Illustration of Chris Cantelmo.
Illustration by Michelle Urra.

How One Man Tried to Build a DMT-Based Cult on Reddit and Lost Everything

In his mid-50s, a depressed, Yale-trained scientist took a potent psychedelic, saw God, and set out to spread the word. Within two years, he was dead.

Some time on a Sunday morning in 2019—perhaps mindful not to wake his lodger, a childhood friend who was staying over—57-year-old Chris Cantelmo left a note. In it, he said he was going for a walk and that he’d be back in a few hours. He told his friend not to let the dogs out.

Cantelmo slipped out of his Lake View Terrace ranch. It was warm for late November, warmer than the days that would follow. He hiked some four miles from his house into the Angeles National Forest, which delineates LA’s lazily sprawling northern limits.


At a certain moment, he stopped. He had two folding knives on him. He took one and turned it on himself in such a way that he died within minutes.​​

Cantelmo had been the leader of what is most easily described as a Reddit pseudo-cult known as Cantelmoism. He was famous for handing out free money and claiming DMT cured his cancer. After he first tried the drug in 2018, he’d later say, he wanted to turn the world on to it.

DMT, the substance he obsessively promoted, especially through the spring and summer of 2019, is a powerful hallucinogenic. When consumed—inhaled, snorted, injected—in a high enough dose, it provides an intense psychedelic trip. It also has potential therapeutic benefits—as VICE has reported, it’s been studied as a treatment for depression. The DEA currently classifies DMT as a Schedule 1 drug. 

Cantelmo had been a wealthy biochemist and Yale grad. He gained notoriety on Reddit because he was spending thousands there, indiscriminately "gilding" posts and comments by gifting awards. (Silver awards are a digital pat on the back; gold and platinum give Redditors premium features.)

Through this, he was buying users’ attention. In return, they were exposed to his theories about DMT and a few specific subreddits set up in his name. The main one, created on April 16, 2019, by a now-deleted user, was the now-defunct r/Cantelmoism (viewable here). There were others, like the still-open r/ChrisCGC and the now-private r/ChildrenOfChris. The description of r/Cantelmoism read: "the official subreddit for the newly emerged Internet religion Cantelmoism, approved by the Lord [u/ChrisCGC] himself!"

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An archived version of the Cantelmoism subreddit.

Cantelmo was one of the best-known users on Reddit, a labyrinthine site the beauty of which lies partly in its anonymity, and which is otherwise not set up to elevate individual accounts like Twitter and Instagram do. Those who continually participated in this corner of Reddit, albeit often ironically—making memes, praising Cantelmo, and defending his views—called themselves Cantelmoists. But the message of Cantelmoism, and its oddly cultlike nature, was causing concern among Redditors.

That’s because some of the claims he was making had potential real-world implications for those who believed them, and he was targeting younger people. Most of Cantelmo’s Reddit posts have since been deleted or removed. R/Cantelmoism was banned, as was Cantelmo’s main Reddit account, u/ChrisCGC. His so-called DMT "discoveries'' still exist online, however. “God emits a cosmic broadcast of electromagnetic waves,” one on his website says. “Humans and all other living creatures with a nervous system can receive information from God’s cosmic broadcast while their neural network is enabled by DMT, N,N-Dimthyltryptamine [sic].”

According to another discovery of his, “Adding DMT to an adult brain via orally active ayahuasca or by vaping DMT crystals allows people to see the spirits which are always around us but otherwise invisible, including a multitude of guardian angels voluntarily assigned to each of us.” 


“Schizophrenia and autism are one and the same and result from a relative over-abundance of bioavailable DMT. From here on these syndromes can be unified as ‘Autiphrenia.’ Autiphrenics are geniuses and were created by god to be leaders of humanity,” claims another.

Cantelmo also posted on YouTube (the videos have since been made private, though they’ve been archived), Facebook, and Twitter. He encouraged people to stare at the sun to promote DMT production in the pineal gland. Central to Eastern mystic beliefs relating to a third eye, the pineal gland is a small organ in the brain that moderates serotonin and sleep cycles. It’s been hypothesized, though not proven, that it produces low levels of DMT in the human brain. (DMT has been proven to exist in the brains of rats at levels comparable to serotonin and dopamine. It’s also been found in every mammal studied, including humans.)

Cantelmo’s most striking and oft-repeated claim, that vaporizing the drug cured his brain cancer, sparked incredulity and intrigue; he even invited cancer patients to try DMT at his LA ranch as treatment. 


