“Cult” Community Creates Curiosity

Sarah Naughten and Gracie Woidat

Since their inception in 1968, the “Purple People” of Lafayette, so-called for their preference for the color on their cars and houses, have been infamous for being a mysterious and peculiar community in the East Bay.

Officially titled the “Lafayette Morehouse,” the group lives in purple houses on gated property and drive around in eye-catching purple limousines and golf carts. Their secrecy and isolation have been the source of suspicion among the surrounding community for decades, and has given rise to many rumors, including the claim that it is a “sex cult.”

According to their website, the Lafayette Morehouse’s intention is to “maximize our potential both as individuals and as a group,” and to “have life be as much fun as possible.” They are reportedly social researchers in the “pleasure of group living.”

The group was founded by Lafayette resident Vic Baranco, who also created the Morehouse philosophy based on the idea of perfection. As their website states, they believe “I am perfect, you are perfect and the universe is perfect.”

The definition of a cult typically refers to a social group that has an unorthodox religious belief, lifestyle, or interest. Usually led by a dominant individual, cults are often thought to consist of excessively devoted followers who surrender their personal freedom and belongings.

According to their website, members of the Morehouse adore their founder and agree with his concepts, but they are not devoted to him in that way. Members of the house are allowed to leave as they please, and many don’t live with the house full-time.

A YouTube video uploaded by the Lafayette Morehouse disclosed that the 23-acre property upon which the community lives includes its own pool, nightclub, and bar. “Sometimes when you’re having a good time with a bunch of your friends, you may think, ‘why end the party? Can’t we just live like this?'” states the video.

In response to an email inquiry from La Puma, Lafayette Morehouse Registrar Judy St. John wrote that in the Morehouse’s time together they have, ” learned a lot.  Think about it: 40 -50% of marriages in America end in divorce. Lafayette Morehouse has been together for 50 years, so we take pride in having figured out some things about getting along with other people.”

Lafayette resident sophomore Katie Strohmeyer first heard of the group from her swim team, and “didn’t believe it at first.” According to Strohmeyer, a friend of her mom’s saw a member at a grocery store drive off in their signature purple limo, which is “something you definitely don’t see on the roads every day.”

Junior Lily Storrs added that she had “heard a lot of strange things about the Purple People.”

“The rumors that I heard about them being a sex cult and everything really freaked me out,” Storrs admitted.

Math teacher Petro Petreas believes the Purple People are fascinating to students because “occasionally, Campo students will be curious and go annoy them in order for the student to have a good time.”

In her email to La Puma, St. John attributed this suspicion to being “unusual for our neck of the woods.  Alternative lifestyles, understandably, can evoke suspicion. We paint our houses purple and sometimes drive around in purple limousines.  We’ve done a lot of things out of the norm over the years, like taking in homeless folks and housing them in tents on our property until the County forced us to stop.”

“We’ve heard it said that, in the same way a weed is a flower you don’t like, a cult is a group you don’t like,” reads the Lafayette Morehouse FAQ section.

According to St. John members of the Morehouse, “respect the lifestyles of others and we would like the same courtesy extended to us.”