlier led forty-three other disciples into Alaska to found a new colony.

Although it was not clear at first why the cult had been bombed, a tape recording found in a vehicle near the scene of the explosion offered a number of clues. One accusation levelled at Krishna Venta was his fondness for taking his disciples' wives to bed - including those of the two men who eventually killed him. Certainly this 'excessive sexual zeal plus the Leader's undisguised pursuit of the good things in life were beginning to reveal him as a very tarnished saint indeed - especially in the eyes of a community which had been taught the virtues of abstinence and frugal living.

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