By the time of his death, he’d largely been outcast by the online movement he’d started, and his accounts were banned and relationships burned. But who was he? And why did he die in this remote hinterland?

Alex Hall, then a 28-year-old podcaster, author, and freelance video producer, first noticed Cantelmo trending on Reddit in 2019 due to his gilding sprees. It was the cancer-curing claim that struck him most. “If you have someone that is so public-facing, that has a long prestigious career, making a well-articulated claim, that carries a different amount of weight to it,” Hall said. 

Cantelmo had been successful. A high school valedictorian and Yale molecular biophysics and biochemistry graduate, he spent 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry. He worked in the field of high-performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC. HPLC involves taking a mixture of chemicals and deciding what’s in it for analysis and purification. According to Cantelmo, he ran three HPLC companies; the last one was called GL Sciences. (He left his position; GL Sciences—which is not associated with Cantelmoism or the use of illegal drugs—wouldn’t respond to our attempts to clarify the details.) By mid-2019, though, Cantelmo was increasingly known for his enthusiasm for DMT. 

Hall was intrigued and asked Cantelmo to appear on his “off-topic” podcast, The Digital Fireside. The most popular episode has 20,000 views on YouTube. But Hall is also the creator of a popular alternate-reality game serial called Ben Drowned—his YouTube channel has over 15 million views. 


Cantelmo explained his journey with DMT on the May 22, 2019 podcast. He said lifelong anxiety and resulting depression led him to attempt suicide, for the third time, on Jan. 15, 2018. “I got in touch with my kids late one night and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to kill myself. Sorry, but I just can’t stand this anymore,’” he told Hall. Police intercepted him at his house after his sons reported the event, and he was placed on what’s called a “5150 hold,” where authorities involuntarily place an individual in a locked psychiatric facility for evaluation. Remembering his short stint there, he said: “Somehow I got the message, just the thought came to me that I needed to try DMT when I left the hospital.”

After some research, he went online and ordered the root bark of the DMT-containing mimosa hostilis tree. He purified it, he told Hall, relying on his knowledge of “organic chemistry and biochemistry,” and began experimenting. He eventually inhaled enough to have a breakthrough—where one might experience an enlightening union with the divine. 

Cantelmo told Hall he felt his anxieties evaporate. He was also convinced there was a higher power after a lifetime of “severe” atheism (something that happens in over half of DMT users). “I thought, ‘Oh goodness, God exists.’ And everything in my world changed, life became incredibly beautiful,” he explained. He said he encountered the benign mystical entities DMT users often see. (The psychonaut Terrence McKenna referred to them as “machine elves.”) Cantelmo resolved to tell as many people as possible about the wonders of DMT. A friend suggested he try Reddit. 


There, Cantelmo found the awards system allowed him to develop rapport with fellow users. His justifications for the tactic, he said, were altruistic and promotional. “To draw attention to DMT and its miraculous properties and to bring universal peace and love to our ailing planet,” he replied when asked about it in one May 2019 post. “Medals draw attention and keep good conversation flowing,” he commented elsewhere in that thread. 

Others thought differently. “He would pay them to be part of his project, listen to his diatribe, and try to get as many people to buy into his theories,” his younger brother Craig said. “While he was extremely generous to the people on Reddit, he was anything but that to his family and friends.” 

Craig described him as “an exceptional guy, very smart,” who “basically achieved every goal he ever went after.'' Cantelmo also made multiple predictions which, to be fair to him, have proven prescient. Around early fall of 2019, Craig said, Cantelmo was warning him about an impending pandemic that would “take over the entire world.” But he was also stubborn, obsessive, and “an incredible narcissist.” 


Cantelmo, Craig said, tried hallucinogens like mescaline and LSD as a teen and was addicted to drugs like meth at various points of his life. “It was always, you know, ‘I’m so much smarter than you, you’d never understand’, right? That whole mentality of just complete mental dominance, that he could experiment and expand his mind and control it and it was never going to harm him.” 

“Whether you went to Yale or barely finished high school, if you get caught up in drugs, the end result is typically the same time, right? You lose your family, your brain, and eventually your life.”

Using his main account, Cantelmo spent over $70,000 on awards, but Craig suggested he spent “probably twice as much” in total. He targeted users in youth-oriented subreddits and encouraged them to make and spread memes praising the benefits of DMT.

