Waco: American Apocalypse: Everything you need to know about David Koresh

Waco: American Apocalypse. David Koresh in Waco: American Apocalypse. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
Waco: American Apocalypse. David Koresh in Waco: American Apocalypse. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 /

Netflix is releasing a new Waco docuseries to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the tragic 51-day siege that occurred on American soil in 1993. Waco: American Apocalypse takes us inside the horrific standoff between authorities like the ATF and a religious cult led by David Koresh.

The three-part documentary walks viewers through the event. It features never-before-seen footage and insight from witnesses and people who were there during the siege.

For those unfamiliar with Koresh, he was a cult leader who took charge of a group of Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The religion itself is an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. Many of Koresh’s followers eventually became known as “Koreshians.” They believed Koresh was a Christ-like figure who would save them from the impending Apocalypse and other biblical prophecies.

Keep reading to learn more about David Koresh and what ultimately happened to him and his followers.

David Koresh cause of death

Koresh was pronounced dead on April 19, 1993. His body was found among the rubble of Mount Carmel after the center was burnt down and identified through dental records. Koresh was 33 when he died. Koresh was found with a gunshot wound in the forehead. Authorities would not say if the wound was self-inflicted or if he had been shot and killed by someone else, per a New York Times article published in May 1993. Either way, his death was attributed to the bullet.

Why did David Koresh change his name?

Born Vernon Howell, Koresh changed his name in 1990 when he became the leader of the Branch Davidians. His reasoning for the name change was that “he was now head of the biblical House of David.” According to PBS, Koresh is the “Hebrew transliteration of Cyrus, the name of the Persian king who allowed the Jews held captive in Babylon to return to Israel.”

What do the Branch Davidians believe?

Contrary to popular belief, David Koresh did not “create” the Branch Davidians. They are a sect that branched off from the Seventh-Day Adventists. In fact, many who followed Koresh became known as “Koreshians” rather than Davidians. But he was more or less the group’s de facto leader.

Koresh and his followers believed in many biblical prophecies foretelling the end of times and the Apocalypse. Koresh was heralded as a Messiah who would lead them to salvation once the Apocalypse happened.

Did David Koresh have multiple wives?

Unfortunately, one of the more sinister aspects of David Koresh’s cult is that he was accused of grooming young girls and molesting several. He also reportedly took multiple “spiritual wives.” One of his victims was Kiri Jewell, who reportedly became his youngest “bride” at just ten years old. According to Jewell, Koresh had at least 20 wives by the time he died in April 1993.

In that same ABC News piece linked above, a former Davidian named David Bunds alleges that Koresh was a pedophile.

“My position now is that David Koresh was a pedophile… [and] I wish I would have done something. I don’t know what I would have done but I wish I had done something,” Bunds said during the 2018 interview.

What happened to the Mount Carmel Center?

After the original Mount Carmel Center burnt down during the 1993 siege, many efforts were made to memorialize the area. Today, it remains labeled a Branch Davidian compound, and there is a chapel there where dozens of Waco Davidians still attend to practice their religion.

According to Time Magazine, the location has become a “pilgrimage site” of sorts. The site is symbolic to those who believe the government overreached during the Waco siege. There were also several trees planted to commemorate the 82 Branch Davidians killed (although, supposedly, current pastor Charles Pace cut down the tree that was dedicated to Koresh).

Some practicing Davidians still believe Koresh was a prophet and that he will eventually rise again during the imminent Apocalypse. Others think he might have been the antichrist. Regardless, the area has become a popular tourist attraction. The chapel standing today is small but was rebuilt on top of the compound that burned down in 1993.

Despite the current pastor’s skepticism regarding Koresh, he still keeps a photo of him in the chapel and, in the Time piece, is quoted as saying, “Koresh may have been a false prophet, but he was onto something,” and then, “That’s why the Clintons couldn’t let him live.” Make of that what you will.

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