Anthracite: Is the Ecrins Cult a Real Cult? Is Caleb Johansson an Actual Cult Leader?

Image Credit: Thibault Grabherr/Netflix

An unbelievable series of events shocks a small French village in Netflix’s ‘Anthracite.’ It begins with a girl’s quest to figure out what happened to her father, a journalist who had been looking into the case of a mysterious cult whose members committed mass suicide about three decades before the events of the show. As the investigation deepens, especially with more and more people disappearing in the village, some shocking revelations are made, and it becomes clear that no one can be trusted.

In all of this, the cult remains at the center of the story. While it becomes clear that the show is fictional, the cult in the story exhibits similarities with the stories of real-life cults. How close does Ecrins come to real life? SPOILERS AHEAD

The Fictional Ecrins Cult is Inspired by a Real Cult

Image Credit: Thibault Grabherr/Netflix

‘Anthracite’ is a fictional show created by Fanny Robert and Maxime Berthemy, who were inspired by the real story of the Order of the Solar Temple to lay the foundation for the fictional Ecrins Cult. The cult came to light in 1995 when several of its members died by suicide en-masse in a forest. The sect was founded by Joseph Di Mambro, who was a jeweler, and Luc Jouret, who was a homeopath. When their paths crossed, they found they had a lot in common, especially in their ideologies, and they founded the OTS in 1984.

While OTS became popular pretty soon and had many followers, its reputation was also stained with crimes and scandals, including but not limited to money laundering, embezzlement, and trafficking. This is considered to be one of the reasons behind the mass suicide of the group in 1994 in two communes in Switzerland. Reportedly, the founders claimed that the suicide was actually a step for them to leave Earth and move to the star Sirius.

Instead of allowing everyone to die, people within the cult were specifically chosen and were even spied upon to make sure they were choosing the right person. The act of suicide was labeled “transit” to their new home. The same year, OTS was renamed the Alliance Rose Croix (ARC). By this time, the cult had also gained members internationally, and soon enough, more mass suicides were noted in different locations, including Quebec and Sydney, though the claims for the latter are not substantiated.

The creators of ‘Anthracite’ had heard the stories of OTS and were inspired to create the basis for the fictional cult that drives the story. However, when it came to creating the character of Ecrins’ leader, Caleb Johansson, they decided not to rely on OTS’s leaders for inspiration. Because they wanted a different end for the cult and had already mapped out what it would mean for the story, they didn’t need to have a specific inspiration for the character, but they did need a blueprint for one. And they didn’t have any dearth of real-life people for that.

Considering the arc that OTS took, the story of Jim Jones and his cult, which died by mass suicide after drinking a cyanide-laced Flavor Aid, comes to mind. Murder by a cult also sparks the memory of Charles Manson and his cult, who brutally murdered Sharon Tate and her friends. In the same vein, one is also reminded of Marshall Applewhite’s cult, in which the followers died by suicide in groups because they believed that death would free them of their mortal coil and they would ascend to a different dimension, especially with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet.

All these cult leaders, and others like them, have a common factor of charisma and charm that makes them incredibly appealing to their followers. They also know how to push the buttons of a vulnerable person and induct them into the cult, trapping them so well that their followers have nowhere else to go and are ready to follow their leader in death. While ‘Anthracite’ takes a different approach to its story, it retains these characteristics of the real-life cults and their leaders to concoct a fascinating story.

Read More: Anthracite: Where is the Netflix Show Filmed?