Unlike the majority of other cults, the House of David didn’t isolate itself from the rest of the world. In fact, its members even opened their commune to visitors, welcoming up to half a million of them during peak season. They also formed their own...
Unlike the majority of other cults, the House of David didn’t isolate itself from the rest of the world. In fact, its members even opened their commune to visitors, welcoming up to half a million of them during peak season. They also formed their own baseball team that went on to compete with the nation’s best, making headlines across the United States and contributing significantly to how the game has evolved throughout the centuries.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing about the devotees of the House of David was how the men refused to shave and cut their hair. Photos show them wearing baseball outfits, with full beards and hair streaming down their backs.
But as odd as their appearances were, the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, where the commune was located, held nothing but love for them.
Hush Hush Society Conspiracy Hour:
Sources for this episode include:
Southcottian Studies, The Guardian, Owlcation, the Detroit Free Press, Mashable, The Chicago Tribune, a Medium article titled “The house of David: The Midwest Cult that Was Really Good at Baseball” by Lauren Modery, the Cult Education Institute, The Detroit News, The Chicago Reader, the Michigan Radio, The Detroit Free Press, and Atlas Obscura.
Photograph: Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Research by: Kayla Deleon
Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/LetsStartACult)
Josh: Hi Fred. My name is Josh Schell host of the let's start a cult podcast. The only podcast host to read reviews from its listeners, starting today. That's a bingo on apple podcasts, rated the show five stars and wrote quote, great show stumbled upon this show. And I'm so glad I did. The host is amazing and the content is super interesting.
Happy to subscribe and quiz. So thank you to that's bingo for the lovely review, I will Venmo you the agreed upon amount after the show. Shane Edmonds show on pod JC rated the show FiveStars and wrote quote. Josh is great host, and I would join his called ha ha and quote, while your time has come, Shane Edmund show.
Welcome to the call. You're now in charge of the Saturday morning, sermon. thank you, everyone that has left a review, please go to apple podcasts or pod chaser and leave a rating and review for your chance to have it read on the show. Now with that ego inflation out of the way, let me introduce to you my guests, this episode, they are from the incredibly funny and informative podcast.
Hush hush society, conspiracy hour, try saying that three times fast, from princess Diana to moth, man, these guys cover all conspiracies known and unknown to me. In a concise and funny delivery that will make you think and laugh. Please. Welcome to the show. Mystery, Mike and slick Frank Sanders. How are you guys today?
Mystery Mike: Super swell.
Slick Fronk Sanders: good.
Mystery Mike: Thanks for having us on Josh.
Josh: No, I love your show and, , definitely glad to have you guys on. before we start though as the undeclared leaders of all conspiracy theories, I have to clear the air with you guys. a few episodes ago, I attacked you and on pretty ruthlessly and they were not happy about it. Uh, so, so will you guys accept my apology?
Not necessarily for what I said, but for how mean I was to Q in his Q drips.
Slick Fronk Sanders: I don't know if the uh,
Mystery Mike: Yeah. I don't think an apology is warranted, so you're okay.
Josh: awesome. I'll stand firm in my, my attack on them then. And now. Double down and make a cue in on part two.
Mystery Mike: We, we might catch flack for not going in on you about it, but you know, we'll get there eventually.
Josh: That's. Okay. we'll take the bullet together.
Mystery Mike: Yeah.
Josh: moving on in today's episode of the let's start a cult podcast, we will be talking about Benjamin Panell, the leader of a strict religious cult known as the house of dates. Claiming to be a prophet from God. Benjamin started one of the most bizarre Colts I have ever talked about part strict religious sect part amusement park and part baseball team.
The house of David had it all, including terrible sexual assault charges against their leader because all cult leaders are terrible have either of you heard of the house of David.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Until now, no, I have not.
Mystery Mike: I've only heard the, I've only heard the baseball part of it and looking into it. I was like, I wonder if this is, the same cult that I'm thinking about, why are they starting a baseball team? But
Josh: uh, yeah, the baseball team part is like, I mean the whole thing is a wild ride, but yeah, the baseball part is definitely interesting, funny that you know about the baseball and not the, the cult. So that's, that's good. I like that.
Mystery Mike: I just thought they were a little league team.
Josh: They've played pretty professionally. Like semi-professional anyway, we'll get into that, but it's uh, yeah, it's wild. but first we're going to start with Benjamin's early life and how he became a cult leader. Benjamin Franklin Prunella was born on March 27th, 1861 in Lewis county, Kentucky to Madison and Sarah and pruning.
The pronounced, we're a poor farming family. And with Ben being the youngest of 12 money was always tight. Now there isn't much known about Ben's early life, but when he was six years old, his mother Sarah, and became very sick with pneumonia. Yeah. The COVID of its time. That's not really true, but don't ask me uh, anyway uh, passed away from her battle with pneumonia, leaving her husband and family devastated by the law.
Madison's mental and financial health had deteriorated as a result of his wife's death. And he was no longer able to support all of his children. His solution was cold and logical. Well, if I can't support them all, I'll just get rid of one. And Ben being the youngest drew the short straw. So,
Mystery Mike: Geez.
Josh: yeah, just, yielded them out of the house Shortly after his mother's death, Ben was sent to live with his oldest brother, James and his wife, Elizabeth, who lived in another part of Kentucky.
It's safe to say at the age of six, the loss of his mother, father, and most of his siblings was pretty hard on Ben as I think it would be for most of us.
Mystery Mike: Yeah, I could see why you became a cult leader.
Slick Fronk Sanders: yeah,
lines are being drawn.
Josh: definitely psychological things. That's for sure. so it's around this time in his life that he began to turn towards religion as an answer to all the fucked up things happening in his life. Well, the family had always been strong Christians. Elizabeth notice that Ben was becoming obsessed with religion.
Even stating that once she saw him reciting scripture to the trees outside of their home, And uh, probably not the only one. I think it's disgusting to watch someone push their religion on So, you know, just let them believe what they want.
Mystery Mike: Poor Oak trees.
Josh: Yeah. during this time, the late 1860s, there was a Christian fundamentalist movement spreading through America, led by minister Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander.
They would regularly travel through small towns throughout America, preaching that Christian people needed to return to their biblical roots. They believe the church to be corrupt and that Christians need to abolish the Protestant church to return to a United church. these preachers and their passionate speeches captured the attention of young Ben and changed his beliefs forever.
because before he was probably preaching like pretty. You know, regular stuff like love everyone and stuff, but this is , we need to chop off half of the church and give back to what we, we used to believe in.
Slick Fronk Sanders: G.
Josh: now what is the one thing besides the religion that every straight teenager needs.
Mystery Mike: Porn.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Drugs.
Josh: also, also a good answer. Sadly, there was probably no porn back in this day. Um, if you answered girl at home, you are correct. And you win, I don't know, drugs, you in the drugs in porn. yeah. Yeah. Ben was no different as he found himself falling in love with a girl named Angelina brown. When he was only 15 after only a year of dating, they decided to get married because when you live in the Midwest and you're not dating you, someone who's cause your cousin, you lock them down.
Slick Fronk Sanders: I was going to ask if they were related, just like by coincidence, but
Josh: No, actually they, they, well, who knows,
Mystery Mike: It's one of his long lost sisters.
Josh: yeah, exactly true. He did separate from them. So maybe she has a different name. So. That's a good sign that she's not at least first cut.
Slick Fronk Sanders: True.
Josh: uh, last Ben was not ready for a committed relationship as he would often leave for days or weeks on end while he traveled around the country.
And keep in mind, he's like 15, 16 at this time. He was just
like, just leaving
Slick Fronk Sanders: Live in life. Just live in LA.
Mystery Mike: riding the rails.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah.
Josh: He's a probably preaching, you know, he's a pretty religious still. So with no job or way to provide for Angela things were looking bad for their marriage, but what is the best proven way to fix a marriage?
Having a baby? Of course.
Mystery Mike: I was going to say a threesome.
Josh: oh, there you go. I see a mystery. Mike has different ways to fix marriages.
Mystery Mike: Think outside the box.
Josh: I like it. and so in 1879, Angela gave birth to a baby girl. But it was not enough to keep Benjamin's attention. And for the next two years, he traveled aimlessly through the Midwest. The only, the only word she ever heard from him was a letter requesting a divorce from her, which is
Mystery Mike: And you can keep the baby.
Josh: I don't want anything to do with that.
So yeah, you just, you know, the modern day equivalent of just texting to break up with someone it's lovely.
Mystery Mike: It's pretty
Josh: they say love is dead. the reason for the divorce letter was of course, because Ben had found new love on his journey, a 17 year old named Mary Stallard. And in August of 1880, they became married.
Because once again, not related Midwest, you lock that shit down with under a year. It's, you know, we're good to go. This marriage was clearly a lot better for Benjamin as the two spent the next decade or so traveling the Midwest preaching biblical scripture is his dream marriage. Of course
Mystery Mike: There was no baby, that's the issue.
Josh: they did have a baby. Yeah. I didn't go into that, but they do have a baby pretty soon after their marriage or, or maybe I don't know, premarital sex. So they can't do that.
Mystery Mike: yeah.
Josh: there was also, I didn't, I didn't write this down cause it goes into too much, but there was also a complication that they never actually filed for divorce, like his first marriage.
So there was a big complication with him trying to marry marry later on. And so it was just this mess where he had to claim that he was too young to actually commit to someone in marriage so that the courts would allow him to marry this new girl.
Mystery Mike: uh,
Slick Fronk Sanders: solid loop.
Josh: Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, it's, it was great. it wasn't until the late 1890s that they began to follow the south Katia and movement, which had been created by a British prophetess named Joanna Southcott, who claimed to be the woman of the apocalypse whom the Bible's book of revelation spoke about.
Um, I don't know much about that, but yeah, so she's apparently the woman of the apocalypse, which is a pretty cool name.
Mystery Mike: Yeah. I'd like to meet her.
Josh: Well, she's
Mystery Mike: There's gotta be a reincarnation somewhere. Right?
