The army had a profound effect on Francis Pencovic's life. Formerly a petty criminal, Pencovic had joined the service after working on a chain gang and the experience left him a changed man.
In Simi Valley, California, 1946, Pencovic announced that he was actually Jesus and (departing from the conventional Biblical texts) explained the Son of God was a being from the distant planet Neophrates and had journeyed to Earth many thousands of years ago in a spaceship piloted by Adam and Eve. Shortly after this astonishing anouncement, Pencovic changed his name to "Krishna Venta" and adopted a suitably messianic haircut along with some Jedi robes.
It wasn't long before Pencovic had amassed a small but fervent group of (largely female) followers who donated all of their possessions to his new church, referred to as WKFL ( for Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, and Love) or The Fountain of the World. Pencovic used at least some these donations to make bets on dog races, at which he was apparently quite successful. As his reputation grew, so did the numbers of his cult and eventually they opened up a second branch in Homer, Alaska.
Pencovic's preachings resonated among those who felt fearful in the new Cold War. He told his followers of an imminent doomsday (which would take the form of a Soviet-instigated black vs. white race war) that would claim the lives of all humanity, save for 144,000 "Elect" that would go on to Paradise under his leadership. Until Judgment Day, the parishioners of the Fountain of the World cult were to assist the homeless and spread the world.
After a few run-ins with the police for refusing to pay child support Pencovic was killed in 1958; in a double suicide-bombing carried out by two of his own followers. One man was fiercely jealous of Pencovic's power and influence, and the other believed Pencovic had been sleeping with his wife.
After the death of their prophet, the Fountain of the World limped along for about a decade, teaching Pencovic's apocalyptic visions to all who would listen. Before their ultimate dissolution, the group provided a home for an itinerant would-be musician.
His name was Charlie Manson.
It appears that the cult left quite an impression.
Would you like to know more?
-Read this article from the International Cultic Studies Association
-Watch this newsreel from the British Pathe Film Archive.