The COVID-19 pandemic claimed Anna Young’s life on March 31, 2021. Not even four prison walls could keep her safe from the virus.

Mugshot of cult leader Anna Young. She is a woman of African-American descent. She's wearing a dark shirt and her eyes are glassy.
Anna Young. Alachua County Jail.

If you’re a person of faith, you’ll say this was God’s judgment. If you adhere to science, you’ll say it was pure happenstance.

After all, over a million have succumbed to the virus as of May 2021. We can’t say each person deserved the same fate Anna Young got.

Fair point, no? Death comes for us all, after all.

What matters is how your final moments will be. Moments where you can do nothing but reminisce. Will you be filled with happiness for all the lives you touched? Contentment that nothing more needs to be done? That you completed all the work you could?

Or will those moments be filled with regret inside a cold jail cell? Regret that you cannot go back and fix anything? That you will be remembered as a sinner for all time?

Photo by ahmed adly on Pexels.com

How will your final moments be when Death comes a-knocking?

You decide.

The Followers: House of Prayer Podcast

The Art of Podcasts

Men, women, and all you beautiful binaries … guess what? I, the Supreme Commander of ToomStone, have been on a major podcast kick lately. Don’t ask me how or why.😄

Podcasts have opened a new door for me. Nay, a quadrillion doors!

young woman listening to music in earphones in apartment
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I get copious info streamed into my bionic ear while doing the most mundane tasks: driving, shopping, walking, and taking out my godforsaken trashcan. All the things I have to do, I do on autopilot. With a podcast on, all I have to do is listen. And learn, which is the best part.

You guys should try it sometime. Podcasts are great.

The Followers: House of Prayer

So The Followers: House of Prayer series by ACP Audio is hosted by Leila Day and Beth Karas. It is one of the few series that I binged through without effort. Trust me, most of the podcasts I listen to can’t hold my interest for more than five minutes.

Official artwork and thumbnail for The Followers: House of Prayer podcast by ACP Audio. A pair of brown-skinned prayer hands is shown below the title text. The "o" in House shows a bloody crucifix. The background is blue.
The Followers: House of Prayer by ACP Audio. 2021.

For a podcast series to be engaging, it needs to stand out from the pack somehow. Does it use music effectively? Is it immersive? Are the podcasters using proper diction and voice inflection?

These elements are a few of many that go into the podcast stew.

But how did the House of Prayer stand out, to be exact? The music and reporting were on point, sure. But it was something else. Something … Biblical, I think.

Beneath the hi-tech podcast equipment used by two reporters was a theme that was otherwise timeless.

The theme and importance of motherly love.

Motherhood in Antiquity – The Virgin Mary

The most famous mother in history (or mythology, if you prefer) is no doubt the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. With a pure womb, unsullied by mortal men, Mary brought out a boy from the divine and raised him in the mortal realm.

mother mary and christ figurine on black background
Photo by UskaleGo on Pexels.com

Three decades later, Jesus stood against the Roman and Jewish establishment by preaching the gospel of loving your enemies, helping your neighbor (The Good Samaritan), and worshipping the Lord via simple means (eating bread and drinking wine, his “body” and “blood” respectively).

Jesus was the personification of platonic, brotherly, and even paternalistic love. This gave Christianity its status as a major religion. Christ’s message was too enticing and endearing to pass up in the ancient world as it does today.

But the most important point of all this is, where did Jesus get his love from? Where did he learn the praxis of love?

His mother, of course.

The Virgin Mary, with a heart as pure as her virgin womb, set an example for her divine son to follow his entire adult life. Behind every great man leading a world-changing movement, is a supportive woman. A supportive mother.

Motherhood in Antiquity – Lupa

Before Christ’s time, the city of Rome was founded by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. The general understanding of the myth is the boys were abandoned on the Tiber river and suckled by a she-wolf named “Lupa.”

ancient sculpture of mythical romulus and remus
Photo by Nikita Belokhonov on Pexels.com

Now, there are alternate interpretations regarding the identity of Lupa herself. One take I personally agree with and feel makes the most sense, is that Lupa was really a human prostitute. The Latin word for wolf (lupa) can also be used to mean prostitute (“she-wolf” in Roman slang, if you will).

A human prostitute … despite her imperfections, mothered two lost boys … who founded the great city of Rome. This interpretation carries far more symbolic weight, in my opinion.

I suppose stories carrying fantastical elements tend to inspire and stir the imagination more effectively. During the rise of Italian fascism in the 20th century, Benito Mussolini actually used the image of a she-wolf nursing two boys. What better way to project strength and national pride than saying our descendants were nursed and raised by wolves?

Mussolini even donated the famed Capitoline wolf statue to multiple cities around the world, including Cincinnati, USA (named after Roman general Cincinnatus).

Motherhood in Antiquity – Thetis

If we go further back just a little further, to the Greeks, there’s the origin of Achilles’ heel. The legend goes that the warrior’s mother, Thetis, once grabbed her infant son by the foot and dipped him into the River Styx. This was to prevent premature death and render him immortal. But Thetis missed a spot—her son’s heel!

Thetis & Achilles. Antoine Borel.

Despite being the victor of many battles in his lifetime, Achilles was done in by his mother’s touch when he was shot in the heel with a poisoned arrow.

The beneficial and inimical effects of motherhood have been told for millenia and will never go out of style.

With cult leader Anna Young, her story conjures up images of a new kind of mythological monster. She was one of the many real-world sociopaths who inspired evocative and terrifying images in the stories of old.

Who was Anna Young?

Anna Elizabeth Young, and her husband Robert Davidson, founded the House of Prayer for All People (“House of Prayer” for short) outside Micanopy, Florida in 1983. The small community was intended to practice a strict interpretation of Scripture.

Family photo of Anna Young (top) and Joy Fluker (bottom)

Women were mandated to wear long robes that only exposed their faces. Men were ordered to grow beards. This description may seem closer to Islamic communities, a la the Taliban, but Scriptural interpretation is often subjective, regardless of which faith.

The four-acre property that encompassed the religious community is relatively easy to miss for tourists. The titular house is completely surrounded by palm trees and effectively cut off from civilization. Members and visitors had to reach the property either by foot or driving along a dirt road.

According to Anna and her husband, their goal was to provide a safe haven for the poor, sick, and destitute. Granted, there’s a plethora of religious organizations that provide shelter, food, and guidance for those who need it.

However, as the history of the House of Prayer would soon demonstrate, being poor, sick, and destitute has its way of making one susceptible, and even tolerant, to physical and mental abuse.

Mother Anna

With her dominant, charismatic personality, Anna quickly became the undisputed leader of the House of Prayer, earning the moniker “Mother Anna.” This flies in the face of Biblical principle that men are natural leaders and women are to be relegated to housekeeping and child rearing.

Anna Young. WXIA.

The irony is that Mother Anna did tend to housekeeping … that is, keeping “order” in the House of Prayer. Her husband Robert maintained a rather low profile until his death in 1988.

In the years that followed, Anna would allegedly engage in draconian punishments that involved isolating, beating, and starving members of the House. One incident even had Anna ordering 33 lashes onto a 7-year old boy.

The details of Anna’s aggressions and transgressions will come shortly.

But first I wanted to expand on my prior commentary regarding motherhood.

Cults – Surrogate Families

If we think in the context of cults, members often relinquish a certain power, be it coerced or voluntary. They offer said power to their leaders, allowing the latter to play an intimate, yet unsettling, role.

monochrome photo of woman
Photo by Joanne Adela Low on Pexels.com

For instance, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians mandated that all of his female followers become his wives. Their prior husbands had to acquiesce if they wanted to stay at their compound in Waco, Texas. Koresh used his power to become a surrogate husband.

Charles Manson, in his mid-thirties, took in teenage runaways. While he engaged in bizarre sexual rituals and spun incredulous stories, he offered the members of the Family guidance. Manson used his charisma to become a surrogate father.

Jim Jones persuaded hundreds of his followers to relocate to Guyana and live in his namesake city, Jonestown. He also ordered over 900 people to kill themselves after the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan. Jones used his authority to become a surrogate god.

Finally, Anna Young ordered all women to surrender authority of their children over to her. Anna, and only Anna was allowed to mete out punishments as she saw fit.

Anna became a surrogate mother, at the expense of all those under her leadership.

Though her crimes were comparatively less dramatic and Mother Anna’s methods were somewhat mundane. That is not to say it wasn’t morbid.

WARNING: The following contains graphic details of child abuse. Discretion is advised.

Crimes of Mother Anna

Katonya and John – Siblings

During the early years of the House of Prayer, a 2-year old child named Katonya Jackson was subjected to Anna’s maltreatment and abuse. Anna observed that the little girl would often behave erratically and believed she was possessed by evil spirits.