Josh: Yeah. Actually, you know what that's probably. Yeah, yeah. that's probably exactly what it is. So you're right. You could meet her someday. however, they were eventually banished from their hometown of FoST area, Ohio, because you see the PNLs wanted nothing to do with the dead.
And I mean, absolutely nothing. Uh, so much so that when they're 17 year old daughter died in a devastating accident involving firecrackers at a local factory, the two refuse to attend her funeral residents of the foster. Yeah. It's brutal. Um, the residents of the FoST area community were furious with the couple.
And so they were forced to leave their hometown. I think a lot of the desk stuff has to do with probably his youth, right. Experienced death out young, and then.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah.
Josh: Result in all these bad things that happened to him. I think that affected
Mystery Mike: Yeah. Maybe, maybe like a bad Juju thing and just set them down the wrong.
Josh: exactly. Something, something like that. Anyway, I think after being booted out of Ohio, the pronounced decided to relocate to the city of Benton Harbor, where they settled on some land located on the south Eastern shore of lake Michigan. They're in 1903, they founded a religious society called the Israel light house of David, which aim to reunite the 12 tribes of Israel in hopes of preparing themselves to receive Jesus Christ upon his return to earth and the new millennium.
It was a very long sentence. Um, yeah, so they're, they're, they've created the cult rural show credits. That's what we do, right.
Mystery Mike: Yeah. Thanks for stopping by,
Josh: where you at? We said the name it's like in a movie when they say the name of the movie, I'm like, when's the credits.
Slick Fronk Sanders: they said it.
Josh: Take a shot. the school was in line with Benjamin pronounced belief that he was the seventh and final messenger of God as prophesized by Joanna Southcott.
so big, big shoes to fill.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah. a little bit.
Josh: Yeah. More specifically, he was convinced that he had been entrusted to carry out the mission outlined in the revelation chapter 11, verse 15, which read quote and the seventh angel sounded. And there were great voices in heaven saying the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever, and quote so basically he wants to be a.
the messenger of God, basically.
Mystery Mike: always, it's always funny to me. That people that are super religious, especially when you're in the mindset of being a cult leader or a member of a Cole or something of the sort that you all of a sudden see yourself as this grand. Prophet or character or a figure head it's like, where was the, where's the bridge that gaps from like normal minister who goes out and tells people about God to God shows me and I am in this to bring the apocalypse and bring Jesus back.
And it's just always a funny jump
Slick Fronk Sanders: to me.
That's like borderline, almost mental illness. If not mental illness as a whole, like w when you're taking a verse out of the Bible, so literally, and taking it as a direct message to you and you only a that's kind of deranged
Josh: it's definitely getting to that point. I mean, there are, there are many, like it's like, where do you get your confidence from? You know, I need a little bit of that.
Mystery Mike: Should have been a motivational speech.
Josh: Exactly. And I feel, I feel a lot of them would be really good at it. They could be YouTube, YouTube motivational speakers.
Definitely. yeah. It's, I think it's a combination of a few things. And I think with Ben, it's definitely the support of his wife, Mary, who I feel definitely helps convince him of this she's she is definitely that kind of person where she supports him a hundred percent. And like, just push him towards whatever he's believing in.
that was in a lot of the research I was reading. So I think a lot of that's where his, his confidence comes from um,
Mystery Mike: She's a supportive wife.
Josh: Too supportive
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah, that's a great attribute and like a crappy scenario.
Josh: Yes. yeah. It's like, you need your wife to be 95% supportive, you
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah. There's gotta be voice of reason.
Josh: Yeah, that 5% where they're just like, you didn't fucking take out the trash last week.
Mystery Mike: Why did you start a cult?
Josh: Now I have to get up early on Sundays. God damn it. yeah, so I think that's definitely what fed into his specific what would you call it? Narcissism? but I believe every, every cult leader is slightly different in where they get their confidence. To fulfill his duty as the seventh angel of God, Benjamin accompanied by his wife began visiting nearby towns and preaching to residents with his big calling message and charismatic personality.
It didn't take long before he amassed several hundred members, which spurred him to buy more land until the communion was sitting on a plot that exceeded and acres. it's
huge. Yeah. it's basically it turns into a small town here shortly. New devote to use of the house of David, were quick to adhere to the couple's strict rules, no matter how strange they seemed.
For instance, Meat, shaving, sex, tobacco, personal property, and alcohol were all forbidden. They were also required to hand over their money to the Prunells to help fund their preaching and outreach work. Now that is standard religious stuff, however, even sex between married couples was forbidden. Right and wait, wait a second.
Rather husbands and wives had to regard each other as brother and sisters
Slick Fronk Sanders: Uh,
Mystery Mike: uh,
Josh: Since the Prunells taught their devotes that all kinds of intercourse, whether it be for procreation or simply for pleasure was forbidden by God. So yeah, we bring it back to the incest.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah.
it all comes full
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. literally.
Mystery Mike: If you can't marry your sister, just pretend.
Josh: Pretend your wife is your sister. That's fucking weird.
Yeah. I mean, there, I've heard of worse called so far. It's weird, but it's definitely not
Mystery Mike: the sex for pleasure thing. I mean, okay. I could get that. The fear of very religious call, but the no sex for procreation is kind of that's puzzling to me.
