Seaside Sect (Alistah Laishkochav)

A polygamist cult wrapped in scandal, led by a self-styled messiah with dreams of UFO salvation.

The Seaside Sect, an infamous group led by Alistah Laishkochav, who was also known as Ian Lowe, emerged in the 1970s in Australia. Originally from New Zealand, Laishkochav migrated to Australia, settling initially at Bells Beach in Victoria before moving the sect to Byron Bay in New South Wales. This polygamist cult, which at its peak consisted of Laishkochav, his nine wives, and a reported 63 children, became widely known due to its scandalous activities and the eventual conviction of its leader for child sex crimes​​​​.

Laishkochav, who had a background as a former police officer, claimed to be a spiritual guru and compared himself to biblical figures such as King Solomon, asserting he was not as “greedy” because he only had nine wives​​. The cult’s beliefs were a mix of Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, and Pacific Islander beliefs, with Laishkochav positioning himself as a messiah. He convinced his followers that they would be saved from Earth by a UFO in 1988, creating a closed environment where outsiders were considered evil​​.

Life within the Seaside Sect was strictly controlled by Laishkochav, who exerted considerable influence over his wives and children. The cult’s practices included nightly chants and a belief system that borrowed elements from various religions to justify Laishkochav’s polygamous lifestyle. This communal living arrangement saw all of Laishkochav’s wives sharing a giant master bedroom, while the children were crowded into shared sleeping quarters. The leader’s control was such that no one dared question his authority or the peculiar instructions he gave​​.

However, the facade of a harmonious spiritual community began to crumble when allegations of child sexual abuse surfaced. Laishkochav was found guilty in 2000 of 21 sex offenses, including indecent assault and attempted sexual penetration of children aged under 10, during a period from 1987 to 1991. The victims, four girls aged between 7 and 10, revealed during the trial that Laishkochav had sexually abused them on a regular basis. These revelations led to his imprisonment for seven years and six months​​.

The Seaside Sect fell apart in 1993 following these allegations, and Laishkochav died in prison in 2012. His conviction brought to light the hidden abuses within the sect, revealing the true nature of what was once seen as a utopian spiritual community. The case of the Seaside Sect serves as a stark reminder of how charismatic leaders can exploit their followers’ faith for personal gain and the importance of scrutinizing the operations of closed communities​​​​.

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