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5 surprising facts about David Koresh and the Waco Siege

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30 years ago, 13 miles from the small Texan city of Waco, a portal to Hell was opened up.

For 51 days, between 28th February and 19th April 1993, The Mount Carmel Center complex in the tiny settlement of Elk was the focus of the world’s attention. What started as an investigation into a stockpiling of weapons by a small church, quickly turned into a siege. By its tragic ending, it had become a fiery massacre.

The events of The Waco Siege saw blame apportioned to all sides. Many criticised the federal government’s vociferous attitude and risky behaviour, just as plenty held the leaders of the religious cult, the Branch Davidians, responsible for many lives being lost.

At the head of this sect was the man from which the church took its name. A self-proclaimed messiah who was seen as the second coming of Christ to his followers. But from the US government’s perspective? He was a dangerous cult leader, a child sex offender, an avid gun enthusiast and a direct threat to those around him and beyond.

This infamous figure was David Koresh. We know plenty about Koresh, the Branch Davidians and what happened back in 1993. So, for now, let’s focus in on some of the lesser-known things about the man born Vernon Wayne Howell.

1. He was a failed rock star

Many people believe that David Koresh eventually settled on being a preacher that demanded loyalty, not because of a calling from God, but due to an inescapable need for attention and adoration. One that couldn’t be fulfilled by his first-choice career as a musician.

As a teenager, ‘Vern Howell’ moved out to Hollywood to try and make it big as a rock star. Despite being a talented guitarist, he soon found Tinseltown slightly less glamorous and promising than he’d imagined and moved back home.

He never gave up the guitar though and regularly played riff-heavy songs for his congregation. Presumably while fantasising about the guitar god lifestyle that never was.

2. Koresh died at a sacred age

When a gunshot wound took Koresh's life on 19th April 1993, he was 33 years old, the same age - coincidentally - as Jesus Christ was when he was crucified.

Naturally, his surviving followers point to this as noteworthy. 33 is considered to be a particularly sacred and significant number in The Bible, as well as many other holy texts.

3. He once stood trial for attempted murder

David Koresh joined the Branch Davidians in his early 20s and very quickly became romantically involved with the head honcho, a woman by the name of Lois Roden. Given that Roden was then in her 60s, you have to assume that this was a power grab from Koresh. Especially given how he assumed leadership of the organisation when Lois died a few short years later.

Lois’ son, George Roden, had been against Koresh's relationship with his mother, believing that Koresh had unduly influenced and indoctrinated her.

George was shot in the chest and hands after a confrontation in which David arrived with several armed friends to where George lived. Koresh was convicted of attempted murder but acquitted after a mistrial.

4. He challenged a rival to a corpse-reviving competition

Prior to the big showdown with George Roden to determine who was the rightful heir to the church after Lois’ death, Koresh laid down a challenge to him. They both had to bring a dead body back to life to demonstrate their powers.

Koresh, however, had no intention of trying anything of the sort. In part because he knew he wouldn’t be able to. But mostly because it was simply a trap for George Roden to fall into. The plan was to wait until Roden dug up a body and then report him to the police for the crime and have him taken out of the picture.

George was shot in the brawl that developed after Koresh and his associates went to Roden’s to acquire evidence of the exhumation to take it to the authorities.

5. Koresh has a small army of loyal followers… even today

The rest of the world may have written off the leader of the Branch Davidians, but his most loyal followers haven’t. Even now, some three decades on from his actions leading to the deaths of 86 people, some of his flock still revere him.

The sect still exists, although many in it have since disregarded the teachings and actions of Koresh. Despite that, a core group remains devoted to the man and believe him to have been a legitimate prophet of God.