Incident in Ohio, 2009
Author, professor, scholar of cult studies
Everard Bright is one of the world’s foremost intellectuals in the field of cult studies. As an accomplished researcher and writer, his insightful reportage has illuminated the often enigmatic world of cults, interrogating the psychological complexity of this phenomenon with profound insight. His work not only sheds light on the intricacies of cults but also serves as a guiding beacon for those seeking to comprehend the darker facets of human nature. Bright's scholarly contributions extend far beyond the written word, as he has also distinguished himself as a lauded professor and familiar public figure.
“Bright’s writing is insightful, direct, and may, one day, save the world.”
“Out of the Dark is one of the most important books of this century.”
“Bright goes where his subjects take him: straight to the heart of darkness.”
The New York Times Book Review
Dr. Everard Bright is a writer and professor at the University of Cincinnati in the Department of Apocalyptic Studies, with a focus on cult theory. He lives and works in Cincinnati. His latest work-in-progress focuses on the rise of cults in the state of Ohio. He is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic and Vox. In his freetime, he enjoys water-skiing and landscape painting. A devoted animal lover, he is deathly allergic to bees.
Doctorate of Sociology, Apocalyptic Studies, 2001
Masters of Sociology, 1997
Bachelors of Liberal Arts, History Major, 1995
Professor, (tenured: 2019)
University of Cincinnati, Department of Apocalyptic Studies, 2013-Present
Columbia University, 2008-2012
University of Ohio, Cult Theory Program, 2005-2008
Oxford University, 1996
Harvard University, 1994
ADMINISTRATOR AND COORDINATOR POSTS
University of Cincinnati, 2015-2017
Undergraduate Cult Theory Director
University of Cincinnati, 2019-2022
Undergraduate Assessment Coordinator
University of Cincinnati, 2013-2015
Coordinator, Cult Theorists at Lunch
University of Cincinnati, 2001-2005
Department of Apocalyptic Studies Search Committee; Undergraduate Bunker-building Advisory Committee; End Times Curriculum Committee; Faculty Development Grant (Chair, one year); Department of Apocalyptic Studies Scholarship Committee
ACADEMIC HONORS AND AWARDS
Faculty Development Grant, University of Cincinnati, 2020
Faculty Development Grant, University of Cincinnati, 2014
Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, University of Cincinnati, 2013-2015
Visiting Scholar, University of Sydney, Australia, May 2010
Finalist, Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Ohio, 2002
The Unending Circle: Cults and their Consequences, from Jonestown to Trump
"The Unending Circle" delves into the enduring impact of cults, tracing their consequences from the tragedy of Jonestown to the complex sociopolitical dynamics surrounding the Trump era.
University of Texas Press, 2018
Is This a Cult? Life Skills from A Cult Theorist
"Is This a Cult? Life Skills from A Cult Theorist" offers practical insights from a seasoned cult expert, equipping readers with valuable tools to navigate and understand the subtler aspects of groups and relationships that may exhibit cult-like behaviors.
Out of the Dark: Cult Members and Their Recollections
"Out of the Dark: Cult Members and Their Recollections" illuminates the enigmatic world of cults through the firsthand accounts and memories of former members, shedding light on their journeys to escape and heal from the shadows of manipulation.
Harper Collins, 2011
The Cultist Who Brought Flowers
"The Cultist Who Brought Flowers" chronicles the remarkable true story of a seemingly ordinary individual whose unique perspective and actions played a pivotal role in unraveling the mysteries of a clandestine cult.
Harper Collins, 2005
A Question of Cults
"A Question of Cults" rigorously examines the blurred boundaries between fringe religious movements and mainstream society, challenging readers to critically evaluate the influence of cult-like ideologies in our everyday lives.
Here are some of excerpts and photos from my Ohio cults project.
Ever since I uncovered the Order’s latest message by impersonating one of their members, there has been knocks on the door and a strange buzzing in the bathroom. I have kept their message hidden, but must decode it before danger befalls me.
November 2, 2023
Message from Trevor
This morning a postcard from Central Ohio Technical College. “Dear Uncle Everard. You will be pleased to know I am currently enrolled in classes at COTC. I believe I have found my calling. History. Thank you for inspiring me. Yours, Trevor.”
November 1, 2023
For Halloween, I’ve decided to dress up as Jim Jones, notorious cult leader. At the moment all I have is a brown jacket and sunglasses, but I am afraid that will have to do. We’ll have to see what else I can come up with
October 30, 2023
Convention of Ohio cult theorists
I left Question Mark for a few hours to attend a cult theorists convention in Marietta. The typical stale crowd was there, with the typical stale conversations. One asked about my research in Question Mark and remarked about the death of a local, asking if it was cult-related. “Looks like you’ve gotten lucky.”
“I hardly call the death of an innocent man lucky,” I muttered before walking away. Warm cocktail shrimp a perilous idea and yet I did not stop myself in order to avoid continuing the conversation.
