From Charles Manson to David Koresh, Jim Jones to Warren Jeffs and Roch Thériault, there have been plenty of cult leaders over the course of history.
However, one might be surprised to learn that Nanaimo, more in particular, Cedar, had its very own cult leader.
During the 1920s, Edward Arthur Wilson, more commonly known as Brother XII, created a mystic colony on 50 hectares of land in Cedar by the Sea.
“He was the leader of the cult,” said Nanaimo Museum interpretation curator Aimee Greenaway. “He had followers who came from England, the East Coast of the United States, all over Canada, to live in his colony and learn from him.”
Beginning on Oct. 14, the Nanaimo Museum will be leading a 45-minute walking tour around downtown Nanaimo about Wilson and his cult.
“Different pieces of the story come together in downtown,” Greenaway said. “We are going to stop at where his lawyer’s office used to be because he was tried a few different times.”
Other stops downtown include the Great National Land Building, which used to be the location of the bank Wilson used.
“One of the things that he did was receive contributions from followers all over North America and Europe,” Greenaway said. “People were sending money to him and so the bank is a pretty important stop.”
Wilson’s colony was known as the Aquarian Foundation. Their beliefs were heavily influenced by the Theosophical Society.
Wilson, who was originally from in the United Kingdom, believed that he had a direct connection to ancient Egyptian gods.
“He believed that he was getting information from Egyptian gods and that they were giving him information to help rebuild society,” Greenaway said. “They were predicting that there would be a big collapse.”
As a result of his teachings, Wilson acquired dozens of loyal followers and plenty of donors.
“His followers basically came to him so that they could be part of the rebuilding process,” Greenaway said.
The tour will also include artifacts relating to Wilson such as the masthead from his yacht, Lady Rose.
“We have artifacts in our collection that came from Brother XII’s colony … and the museum will be a stop on the tour,” she said.
y the mid 1930s, the Aquarian Foundation experienced friction and eventually dissolved. Around the same time, Wilson was charged with embezzlement and was supposed to appear in a Nanaimo court.
“His followers felt like they had their money taken and a group of them took him to court,” Greenaway said.
Prior to trial, Wilson blew up his yacht and left the Island.
Tours start at 6:30 p.m. and run on Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 and costs $10. People must register by calling 250-753-1821.