Drenthe Hermits

An online religious community led by a man who completely isolated and abused his children for almost a decade.

In October 2019, the world learned of the Drenthe Hermits, a group discovered in Ruinerwold, a village in the Dutch province of Drenthe. This discovery involved Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten, a 67-year-old man, and his six adult children, who had lived in seclusion for nine years in a farmhouse, away from the prying eyes of the world. The case unfolded when the eldest child, 25 years old, sought help from local authorities, revealing the family’s hidden life​​.

Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten, also known online as “John Eagles,” was found to have created an extensive online presence, with over 3,500 followers. He portrayed himself as a spiritual leader, yet his actions spoke otherwise. The family’s seclusion began around a decade prior to their discovery, with van Dorsten moving his children to a farm, isolating them from society to live under his abusive control. This isolation was so complete that, despite van Dorsten’s significant online following, his neighbors were unaware of the family’s existence on the farm. The only glimpses of the outside world came from the occasional nocturnal excursions of one of the children​​.

The motivations behind this isolation appear to be rooted in van Dorsten’s desire to create an ecological utopia, influenced by his own spiritual beliefs. However, the grim reality was far from utopian, with the family living in compartmentalized spaces below the farmhouse floor, devoid of contact with the outside world. The children had not been to school, were not registered in official records, and lived under the strict control of their father. In 2016, van Dorsten suffered a cerebrovascular accident, which impaired his ability to communicate coherently, further complicating the family’s dire situation​​.

The aftermath of the discovery saw van Dorsten arrested and charged with unlawful deprivation of liberty, harming other people’s health, and money laundering. However, due to his medical condition, his prosecution was eventually terminated. The renter of the farmhouse, who had been seen around the property but lived elsewhere, was also arrested on suspicions of complicity and obstructing the police investigation. The case was marked by a lack of contact allowed between the renter and the adult children to prevent any potential influence on their testimonies as witnesses and possible victims​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *