When Patricia left her home in Texas last month to join a QAnon cult that believes John F. Kennedy and JFK Jr. are about to return from the dead, she said she had no intention of ever returning.
She thanked her husband of 32 years and her two children for “being a great family” and said she would see them soon.
Then, her daughter Laura found her mom’s journals, filled with page after page of indecipherable nonsense.
“Before she went to Dallas she kept a couple of journals,” Laura told VICE News. “We don't know if it was people on Telegram telling her these things, or she's just having delusions, but it's just books of what she believes JFK Jr. is saying to her directly.”
But even more worrying were the words written on the front and back covers of the books.
“I'm going to follow God. Thank you for a wonderful life. Look up to the sky, I will always be close by.”
To Laura, this sounded worryingly like a suicide note. Then, those fears seemed to be confirmed last week when the head of the cult took part in a video chat in which his followers discussed the need “to experience that physical death.”
“It would not be hard to believe at this point if they were suicidal as a group,” Laura said. “I would not be surprised at all, because, initially, after we read her books, we were just waiting for a call, to hear that they'd done something like that.”
Patricia and Laura are not their real names, but VICE News is using pseudonyms in order to protect the family’s privacy. VICE News called and sent messages to Patricia on several occasions but didn’t get a response. The account of Patricia’s actions is based on interviews with her daughter and sister.
Laura and her family eventually had to resort to drastic measures to rescue Patricia from the cult. “We obtained guardianship and my mother is now in a behavioral health center following a psychiatric evaluation,” Laura said on Thursday.
Laura is just one of many people whose family members have been sucked into the cult that this week is beginning its second month holed up in Dallas, where up to 1,000 people gathered on November 2 to witness the return of former President John F. Kennedy, his son JFK Jr., and wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
None of that happened, but the group’s leader Michael Brian Protzman, known to his followers as Negative48, was able to convince up to 100 people to stay in Dallas, claiming that JFK Jr. had in fact appeared on stage during a Rolling Stones concert.
Since then the group has become increasingly cult-like, with Protzman declaring himself God’s representative of earth and members cutting off communication with their families. They’re also using apocalyptic language to describe the future.
While some of Protzman’s followers lost faith, a core group of believers have remained in Dallas, staying in hotel rooms and Airbnbs in the city, while Protzman has repeatedly predicted something big is about to happen.
Patricia, who celebrated her 56th birthday with Protzman’s group last week, remained a loyal follower until her family rescued her, and had formed a romantic relationship with a fellow group member. She had told acquaintances that she had found her “twin flame”—though claimed the relationship was not about sex and they did not sleep together.
“This has destroyed my family,” Patricia’s sister told VICE News.
Patricia’s radicalization into QAnon and Protzman’s numerology-inspired QAnon offshoot was rapid, Laura says.
“Right after the 2020 election, she got buried in her phone and very involved with QAnon stuff. She got very involved with some people in the area and started to drown in the conspiracies, to the point where that's all she talked about and stopped talking to her kids.”
Laura said that Patricia had always been interested in politics and been pretty conservative, but she had never dabbled in conspiracy theories.
But when she stumbled across Protzman’s Telegram channel, she became convinced that the conspiracy theories he was spreading were true. So she headed to Dallas at the beginning of November to see the resurrection of JFK.
When that didn’t happen she returned home, but almost immediately turned around and said she had to go back, Laura said, adding that Patricia told her husband that she had no choice in the matter and had to return to Dallas.
Even more worrying, Laura says, was that Patricia also stopped taking her medication.
“She kind of struggled with mental illness in the past, not too bad, but she's been off her medication for the past month now because she thinks that big pharmaceutical companies are evil. Not the regular kind of evil, like Satan kind of evil,” Laura said.
Unlike other members of the group, whose families have told VICE News that Protzman’s followers have handed over hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund the group’s activities, Patricia spent almost nothing. “It doesn't seem to be about the money,” her daughter said, adding that Patricia took just a single change of clothes with her to Dallas.
When asked what he has to say to the families of his followers who are concerned about their safety, Protzman said: “Nobody here is talking about death. We are talking about life, how it has been, and how it should be.”
When asked about the video chat he participated in where “experiencing physical death” was discussed, Protzman said he specifically didn’t use those words, adding: “Your [sic] not understanding what is being said.”
Despite the group now entering its second month in Dallas, researchers who track its activities closely don’t see any signs that it’s winding up any time soon. Those close to Protzman are telling group members they have a lot of work yet to do.
Weeks ago, the group discussed creating a permanent base in or near Dallas where they could all live together.
In a post last week, Protzman declared December 3 the next date when something big will happen.
In the Telegram chat groups where the members who are still based in Dallas communicate, group leaders issue orders about where to meet and when.
“EVERYONE NEEDS TO MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE ARK FOR ROLL CALL BY 6:00 PM. ROLL CALL WILL START IMMEDIATELY,” one group admin wrote earlier this week in comments reviewed by VICE News.
The Ark is understood to be a conference room inside the Hyatt hotel, where some of the group are staying. In another message, the group leaders warned members about a coming “battle.”
“IF YOU LEFT THE ARK BEFORE RIGHT NOW YOU MISSED YOUR ASSIGNMENT!!! YOU BETTER BE SERIOUS FROM THIS MOMENT FORWARD OR YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE. IT’S TIME TO WORK!!! YOU MUST WATCH THIS VIDEO AND BE READY TO GO TO BATTLE!!!”
In recent days Protzman has been making increasingly outlandish claims, including hinting that he may be the second coming of Christ, and in an audio chat on Tuesday, Protzman claimed—without any evidence, it should be added—that he is communicating directly with former President Donald Trump.
But no matter what outrageous claims are made or what predictions fail to come to pass, his followers remain loyal, and willing to follow his every direction—including Patricia.
Thanks to her family, Patricia is now out of Protzman’s grasp. But before they secured her guardianship, Patricia’s family had already begun mourning the loss of a wife and a mother.
“It's difficult to just kind of count her out,” Laura said, speaking just three days before her family finally secured the guardianship. “She's been married for 32 years and we’ve just always had her around, so we can't just give up on her but it feels like we're mourning her while she's still alive. We don't know what to do because it doesn't seem like she wants our help. It's a pretty tragic situation. It feels very hopeless.”
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