Slick Fronk Sanders: And there's that whole complexion to having a child where it's like, oh, this is such a blessing, like to some regard SIRS, like, especially if you're a religious person, there's a religious aspect to having a child. So it's like, I feel like that should have scratched more heads. That whole portion of it.
Josh: just a few more questions raised you'd think. Yeah. I don't know if they were just hoping everyone would be. You know, mother marrying it, just babies popping out left and right from God. But definitely weird. but do you guys know who would never prevent you from having sex or eating meat or anything else?
I said above,
she said, God,
Slick Fronk Sanders: God.
Josh: clothes, the products and services that support this show. Unless it's a beyond meat burger or something. And then in which case, don't eat meat, eat the beyond meat burger anyway, enjoy some ads.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Good segue.
Josh: usually I have like something horrifying happened and then I say, don't. You know, the only horrifying thing here is sexual assault. So I don't really want to be like, you know, who doesn't sexually assault people.
Mystery Mike: Beyond burgers.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah.
Josh: uh, alright. In return for giving up everything they had members were promised that the city of Benton Harbor had been specifically chosen by God to be the place where the garden of Eden would be restored. Thus joining the house of David would guarantee them eternal life. according to the judge who spoke about the group in 1927, quote, in the minds of his people, Benjamin had established a kingdom separated from the world in which he had held temporal and spiritual dominance, ordering the physical lives of their members and directing the aspirations of their souls and the operation of their end quote.
Kind of dark,
Mystery Mike: I just like how he's with a straight face stood in front of hundreds of people. And he said, Benton Harbor is the place.
Josh: not, not all these other amazing places, Benton
Mystery Mike: this is it.
Josh: bad on Benton Harbor. I've never been there, but uh, I've also never heard of it before this. So that's telling if anything the organization strive to be, as self-sufficient as possible members were not only required to harvest fruit and cultivate grain, but those who had learned important trades in the outside world were made to offer their expertise.
For instance, there were facilities in the commune that provided tailoring carpentry and even laundering services and electrical plant was also established, which provided power to the thousands of people living on the land. So, as I said, like it's turning into its own town within Benton Harbor. kind of crazy, it's definitely one of the
biggest cults I've ever covered.
Mystery Mike: Maybe he was, right about Benton Harbor.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Were these people like provided food and whatnot for like their services
Josh: Yeah. So it worked as like a, like a, as I said, like a commune. So they would they didn't get paid money necessarily, but they got, they got to live there, got to eat food. got provided all these services, I believe for free. so it was like everyone was just kind of living there without money, which kind of nice to think about like, I don't know when my
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah. Yeah. Without all the cult rules seem school.
Josh: Yeah. the, no sex is weird, but yeah, I could, I could maybe handle all the rest of the stuff. He didn't say no drugs, so that's okay.
Mystery Mike: Oh, see, there you go.
Mystery Mike: lining.
Josh: I know I didn't specifically say no drugs, but please stop injecting yourself with it. the only way I
Mystery Mike: I know we set up a heroin factory over on main street, but
Josh: That's the cell to the outside people.
Mystery Mike: okay.
Josh: however, Benjamin knew that creating income streams was key to sustaining the house of David. And so it didn't take long before the communion was also playing host to public zoo, a garden, a restaurant, and arcade, a movie theater, a bowling alley, and an amphitheater.
The group also invested in a miniature locomotive, which at the time held distinction of being the world's largest um,
Mystery Mike: I take everything I said about Ben Harbor back.
we're becoming Disneyland. Now before, Disneyland, it was the first this amusement park was Christian. Eden Springs to commemorate the its future fate as Benjamin hope, it attracted tons of people.
And by the mid 20th century, it had become the mid-west top tourist attraction.
Mystery Mike: son of a bitch did it.
Josh: He did it, he, he accomplished as most of his dreams here. if, if only he wasn't a terrible person, he could enjoy.
Mystery Mike: Uh,
Josh: We'd be talking nice things about them.
for outsiders, the groups members may have looked strange with their long hair and full beards. However, they seemed like a joyful and fun, loving community content with running their communion and Eden Springs. In fact, according to Chris Siriano, the current owner of the house of David museum in St.
Joseph, Michigan It was amazing. The amount of entertainment and excitement there. They wanted to have fun. They wanted to invite America into their lives. They love to entertain and to laugh and to have a blast. They always told me it was a means to an end to get them to tomorrow because tomorrow was when paradise was coming.
And so, again, there's that apocalyptic line just
Mystery Mike: Yeah,
but then again, you know, that that's, like you know, going back to the Q and non thing, you know, everything's always going to happen
Wait, wait till tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and it's like, well, we meant the next day
Josh: Yeah. we're just gonna keep adjusting until it happens or until something happens and then we'll be like, see, I you
Mystery Mike: we missed the deadline.
Josh: I can buy a lottery ticket a million times. And if I win one. That's all that matters.
Mystery Mike: Then I was right.
Josh: locals loved the house of David, not just for the amusement park that they had built, but also because of the vibrant atmosphere that they brought to the city.