October 20, 2023
Mysterious phone calls
For several days, I have been receiving a number of odd phone calls on the room phone here at the Question Mark Motel. As soon as I pick the receiver up, the caller appears to hang up. Part of me worries it is the Order or another group I have recently featured on this blog, upset at my sharing their secrets. Another part of me wants to believe it is Trevor.
I still do not know what to tell his mother about what happened between us. Never have I felt like such a failure.
October 13, 2023
The Order arises
The Order of the Arranger has made bold moves in trying to awaken the sleeping creature they believe will usher in a new dark age. I rushed to this southeastern town to survey the damage.
October 5, 2023
Back to Question Mark?
Horse cult research is hitting a wall. Getting closer to the secrets at the heart of the Order of the Arranger.
October 4, 2023
Trevor is gone and so are the college brochures. He left me a note that read, “Since you’re so keen on getting rid of me… I’ll just go off and matriculate somewhere. Best of luck with your cult puzzle -- Trevor”
October 3, 2023
Family as cult
If a cult were as callous as family, with its inherited deflections, the bylaws would uphold manspreading and bonding though tough talk. Washing our tank tops after the golf course, would we assail the inconsistencies in ourselves or latch onto ideas that make loneliness feel like a flamethrower? A family you’re supposed to outgrow and one day leave. In a cult it’s the opposite.
October 2, 2023
A future for Trevor
Should Trevor come to his senses and matriculate, when will the self-doubt sink in? Unmoored, will he turn on that forebear, his Uncle Everard, who talked him into taking on the whole mystery of academics and its concomitant tuition hikes? Will I be able to bear how much I miss him?
October 1, 2023
The last of the male Brights, Trevor and I dined at a roadside gyro spot. I told him about Oneida, that strainingly unhappy community thriving on silverware sales and the lack of male orgasm.
Trevor’s mother—my sister—has asked me to talk him into going to college. The world can always use another cult studies professor, I tell him. He rolls his eyes. I leave a stack of college brochures on his hotel pillow.
September 30, 2023
On the appeals of fundamentalism
Certain cults torpedo the primacy of thought. Follow me and tone down your painful musings—the pitch lures in the old-timers who covet the past yet struggle to visit their relatives sober. Once they’re slunk into faith and reduced to pure fundamentalism, perhaps they’d like to buy their way to salvation by engaging in some local largesse. Handshakes and reverberations. Legalese in the kitchen. Their homes signed over in the interest of better things in the afterlife. Run around spouting damnation for those who disagree.
September 28, 2003
I fear bees, those swarming cults with their persistent stinging. I avoid hives back in their Cincinnati stronghold, where I suit up in my shared office to interrogate history and the reverberations of cult movements. Students have taken to calling me Beekeeper Man, as I teach in a protective suit and back up fearfully at the mention of wasps. Hornets (yes, even the Charlotte variety) have me beside myself, sweating. The solemn fly or the stolid moth, on the other hand, provoke not the slightest breach of decorum.
One must ask why so many of our fellow citizens feel such desperation about the future, about belonging, to cause such violence? What are they trying so hard to hold on to?
September 25, 2023
Trevor and I have breakfast
After breakfast, that panacea, I resumed telling Trevor the tale of how I came to my position in cult studies. To my mind, there is no edification like the lessons to be learned
from the cults. In Ohio, the end-of-the-world cults stand up to stare down eternity, riverfront widows lured by the promise of family.
September 24, 2023
I sleep with a nightlight, which Trevor finds irksome. In the Days Inn lobby, where the local brochures advertised endowed chair positions in utopian history, he catcalled some women in runner’s gear.
September 23, 2023
More on the past
Without giving away the ending, Moonshine Mike said the prophet led a feverish quartet in a rousing and wholehearted singalong. And just like that he followed him back to his forest retreat, where they sat noshing on latkes and harmonizing. “A cult can be awful for sure,” said Mike, “but when you’re selected, it feels good too, like you fought your way to the top of the heap.”
September 21, 2023
My relationship to cults
I don’t remember how I initially got into cult studies, but I know it had something to do with an Ohioan Dumbledore of sorts. The summer I turned sixteen, I squandered my allowance on an onerous alpenhorn. I caroused with Ed West on the water slides. We got high and spraypainted our nicknames everywhere. We met an old cash-strapped wizard known to the local population as Moonshine Mike, who editorialized about the acres he’d plowed for a collective of harlots and news anchors who’d fallen under the spell of a prophet who proclaimed them all sinners and promised to let them buy their way out of damnation.
September 20, 2023
Update from O
Over the internet and lurking in various questionable chatrooms, I came across this:
The Order has been successful in locating the opening between realms at the anticipated site in the Question Mark woods. Prepare yourselves accordingly. 44-A-0-0-13-1-8-2-13-0-∞-E.
Sept 15, 2023
Trevor's mind houses a host of escape routes, I am certain, but the prospect of his running away from home was the last thing I ever needed to sweat. He spent his youth swaddled in a retro arcade blanket, never heeding his mom’s entreaties to get outside and forage through the garage for some good old metal lawn darts like the children of old. Play bank robbers or Billy the Kid. I once hauled him to a mausoleum only accessible via a dirt road and regaled him with stories of a pent-up visionary who manifested quite a following of his own, eschewing that necessary sicknesses we call wi-fi.
Sept 13, 2023
Thoughts on Trevor
The world schemes to swallow us whole, so we switch off our cell phones and pull down the blinds. When Trevor was a toddler, I read him a book about a resolute lynx with no qualms about resisting influence. As with most everyone when it comes to the education of a young man, I’ve made a few mistakes. Perhaps foremost are the questions of where one’s ideas come from and how we condition our children to assess a threat. Ingraining as much information as possible, how do we teach them to sort out the art from the overwrought manifestos of the rank-and-file charlatans?
Sept 12, 2023
Horse-worshippers meeting in Columbus, continued
A Belgian princess, if we trace back their horse lore, packed up and relocated to the lurid Midwest, her identity known only to the workers who handled her curtains and plumbing. She traveled nowhere without her royal horse, Toenail, upon whom she once sat sidesaddle behind the Blue Jackets penalty box. Take one royal horse, a preacher with a bold yip, and the promise of a loving collective and you have the materials for manufacturing a cult movement.
Sept 4, 2023
Horse-worshippers meeting in Columbus
Trevor and I plan to spend September bumming around Ohio, not so much reveling in vacation as surveying the meeting places of the cold utopians. (I took some measures to lower the odds of a bee attack.) The old hoaxes abound, leading me off the trail as I set out to critique the curious horse worshippers who have set up outside of Columbus, with its never-ceasing surge of commotion.
Sept 2, 2023
Update from Cincinnati
Belonging to no cult of my own—save for academia itself, which I exclude only because of its lack of charismatic leadership—I have settled into my role as Ohio's preeminent scholar of cult movements, from the typical utopias to the itinerant horse church. I've published some things resembling scholarship. I oversee our online M.A. program in cult science. If the media comes knocking, please point them to my apartment above the laundromat, which I share with my 18-year-old nephew Trevor.
Sept 1, 2023
Suspected Blood Sisters cult member meeting, Elyria
From online chatter, I was alerted to a possible Blood Sisters meeting in the town of Elyria. The Blood Sisters is a cult with long-standing connections to the original Warwick witch coven, founded by sisters Elimira and Gretchen Warwick in 1790 in Cleveland. The modern iteration is said to meet once every twelve years.
Aug 20, 2023
Moon cult ritual, Cleveland
August 5, 2023
Photos from Question Mark
Found cache of cultist papers strewn across woods. One paper contained the code: B-0-∞-E-A-8-12.
July 28, 2023
Deathbringer Cult in Akron, picnic and gathering
I was honored to be invited to the Deathbringer annual picnic and gathering in Akron. Although this apocalyptic cult believes only twelve families will survive a war to end all wars, members have strong family bonds and fascinating public rituals, including the shaving of all body hair and lively musical performances by cult members.
July 10, 2023
Photo of book burning ritual, Question Mark
July 25, 2023
Photo of alleged arson, Question Mark
July 16, 2023
Symbol marking from Question Mark
I’ve been documenting the re-emergence of a California-based cult in a rural Ohio. The Order of the Arranger was first established in the 1980s in Los Angeles and was active throughout that decade before the death of several members in the San Fernando valley in 1992. More than thirty years later, the Order has returned, leaving ritual markings .
June 7, 2023
Still from online video of O., organizer of the Order of Arranger
March 15, 2023
Ritual body marking, Columbus
In a nearly nameless forest outside Columbus, Ohio, I was invited to a ritual body-marking held by a group called the Young Pagans. In order to observe the ritual, I too had to be marked. I chose my left ankle, which is now inscribed with a single red dot.
January 30, 2023
Little Flower Cult meeting, Marietta
One of the longest-running and less-well-known cults is the Little Flower Cult of the southeastern Ohio Valley, first established in the early 1800s when French colonists claimed to see an appearance of the Virgin Mary. In this case, the Virgin had the head of a female fox and wore a robe encircled with flowers. Only young females were allowed to join the cult and were later drowned by the local Catholic priest.
To this day, statues of the fox-headed Virgin appear throughout the southeastern forests of Ohio and Little Flower meetings are still held in basements or backrooms of churches.
November 1, 2022
Beginning new book on cults in Ohio
I'm excited to announce I am beginning to gather research and starting my latest book project, a compendium of cults in Ohio. From the early witch covens of Cleveland to the recent church-burnings in Elyria, I am attempting to capture the long history of cult movements in my home state.
September 30, 2022