Cult leader Brother Julius dies at 71

New Haven Register/July 30, 1996

New Britain -- Julius Schacknow, a cult leader who called himself the "sinful messiah" and claimed he had to sin to know what it was like, has died. He was 71.

Shacknow, whose image of himself as "Brother Julius" grew from prophet to the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and finally to God almighty, had been reported to be in ill health for several years.

Cause of death was not disclosed. He is said to have died in his sleep Sunday at the home of one of seven women in central Connecticut whom he said were his unofficial "wives."

He reportedly stayed with each woman no more than one or two days at a time, shuttling between Cheshire, Berlin, Sounthington and New Britain.

Schacknow declared himself God and rode his claims of divinity to build a real estate empire.

He proclaimed at an outdoor revival in Trumbell in 1970 that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated. Several hundred young people flocked to the guidance of the longhaired, bearded preacher who wore a long robe and had mesmerizing green eyes.

In an interview in 1987, the reclusive Schacknow said he had come to call the world to repent.

"I'm your creator and I've come to punish the world for their sins, for their ungodliness, their crookedness, breaking my commandments…and threatening people who love me as Jesus with contempt…You are interviewing Jesus, who has returned like a thief in the night," he said.

He sat up a base in Meriden and served as a cult leader until, in 1976, he stopped making public appearances and turned to multi-million dollar real estate and construction businesses.

Among the businesses, which are all defunct, was J-Anne North/Century 21, a real estate company based in Sounthington that operated five Century 21 franchises in Central Connecticut. The company reportedly did $100 million in sales a year during the mid-1980s.

The contracting business, County Wide Construction Co. and its affiliate, County Wide Home Improvement and Maintenance Co., did major work for towns, private developers and homeowners.

The businesses all collapsed with the real estate market at the end of the 1980s, leaving behind a financial mess and prompting scores of followers to desert the movement.

Schacknow was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1924. He converted to Christianity after he served in the Navy during World War II.

From his earliest days as a preacher, he was accused of using his charisma and position as a religious leader to manipulate young women, suggesting it was God's will that they sleep with him.

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