On October 4, 1994 a fire destroyed a condominium in Morin Heights a popular ski resort near Montreal . Upon arrival fire investigators found two charred bodies in the wreckage. A quick check indicated that the building was owned by Jo Di Mambro, 69, officials anticipated that he would be one of the victims and surmised that his friend, Luc Jouret, 47, could be the other. Di Mambro, it turned out, was the founder of a religious organization known as the Order of the Solar Temple, and Jouret was its reputed prophet and proselytizer. An autopsy soon revealed that neither victim was a 69-year-old male however, and that in fact, one victim was an older female.
Further inspection of the home yielded three more bodies, a man, a woman, and an infant stashed in a closet. Examiners discovered that these three had not been killed by the fire, they had in fact been dead for days and their remains bore witness to a horrid end. The man stabbed fifty times in the back, the woman stabbed several times in the back and chest as well as four times in the throat. The three month old child had met his demise pierced by a wooden stake six times through the chest. The three it turned to be were Tony, Nicki, and young Christopher-Emmanuel Dutoit and they had been the condos tenants.
Investigators had no idea who the other deceased victims were. They had two unidentified bodies and no clear idea what had happened in this place, or why the Dutoits had been killed. Had these two murdered the family and then killed themselves? Or were all five people killed by someone else, who had then set the place on fire? But why then were the Dutoits covered in wounds, while the other two victims were not? And who had been the principal target? Authorities were stumped, but it wasn’t long before their questions became part of an international inquiry.
It was soon discovered that the Dutoits were former members of Di Mambro’s Solar Temple sect, and a list found in the chalet indicated that the order had 600 members. A rumor developed that Di Mambro had sent one of his "knights" to assassinate the Dutoit infant, Christopher-Emmanuel, because he believed the boy to be the anti-Christ. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Di Mambro, as well as Luc Jouret.
The next day, fires broke out across the Atlantic Ocean in Switzerland. This time there were many more victims, and they had a statement to make to the world.
Joseph Di Mambro was born in southern France in 1924. In his earlier years was known as "a confidence trickster who made a successful career out of masquerading as a psychologist". In 1972 he was charged with fraud, breach of confidence and bouncing checks. He also had a long standing interest in esoteric religions. Di Mambro took a particular shine to the study of the Rosicrucians and became a a member of one order for 13 years. When he left in 1973, he had followers for his own brand of religion.
With claims that he was the reincarnation of religious and spiritual leaders from Moses to Osiris, Di Mambro founded the Center for the Preparation of the New Age and developed a commune close to France’s Swiss border, persuading people to give their money and possessions to him so he could take care of the community’s needs.
He arranged "cosmic" marriages and identities to suit him, identifying those members who were the reincarnation of some famous person. He decided who would have children and who would not, hoping for the production of exceptional offspring who would play a part in shaping the fate of the world. His own son, Elie, was presented as one of them, while his daughter, Emmanuelle, was supposedly one of the nine "cosmic children" who would usher in a New Age. Emmanuelle herself was the new messiah. The girl wore a helmet and gloves, and was forbidden contact by anyone but the immediate family to keep her pure.
To provide a sense of cohesion and group uniformity, Di Mambro developed a set of rituals and symbology drawn heavily from Templar sources. Some of his followers came from affluent families, which enabled Di Mambro to purchase a mansion in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1978, he formed the core group, the Foundation of the Golden Way that by 1984 would eventually become known as the Order of the Solar Temple. His ideas drew many sympathizers who did not live in the community but who nevertheless gave donations and practiced the ceremonies. They were brought in through front organizations, known as clubs. The secret society apart from these clubs was reserved for the core elite.
