Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast

Church of Crime - The Congregation of the Oversoul, Part 1

June 12, 2022 SCWR Productions Season 1 Episode 10
Liminal Criminals: A Fake Crime Podcast
Church of Crime - The Congregation of the Oversoul, Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

 On this week's episode of Liminal Criminals, we talk about the rise of the Congregation of the Oversoul. In a matter of decades, this cult, once started as the idle hobby of a disturbed young teenager, became a religion that spanned the globe and, for a time, able to confound even the FBI. How did such a thing happen? Find out here, only on Liminal Criminals.

 Follow us on Twitter, or on Facebook

Follow, rate, and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or your podcast platform of choice.

Find us online at

CONTENT WARNING: Liminal Criminals is a fictional crime/comedy podcast, and contains elements which may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.        

[Expository theme, "Lost Place," fades in.]

 Hello dear listeners. It should be noted that when this episode was first recorded in 2022 CE, it was heavily edited to avoid attracting the attention of its notoriously-litigious subject. However, since neither I nor my fellow employees at SCWR have heard of the Congregation still existing, we are broadcasting this in its uncut form. If any living members of the Congregation are out there, I would like you all to know that Liminal Criminals has the backing of the Deeps Self-Preservation League and the Chthonic Riviera, and that you are therefore invited to suck it. 

["Lost Place" fades out.]

 Arkansas, 2011. Employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived to their Little Rock facility, ready for another day of work. At 10 o’clock, an analyst by the name of Terry Xiu received a call on her cell phone. On the other end of the line was a woman working for LotusCard, asking her if she had recently spent a thousand dollars on jet-ski lessons in Miami. Five minutes later, her colleague, Agent Laurel, got a call from VentureCorp, asking if he had gone to the Saint Pleasance Regional Aquarium and spent fifteen hundred dollars for the institution’s “No-Holds-Barred Night with the Octopi” package. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Miles Gutierrez received a call from his bank, informing him that they had reason to believe that he never existed, and was in fact a shell company for an Andorran drug-smuggling ring. One by one, the office’s employees received calls from their respective financial institutions, warning them of potentially fraudulent charges or of outlandish claims regarding their identity. 

 This incident, was a warning. It was a sign that somebody out there wanted them to cease one of their most pressing investigations. Somebody out there wanted to let the FBI know that they shouldn’t tangle with the Congregation of the Oversoul. 

 I’m Sam Putnam. And you’re Liminal Criminals. 

 [Intro Theme]

 The Congregation of the Oversoul was founded in 1989 by Jason DeGroot. DeGroot was born in northern California in 1971. His parents, Oscar and Jennifer, had moved out to a commune in the region in 1968, seeking freedom from their sheltered upbringing among the Jello-worshiping churches of the Midwest. Oscar and Jennifer were young, idealistic, and searching for a purpose to their lives. Such characteristics nearly inevitably set one up either for crushing disappointment, or for a lifetime of devotion to a cult. The DeGroots wound up with the latter. In 1969, they traveled to San Francisco, where they fell in line with a satellite church of the Cosmic Fish Fellowship. The Fellowship’s leader, Robert “Hootie” Strode, took a liking to the young couple, and invited them back to his gender-segregated compound in the mountains. Jason Mackerel DeGroot was born two years later. 

 For the first three years of his life, Jason was viewed favorably by Strode. The cult leader would repeatedly reference Jason as a shining example of the Cosmic Fish Fellowship’s bold new future. Jason was exempt from the fasting, mandatory food preservation duties , and latrine cleaning shifts that other toddlers were subjected to. In 1974, Jason was inducted into one of the religion’s innermost circles, the Order of Leviathan, and given a neck tattoo marking him as such. Jason DeGroot remembered these events fondly, to the extent that he would often refer to Strode as his “real father,” a claim which, given the behavior of your average cult leader, may very well have been true. Mere days after Jason’s induction into the Order, the Fellowship’s compound was raided by the FDA’s covert black-ops team, who had obtained evidence that the canned fish products the Fellowship sold at local markets had been contaminated with a mixture of biohazards.

 The downfall of the Cosmic Fish Fellowship was a formative event of DeGroot’s early years, and it would prove to be a common theme in his later works. “I saw the armies of the Beast as they descended upon my earthly father,” DeGroot would later tell his congregation, “And I saw them burst into his chambers, and lo, the deceivers saw him communing with God, but, they would claim that he was taking a bong rip while becoming one flesh with a can of albacore, for, they are blinded, my children, by hubris and ignorance of the truth, which is that salvation can only be found in obedience and regular tithing to the Oversoul.” 