Bob Myers, the current curator of the Burren county historical association museum, explain that quote. They had a profound impact on Benton Harbor. Anybody that grew up here, back in the forties, fifties, sixties, and early seventies. You hear that all the time. Everybody remembers the house of David and quote.
pop in place. It was a place at the time. like I said, it is like pretty equivalent to the Disneyland of our time. You know what I mean? Like
Mystery Mike: it back.
Mystery Mike: Bring it, bring it back to its former glory.
Slick Fronk Sanders: This dude could,
have been the Walt Disney. He could have like made the characters that influenced people for generations, but no, he had to, he had to have a call.
Josh: oh, that scares me to think
Slick Fronk Sanders: It's kind of
terrifying, but I mean,
Josh: Yeah. Do we think, well, Disney had a secret cult cause I
almost percent. Thank you, Dan.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Hmm.
Mystery Mike: he still has a call.
Josh: Isn't there that secret club at Walt Disneyland, you guys should do an episode on that, I think.
Mystery Mike: We'll dive into Disneyland a
Josh: All right. All right. Just uh, if you ever need me on that episode, I'll come on
Mystery Mike: Oh, for sure
Josh: and I'll just trash talk, Disney, Walt Disney free.
Mystery Mike: is frozen head in a vault somewhere.
Josh: yeah, just flipping me off with his
Slick Fronk Sanders: Okay.
Josh: fingers. however it soon became clear that despite their long working hours, many members were still suffering from an excess of energy due to the no sex rule.
But the pronouncing forced to address this Benjamin encouraged his devotees to dedicate themselves to sports, which he believed taught discipline of the mind, body and soul. Cool.
He was like, you can't have sex, but I got the next best thing for you.
Slick Fronk Sanders: amaze mall?
Josh: Baseball ag Dean 10 and baseball field was built on the Camions property. And it didn't take long before the large crowds are gathering to watch pickup games played between members of the house of David and local semi-professional team.
Four years later in 1914, the group launched a formal baseball team that was managed by a man named Francis Thorpe and featured house of David member, doc tally as its leader star. the house of David baseball team began playing against amateur and pro semi-professional leagues all across Michigan, as well as from neighboring, Illinois, and Indiana.
In 1915, they entered a league for the first time and won the Baron county championship. The following year, this victory earned the mention in local newspapers with New York times even publishing a short feature that Shaun a spotlight on the strange looking at excellent players, because you got a picture they have like, they can't cut their hair right.
Or shave. So they've just have these huge beards
and just. Long hair. They're not even burly. They're just, they're like thin, thin guys would just huge beards. They're kind of creepy looking actually. Um,
Slick Fronk Sanders: do these sports. Where they meant as a fulfillment for their sexual deprivation.
Josh: I think it started as that. And then. once they realize how good they got. Cause I mean, obviously they're not focusing on anything else because
they can't do anything else. So they just got really fucking good at sport uh, baseball. And I think they eventually saw it as a way to make more money.
So they just went all in on it. given the sensational reporting at the time, contemporary historians have found it difficult to assert the role that house David played in the American baseball history. However, they do know that the team played against several of the best squads from the, and I know, oh, yell at me.
This is what it was called. It was called the Negro leagues whose existence was required by 20th century segregation law. so obviously all black leagues that weren't allowed to play on white leagues, so terrible. But uh, these were the first white players to play again or not first, but they were, they played like pretty consistently against people from these leagues, which was kind of what would you call it?
or forthright, forthcoming. I dunno what the right word is. I'm blanking. it was ahead of its time there. Yeah.
Mystery Mike: Yeah. Yeah.
Josh: Um, they were visionaries. Absolutely. They were definitely visionary. according to Jacob Palmer and the director of editorial content at the society for American baseball research, that is a mouthful.
Uh, he says, quote, Well, the host of David was not the first white team to play against all black teams. In many cases, their games against say the Kansas city monarchs. It would have been the first time many fans in America had ever seen white and black faces on the same field.
that was important in helping pave the way for integration in professional baseball with Jackie Robinson later. And.
Mystery Mike: Wow.
Josh: So, yeah, they had a pretty good impact on the game of baseball. Like they, they helped it progress faster than most other sports that's for sure.
Mystery Mike: Wow. So, so far, this is, this is the American dream here,
besides, besides, not having sex with your wife, sister uh,
Slick Fronk Sanders: sister
Josh: wife's sister.
Mystery Mike: wife's Sai.
Josh: I mean, it's a good way now. Now you say it like that. It's a good way to prevent people from having sex be like, that's your sister. All right. Well, I'm not going to have
sex with her.
Slick Fronk Sanders: That's a solid point.
Mystery Mike: but that guy's sister. I would,
Josh: they don't, they don't sleep with their own wives. They sleep with their buddies.
So. Loopholes, you know um, just over the pants stuff, that's all it was.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Only over the bands.
Mystery Mike: Yeah.
Josh: besides their skirmishes against all black teams, the house of David also became known for the unique playing style in a feature, piece published in the guardian journalists. Ryan Ferguson wrote that quote with aggressive base running skillful, fielding, and incredible dexterity. The house of David became baseball's answer to the Harlem globe Trotters in small towns across America.