In contrast to Di Mambro, Luc Jouret, he would become the Order’s prophet, had started out his career with a legitimate credential in the health field, having obtained a medical degree in 1974 from the Free University of Brussels. Afterward, however, Jouret quickly became "disillusioned with modern medicine" and reportedly spent some ten years traveling about the world searching for and practicing alternative forms of healing, including homeopathy. In his spiritual search, Jouret spent some years drifting in and out of a veritable solar system of ‘ancient wisdom’ sects-among them Solar Tradition, Templar Renewed Order, International Arcadian Clubs of Science and Tradition-until, sometime between 1979 and 1981, he met Joseph Di Mambro. With charm, eloquence, and persuasion, he became a tireless advocate for the Order, multiplying its membership several fold.
The Order operated along a strict paternalistic hierarchy, with its top 33 members known as the Elder Brothers of the Rosy Cross, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. Beyond them was the core community, which operated as an elite fraternity, and then the clubs, or initiating outlets through which the new members entered and were evaluated.
Jouret had formed the Amenta Club to serve as host to his paid lectures on topics like ‘Medicine and Conscience’ and ‘Love and Biology.’ Those won over by his message might then be introduced to a set of beliefs, rituals and a hierarchy by joining the Arcadia Club. Lastly a select few of those recruited into the Arcadia Club would be recruited into the secretive Order of the Solar Temple.
Together Di Mambro and Jouret built a society of great wealth and a membership of some 600 followers by the late 80′s, spreading its operation from France to Switzerland and on to Quebec. The growth in prosperity inevitably brought on arrogant indulgences by the upper echelon of the Order as well as unwanted attention from the authorities. Investigations into the group’s financial malfeasance, not to mention accusations of gun running and money laundering dogged the Solar Temple. Gradually, the OTS began to experience turmoil and become fragmented
In 1118 C.E. nine knights from the First Crusade formed a bond to protect pilgrims who were journeying to the Holy Lands. They took monastic vows and created a sacred order, which over the course of 200 years, grew into one of the most powerful and secretive organizations in Europe—so much so that it eventually drew the wrath of rulers. For a while, they had the support of European monarchies and the Holy See — Pope Innocent II exempted them from all but Papal authority — and they moved from poverty to great wealth, but finally they were persecuted and dissolved.
In 1307, the King of France, Philip the Fair, took exception to the order’s secret meetings and rituals, and moved against them. On Friday October 13, on the grounds of heresy and homosexual acts, he seized their considerable assets and forced tortured confessions. In 1310, he burned 54 members at the stake and Pope Clement V dissolved the order. By 1314, the last of the Grand Masters, Jacques de Molay, was burned. One legend has it that Molay cursed both the king and the pope, announcing that within a year they would join him. Pope Clement died a month later and Philip, seven months after.
Jouret saw within the play of past power and persecution a precedent for the Solar Temple. What had happened to the Knights Templar was filled with spiritual symbolism that grounded his proselytizing with ancient roots. The persecution had killed their bodies, he believed, but not their inherent spirituality. That lived on in the elite members of the Solar Temple.
Jouret became fascinated with the transformative properties of fire, with the power to turn base substance into more refined and valuable forms. To him, fire was the signal for the world’s demise, and as the 1980′s wore on he preached that the world would end with an environmental catastrophe, due to human neglect and outright damage, and some members would be chosen to make the transition from Earth to Sirius before this incendiary final collapse. In fact, they would have to leave through fire. There was no other way.
In time, Jouret’s behavior became increasingly eccentric. By 1990, some of Jouret’s own colleagues in the order were questioning his stability. They complained that his predictions about the end of the world were becoming too specific, and they resented the hold he appeared to have over some of his followers. “Money and sex-that’s all Luc Jouret was interested in,” a former member related. “Before every ritual, he would have sex with one of the women to give him spiritual strength for the ceremony. He wasn’t married, but he had many wives-he changed women all the time”. Joseph Di Mambro also came to manifest authoritarian tendencies. "Whatever he told his followers to believe, they believed. Whatever he told them to do, they did. Nothing was too outlandish or degrading: if he instructed a female chevalier to perform a sex act, she obeyed without question.. He had no hesitation in interfering in relationships and breaking up marriages if he decided that couples were not ‘cosmically compatible’".
