In the mid-1970s, reports of a fanatical religious sect known as The Move began to reach the mainstream.
Its founder and leader, Sam Fife, was a former country-and-western singer and ex-Baptist preacher who, at age 37, said he received a divine revelation from God. He acted on his newfound belief that he was a prophet to launch a non-denominational Christian group in the 1960s.
“Sam Fife’s vision of the church was that we were headed for end times, and that God was choosing a people out of the world to love one another and live together in sinless perfection,” former member Cara Cobb says in an upcoming episode of People Magazine Investigates: Cults, which airs Monday, July 1, at 8 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery. (An exclusive clip is above.)
“I believe it developed into a cult,” says Cobb. “It did not start out that way, but it did, because people would blindly listen. Some people felt if Sam Fife said it, then it must be true.”
From a base in Miami, Fife called his first church The Miami Revival Center. But determined to spread his apocalyptic message, he began traveling the country, evolving his group’s name to The Movement of God, before settling on The Move as affiliated groups soon built his followers from hundreds to thousands of people.
In Ohio, 12-year-old Priscilla Roberts’ parents opened their basement to the group’s meetings, and embraced The Move’s messaging.
“They believed that any problems people had were caused by demons,” Roberts says of the group. “They were trying to get into our thoughts, and if you kept listening to the demon, the demon would eventually possess you.”
To police those perceived evils, the group’s leadership assumed aggressive roles in the lives of followers — and the requirements for how followers should behave to achieve “sinless perfection” grew more rigid, with enforcements by church elders taking on a darker edge.
One path was exorcism. Another was detention in a “deliverance farm” run by the church on 85 acres in rural Mississippi, where Roberts’ parents left her as a teenager after intercepting her plan to run away from home.
Considered a rebellious teen in the camp, she was relentlessly made to answer for her demons.
“I was fighting against becoming one of them,” says Roberts. But as others were tied to beds, forced into ice baths, and paddled in rooms next to her sleeping quarters from which she could hear their screams, Roberts reluctantly concluded: “I could make my life so much easier if I would just give in.”
Her decision to do so would carry a cost.
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