People flocked witnessed their lavish show, typically replant with stunts and gimmicks. The house of David became known for mastering the game of pepper, where players through and bunted balls back and forth with great imagination. Crowds were dazzled as the touring players hit balls in their beard perform tricks aplenty one obscure scheme saw the house of David play an inning or two with fielders riding donkeys.
No ploy was too bizarre. And and it is kind of cool. Like there are like it's terrible footage, but it's like old footage of them doing like these weird, like throw it, make it look like they're going to throw it and then it's behind their back or it's in the other guy's glove. It's, it's kind of like a cool trick thing.
Like, you'd see at a Harlem globe Trotters event or something like that. so it's very interesting.
Mystery Mike: they
made a show.
Slick Fronk Sanders: They were having fun. There's no
doubt about that.
Mystery Mike: I'm
waiting for the
downside here other than this uh, other than the sex thing.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Well, there was also the meat and the cigarettes and the, the shaving.
Slick Fronk Sanders: There was other stuff,
Josh: Is a, Is that the order for you?
Slick Fronk Sanders: I, sex meat cigarettes Yeah.
Mystery Mike: Yeah. I like
Josh: I mean,
Mystery Mike: that's a good order.
Josh: that was basically my uh, quarantine anyways. So it was all 2020 for me. their prowess on the field became so legendary that at one point, the house of David had three different teams participating in baseball games across the United States. Naturally this generated a ton of revenue, which went back to the communion in Benton Harbor, where it was used to print pamphlets and all sorts of religious literature.
Non-athlete members watching from the packs. Grand stands, distributed these Pampers. so they're, they're like we get the money, we put it back into the business kind of thing. Like
Mystery Mike: Hm.
I wonder if they were record recruiting at these games.
Josh: Oh yeah. Th that's a, yeah, just at the end there that like they would so like a lot of non-athlete members would go to the games and then like handout pamphlets
Mystery Mike: Oh, pamphlets. Oh, pamphlets for the, the
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, just for anyone watching. Yeah. They just like hand them out and and they would get a lot of people come in from those events, which is
Mystery Mike: Well, you can't make kids. So you got to.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Do you like fun? Do you hate capitalism?
Josh: down to the uh, the non sister sex communion. Um, This led to baseball, becoming a critical tool. That house of David, not only used to raise awareness about their commune, but also to recruit members, the group intensified these efforts by Andrew introducing unique innovation to the game. For instance, They were reportedly among the first ones to use portable lights on the field, allowing their team to play well into the night. Jacob Palmer rank further explain that. The team always claimed that it's game on April 17th, 1930 in independence, Kansas was the first night game ever played.
The house of David did a lot to popularize the concept of night baseball and their gaming. Kansas did take place five years before the first major league night game, but they were definitely not the first team to play baseball under electric lights and quote So they're pushing like these new innovations that even the major leagues where we're not doing at the time Unfortunately for them though, this would all be swept under the rug after shocking revelations about their leader made headlines across the country. So here we go. Here's the bad stuff. by the 1920s rumors were spreading that Benjamin Brunel was regularly engaging in sexual activity with female members of the commune, which that's a no-no, you know, mandatory celibacy.
However, that's not only, that's not the terrible part. Uh, there were whispers that most, if not all of his partners had been under age. So he was ordering cheese pizzas when he definitely should not have.
Slick Fronk Sanders: SMH bro.
Josh: that's a not cool. he let the money and power get to his head when he was supposed to be talking to Jesus or whatever he was supposed to do.
I don't, I'm not sure exactly.
Mystery Mike: You had the world in the Palm of your hands,
Josh: Yep. The
Benton Harbor could be
eaten right now if it wasn't for this blasphemy, you know at first these rumors were believed to be nothing more than false stories spread by board locals who were jealous of Benjamin's success. However, public opinion turned against him after more than a dozen women came forward and began claiming that they had in fact, been forced to have sex with the self-proclaimed seventh messenger of God.
local authorities did their best to get to the bottom of the allegations, but Benjamin would reportedly disappear whenever they sent word that they wanted to talk to him In 1914, the Chicago Tribune even ran a story on how he had locked himself in a. Located behind a den of bears in the commune zoo, in a bid to escape from London.
Slick Fronk Sanders: He was ready.
Slick Fronk Sanders: for it.
Josh: contingency plans,
Slick Fronk Sanders: Jesus.
Josh: check the monkey uh, the monkey and gorilla cages. There's definitely vaults all over that place.
Mystery Mike: let me get in the vault then release the bear.
Josh: and don't talk to me until they're gone. he's fucking nuts.
Mystery Mike: Yeah.
Josh: but it worked for awhile. Benjamin's efforts may have bought him some time, but in 1923, the allegations had become too many too loud and too egregious to ignore a few years later in 1927, another trial was held.
Although once again, Benjamin Panell refused to show. Which is wild that, that just works like back then.
Mystery Mike: Yeah, it's just,
Josh: well, he didn't sh he didn't show up. So I guess we can't do the trial anymore.
