The house of prayer for all people, which was founded in 1983 and active up until 1992, welcomed anyone seeking sanctuary to join its ranks. Established in Waldo, Florida and touted as a religious boarding school, the group usually attracted those struggling with addiction or having financial issues. Followers often joined as they were not obligated to pay for rent and food, although any money they eventually did make was expected to go directly back into the cult.
The House of Prayer was co-founded and headed by Mother Anna, real name, Anna Elizabeth Young, and her husband, Robert Davidson, known in the cult as Brother Jonah. Images of Mother Anna depicted her in a lavender headdress with her hands clasped in the prayer position, a white glow emanating around her and her eyes cast towards heaven.
In 1973, Anna's younger stepsister, Cathy, was reported missing after a family day out at Dunes State Park, Chicago. The area was searched by air and land by local police units and civilian volunteers, but the six-year-old was nowhere to be found. Years later, Anna Young's daughter, Joy Fluker, would tell the FBI that her older sister revealed Cathy had died in a closet in the family home and that she had seen the body. The family dynamic changed after Cathy's death. Young's parents became staunchly religious and relocated the family to Zebulon, a city in Pike County, Georgia, which had a population of less than 800 at the time. Anna Young and her husband would continue with the theme when they founded the House of Prayer for All.
They actively recruited those struggling in society, taking in the lonely and elderly from old people’s homes, children of poor parents who could not afford to give them what they needed, addicts and the mentally ill from various hospitals and rehabs in the area. The offer of food, shelter, and community to those who had hit rock bottom was too inviting to turn away. Her followers were expected to follow the teachings of the bible, specifically The Acts of the Apostles, to eat a kosher diet and dress in long robes with head coverings for women and beards for men. They were expected to study religious materials and pray daily and were each given biblical names. Mother Anna believed people could be healed through religion and spiritual endeavors. The cult moved to a rural area of Florida in 1985, where they lived on a lone property in a four-acre wooded area on the outskirts of Micanopy. Micanopy has a population below 700 and even if an outsider were to approach the farmhouse, the House of Prayer followers would flee back inside.
The children of the cult were kept separated from their parents. Some were left in Young’s care while their parents worked full time jobs. They felt their children would have a better quality of life at the House of Prayer with a roof over their head and three meals a day. Sadly, for many, this was not the case. Anna Young had been beating and abusing the children and it would only get worse.
Just a couple of years into life on the Micanopy property, Robert Davidson was found crushed to death under a vehicle at the local junk yard. After his death, Young amped up the abuse to the point where families began leaving the cult and taking their children away.
One incident in 1992 saw a 12-year-old girl, who had been left in the care of the cult by her parents, held down in a bath of bleach by followers. Young claimed she was demonically possessed, which she said she knew because the child smelled bad. She said the bleach would burn the evil out of her. The child was later found tied to a bed by her parents who later took her to a hospital where she was treated for chemical burns. Young was reported to the authorities and fled the area. She evaded the law for almost a decade before she was caught by the FBI who found her hiding out in an attic in Illinois. Anna Young spent just over six months in prison for child abuse. Upon release, Young laid low, for fifteen years she lived a free life, but there were more skeletons in her closet.
In an article titled: What is a cult and why do people join? The Atlanta Constitution published Friday, December 8, 2017, John Neal, of Cobb County, Georgia, described the beatings and lashings he received as a child in the House of Prayer for all People. His back bears the scars for a particularly brutal lashing administered to him after he was accused of taking candy. Beatings for so-called sins often came in bouts of 33. Thirty-three is a symbolic number in the bible as Jesus was 33 years old when he was crucified. The name Elohim, a name used to refer to God or the God of Israel in the Hebrew bible, is written a total of 33 times throughout the story of creation in the book of Genesis. When God makes a pact with Noah not to flood the world it is promised on the 33rd time his name is written in the scriptures.
Anna Young beat John Neal’s younger sister, Katona, to death, after accusing her of being demonically possessed. She was two-years-old. He described how the girl would be deprived of sleep and had her epilepsy medication withheld. She died from a seizure that resulted in a heart attack. John Neal said he was so brainwashed that it was hard for him to feel anything. He had spent so much time under the power of Mother Anna that he had began to feel as if she was his actual mother.
Then, in 1988, another child was killed at the hands of Anna Young. Baby Moses, real name Emon Harper, was starved and abused to death. He was found dead by his carer in a closet. His body was burned and when followers questioned his whereabouts, they were told he had been sent to a monastery.
Anna Elizabeth Young, now 79, was arrested in 2017 when her daughter,Joy Fluker, told police what she had done. Joy contacted the authorities following an argument with her mother, Anna. Joy blurted out that Anna had killed children in her care after she felt Anna was trying to take control of her son and tell her how to parent and an argument ensued. The altercation ended in a metal lamp being thrown in Joy’s direction. Others who were in the cult at the time confirmed Joy’s account of Emon’s death and abuse.
Anna young pleaded guilty to manslaughter and second-degree murder last month and was sentenced to 30 and 15 years for her crimes. It is speculated the other children may have died while in Young’s care. Another child named Marcos was around 2-3 years old when he was abandoned at a church in Puerto Rico in the winter of 1984. Young claimed he was possessed and controlled by the devil. His whereabouts are still unknown.