The following program is a paid advertisement. (fanfare)

“Would you like to be a millionaire? Own fast cars? Make lots of friends? Impress members of the opposite sex? Be a recording star?

“Then you’re at the right cable channel. In the next 30 minutes I’m going to give you the key. My name is Herb Schlock and I’m president of Messiahs Unlimited Inc. I’m also the messiah.

“You can be the messiah, too. Just say it!

“Using my simple home study guide (12 monthly installments of just $19.95) thousands have set themselves on the course to fame, adoration and big bucks. Best of all, there’s no initial investment, no risk, and it comes with my personal guarantee. Be the messiah or your money back!

“Seeing me here at my seaside villa, you might find it hard to believe that I was a working grunt once. It’s true. I sold lip balm door-to-door until I developed my patented strategy for mega-wealth.

“Here’s what you do: first, announce that you’re the messiah. Second, convince a few people of it. Third, tell them that if they want to be on your good side, they will give you all their money. Fourth, with their money, buy whatever you want.

“Fifth, form a self-contained alternative lifestyle community where your followers satisfy your every whim. Sixth, since your followers are penniless, send them to the local social services agencies for food stamps and commodities. Seventh, tell the tax man you’re the messiah, and he can buzz off.

“Then sit back and watch the money roll in!

“I know what you’re saying. Sounds too good to be true, right? Hey, I’m the messiah. If you can’t believe me, who can you believe?

Some success stories

“With me at surfside are a few people who’ve used my patented method to earn millions. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the folks?”

“Thanks, Herb. I’m Sosoon Vidal, founder of Hair Cult for Men. And I’m the messiah. We at the Hair Cult believe in good hair. We believe that hair is the key to immortality. Just look at the immortals with good hair – Elvis, Liberace, James Dean, Gen. Custer. I tell my followers that if they will commit themselves to good hair, and to me, they’ll find life everlasting. It’s worked for me.”

“Hi, Herb. I’m Harriet Troutfein. I’m the founder of the April 15 Rapture Society. And I’m the messiah. Our group is based on my prophecy that the world ends on April 15.”

“April 15 of what year, Harriet?”

“Every year, Herb. You see, we don’t expect the world to end at all. But at tax time this makes for a great membership appeal. We convince our followers to give all their worldly assets to us before April 15. Then they claim poverty, with its many tax advantages. In addition, they claim a whopping charitable deduction. Then, exempt from taxes as a religion, our society invests wisely and everyone comes out on top in the end.”

For non-believers, too

“Great, Harriet! Now, viewers at home, I suppose you’re thinking, ‘How can I claim messianic tax deductions? I don’t believe in any of this stuff!’ Well, just listen to this next success story.”

“Hi, Herb. I’m Herman L. Greasely. I’m the messiah, a millionaire and founder of the Brothers and Sisters of Eternal combustion.”

“Just what do your followers believe, Herm?”

“Nothing. We believe in absolutely nothing. And we’re very religious in keeping it that way. In fact, we’ll fight to the death to preserve it. Don’t try and cross us, Herb.”

“No way. You just keep doing what you’re doing – raking in money, enjoying tax subsidies, leeching off the government – all the reasons why money is religion in this country, and sometimes vice versa. As it says right there on the dollar bill, ‘In God we Trust.’ Bye bye!”

To take advantage of this special TV offer and make millions, send $19.95 to …

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.