Cantelmo had been serious about funding studies into DMT. As he told Hall on the podcast, he approached professors at Yale and Johns Hopkins in hopes of investigating his hypothesis that DMT is a natural neurotransmitter. They declined, he said. That’s why he took to Reddit, circumventing academia. “People, mainly kids and young adults, what I was saying resonated with them. And I realized that ‘OK, if I can get the younger people to understand what I’m saying—because they’re smarter basically—then I can start a revolution from below, and let it percolate upwards.”


Cantelmo flew at least two people out to LA to take DMT with him. Craig said there were “stories” about Cantelmo buying people “laptops and other physical items that amounted to better than $100,000.” He even paid for people’s college tuition, according to one apparent recipient, Reddit user U/freshan_1. 

Cantelmo seemed eager to speak on podcasts in hopes of getting his message out. A podcaster named Tyger—whose name is being withheld due to privacy concerns—reached out, like Hall, to Cantelmo. Tyger told me he had a laptop and podcasting equipment bought for him. He also agreed to fly out from Oregon, where he lives, to Los Angeles on short notice in May of 2019 to record episodes of his podcast, Talks with Tyger, and take DMT. Cantelmo sent Tyger a large sum so he could grow his podcast and have Cantelmo on it regularly. 

He didn’t stay at Cantelmo’s place, the interior of which was “caked” in big abstract-cum-gauche paintings depicting things like Teletubbies at a strip club, as he didn’t feel “super-safe.” (Tyger said this was partly because Cantelmo would pay local homeless people to work in his garden and they were free to come and go, and would bathe there.) While he was in LA, Tyger said, Cantelmo thought the police were after him. 

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Image via Bitchute

Tyger said that during his stay, Cantelmo took him to the Hollywood Improv to see Joe Rogan perform. Cantelmo, a friend he called “Coma David,” and Tyger ate dinner there, and Rogan sat out in the lobby with other comic friends like Andrew Santino. Cantelmo kept saying he would go over and introduce himself in hopes of going on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, but he never did. Instead, he had to take David, who had started feeling ill, back home during Rogan’s opener. Tyger said he managed to meet Rogan after they left. It’s easy to wonder what might have happened if Cantelmo had impressed Rogan even a little. 

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Photo courtesy Tyger

Like Tyger, Cantelmo and Alex Hall agreed after their podcast that Hall would fly out to LA from the Midwest with his camera equipment. The plan was that he’d film Cantelmo’s message and day-to-day life for an online documentary on DMT. Dozens of San Pedro cacti dotted the huge backyard of Cantelmo’s property, and chickens and ducks roamed. Hall said Cantelmo was upbeat. 

Hall met a regular cast of Cantelmo’s circle there, which included porn stars and celebrities. He didn’t want to say who they were, to protect their privacy, only that some celebrities took DMT. The trip was taken on the spur of the moment, and it annoyed Hall’s then-girlfriend. “She was furious,” Hall said. “But I was like, ‘Well, you know, it's not every day you get a chance to go cover some eclectic multimillionaire out in Malibu and do that sort of stuff.’” 


The visit was out of the ordinary for Hall, who wasn’t a DMT user and didn’t expect to meet celebrities. There was also a novelty to an otherwise serious biochemist investing all his energies and savings in middle age into the promotion of a niche psychedelic. Hall felt like Cantelmo might have been playing things up for the cameras, but no expenses were spared while he was there. Cantelmo had hired out an Uber for a day in Malibu, for example, except it was a supercar. With his psychonaut-meets-professorial vibe, Cantelmo would try to convince random strangers around town to do DMT, then revert to discussing his theories with Hall. When they were stopped off at a vegan restaurant, over vegan mac and cheese, as Cantelmo “was talking about all this kind of wild shit,” and with the Russian-seeming “probably gangster” driver parked nearby, Hall recalled thinking: "Am I living some sort of weird-ass fever dream right now?” 

While Hall is a firm advocate of greater research into DMT as a therapeutic, he is mindful of the potential adverse effects of liberal use. “I think excessive use of that sort of stuff can also awaken a lot of neuroses and have the opposite effect,” he said. During his stay, Hall noticed Cantelmo was taking it more frequently. “Probably upwards of half a dozen times a day, at least. It was getting to be an absurd amount. I'm not sure what his objective was—I think he was trying to communicate with whatever he was seeing.”


