THE ANT HILL KIDS: Break your legs with a sledgehammer or go to Hell
Roch Thériault was a man with a mission: to save himself and his followers from the coming apocalypse. As a child, Thériault dropped out of school and started teaching himself the Old Testament. He was convinced that a war between good and evil was about to come, and that this would bring about the end of the world. Thus, he converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and lived by their rules: no tobacco, no unhealthy foods, no alcohol or drugs. Thériault was a charismatic man, good at persuading others to do his bidding. While organizing seminars for the Adventists, he convinced an entire group of people to quit their jobs and form his religious following called The Ant Hill Kids (named for their ant-like hard work). He was no longer Roch to the world, he was ‘Moses.’ It was 1977, and Thériault and his followers formed a commune that was free of sin and stood for equality and unity. Of course, just as with every other cult, the good times would quickly come to an end, which started when the Adventists kicked them out for their weird-ass behavior. Thériault forbid his followers to contact their families, and against Adventist rules, developed a drinking problem. Rules for followers became stricter and stricter, up until the point where the members were restricted from speaking to each other without Thériault present.
The Ant Hill Kids made their living by selling baked goods. However, apart from the baking, life in the sect was a nightmare. Thériault started spying on his followers and when some seemed not devoted enough, he would punish them. If a person wished to leave the sect, Thériault would become enraged: he would hit them with belts or hammers, he would suspend them from the ceiling, he would pluck each and every hair on their body individually, or he would defecate on them.
As the well-being of his seminars decreased, Moses Thériault became more and more convinced of his godly delusions. It became apparent to Roch that the world would end in 1979 and drove his commune into the Canadian wilderness, convinced that for some reason God would skip a chance to destroy Quebec.
1979 came and went, but the world did not – surprisingly – end. Thériault explained this away by saying our world and God’s world run on different timezones. However, this lacking explanation did not stop his followers from romanticizing him and proclaiming him as their absolute leader. In the Canadian wilderness, and later the woods of Ontario, his female concubines bore Thériault 26 children. Roch, as the ultimate fucked up cult leader, would physically and sexually abuse his children and welfare authorities would come and take them away. However, the torture did not stop there for the Ant Hill Kids. When their ‘Pappy’ became angry, he would take on the role of surgeon. The patient would be held down, fully conscious, by the other followers, and Thériault would go to work on them with available kitchen utensils, pliers or a blowtorch. Most followers lost limbs, teeth, fingers and toes to this practice.
There were many other disciplinary practices Thériault used. He forced commune members to break their own legs with sledgehammers, to shoot each other in the shoulders, eating their own – and other’s – feces, insects and rats. He would nail children to a tree and force other children to throw rocks at them. He would forcibly remove teeth and nails. He would burn his followers by making them sit on lit stoves. He would cut off arms and legs without warning. He made them sit naked in the cold and whip and beat them. Nothing was too cruel a punishment.
However, Thériault’s pièce de résistance came when one of his followers complained of pain the abdomen. Thériault forced her to undress, laid her on the kitchen table, punched her in the stomach, performed an enema by shoving a tube up her rectum and filled her up with olive oil. Then he cut her stomach open, ripped out parts of her intestines with his bare hands, and he forced another member to stitch her up. Then, he shoved a tube down her throat and made the other women blow air into it. Unsurprisingly, the woman died the next day. Of course, Thériault as a prophet had the powers of resurrection. This resurrection consisted of drilling a hole in the dead woman’s skull and having every male member ejaculate into it. The woman remained dead.
Other victims of Roch consisted of two of his own children, one of which he murdered during a failed circumcision, and the other died when Roch left him outside in the middle of a blizzard.
It took the near-death experience of Gabrielle Lavallée to bring to light all these horrible crimes against humanity. Gabrielle had endured blow-torches held to her genitals, eight of her teeth taken out, and a hypodermic needle breaking off in her spine. She had tried to escape, but could not live without the cult and went back. Roch took this as a good reason to cut off one of her fingers, nail her hand to a table and amputate her entire arm. With a hunting knife. Of course, Gabrielle did not see this as enough reason to actually leave. It took Roch amputating parts of her breasts and smashing her head in with an axe for her to actually flee and contact the authorities.
It was 1989, and the Ant Hill Kids were finally free. Thériault was given a life sentence, one he did not complete. In 2011, Roch ‘Moses’ Thériault’s cell-mate walked up to the guard station, handed them a knife and said: “That piece of shit is down on the range. Here’s the knife, I’ve sliced him up.” Thériault was 63 years old, and did not die as he had envisioned; a prophet sent by God to protect his followers. The weirdest part is that even after all that Roch had done wrong, his ‘sane’ followers remained loyal and slaved away to comply to his every whim.
It is easy to say one would never accept being treated this way, but yet these normal, ordinary people endured endless torture from a liar, a mean drunk and a sadist, just because their beliefs matched up with his. It is truly frightening what charisma and religious fervor can make a man.