As resentment grew, so did Di Mambro and Jouret’s hold on the community. Jouret was voted out as Grand Master, causing a significant rift. At this time both Di Mambro’s health and his daughter were rebelling against him. He had diabetes, kidney failure and incontinence, and believed he had cancer. He was also about to be investigated for money-laundering, initiated by banks suspicious of the large amounts of money he’d been stashing into his accounts. His daughter Emmanuell, one of the ‘nine cosmic children’ and now 12 years old, would no longer bear the ‘purity of forbidden contact’. She demanded to spend time with children her own age.
This period also saw a falling out between Di Mambro and one of his closest associates: Tony Dutoit, one of the murder victims discovered in burnt wreckage of the Quebec condo. Di Mambro liked to make the Holy Grail and the spiritual ‘Masters’ appear to groups of believers, using laser tricks. Upon discovery that Di Mambro was appropriating cult funds for his own use, Dutoit, who previously orchestrated these ‘visions’ let others in on the secret and tried to defect, demanding some of his investment back. In addititon, Di Mambro’s son Elie learning of the fraud, denounced his father to many members and left the sanctuary.
In addition to these significant internal rifts, the order was having problems with the culture at large. In 1991, a defecting member began to spread word in Quebec that the Solar Temple was dangerous. She demanded her money back and urged others to do the same, which sparked a number of angry demands and threats of lawsuits against the order. The Order came under police surveillance for possible connections with a political assassin organization, and then Jouret was pulled into a scandal involving illegal arms. Two Quebec members were arrested for purchasing handguns with silencers, and Jouret was charged as well. In the midst of these troubles Di Mambro became obsessed with Dutoit’s treason. He forbade his wife Nicki from having children yet she became pregnant anyway and the Dutoit family left for Quebec to have their child. Di Mambro denounced the Dutoit’s infant son Christopher as the ‘antichrist’, who threatened his daughter’s status as the messiah. Along with Tony’s determination to expose Di Mambro’s deceptions, he was now in open defiance. He and Nicki were considered traitors who would continue to disrupt the spiritual progress of the other members—what was left of them. All of them had to be eliminated.
In Cheiry, Switzerland, some local people were celebrating the grand re-opening of a restaurant in the small village, says Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense, Jean Francois Mayer, when they learned of a fire that had broken out in an outlying farmhouse owned by 73-year-old Albert Giacobino. It was around midnight on October 4. Firemen responded and soon found a victim. Inside the house, a man was lying on a bed with a plastic bag over his head. The fire appeared to be part of a suicide gesture.
Upon closer inspection, it appeared that this man (later identified as the retired farmer) had been murdered, shot in the head. The police came and soon found several incendiary devices installed around the house. They went into what appeared to be a garage, but once inside, they saw that it was actually a meeting hall. Several people had left their belongings there, but nobody was present.
Police inspected the rest of the area but failed to turn up anyone or anything that could shed some light on the puzzling incident. Then investigators noticed that the meeting hall appeared to be larger than just the one room, although no doors to another area were found. As they tested the walls, it appeared that one was movable, so they opened it up. To their astonishment, inside this apparently secret room, with crimson wall-to-wall carpeting, tall mirrors and red satin draperies, lay a number of corpses organized in a circle, like spokes radiating from the hub of a wheel. Their heads outward, they were arranged around a triangular alter. Investigators counted 18 people, many of them wearing what appeared to be white, gold, red and black ceremonial garments and capes. Champagne bottles lay scattered around them. Many of these people also had plastic bags over their heads. In an adjacent room, also lined with mirrors, they found three more corpses.
There was blood as well, and it soon became clear that most of the people had been shot in the head and that 10 had been suffocated. A few bodies showed bruises, evidence of having been beaten. The investigation concluded that the victims had died on October 3, the day before.
Next to this building, other officers discovered a chapel that was rigged with small bags of petrol to go up in flames. Apparently the idea had been to burn the entire place down, but the devices designed to do so had failed. That failure left them with a crime scene of some magnitude, but one that could now be processed for evidence and for incident reconstruction. They would be helped along, to everyone’s dismay, by yet another discovery in a Swiss skiing village about 100 miles away.
