Since the Paramount Network launched its gritty 6-part miniseries, Waco, new information about the 51-day FBI siege on the Branch Davidians’ compound at Mount Carmel has come to light. Here are 20 facts about David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and the tragedy at Waco that may shock you.
David Koresh’s real name wasn’t David Koresh.
David Koresh was born Vernon Howell to a teenage mother in Texas, who abandoned him for a time before returning to raise him. Vernon never knew his biological father, but his stepfather was alleged to be abusive. Vernon changed his name to David (as in King David from the Bible) Koresh (another Biblical king) after claiming to have an enlightened experience on a trip to Israel in 1990.
Vernon Howell had a severe learning disability and played guitar.
In his younger years, Vernon was teased by classmates when he was placed in Special Education classes due to his challenges in reading. In his adult years, Vernon (then David) would go on to memorize the entire Christian Bible – a feat many of his followers marveled at. Vernon also fancied himself a rockstar, playing guitar and acting as lead singer in a band at local bar gigs.
David Koresh didn’t start the Branch Davidians.
The Branch Davidians were an offshoot of the larger Seventh Day Adventist sect of Christianity. David joined the Davidians at Mount Carmel Center under the leadership of George Roden, whose power he would later usurp.
David Koresh didn’t claim to be Jesus.
The FBI and popular culture have painted a picture of David Koresh seeing himself as a Jesus figure, or a cult leader with a “Messianic Complex.” But Koresh actually renounced such direct claims, saying instead that he was a chosen “Lamb of God” and that God spoke directly to him.
The allegations of child abuse at Mt. Carmel were never proven true.
Although Koresh was guilty of taking multiple “spiritual wives,” some of whom were shockingly young (14 years old), accusations that child-beatings and ritual abuse of children in general were never proven by the government. A 6-month investigation by the Texas Child Protection Services in 1992 failed to collect any evidence.