The effects of excessive DMT use on a person haven’t been studied. “Overuse of any psychedelic can cause mental problems,” especially in those predisposed to it, expert Rick Strassman, author of The Spirit Molecule, said. “I've never heard of people using DMT more than five times a day. I have personally seen people using 5-methoxy DMT that much,” he continued, referring to a similar chemical compound to DMT introduced to the mainstream by Mike Tyson. “They suffer from a grandiose delusional state—they have the answer and need to spread the word, and they react poorly to being stymied. The handful of cases I've heard about are particularly difficult to treat—this may be due to the condition itself being unresponsive to regular treatments, or because of the profound lack of insight into their having lost touch with reality precluding their accepting treatment.”

In June 2019, a countergroup was created to challenge what was happening with r/Cantelmoism, called r/CantelmoismExposed. One of the moderators was u/leocohen99, who had an interest in Reddit cults. He told me he was concerned that Cantelmo was targeting teens and was worried about his theories around DMT curing cancer. And then there was Cantelmo encouraging followers to do things like stare at the sun and visit him to try DMT. 


In a post on May 15 on r/TheoryOfReddit, u/leocohen99 pointed out apparent inconsistencies in Cantelmo's arguments and his increasing vindictiveness. (Here, for example, he called someone “a shameful ignoramus moron. And a weak pussy.“) He also outlined what he figured made r/Cantelmoism cultlike, including the pseudoscientific, silver-bullet praise of DMT; the guilt and shame induced from the leadership to influence followers' behavior; the group’s elitism; and the messianic status of Cantelmo, along with the group's obsession with growth through financial rewards.

Of course, Cantelmo did claim DMT was the answer to many problems and that it could even cure cancer. He once pretended that he had died by suicide—to disturb others, it seems. He bragged of being a second coming, but one who happened to “bang pornstars.” Here’s someone alleging they were offered money to make Cantelmoism memes. As for mean-spirited comments, there’s Cantelmo’s May 21 AMA. According to the original poster, it “begins off the rails and only goes further than there,” culminating in Cantelmo telling a skeptical cancer patient to “fuck off.” In that AMA, U/leocohen99 wrote “How do you respond to allegations of starting a cult?” Another Redditor, U/amorfreak, asked of the cancer-curing claims, “Do you have any proof?”


To many who knew him, Cantelmo didn’t seem intent on starting a cult. If his following on Reddit took on that appearance, it seems to have been a byproduct of tribal dynamics between online groups. While his massive generosity served as an effective recruitment tool, Cantelmoists deified him, though largely in jest. 

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“So there are a bunch of these members of the subreddit, Cantelmoism, running around Reddit calling themselves Cantelmoists, who have now also taken to calling me Lord, like their Savior,” he told Tyger in May.

“My only intention at Reddit was to inform the public about the wonders of DMT and what it can enable in your life, and particularly people who are sick with cancer. So I want to let people know if they have cancer, that DMT is... the only thing that they should be thinking about until they inhale or drink DMT, is DMT. The other thing that I'm trying to do at Reddit is to bring about world peace... And have fun, tell jokes, and especially inspire young kids.”

What’s certain is that Cantelmo was burning through his retirement fund. “I don’t want to get into the exact number, but it’s dramatically jaw-dropping what he blew that he could have left,” Craig said. “He bought people things and spent his entire retirement on it.” 

Cantelmo also went after friends and family concerned for his welfare. One friend, an LA-based mental health professional in his mid-late 20s, said Cantelmo had worsening psychotic delusions. He’d visited Cantelmo’s place a handful of times trying to get him help. 


One day he received a call from Cantelmo threatening suicide, and he called the authorities. After encountering the police, Cantelmo accused him of attempted murder. Cantelmo then embarked on an aggressive campaign, contacting his workplace and spreading malicious rumors. The friend was fully doxxed on Reddit, with his identity and address revealed. He said he was forced to take out a restraining order against Cantelmo. 

Cantelmo similarly went after Craig and others, in what would be the final months of his life. 

A little while after Hall visited LA, word got out that Cantelmo had never had cancer. This was backed up by his brother Craig, who confirmed it with Cantelmo's family. “There was never a shred of truth that we could find about any of that,” he told me. When Hall messaged, asking point-blank, Cantelmo said it was a metaphorical cancer of the brain, referring to his previous fervent atheism. 

Cantelmo, seeming slightly manic, addressed this in a video, admitting people should “filter everything” he does “through the prism of getting people's attention.”

“I've never had any form of cancer. But I do believe that ayahuasca, I mean, DMT will cure it, it will cure all your diseases. I know that for a fact. I had the worst form of cancer, atheism, and DMT cured that,” he said. 


