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The House of Judah: 30th Anniversary of Deadly Michigan Cult

William A. Lewis
THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

Thirty years ago, many of the suspicions surrounding the House of Judah encampment in Western Michigan became a reality after the battered and bruised body of 12-year-old John Yarbough showed up at a local hospital in the bed of a pick up truck, and then died shortly thereafter.

The House of Judah was a savage religious cult of supposed “black Israelites” that lived under the wicked authority of self-proclaimed prophet William A. Lewis. This communal congregation was the product of extreme lunacy and paranoia, guided by malevolence and a literal translation of the Old Testament.

Many investigators responsible for bringing down the cult say that it was commonplace for members to be subjected to public beatings and disfigurements as punishment for going against Lewis’ wrath of insanity – even in the slightest fashion.

One Michigan official even compared the severity of the House of Judah’s beating of John Yarbough to the protocol of Nazi concentration camps. “This is Auschwitz in Allegan,” said former U.S. Attorney John Smietanka. “John Yarbough’s death was a very, very, very brutal, torturous death.”

Reports indicate that Yarbough was tortured for days with burning coals and a wooden axe handle as discipline for being caught watching television when he was supposed to be doing chores.

Eventually, Lewis and his lieutenants were convicted of slavery, while Yarbrough’s mother received a conviction for manslaughter.

To read more about the House of Judah, click here.

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