In Granges-sur-Salvan, a sleepless tourist looked out his window at 3 a.m. on October 5 to see flames coming from a house nearby. The fire department went right out and saw that not one but three adjacent houses—actually, ski chalets—were burning. That was a good indication of potential arson and it was soon discovered that they had all been rigged with gasoline bombs. The police broke in and found numerous victims, including three teenagers and four children. Altogether in two of the three chalets, there were 25 badly charred corpses. Many had been shot in the head, some as much as eight times. Upon investigation after identification from dental records, they proved to be members of the Order of the Solar Temple, as did the 22 dead people from the other Swiss village. The order owned the damaged buildings.
In subsequent weeks, after the autopsies, a magistrate determined that of all these deaths, only fifteen had been willing suicides. Thirty more people were lured into a ceremony, where they were killed, and seven seemed to have been executed. Surprisingly, among those who died were successful professionals, such as a journalist, a high-ranking government official, several wealthy businessmen, and a mayor.
On October 19, the unknown white male victim in the Canadian fire, estimated to be about 35 years old, turned out to match the dental records of Gerry Genoud, and the other victim matched those records of 60-year-old Colette Genoud. They were from Switzerland and were members of the Order of the Solar Temple.
During the investigation that tied together the three mass death sites, it was found that some of the deceased members had written letters, or "testaments," while still alive to relatives, officials, scholars, and newspapers to explain what they had done. They admitted to murder, saying that they had executed traitors, but that most of the shootings had been merely a way to help weaker members to make the transition. Only the "awakened" had been able to take their own lives, because they were more spiritually advanced. They all sought a higher realm of spiritual consciousness, and that was no longer possible to achieve on earth. In fact, earth was devolving and would soon meet with a catastrophic end. Following the Masters, who had left the planet on March 31, 1993 and on January 6, 1994, taking with them the spiritual energy of the seven planets, the Solar Temple community was withdrawing. They had gone to another planet, burning their residences behind them to avoid contamination by the uninitiated. They wanted all the faithful to join them.
"With a clear mind," said one of the "Testament" notes, "we leave this Earth for a Dimension of Truth and Perfection. There, away from obstruction, hypocrisy and hostility, we will give birth to the seed of our future Creation."
Cars belonging to cult members were found at the Chiery train station, abandoned, and a .22 that was linked to the Chiery ritual deaths was found in Granges-sur-Salvan. Someone who had done the shooting in one place had driven that same night to the other to carry out more killings. Also, the suicide notes, supposedly written before the deaths, had post dates that indicated they’d been mailed afterward. Someone who’d been involved in all this death was apparently still at large.
It turned out that one member who was spared, Patrick Vuarnet, son of a French ski champion, had mailed the letters.
Although it was first believed that Di Mambro and Jouret had orchestrated the suicide/slaughter and then gone to hide out until they could emerge and spend the money they had fleeced from their members, their bodies were soon identified as being among the Swiss dead.
Over a year after the first series of mass suicides, in a forested area near Grenoble, France, known as the Well of Hell, 16 people were found dead and burned on December 15, 1995. Fourteen of them were arranged in a wheel-like pattern, heads outward, which came to be regarded as a star. This night was chosen for its association with the winter solstice, and all of the dead were members of the Solar Temple. Three were children, and there was evidence that not all of the victims had willingly gone to their deaths. One woman’s jaw was fractured, as if she had struggled. Most had drugs in their system that had induced lethargy and sleep, and four people had left behind suicide notes in their homes. They hoped to "see another world" and hinted at another mass suicide to follow. Two bodies lying not far away were a police officer and an immigration inspector (some reports say an architect). Reconstruction of the incident indicated that they were the shooters. They had also started the fire.
This incident was chalked off to the influence of the earlier deaths, although families of the victims wanted justice. They believed that others had been involved who were still alive and that those people should be held responsible for their part. Another year passed. The police monitored known members of the order throughout 1996, during the solstice and equinox seasons, since most of the prior incidents seemed associated with these dates, but when nothing happened, they eased their vigilance.