 Following Strode’s arrest, the DeGroot family spent the next several years bouncing from moribund cult to moribund cult. During this time, the young Jason had received religious educations from, among others, the Sisterhood of Gaia, a borderline-militant group of nature-worshippers, the Society of People, who taught that only those who obeyed their scriptures actually had souls, and the Church of Why Lie, We’re Here to Brainwash You And Take Your Money, a religious organization which decided that cynical irony was the best way to evangelize to the disillusioned youth. Throughout the course of his education, Jason DeGroot learned a number of facts about the world. First, he came to the conclusion that the motivational treats that his teachers gave children to get them to work were typically spiked with illegal stimulants and other pharmacological goodies. Second, he was struck with the equally-profound epiphany that these treats were delicious, even if they did sometimes smell like burning plastic and make his heart feel fluttery. Third, he found that if he lied to authority figures and pretended to be interested in what they had to say, they would be more likely to give him whatever he wanted, including extra motivational treats. By the time he was thirteen, DeGroot was a card-carrying member of no fewer than eleven religions, and was considered a high priest in four of them. This resume would have been considered stunning, were any of said religions still around today. 

 When Jason turned 14 years old in 1985, the cult scene in America began a dry spell. Following the bombing of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles by a radicalized group of train enthusiasts, the United States government began cracking down on small religious organizations who looked like they were going to commit acts of terrorism. This measure cut the number of cults in the nation by ninety-seven-point-five percent. The resulting cultural climate in America was a spiritual famine for Oscar and Jennifer DeGroot, who had a hard time functioning in environments that didn’t require robes and chanting. The most recent religion that they had joined, a Phoenix-based organization called Followers Of the Twelve Chimes, lacked the intensity of their previous spiritual dalliances. This may have been due to the Followers’ desire to avoid the fell gaze of the federal government, or it may have been due to the fact that the Followers were not an actual religion, but were, rather, a particularly over-enthusiastic hand bell choir. Regardless of the reason for the unsatisfying life among the Followers, Oscar and Jennifer fell into a state of emotional torpor, and, lacking a sense of direction, decided to let Jason attend public school for the first time in his life. 

 While attending San Vertedero High School in Infierno Real, Arizona, Jason DeGroot quickly attained a level of social success that equaled, if not surpassed, that of any teenager who had spent his life growing up in sheltered religious communities only to be thrust into the public education system. That is to say, he was severely beaten only twice within his first month of school. Despite his status as his class’ newest punching bag, his charisma and practiced skills as a consummate liar enabled him to achieve a certain degree of standing among the dregs of academic society. By the end of his first semester, he had a number of social reject followers, including art students who sucked at painting, metalheads who weren’t allowed to grow out their hair, and the entire bassoon section from the symphonic band. 

 Under DeGroot’s leadership, this gang of misfits, commonly referred to as the “Congregation,” or as the “bunch of insert-whatever-insult-comes-to-mind-here,” found a sense of acceptance. A sense of acceptance that Jason DeGroot was ready to nurture, cultivate, and exploit at a moment’s notice. What started out as weekly study-sessions at DeGroot’s house quickly evolved into what were, for lack of a better term, small rallies. Jason explained that the world outside was cruel and uncaring, but that through a sense of cohesion and dedication to a cause greater than themselves, they could not merely endure it, but overcome it, and, perhaps, even subjugate it. 

 As time passed ever-onwards, the members of the Congregation began to change. They started to study more rigorously and exercise more regularly. Their grades and performance in gym class started to improve. Steve Lundgren, commonly known as “Smelly Steve,” “Steve Limburger,” or “Holy Crap Dude, Take A Damn Shower,” actually started to wear deodorant. The teachers of San Vertedero viewed this as an improvement. They were willing to tolerate the Congregation’s unusual habits, such as their tendency to bow towards DeGroot in between classes, their referring to other students as “unbelievers,” and their repeated requests that the dress code be loosened to allow ceremonial vestments. They weren’t quite normal, but they were, at least, less strange and more successful than they had been before. By the end of DeGroot’s junior year, he had won over the adults of San Vertedero as completely as he had won over any of his elders in the past. 

 The tone of the Congregation took a turn come DeGroot’s senior year in 1988. They had become more quiet and insular. Their grades began to drop. Steve Lundgren was put into detention for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and subsequently referring to his teacher as a “perfidious agent of the unholy who will burn in pits of excrement on Judgment Day.” According to former members of the Congregation, DeGroot’s study-sessions had taken a darker tone as well. In a 1999 interview with reporter Lara Yen, former Congregation member Bill Molina explained, “He was acting more paranoid. He was saying that there was a calamity to befall the town of Infierno Real, that the Beast was to erupt from the earth and swallow us all with his forked tongue. Well, me and my friend Benny kinda laughed when he said the word ‘swallow,’ and he kicked us out of his house. Never went back after that.” 

 As senior year continued, a series of calamities did, in fact, befall Infierno Real. More specifically, a series of bizarre disasters befell San Vertedero high, and, even more specifically, they befell a laundry list of everyone who had wronged Jason DeGroot when he first came to school. Before a football game against their rivals from Calor Seco High, San Vertedero’s star quarterback Max Burkhart found that his protein shake had been mixed with a red goo that was, on closer inspection, a blended frog from the biology lab. Melissa Smith, daughter of a local Cadillac dealership owner, was found hiding in some bushes two days after being crowned prom queen, screaming at passing school children. A toxicology report revealed that she had been dosed with psilocybin. In April, tragedy struck the school’s team of mathletes, when their strategic supplies of Ritalin were replaced with sugar pills on the day of the year’s final competition. These series of bizarre and disturbing pranks culminated on graduation day, when two drifters firebombed the homes of the school’s principal, and football coach. While the two claimed that “the kids paid us to do it,” they were unable to identify any of the perpetrators. No current or former member of the Congregation has claimed responsibility for these actions. When Lara Yen asked DeGroot about this matter in 1999, he simply smiled and said, “I said that there would be a calamity, and there was.” 