Katonya actually had epilepsy and needed medication to regulate her condition.

One day, Anna forced Katonya to sprint in circles until the demonic spirits were exorcised from her body. When Katonya stopped to take a breath, Anna would beat her with a stick until she ran again. All the while, Anna used her newfound position as Katonya’s “mother” and cut off her access to her epilepsy medication.

Kotonya ended up dying of a seizure. Decades later, Anna would be charged with manslaughter for her death.

John would later get 33 lashes for a trivial incident involving candy.

Marcos

Sabrina Hamburg, a single mother who moved to the House of Prayer in 1983 to seek shelter. Sabrina was ordered to spend long hours cleaning, cooking, and sewing at the House of Prayer. Anna would regularly beat her with sticks until she passed out.

The worst of Sabrina’s torment came when she was forced to acknowledge that she was no longer her son’s mother. Like Katonya, Anna believed Sabrina’s son, Marcos Cruz, was possessed.

As per Anna’s ultimatum, Sabrina was forced to abandon her son at a church in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To this day, it is unknown what happened to Marcos or if he’s still alive.

religious wall art inside building
Photo by Emre Can on Pexels.com

Young not only acted as a mother to her followers, but she effectively corrupted genuine maternal warmth and love inside her own cult. Mythological monster, indeed.

Baby Moses

Emon Harper, commonly remembered as “Baby Moses” as House members were required to adopt Biblical names, was perhaps involved in the most disturbing and consequential case.

Emon Harper was born in Chicago to teenage mother Shonda Harper. Since Shonda was unable to care for him, she relinquished custody to her mother’s friend, Carol Thomas. Though Shonda was initially able to see her son, Thomas made an unannounced move to the House of Prayer in Florida.

Tragically, that was the last Shonda ever saw her son.

When brought to the religious community, Emon was quickly exposed to Anna’s brutality. One day she would isolate, starve, and lock the toddler in a closet until he died.

His body was never found.

According to some testimonies, his corpse was ultimately burned.

Anna’s complicity in his death extended to exploitation. She continued to pocket Emon’s Social Security benefits until the day he would have turned 18. Single mothers often benefit from the system that doesn’t want to see homeless infants, and so munificently gives their mothers free money to keep a roof over their heads. Mother Anna was no exception.

Joy Fluker, Anna’s daughter, would recall her time with Baby Moses and found him close to death in the closet. It was this case that drove Joy to finally report her mother to the authorities in 2016.

Though prosecutors had trouble proving that Baby Moses ever existed, they were able to seal it with Shonda’s testimony about her long-lost son Emon. At the time of her testimony, Shonda was dying of breast cancer and used the time to pull off one last act of maternal love and redemption.

Catherine and Joy

While Baby Moses’ death was the most disturbing, it most likely wasn’t the genesis of Mother Anna’s depravity.

Joy’s sister, and Anna’s other daughter, was subjected to a similar grisly fate in 1973. In a closet. Starved to death. Her parents attempted to cover up the crime by reporting her missing at Lake Michigan. Of course, Catherine was never found.

Anna would revert to her cold-blooded nature a decade later, despite the initial conception that she became devout because of her daughter’s death.

Decades more after that, when Anna became a grandmother, she yet reverted to her old ways of hijacking someone else’s motherhood. After a verbal lashing regarding her son’s upbringing, Joy finally turned her mother in.

Dark Side and Triumph of Motherhood

The story of Anna Young may be disturbing to some. It may even be frustrating on account of law enforcement’s limited reach in the 1980s, effectively allowing Anna to get away with her abuses.

Mother Anna was the complete antithesis of motherhood. Instead of love, she had contempt. Instead of warmth, she had coldness.

While Anna left destruction and dead kids in her wake, the mothers of pure hearts rose and casted the demon away.

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These were mothers like Joy in a lifelong struggle to do what was right. And mothers like Shonda, making a crucial testimony on her deathbed.

The number 40 is frequently used in the Bible (length of the Great Flood in Noah’s Ark, number of days Moses and Jesus fasted, etc). It so happens that Anna Young spent exactly 40 days behind bars before being transported to a hospital for COVID.

Two days later, the virus claimed her life.

Coincidence or divine justice? You decide.

Thanks for reading! I hope you guys had a Happy Mother’s Day! Leave a like and follow ToomStone through email!

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