Yet it wasn’t over. On March 22, 1997, another mass suicide in St. Casimir, Quebec, brought the total deaths for this religious cult to 74. This one had nearly been averted. Five adult members and three teenagers (two sons and a daughter) had gathered during the spring equinox on March 20. When their incendiary equipment failed, the teenagers persuaded their parents that they did not wish to die. They were allowed to leave, while the adults, including an elderly woman, made a second attempt at burning down the house. This time they succeeded and were killed. Four of them had arranged their bodies in the shape of a cross. All had taken tranquilizers. The teenagers, drugged, were found next door and were taken to safety. A note was found which indicated that the victims believed they were transitioning to another planet.
In 1998, the police prevented a German psychologist from carrying out yet another mass suicide. She had gathered 29 people believed to be members of the Solar Temple in the Canary Islands. None of them died. Piecing the tale together, experts believe that Jouret and Di Mambro had decided that several governments were persecuting the order. Prior to the night of the mass slaughter/suicide in Switzerland, Di Mambro and 12 of his followers had engaged in a "Last Supper" to affirm their spiritual ideals. Then the violence began. In Switzerland, the "awakened" 15 had killed themselves by poison, while 38 others were shot. Eight of those were considered traitors to the order, and were thus executed, rather than "transitioned."
Michael Tabachnik, 58, an internationally renowned Swiss musician and conductor, was arrested as a leader in the Solar Temple, and was indicted for "participation in a criminal organization," which included murder. He came to trial in Grenoble during the spring of 2001.
French magistrate Luc Fontaine theorized that two deceased members of the cult—police officer Jean-Pierre Lanchet and architect Andre Friedli—had been the shooters at the mass suicide near Grenoble, and were therefore guilty of killing unwilling victims. One of the children found in a plastic bag there had been only 18 months old. The crime reconstruction had the two suspects shooting the others, dowsing them with gasoline, and before killing themselves, setting the bodies on fire.
Tabachnik was believed to have been among the group of leaders who had facilitated the suicides, and in 1994 to have announced the conclusion of their mission just eleven days before the first deaths. That indicated knowledge about what was to happen. Allegedly he had written much of the group’s literature, and had thus had conditioned people toward annihilation by creating a "dynamic toward murder." He was said to have been Di Mambro’s expected successor. Prosecutors wanted a jail term of five-to-10 years.
He denied all the charges, claiming that he had severed connections with the sect in 1992. He said he’d known nothing about the plan for a mass suicide. "I have done absolutely nothing wrong," he stated to reporters.
At the trial, two former Solar Temple members testified about what they knew. They insisted that senior cultists had ordered the mass suicides and execution of traitors. One stated that that some senior members who were above even Jo Di Mambro had survived and would exact retribution against anyone who spoke out. She said she had overheard another member tell Di Mambro that if members did not willingly cooperate with the suicide plan, they would be forced to do so.
Information also came out that Di Mambro and Tabachnik had co-founded the order after traveling together to Egypt to visit the temples of the pharaohs. Together they had set up the Golden Way in 1978, whose members were taught that they would find peace in death and would merge with a cosmic energy force. That group, with Luc Jouret onboard, eventually became the Solar Temple.
However, with no concrete evidence against Tabachnik for any part he might have played in the Grenoble incident, the court acquitted him of involvement in the 16 deaths.
So far, 74 people have died in the wake of the Order of the Solar Temple and have as such been declared "outlaw" by the French government.
- 01-USChristmas // The Scalphunters
- 02-Emeralds // Does It Look Like Im Here
- 03-Male Bonding // Worse To Come
- 04-Tame Impala // The Bold Arrow Of Time
- 05-Sunburned Hand Of The Man // Hayes Acre
- 06-Tjutjuna//Bottle Kids
- 07-Black Mountain // Old Fangs
adapted from TruTV