“I'm trying to get your attention when I’m mean to people,” he continued. “And I'm gonna die someday, right? Who cares about me if I get hit by a truck? Who cares about me? DMT is more important than I am. Because when I die, I'll be out there helping you as best I can from the spirit world, like I know I exist and I'm going to be there. It's not about me, it's about DMT.”

An internet user known as U/craigsyoga, based in Australia, appears to have been Cantelmo’s right-hand man in Cantelmoism; Cantelmo claimed he paid this person tens of thousands of dollars to create things like the website, which even features Cantelmoism merch. Some I spoke to suspected he had a role in the book you can find online today, too. Tyger, who saw him in videos and referred to him as Craig, remembers his Australian accent, and said he looked to be in his 30s with short ash-blonde hair and a tan. 

“Despite me and everyone else telling Chris, ‘You gotta calm down, you gotta stop spending money, let’s get you focused on doing something that’s going to be beneficial,’ Craig kept telling him, ‘No, we’re gonna do this, you’re gonna be famous for exposing the message,’” said the friend Cantelmo doxxed. That sentiment was echoed by others I spoke to.


Many people I spoke to said U/craigsyoga either ratcheted up Cantelmo’s delusions or was delusional himself. He was featured on an episode of The Gary Smith Podcast—headed up by Smith, a then-17-year-old—which aired on Jan. 19, 2020. He said he found Cantelmo on Reddit, and that he was interested in his ideas and started chatting with him, but didn’t go in for the more “illogical” theories, like the cancer claim. U/craigsyoga said he owns the Cantemoism website, where he aggregated Cantelmo’s ideas.

U/craigsyoga said Cantelmo affected a “Trump-style” approach with his extreme claims. “He actually drove his idea and movement forward mainly through naysayers and getting such a pretty big negative reaction from people,” he said. “They're the ones who actually grew it for him.” He also said that, as he had access to Cantelmo’s accounts on his various channels, he saw the regular torrent of abuse Cantelmo received; others asked for money, while some showed support.

“There is only one person alive that can give you the truth that you seek; what you have written and been told is hearsay and not based on facts,” wrote U/craigsyoga when contacted for comment by Motherboard, signing off “LOVE&UNITY.” 

Cantelmoism faltered on Reddit as Cantelmo’s savings (and handouts) dried up, and he couldn’t provide evidence for his audacious claims. Followers turned to cynics in his subreddit and defected to r/CantelmoismExposed. U/leocohen99, the r/CantelmoismExposed moderator, feels the subreddit was effective in turning the tide against Cantelmo. He said that while he considers it “immoral” what Cantelmo was doing, he feels regret over the blow Cantelmo might have felt by the Reddit community turning against him. 


When asked if he came across any other cultlike groups in his research, U/leocohen99 said he couldn’t think of any predicated on individual members who aren’t already in the mainstream. “Reddit isn't the kind of platform that lends itself to that,” he explained. “Which is why it's crazy that he actually made it happen.” 

Reddit banned Cantelmo outright in July 2019—after smaller suspensions—due to harassment and the doxxing incident. He used alt accounts to post and attack people afterwards. Many on Reddit had been pushing the site—which declined to comment—to act for a while. 

“What he started out wanting to do was educate people,” Craig Cantelmo told me. “And I think he started to buy into the whole persona he created on Reddit.” Hall said Cantelmo ultimately wanted to open people's eyes to DMT, break down some of the stigmas behind it, and instigate research. “I don't necessarily agree with some of the sentiment that people were thinking he wanted to be a cult leader. I think those memes or whatever on Reddit serve a purpose—I think to him it was like the ends justify the means.”

Some I spoke to did feel he ultimately wanted to start a cult, even if it was a seed planted in his mind on Reddit. It’s tricky ascribing intent and determining what’s real, and there are some vagaries to what a cult, mediated through the internet, actually means now. His doxxed friend said, “Don't get me wrong, Chris wanted to build a cult. I think Chris wanted to build like a church and a compound and shit. But that was just like, you know, thrown out there.” Cantelmo seems to reference that church here. His followers encompassed varying degrees of partisanship, but most were in it for the money or awards. “There was no Cantelmoism movement,” Cantelmo’s doxxed friend said.


YouTuber Zoroe, who lives in the Bay Area, first found Cantelmo via his YouTube videos. He befriended him in the fall of 2019, when Cantelmo was trying to expand his brand on YouTube post-Reddit. Cantelmo texted Zoroe in late October saying he wanted to create a video series on DMT akin to Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, “but with a little erotica and science thrown in.”