Mystery Mike: I won't be there.
Josh: yes. during the proceedings, his testimony was heard that several young women had been forced into arranged marriages in order to protect the house of David from being questioned by their state investigator.
Mystery Mike: Hm.
Josh: further claim that the leader of the con noon had engaged in sexual activity with teenage female members who had been made to believe that they were participating in a purification. right. very manipulative and I mean, like if you're living in this commune and everyone's praising this dude and he comes up to you and he's like Have sex with me or you'll Like that's pretty
fucked up. cause you're just a kid and who you're going to tell cause everyone else is believing him. Right.
Mystery Mike: Now from, from what I, have heard. And you would obviously be the one to know isn't it a comp kind of a common thread among cult leaders to take advantage of underage girls. maybe it's like a psychological power trip and just continuing that whole, you know, having that power over. A younger person or a smaller person or whatever.
Josh: there is a lot of I wouldn't say all are under age necessarily, but definitely younger. a lot of called leaders definitely recruit younger. Like you usually, I want to say the, usually above 18 and uh, and then they corrupt them and basically have sex slaves for their they're called life. Right.
so not as fucked up, but pretty fucked up. and there are a lot of weird sex things that cult leaders have probably mostly for. Yeah, the PA like a weird power struggle. I'm not sure. I've never been in power of anything, so I don't know what the feeling is like. but clearly it goes to their heads and these are not stable people by any means.
so yeah, it, I wouldn't say underage necessarily for all the Colts, but definitely some of them and it, it is definitely a power thing I believe so. Yeah, not great. As the proceedings came to an end, Benjamin showed up to the court on a stretcher, reportedly looking macerated and weak. it turns out he had been suffering from tuberculosis, and diabetes, which his supporters claimed were the reasons why he had hidden himself away from authorities.
Not a good reason, but during his time in court, Benjamin denied all the accusations that had been leveled against. However it was too late in November, 1927, the local judge ordered them to leave the house of David. And a few weeks later on December 16th, he died from his various illnesses. so to note this here, he was never actually charged with anything he was just told to leave, which is just as fucked up.
definitely a stain on American uh, judicial system.
Slick Fronk Sanders: That's kind of baffling
Mystery Mike: the judge told him to leave his own coal.
Josh: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Slick Fronk Sanders: while his judge has a six foot long beard.
He's part of it. He's in on it.
Josh: and can crank home runs no one's business? Um, yeah, so all his punishment was he was ordered to leave and then he died. So it was like, he didn't really suffer any consequences. Um,
Mystery Mike: Yep.
Josh: Which is unfortunate for his alleged victims. still the judge reportedly exonerated him for his quote betrayal of spiritual faith of his victims and use of the sacred aspiration of religion to gratify his lust and quote with this ruling, the state of Michigan, nearly succeeded in its attempt to dissolve the house of days.
Shortly afterward newspapers carried it headlines about how king Ben, which Benjamin had taken to calling himself had been exiled from the community that he had himself built from the ground up. However, the house of David had become too big to simply eradicate by their leaders, death Benjamin's wife, Mary assumed the role of the communes but after being challenged by its more aggressive members, she called all her supporters and formed a rival group named Mary's city of David, which is a pretty, pretty cool name.
I don't know. Oh, how, like, I dunno how much she knew about all that stuff.
So I don't want to call her. A feminist icon, but uh, it was kind of cool that she just let her own after this.
Like, that's pretty rare, pretty rare back in the day, for sure. Again, I don't know what she knew, so I don't, if she was a bad person do not attack this schism was a huge blow to the one's thriving company.
Even their famous baseball team was split with Mary's being the more successful one due to her followers, including X major leaguers, like Grover Cleveland Alexander, the tourist attraction that she had been given proved to be more popular as well, especially with the Chicago's Jewish community who are ostracized by others, theme, parks and resorts.
They were also drawn to the food that Mary and her followers served since it contained no meat at all and was thus considered kosher. it's a, I think is well-documented that Walt Disney was definitely not a fan of Jewish people, so this is falls in
Mystery Mike: Yeah.
Josh: um, so yeah, you know, it pays to be open-minded and accepting.
that's the lesson here.
Mystery Mike: the message.
Josh: Yeah, exactly. meanwhile, new audience, Mary Panell ordered to have a synagogue built on the city of David. So that their Jewish guests could come and worship after enjoying their day of fun and entertainment, both the house of David and the city of David continued their activities throughout the 1940s.
But the ranks began to dwindle after world war II. Mary Prunella passed away in 1953. And this further decrease the membership in both communes. They still exist today though, with Ron Taylor, one of the last of Mary's followers, continuing to claim that the current realities of the communes were perfectly in line with the couple's prophecy.
the house of David May be a shadow of its former self, but remanence of its glory days remain in Benton Harbor. In fact, Eden Springs is now maintained by a group of volunteers who hope that it will one day draw half a million tourists just like it did at its peak.
I don't think it will, but maybe after this episode, everyone go to Benton Harbor. We'll all meet there for a nice day trip. You know most of the parks, current visitors are those with fond memories of it who want to take a trip down memory lane, for instance, notes left on the guest books. Read. Over 50 years ago, my father would take me to the baseball game end quote and quote, first date for grandma and grandpa Fowler 64 years ago.