 The bulk of The Congregation did not go to college after graduating high school. Rather, they made plans to move north, to the town of Fugged Point, California, the former home of the Society of People. While Oscar and Jennifer DeGroot protested their son’s decision, they were powerless to stop him. After all, the Followers of the Twelve Chimes had entrusted him with the A4 bell in their most recent performance, meaning that he outranked the both of them, who occupied the lowly positions of B3 and D3, respectively. In the wee hours of the morning on July 12th, 1989, the eleven members of The Congregation hopped a Greyhound bus out of town, taking nothing more than their clothes on their backs, the money they had saved from four years’ worth of summer jobs, and Oscar DeGroot’s credit card, and made their way north, to the new center of their holy empire.

 On the outskirts of Fugged Point, the Congregation found that the only residence that their money could buy was a semi-derelict trailer that had been used to grow a certain variety of mushrooms. And not the kind you’re thinking of. 

 Undeterred, the group moved into the former Portabello Palace. Now isolated from the corrupting influence of mainstream society, Jason DeGroot was in the perfect position to grow his religion. He just had one small problem. His religion didn’t have any specific rituals. Or gods. Or beliefs beyond “do what Jason DeGroot tells you to.” Realizing that he could not found a religion on vibes alone, Jason reflected on what the leaders of his previous religions did to achieve their form of enlightenment. After a brief period of contemplation, he realized what he must do. Claiming that he was going on a religious sojourn in the surrounding mountains, he paid a visit to a nearby pharmacy, walked to a motel, and locked himself in a room, where he spent the duration of his spiritual journey starving himself, binging on cold medicine, and, if the sounds his neighbors reportedly heard were anything to go by, engaging in ruthless amounts of ritual self-abuse. Seven days later, he emerged, imbued with direction, holy wisdom, and staggering levels of body odor. 

 Upon returning to his flock back in the trailer on the outskirts of town, they welcomed him with open arms and minds. In exchange, he gave unto them the tenets of his new religion.

 According to DeGroot, and the holy texts of the Congregation of the Oversoul, on sale for two installments of 59.99, all religions were technically true. Moses actually parted the Red Sea, Jesus actually walked on water, and Robert Strode actually used canned fish products to commune with God. The catch was that all of these prophets and gods were the same being. In fact, everyone on earth was the same being. DeGroot explained that every living creature and inanimate object were manifestations of the Oversoul, a god who pretended to be other people as part of some ineffable cosmic puppet show. From this, DeGroot drew two conclusions. First, that some roles in said cosmic drama were imbued with greater knowledge of the Truth and, in turn importance in the grand scheme of things. Such roles included Jesus, Buddha, and, Buddy Holly, of course, DeGroot himself. Second, since all life was formed by the Oversoul pretending to be somebody else, the surest path to enlightenment was to engage in that godliest of all acts: identity theft. 

 Fugged Point was not financially well-off or accessible. As such, the Congregation of the Oversoul’s first crime spree was limited in scope. Holly Beech, a talented pickpocket and DeGroot’s second-in-command, managed to steal the one credit card in town, which belonged to Bethany Miller, the heiress to the town’s foundry, its general store, and its once-burgeoning fungus farms. Recognizing that having activity from two stolen cards be reported in the same location was a surefire way to get arrested, DeGroot and Beech traveled west, to San Francisco, with the mission of communing with their god, spending as much money as they could before the card was reported stolen, and, potentially, recruiting some new blood from the DeGroot family’s old stomping grounds. 

 What they found there was more than they expected, and, indeed, more than what they could have hoped for. 

 Who was the catalyst for turning the Congregation of the Oversoul into the nation-spanning syndicate it once was? We’ll find out on the episode. 

 This has been Liminal Criminals. I’m Sam Putnam. I’ll see you next time, and remember: they were once like us. 

[ending theme]

Liminal Criminals was originally a true crime podcast by Liminal Studios. It was originally researched, written and created by Sam Putnam. It is edited for broadcast and distribution with the generous support of the Chthonic Riviera government and Deeps Self-Preservation League. Up next, it’ll be an hour of the audio from some old Let’s Plays that I tried to do back in 2017, after which I’ll be bringing you the news with the evening edition of Studio Community Worldwide Radio. 

Also, Krysta, if you’re listening, please ask Havel if his scouting teams have found any more instrumental music. I don’t have enough content to fill up tomorrow’s airtime. 


Liminal Criminals is a fictional podcast by SCWR productions. It is written and edited by Sam Putnam. It is cowritten by Krysta Golden. Our theme song is Chthonic Riviera by Cornu Ammonis. 

Follow us on Twitter at “liminal cast,” or like us on Facebook. Follow, rate and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or your podcast platform of choice. Tell a friend about us. Remember to hydrate; the b living inside of you will appreciate it. All links are in the show notes.