Roch Thériault is most dangerous cult in the history. When you think of cults, there are probably a handful that come to mind: Heaven’s Gate, People’s Temple, the Manson Family, and depending on what side of the fence you err on, Scientology. Reflecting on the older cults, they’ve been responsible for some seriously vicious and disturbing events. The Manson Family went on a killing spree that led to the death of Sharon Tate as well as her unborn child and Jim Jones convinced all of his fathers to poison themselves and their children so that they would die. These leaders were all nothing short of serial killers disguised as religious/compassionate leaders bent on saving their followers. There are still a number of cults in operation today including Divine Truth where the leader claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus. However, there’s never been to date that’s quite as disturbing as Ant Hill Farm. And what’s weirder still is the fact that it’s somehow slipped under the radar from decades.
What comes to mind when you think of the Ant Hill Farm Cult? If you have no background knowledge regarding them, you probably assume that they’re your “run of the mill” religious cult where the followers are subject to some strange beliefs and practices in order to secure their passage to Heaven. This was also the basis of Ant Hill Farm. The cult was located in Burnt Hill, Ontario and operated between 1977 and 1989. Theriault, who was a self-proclaimed prophet, bore the name Moise or Moses and the title of cult leader. He founded his doomsday cult based on beliefs held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Theriault kept multiple wives as well as concubines and took on an active role as “father” of his cult. He believed it was religious duty to impregnate all of the female members of his cult. He would go on to father a staggering 26 children.
His followers consisted of 22 children and 12 adults who were subject to his totalitarian command at the commune. They were also the victims of some seriously messed up physical and sexual abuse. But why the name Ant Hill Farm? According to outsiders, it was because the children of the commune were always working. They reminded both Theriault and others of ants who are constantly working hard to insure that their hive is functioning to the best of its ability.
Who was Roch Theriault?
Roch Theriault can be best described as a villainous man on a mission: to save both himself and his devoted followers from the oncoming apocalypse. Hence the title, “doomsday cult”. When Theriault was just a child, he saw no point in school. He hadn’t for awhile and insisted that what he was learning at school wasn’t of use. Instead, he turned to the Bible and began teaching the Old Testament to himself in place of math and history. As he read further and further into the scriptures, he became convinced that the world was going to end. He believed that a massive war was coming: one between good and evil. Unfortunately no matter how he read the script, the outlook was bleak. The world was going to end because of the war.
Theriault knew he had to do something and he also knew that it was up to him to save as many as he could. He converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and began living under the rules established by the church: no junk food, no tobacco, no drugs, and no alcohol. He liked the rules that the church had in place and found them “liberating”. He felt as if he was cleansing not only his body, but his soul as well. Under this doctrine, Theriault began organizing seminars for the church and during this time he convinced a number of people to leave their jobs and join his cult “The Ant Hill Kids.” Because he was incredibly charismatic and persuasive, Theriault had little problem gathering a ton of people and recruiting them. Thus in 1977, Theriault, who was now called Moses or Moise, settled into a commune. The purpose of the commune was to be “free from sin” and the leader wanted it to stand as a symbol for both unity and equality.
However, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church didn’t like what they called the “obnoxiously weird” behavior of Theriault. He forbid his followers from reaching out and contacting their families and he also found comfort in the bottle. Obviously, this didn’t set well with the Adventists. The group kicked both Theriault and his followers out. Afterwards, the rules became harsher and harsher, eventually leading to the point where followers weren’t even allowed to speak to each other unless their leader was present. Unfortunately, this was the just the beginning of what was to come for the group.
Baked Goods, Torture, and the End of the World
On the outside, Theriault’s commune looked benign. Sure, their beliefs and some of their practices were rather strange to onlookers, but nobody really suspected the depth of depravity that was going on within the cult. The Ant Hill Kids made money for the commune by selling baked goods. They would also sell crafted goods as well, but the baked items were far more popular. This was their primary if not only source of income. Of course those who baked the treats weren’t allowed to keep the money; it was straight to Theriault who “used it to improve life at the commune.” Not really that unusual right? However, outside of baking and selling these goods, life in the commune was nothing short of a nightmare for Moses’s followers.
Theriault became suspicious and untrusting of those within his sect pretty early on. He began spying on them and when something seemed out of place, he punished them in bizarre and truly cruel ways. However, these members didn’t bear anything close to the brunt of Theriault’s rage. If someone wanted to leave the cult, the leader would become nothing short of outraged and would unleash this torment upon them. He would often attack them with belts and in some cases, even hammers inflicting serious damage. Many bones were broken, teeth were lost, and in some cases the member died from the wounds. Theriault was also fond of suspending the “traitors” from the ceiling where he would pull out every single hair form the person’s body individually. Sometimes he would also resort to defecating on them.
As time went on, Theriault became even more convinced of his godly purpose and wild delusions. He decided that the message from the scriptures was clear: the world would end in 1979. He and his commune moved into the Canadian wilderness because for some reason, Theriault “knew” that God wouldn’t destroy Quebec. He convinced his followers that they would be safe from the war and God’s wrath here. So the group packed up what little belongings they had and moved into the wilderness, where life was going to get exponentially worse for them.