And quote, so like this, like a lot of people were affected by this and the, in the area
Mystery Mike: Yeah. Seems like a
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. It's kinda nice. And there are nice parts of the story. There are not nice parts of the story. These are the, these are the nice parts we're going to end on the nice parts.
from these alone, it's clear that the house of David, despite his scandals and unusual beliefs is wildly regarded by many as neither a cult or religious order, but rather as a welcoming community filled with like-minded people, the public may have initially only seen their strange flowing hair and beards, but they remembered them for the huge impact they had on Benton Harbor and even on American baseball.
Ryan Ferguson of the guardian put it best. When he wrote that quote, there are often stigmas attached to the religious societies, perhaps justly in some instances, but the house of David and the baseball team, its bond should never be forgotten. they blazed a trail in many different areas of life, especially sports, and that contribution provides a legacy to admire and.
And that is the house of David
pretty wild, pretty wild story. Definitely a weird cult.
Mystery Mike: Benjamin was like a, like a young Walt Disney,
just create an, a beautiful amusement park out there and then 10 follow his own rules and hold himself up because he had, he had blood sugar.
Josh: Yeah. I mean I don't know if he died of diabetes BDS because he was eating too much sugar or just not enough. Cause that's possible too.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Yeah. Yeah. True.
Mystery Mike: Everything went downhill when he opened the funnel cake stand.
Josh: and the term tuberculosis was just punishment for being a shitty person,
but. it's, it is too bad that he passed away because he should've definitely served some time for his crimes. You know, like those
poor women, just I mean, they were probably happy to see him die fair, but they probably wanted to see him suffer a little bit before he did.
Mystery Mike: kind of, that's kind of the legal system though. You know, you, you very rarely ever see, you know, the people that deserve to get their up and Cummins actually get it
you know, Jeffrey Epstein uh, but.
Josh: Go watch your episode. Now there's a
Mystery Mike: Yeah.
Josh: no, it's true. And I mean, he was a rich person at the time, rich white person. So yeah, probably took a a part in, in the judicial system before we end off our show it's time for cult critique, which is the part of the show where my guests and I take a look at the cult we just discussed and give it a rating at a five stars as if we were rating it off of Yelp. Um, we then give comments on why we gave them this rating. so are you guys ready to rate the house of David with me?
Mystery Mike: Okay.
Slick Fronk Sanders: Definitely.
Josh: Awesome. Mike, what is your uh, what is your rating on the house of David?
Mystery Mike: four stars would come back to Benton Harbor uh, to hang out. Funnel cake was great. Sexual assault, not so much.
Josh: That is a good, good rating. That's fair rating. Uh, what about yourself?
Slick Fronk Sanders: I'd also have to give this a solid four star. It's only not a five because I found a lung vape, very long beard hair in my funnel cake.
Josh: Cotton candy made of beard hair
Slick Fronk Sanders: Very entertaining. The synagogue was perfect. Very clean.
Josh: The baseball game was nice. The team I bet on one, it was good.
Mystery Mike: There were so many bears.
Josh: So many volts within the bear bear cage yeah, I think I have to agree with you guys. I think, I think four, four and a half stars, you know, I think for the most part, it was just kind of a, kind of a nice communion, a nice place to hang out still to this day. And if it wasn't for a, you know, a corrupt leader, I think.
I think this could have been a very nice story and it's sad Saturday. It had to be tainted with the terrible things that he did. But I think I think that's a fair, fair rating. awesome. Thank you everyone for listening. Uh, mystery, Mick and slick Frank Sanders. if you don't mind telling my listeners where they can find your podcasts and any other plugs you want to throw up.
Mystery Mike: Sure. Uh, you can find the hush hush society, conspiracy hour on all the social medias, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, just search for hush us society. We are the only ones. Um, w w we're kind of like a cult in ourselves. We initiate new members every week into the secrets. Of the conspiratorial world and you will die with those secrets.
Mystery Mike: uh, every Monday we release episodes and you can go to hush us society.com for more information. Thank you so much, Josh.
Josh: Definitely, definitely recommend you guys go check it out there. funny, entertaining and very informative. So If you love my show, you'll there's a step up. So, so definitely go check it out. I feel most of my podcasts, I'm just steering my listeners away to better pause. Yes.
Slick Fronk Sanders: No.
Mystery Mike: No, it's, it's funny because we've, we've steered listeners to yours. So
they're just going back and forth. Very confused. Like I figured, like I can only subscribe to one podcast, so.
Mystery Mike: Yeah. I only have time for one.
Josh: My commute isn't long enough. Dammit. Um,
Mystery Mike: I need a new job.
Slick Fronk Sanders: To start taking the back roads.
Josh: yeah, I mean, taking a trip to a Benton Harbor now
just a binge all of our episodes. Um, awesome. Well, thank you guys for joining me. thank you, Fred for listening. and we will see you guys next time.
Mystery Mike: Bye-bye bye-bye.
Slick Fronk Sanders: bye-bye.