In this April 30, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy listens while Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg speaks outside the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/William J. Smith, File)
Laura’s mother, Patricia, was among the hundreds of QAnon followers who went to Dallas last November to see the prophesied resurrection of President John F. Kennedy. At the time, Laura wasn’t sure exactly why her mother was going, but she wasn’t particularly concerned, especially when her mom returned a few days later.But then Patricia left for Dallas again the following week—and again a couple of weeks later. When she left again in the final weekend of November, Patricia said she was leaving for good.
“We just started to feel very helpless at that point and just very sad and backed into a corner because we had a big feeling that she was not coming back,” Laura told VICE News.Months later, Patricia is still in Dallas and still under the influence of Michael Protzman, the antisemitic QAnon influencer who made the wild predictions about JFK’s resurrection. Many observers believed Protzman’s influence would wane after his predictions repeatedly failed to come true and the major announcements and revelations he promised never materialized. Instead, his group of followers are growing again. And Protzman’s predictions and actions are becoming ever more outlandish. Besides claiming that JFK appeared in disguise as Trump at a rally last month, Protzman has begun to openly berate his followers, some of whom have reportedly drunk toxic chemicals from a communal bowl. Most recently Protzman, who’s known to his followers as Negative48, claimed that 17 dead celebrities are now taking part in the group’s online chats.While many people, including some within the QAnon community, have dismissed Protzman as a freak show and something to be ridiculed, his ability to control and coerce people into abandoning their lives to follow him has destroyed families.Like many others who’ve fallen under Protzman’s spell, Patrica cut off almost all communication with her family when she traveled to Dallas. Worried about her safety, Patricia’s family tried to get the police involved. But when the police spoke to Patricia and she appeared to be fine, they told the family there was nothing more they could do. Then on Dec. 2, the family obtained an emergency guardianship order and had Patricia admitted to a psychiatric institution.
While having to take such drastic action traumatized Laura and her family, they were also relieved, believing this was the beginning of the end of the nightmare.But then a letter from Patricia, written to Laura’s dad while she was in the institution, arrived in their mailbox.“The search for JFK Jr. turned into a much more meaningful one, a much more intense spiritual one. I need to say the path I took was, and is still, a very spiritual walk with God,” Laura’s mother wrote in the letter, which was shared with VICE News.Patricia and Laura are not their real names. VICE News is using pseudonyms to protect the family’s privacy. VICE News called and sent messages to Patricia on multiple occasions over the course of several months but received no response. This account of Patricia’s actions is based on interviews with her daughter and documents provided to VICE News.“What I do mourn is the loss of our marriage,” the letter continued. “I have come to that conclusion and I know it’s something I have given a lot of thought to. I can’t go back. I can’t live in the past. Thank you so much for the years we shared, it was full of many wonderful memories that I will always treasure.”“I’m sure you have questions and I intend on answering them. It’s with a heavy heart that I send you this letter, but I am very happy to be giving everything up for my walk with God. I will always love you.”
That was the last meaningful communication Laura and her family had with Patricia. After two weeks, she left the institution and a fellow group member drove her back to Dallas to join dozens more acolytes of Protzman, who has attained a level of power over his followers typically reserved for a cult leader. Protzman has claimed he’s the second coming of Christ, demanded that his followers adhere to his rules and beliefs, and forced them to cut all ties with their families. Last weekend in Conroe, Texas, over 100 members of the group were at former President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally, marking the largest gathering of Protzman’s followers since the group first gathered in Dallas at the beginning of November.
Many flew in especially for the rally, while others traveled there with Protzman in an RV. The group, wearing red ties and T-shirts with JFK’s picture on the front, were able to secure prime seats right next to the stage where Trump spoke.While the group has been dismissed by many within the QAnon movement as a distraction and a clown show, Protzman and his followers continue to attract attention.At the rally, they were interviewed by far-right networks like One America News and the Right Side Broadcasting Network, while one of Protzman’s lieutenants, Steven Tenner, posed for pictures with both Mike Lindell and Donald Trump Jr.
Figures like former Trump adviser Roger Stone and GOP Oklahoma Senate candidate Jackson Lahmeyer have also visited the group in Dallas and taken pictures with them.Protzman used Trump’s rally in Texas, and one held in Phoenix a few weeks earlier, as a way to renew interest in his cult. At both rallies, Protzman claimed that the group’s prime seats were proof that he’s in direct contact with the former president. The reality, however, is that on both occasions the group simply lined up long before most other attendees at the rallies.
For the families of those still under Protzman’s influence, the increasingly cultic nature of the group’s behavior is worrying. The family of one group member reported that Protzman’s followers were drinking a mixture that included industrial bleach out of a communal bowl as part of a ritual. They have also traveled to Waco, near where the Branch Davidian compound at Mount Carmel once stood.And Protzman himself has become increasingly dictatorial when speaking to his followers. In recent days, during audio chats on his Telegram channel he has berated those who dared to interrupt him while he was speaking, kicking followers out of chat rooms, and insulting others.This week he issued a set of directives telling his followers how to act around him when he is speaking, listing discussion topics that he will permit and those that are not allowed.
Despite this, he has managed to retain a huge and dedicated online following and uses that to constantly beg for donations that will allow him to stay in Dallas without any source of income. Most recently, the group set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the damage caused to one of the group’s cars at the rally in Texas. Within hours it had reached almost $8,000.Protzman’s predictions about Trump and JFK continually morph from one wild claim to another. Last week he told followers: “It’s not that Trump is going to be your president, because right now JFK is your president and he’s not just your president, the gematria says he is the second coming of Jesus Christ.”Gematria is a Hebrew numerology system that Protzman uses to convert words and phrases into numbers, which he then links to other words and phrases to claim divine knowledge.Last week, Protzman claimed in an audio chat with followers that 17 dead celebrities were taking part in the online chat he was speaking in. He didn’t name them, but followers immediately began speculating about who they were, and became convinced that Marilyn Monroe was one of them. He also claimed that Melania Trump was the queen of Russia, but that claim was met with widespread confusion because he previously told his followers that the former first lady was actually Princess Diana in disguise.
On Wednesday, the group’s Telegram channel announced it was reopening the Ark, the name for a meeting room inside the Hyatt hotel that the group used in the initial weeks in Dallas to hold meetings, teach Gematria, and act as a communal area for Protzman’s followers.The reopening of the Ark suggests the group isn’t winding down or preparing to leave Dallas, but rather doubling down on its claims.For the family members of some of those involved, it has reached the point where they have had to say goodbye to their loved ones for good.“It's very hard to watch, and my brother and I have been having a very rough time with it, but we're trying to keep it together, because we have a lot of life left to live. and it’s for my dad really that we’re just trying to be very strong about everything,” Laura told VICE News.VICE News repeatedly tried to reach Protzman on the phone and via text messages for comment about the issues raised in this article but received no response.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.