Life in the Canadian Wilderness
Unsurprisingly, 1979 came and went without so much as a hitch. Clearly, the world didn’t end. This left Theriault in a very awkward position. While his followers didn’t so much as dare to even whisper their confusion in the dark, this didn’t stop the cult leader from becoming paranoid. He convinced both himself and the others that the world as we know it doesn’t run on the same time zone as God’s world. This meant that 1977 for God would be emphatically different from our 1977. While the theory was lackluster and completely ridiculous at best, it didn’t stop his followers from idolizing him still. They romanticized the crazy man and declare that he was their absolute leader. Whatever bullshit he was willing to feed them, they were willing to accept.
It should also come as no surprise that life in the Canadian wilderness was anything less than peaceful. Even when Theriault wasn’t torturing his members, the commune was. Since they were miles upon miles from the closest town, selling goods was no longer an option. This left the cult flat broke and unable to purchase necessities. The members lived in shanties and essentially squalor; they were subject to whatever harsh conditions the woods threw at them. With no heat for the winter except fires and no relief from the heat in the summer, life was nothing short of miserable. The Ant Hill Farm Kids also had to work around the clock to maintain life at their sect. This meant fixing problems with the homes, gathering and chopping firewood, collecting food, etc. And not that it mattered since nobody could go anywhere without Theriault’s express permission, they didn’t have access to medical help. And as you’ll see later, Theriault became their doctor and had no business doing so.
However, his followers continued to love and worship him as well as their lifestyle. Here in the woods, Theriault fathered 26 children. He would of course physically as well as sexually abuse the children until welfare authorities would step in and take them away. Unfortunately, this type of behavior did little to deter his followers. The women, his concubines, continued to worship at his feet and father children for him to abuse.
Theriault’s Followers were Subject to All Sorts of Abuse
He also served the role as doctor and surgeon for his followers. He would often have other members hold the “patient” down while he “worked” on them with whatever utensils he had at hand. The patient was always fully conscious at the start and no pain killers or anesthesia was offered. Theriault would often use pliers, blowtorches, and any number of kitchen utensils to accomplish his goal. It should also come as no surprise that a lot of his followers lost body parts including limbs, fingers, and toes as well as teeth because of these practices. Some even lost their lives and as far as we’re concerned, they were probably the lucky ones.
While each medical practice was cruel, the one that stood out the most came in the form of a woman who complained about stomach pains. Being the great “doctor” that he was, Theriault agreed to help her. He told her to undress then had her lay down on the kitchen table. As soon as she laid down, the torture began. Theriault began by punching her viciously in the stomach then immediately performed an enema on the woman. A tube was inserted and he filled it with both molasses and olive oil. But wait, there’s more. He then cut her stomach open and began yanking out parts of her intestines bare-handed. And as if this wasn’t enough torture for the woman to endure, he had a member force a tube down the woman’s throat and other women of the sect were forced to blow down it. While this was happening, another member was also crudely stitching the womb out. She died the very next day. Of course, Theriault took this as a chance to demonstrate that the possessed the powers of resurrection. And like everything else associated with the cult, it was vile. A hole was drilled into the woman’s skull and every male member of the sect was forced to ejaculate into the hole. Shockingly, the woman stayed dead.
However, it wasn’t just the children and the sick that suffered at the hands of this monster. Whenever the religious leader was in a “mood”, he would torture his members. He would often force his members to use sledgehammers to break their own legs and encouraged them to shoot fellow sect members in the shoulder. Members were also forced to eat feces (both their own and other’s), rats, and insects. Children were also nailed to trees as punishment and other kids on the commune were forced to hit them with rocks. Removing teeth, nails, cutting off legs and arms, and burning members were just a few of the practices he employed to keep his sect “in line.”
The Final Straw
Shockingly, Theriault’s cult members remained loyal to him despite the outrageous and truly hideous practices. Even though they saw what was going on and were often involved in the torture themselves (either as the person being held down or the one holding someone else down), Theriault remained high on a pedestal as far as his followers were concerned. It seemed as if this man could do anything he wanted to anybody within the sect and they would continue to worship him. And for the most part, he was correct.
However it was Gabrielle Lavellee’s near death experience that would expose all of these crimes to the world. She had been the victim of several torture sessions; Theriault had used a blow-torch on her genitals, removed 8 of her teeth, and broken a hypodermic needle off in her spine. She had tried to escape before, but quickly returned. She said she “couldn’t live without the cult.” When she returned, Roch decided that she needed to be severely punished. He nailed her hand to the tale with a hunting knife, then used a chainsaw to amputate her arm. Gabrielle still didn’t leave, even after all of this. She would remain faithful until Theriault cut off parts of her breasts and took an axe to her head. Then, she finally fled and told the authorities all about what had happened at Ant Hill Farm.
In 1989, the commune was liberated and Theriault was given a prison sentence. Originally, it was a sentence of 12 years for amputating someone’s arm with a chainsaw. This caused a lot of outrage among the community and for good reason. How could someone so vile only get 12 years for all of his crimes? And how can you only give someone 12 years for amputating someone else’s limb with a chainsaw? Justice was delivered when he eventually got life in prison after he was later convinced of several accounts of murder and sexual abuse. However, Theriault wouldn’t serve the full sentence.
In 2011, the cult leader was killed by his cell mate. The man stabbed Theriault, who was 63 at the time, with a shiv before turning it and himself into the guards. He told the guards, “that vile man is down on the range. I sliced him up good, here’s the knife I used.”