By Mark McConville
HAUNTING images are all that remain of what was once the home of a notorious religious cult where the leader who was revered by locals a prophet is STILL BURIED.
The eerie pictures show empty pews in a large church hall, religious signs that were left behind and safes in the wall.
Other spooky shots show the crumbling exterior of the large buildings, the gates that kept people in or out and an aerial view of the property which shows the star-shaped mausoleum where the Reverend George Pike is buried.
The striking photographs were taken at Little Bethlehem in Georgia, USA by a photographer known as Abandoned Southeast (33), from Florida, USA.
“Reverend George L. Pike founded his own non-profit organization in Olive Branch, Mississippi under the chartered name of “Jesus Christ Eternal Kingdom of Abundant Life, Inc,” he said.
“He moved to Monroe, Georgia in 1970, where he planned to build his international headquarters for world evangelism. He purchased a 70-acre tract of land that he named Little Bethlehem, affectionately referred to as the “The Home of the Soul”. The church is not affiliated with any specific denomination.
“George Pike focused his message and ministry on the final book of the King James Version of the Protestant Bible. That book is called, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“There were rumours George Pike would take the church member’s money and only give them back what he thought they needed to live on. Contrary, he never handled or involved himself with the financial responsibilities of the church. George Pike was known to never carry any cash, credit, or debit cards.
“There were also salacious rumours that George Pike had physical relationships with chosen women of the church. These rumours were fuelled by the local townspeople who viewed Pike’s church as a Jim Jones cult type movement.
“These rumours grew from the church’s strict dress codes. Church members created a security team to protect Pike’s family and also to prevent Little Bethlehem from being overrun with visitors.”
The chapel at Little Bethlehem was built in 1970 by George Pike and his fellow church members. Pike solely depended on donations from the congregation to build the church. It is a patchwork of building materials and equipment gathered over time.
It was not uncommon for several hundred people to attend church services. Little Bethlehem grew to become a home for dozens of families from all over the United States. There were only a small number of members or residents from the local area.
The actual residents on the property were made up of missionary families from dozens of states including New York and California. There were even some families from other countries, who had or were in the process of becoming US citizens.
“Pike’s charismatic ministry was unlike anything the local townspeople were accustomed to,” added Abandoned Southeast.
“His unconventional style and old school Southern Baptist teachings were polarizing to some, while others revered Pike as a prophet.
“The church experienced its largest growth during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when three churches from different states emptied out to relocate to Little Bethlehem after hearing George Pike speak at revival type crusades.”
Pike’s church community operated with their own currency called Script. It was a form of paper money that was sold at an equal dollar value to US currency and was redeemable at any time for US currency.
The only individuals that were allowed to purchase Script currency were church members which prevented non-members having access to the community economy.
This led to an investigation from the FBI after one member of the congregation mistakenly paid a bill to an outside vendor with a check from the bank at Little Bethlehem.
“The check cleared all the way to the Federal Reserve in Atlanta,” said Abandoned Southeast.
“Since it was not part of their banking currency clearing system, the FBI came to investigate. Upon their investigation and meeting with George Pike and other corporate officers, the FBI concluded as long as the members did not use their currency or checks outside of the privately owned community businesses, then it was legal.
“They further stated that Little Bethlehem could link their bank with the Federal Reserve so that the checks could be used at public businesses.
“George Pike declined the offer and the businesses continued, with a little extra caution and emphasis being places on not allowing Script currency or checks to be presented to outside businesses.”
Reverend George L. Pike passed away unexpectedly on June 10, 1996. He is buried on the property inside a star-shaped mausoleum. Church leaders began construction on the mausoleum in the same month Pike died however it was not finished until 2002-2003.
George Pike’s son, David, became senior pastor after his father’s death. He resigned in 1999. The church changed hands and pastors numerous times afterwards. In 2013, David Pike was invited back to pray the closing prayer and say the final words at the closing of the church. After the church closed, Little Bethlehem was left abandoned until late 2016.
David Pike was able to purchase all of the assets and proprietary rights from the original non-profit corporation through a corporation he started with a group of original church members and their descendants. Today, he and his wife maintain a residence at Little Bethlehem and plan to spend their remaining years on the property preserving his father’s legacy.
For more information see www.abandonedsoutheast.com