The Horror of Cults
By Kelly Florence
Recently, I finished the documentary Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (2023) on Hulu. It follows the story of college students who fall in with the manipulative father of one of their peers. It’s a disturbing and horrifying look into how a manipulative person can gain the trust of others, slowly convince them to lie, steal, and perform other terrible acts all for his own service. I won’t get into specific details (I do believe the three episodes are worth watching on their own) but will warn you that the footage and audio shared in the documentary is beyond disturbing. How, you may ask? Because the perpetrator, Lawrence “Larry” Ray, recorded these students over the years he lived with them, having them confess to things they never did in order to hold the footage against them in the future. It displays abuse, both physical and mental, that may be too strong for many viewers. I, myself, needed to look away several times due the raw, real nature of the footage.
As we discovered in writing our 2021 book The Science of Serial Killers, truth can be scarier than fiction and, in this day, and age, recordings, body cam footage, and videos from other devices like doorbells offer true crime documentarians a plethora of clips to use. This, coupled with the recency of many of the crimes and testimonials of survivors, truly puts into perspective the scope of these incidents and the humanity of the victims.