Zoroe was invited out to Cantelmo’s place, though he got cold feet; he wasn’t fully comfortable with the idea. He was texting regularly with him though, trying to keep his spirits up after receiving a few distressed calls. In a text seen by VICE, Cantelmo told him on Nov. 19 he wasn’t taking prescribed medication but was still suffering panic attacks. He said he was struggling to sleep but “developing coping mechanisms.” Zoroe reckoned with the news in the video titled “Rest in Peace, Chris Cantelmo.” 

On Sunday, Nov. 24, someone found Cantelmo's body on West Fork Fascination Spring Trail. He’d died by suicide. Two folding knives were found with him, but no suicide note. The LA County Sheriff’s Department told me he was under threat of losing his house and that he was due to meet a realtor to figure out how to avoid it. The circumstances of his death did lead to some positing that he was murdered, or had been assisted in some way. Gary Watts, president of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, told me that, based on the autopsy report and general background information provided, Cantelmo’s injuries, in lieu of any defense wounds, were consistent with suicide. I don't believe that there's any question about it being self-inflicted,” Watts said. No drugs were found in Cantelmo’s system, though it isn’t standard practice in LA County to test for DMT.

“Even to this day, when I talk about it, I get really emotional. I hate seeing people in pain. And I can't imagine what kind of pain he was in,” Zoroe told me.

“He's out of money and realized that the viral effect that he had online was only because of the money he was spending,” Cantelmo’s doxxed friend said. “He really thought that he was gonna go and be with the spirits that he was seeing. And maybe he did, maybe he is, but it really broke my heart reading about his suicide, because I think Chris was a really good person. And he did care about other people.” 

“He needed some help that he just wasn't able to get. And a lot of that falls on the United States mental health care system,” he said. “When someone's an adult, all that we can do is call the police. If he tells the cops ‘I'm not suicidal’, what can you do, you know?”

Linda Carrillo was a school friend and former girlfriend of Cantelmo. They flitted in and out of contact over the years, she told me over the phone, striking up connections here and there, before he broke off contact around 2012. 

When she heard about his passing, she wanted to make sense of it. She wonders if she might have been able to intervene if she’d known how depressed he was. Carrillo also pondered if going “cold-turkey” off any prescribed medication might have played a part in his worsening mental health. She wonders in retrospect if him giving his money away might be explained through mania induced by benzodiazepines, leading to his unfettered altruism.  

“When I was watching the videos, there was something that was beyond the Chris that I knew. He was very excited and very passionate. And I can relate to that, when you think you have something that can really help people, and you're really excited about it. And you really think it's something so extraordinary that it's been kept from the public that really is healing,” she told me on the phone. 

“But there was just a level to the way that he was speaking on a lot of his walks, the ranting, that just seemed like there was something not quite right with Chris. It wasn't the regular Chris that we all knew. It was like a hyped-up version of him.” 

Hurt by the news of his death, she contacted Zoroe after seeing his YouTube video. She wanted to find out all she could, and soon they struck up a friendship. Carrillo assured Zoroe he couldn’t blame himself for not going to stay with him. “You did the right thing,” she remembers saying. “You were there for him. You showed care and compassion and love.” 

Zoroe visited her 30-acre homestead retreat in West Sonoma County, flying his drone and taking aerials of the property. It was cathartic for both of them, meeting someone important to Cantelmo in a different stage of his life. “I think we'll stay in touch,” Carrillo said.

Cantelmo's story shows the gray between influencer and actual cult leader. “He had told me that he had 100,000 followers,” Craig said. “But that was at the end when I told him he needed to get help. He was like, ‘I need help? You need help, I have 100,000 followers,’ but that means absolutely nothing when you’re paying them.”

Those who knew him said similar things to me: Cantelmo was exceptionally smart, articulate, generous. They didn’t want the public spectacle of it all, the Reddit furor, and DMT to eclipse the person he was at his best. Life’s all about timing, Craig impresses on me. “Right before his death, and right after his death, I got freaking stuck going down the wormhole watching all the stuff. And it was very sad at times, and other times, there were moments of brilliance where I knew him,” Craig told me.

“And if he really wanted to be a cult leader 30 years ago, I’m serious, he probably could have been one. He could have got a shitload of people following him.”

Follow Nick Thompson at @niche_t_