Recently, Morbidology was given the opportunity to collaborate with the amazing true crime podcast, Brew Crime. In episode 38, I sat down with Brew Crime to chat about cults and my new true crime book, Cults Uncovered. Make sure you check it out below!
Roch Thériault was the maniacal leader of The Ant Hill Kids, a small group that initially appeared to be an innocent community of free-thinking folks who supported themselves through self-sufficiency in their commune in the quaint Canadian wilderness. However, life inside the commune was much more disturbing than anybody could have ever fathomed. Torture, abuse, mutilation and murder made up the four walls of a literal house of horrors for the members of the group.
Roch Thériault was born in the Saguenay Valley of Quebec in 1947 to Hyacinthe and Pierrette Thériault. According to Thériault, his father would be abusive towards him throughout his childhood. However, the elder Thériault would staunchly deny these claims. Thériault dropped out of school at just 13-years-old and developed an obsession with the apocalypse and the Old Testament, especially the strict code on masculine authority. While Thériault was raised Catholic, he converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and followed their way of life. He relinquished alcohol, tobacco and processed foods. His time with the church, however, was short lived and he was removed after attempting to gain leadership.1
While Thériault was removed from the church, he had already managed to secure himself a number of followers. By the mid-1970s, Thériault had convinced himself that he was the people’s saviour. He strongly believed that he was put on earth by God to save the world from evil and the upcoming apocalypse.2 Thériault now had a new goal: to create a free-thinking commune where his accolades could listen to his teachings and live as equals. He forced his followers to abandon their homes and abandon their families after convincing them that the world – and their loved ones – were corrupt. Thériault and his followers lived accordingly to his personal representation of the bible and they accepted him as their God. By 1978, Thériault’s delusions had grown exponentially and he predicated that the world would end in February of 1979.
To prepare for the apocalypse, Thériault and his followers – four men, nine women and four children – moved to “Eternal Mountain” near the Gaspé village of St. Jogues. Here, the group built a commune of tents and log cabins. However, February of 1979 came and went and the apocalypse didn’t materialise. According to Thériault, the world didn’t end because of the differences in the Israelite calendar and the Roman Catholic calendar. Soon enough, life in the commune had become bizarre… Thériault had wanted to increase his followers and did so by “marrying” all of the females within the commune and impregnating them. He fathered 20 children by nine different women.
Thériault had a maniacal streak that triggered brutal punishments. In 1981, he sliced open the penis of 2-year-old Samuel Gilguere after the young boy had difficulty urinating. When Samuel wouldn’t stop crying after the so-called surgery, Thériault ordered one of his followers, Guy Veer, to beat the young boy who subsequently died from his injuries. In a bid to conceal the death, the commune then set the boy’s body on fire. As punishment, Thériault castrated Veer and ordered his followers to say that Veer had been trampled by a horse. Nevertheless, the truth came out and police raided the commune and discovered the charred body of Samuel. Thériault and eight others were arrested and charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm. They were all subsequently released.
Following the releases, Thériault and his followers established a community near Burnt River, Ontario. Here, Thériault ruled over his followers, including 26 children – most who were his own – and his remaining followers who remained loyal during his incarceration. Here, his followers supported themselves by making maple syrup, preserves, bread and smoking fish. Thériault compared his followers to ants working on an ant hill, thus “The Ant Hill Kids” were born.
While initially, the commune appeared to mesh within the community, Thériault began drinking heavily and his drinking increased, so does his violence. He exerted control over his followers in cruel ways and they were too weak – both physically and mentally – to escape. He forbid them from speaking to each other without his permission and conducted “Gladiator tournaments.” During these tournaments, Thériault would force his followers into a dirt ring and fight. He became increasingly paranoid that his followers were thinking of defecting and became more violent. Thériault first of all hit his followers with belts but soon introduced hammers and the flat side of an axe.3
If Thériault thought that a follower was thinking of leaving the commune, he would suspend them from the ceiling and pluck their hairs out one by one before defecating on them. Thériault even had his followers prove their loyalty by breaking their own legs with sledgehammers. In addition, he ordered his followers to sit on lit stoves, shoot each other in the shoulder, smear faeces on one another and cut off each other’s toes. Thériault also took to sexually abusing his followers and forcing them to eat their own faeces.
Even the children in the commune weren’t exempt from violence or sexual abuse. They would be stripped naked and whipped and if one allegedly misbehaved, Thériault would nail them to a tree and force the other children to throw rocks at them. Then one evening during a blizzard, a mother placed her new born baby outside, allegedly to escape from Thériault’s violent outburst. The baby died from the cold. The death led to an investigation and in 1987, 14 children were removed from the commune and placed into foster homes. While this could have regime of abuse, Children’s Aid were only interested in saving the children and not seeking justice so the commune continued with just two men and eight women.
Following the removal of the children, Thériault became even more violent. While drunk, he believed he was a doctor who could perform medical acts on his followers. One evening, he placed a rubber band around the testicles of one follower. The scrotum became swollen and infected after around eight hours and Thériault removed the testicle and cauterized the wound with a hot iron.
Then in September of 1988, he ordered Solange Boilard onto the kitchen table and stripped her naked. Earlier in the day, she had complained about a sore stomach. Thériault punched Boilard in the stomach and then shoved a plastic tube up her rectum and performed an enema with molasses and olive oil. He then made an incision on the side of her abdomen and pulled out a section of her intestine with his bare hands. He then ripped a piece of the intestine out and stuffed the rest back in her abdomen. Boilard was then stitched back up. Boilard remained alive and in agony until the next day when she finally died, most likely because of them digestive chemicals leaking into her abdominal cavity.
Thériault next claimed that he had the ability of resurrection. He ordered his followers to remove Boilard’s uterus and saw off a portion of her skull so that he could ejaculate into her brain and bring her back to life. However, when she didn’t resurrect, Thériault instead ordered his followers to bury her body on the grounds of the commune but first, he removed one of her ribs and kept it in a leather case around his neck.4
Then in November of 1988, another member of the commune, Gabrielle Lavallee, complained that she had a toothache. Thériault responded by ripping out a number of her teeth with pliers. Later that night, he chased her with a knife and cut the tendon of one of her hands. Then in July of 1989, Thériault impaled Lavallee’s hand on the kitchen table after she complained of stiffness in the hand. He then decided he needed to amputate Lavallee’s arm. He grabbed a meat cleaver and hacked her arm off. She lay in agony on the kitchen floor until the stump was stitched up the following morning.5
On the 16th of August, Lavallee managed to escape from the commune. She hitchhiked to a hospital north of Toronto and the disturbing truth of the commune was finally laid bare. Thériault pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and one count of unlawfully causing bodily harm. He received 12 years in prison. However, another member of the cult then led authorities to the body of Boilard. Thériault subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until 2000. In February of 2011, Thériault was stabbed to death by his cellmate.6
Cults Uncovered by Emily G. Thompson:
- Cults Uncovered by Emily G. Thompson
- Maclean’s, 8 February, 1993 – “The Ant Hill Kids”
- Savage Messiah by Paul Kaihla and Ross Laver
- The Toronto Star, 19 January, 1993 – “Cult Leader Gets Life for Killing Disciple”
- The Gazette, 12 October, 1989 – “Drunken Cult Leader Thought he was MD 1-Armed Victim Says”
- The Gazette, 5 March, 2012 – “Life Sentence for Murder of Cult Leader Roch Thèriault