The Branch Davidians
One of the most tragic and controversial incidents in Texas history occurred in 1993 at a compound known as Mt. Carmel on a ranch near Waco. The compound was occupied by the Branch Davidians, a heavily armed religious cult led by a charismatic guru named David Koresh. Spurred by allegations of child abuse inside the compound, federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms attempted to serve a warrant on February 28, 1993, only to find themselves in a massive firefight, during which several agents and Davidians were killed. A fifty-day siege ensued, culminating on April 19 with a nationally televised assault on the compound with armored vehicles and tear gas. During the assault, a fire consumed the entire compound, killing 74 people, 23 of whom were children.
In 1997, an Emmy award-winning documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, called into question the government’s version of events and the poor judgment that led to the standoff and the eventual disaster. A subsequent investigation by former U.S. Senator John C. Danforth determined that the fire had been set by the Davidians themselves, though his report was also critical of the decision-making by federal authorities as well as the lack of candor in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The disaster at Mt. Carmel became a rallying cry for some of the far-right of the political spectrum; the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, for example, occurred on the second anniversary of the tragedy. Ten years after the fire, in 2003, Texas Monthly senior editor Michael Hall visited a new church that had been constructed at Mt. Carmel and interviewed the small group of Davidians who still followed the sect’s apocalyptic vision. In 2008, executive editor Pam Colloff interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses to the siege and produced a definitive oral history of one of the most infamous events in Texas history.
When The Fire Came to ‘Waco’
The Branch Davidians didn’t want to die inside their compound at Mount Carmel.
Faith and Reason Reach a Deadlock in ‘Waco’
The series smartly relays the fundamental deadlock between the Branch Davidian’s beliefs and the FBI’s negotiation tactics not through each party’s most polarizing characters, but through their most reasonable middlemen.
The Armies of Babylon Arrive in ‘Waco’
No matter how the gunfire began at Mount Carmel, ‘Waco’ makes one thing clear: the whole raid hung on false motives.
‘Waco’ Reveals the Dangers of Devotion
The second episode of the miniseries reveals that the true danger of the Branch Davidians was their faith—not in their religion, but their leader.
The First Episode of ‘Waco’ Takes Us Back to Where it All Started
Just when Waco thought it had shaken its reputation, a new miniseries resurfaces the Branch Davidian standoff 25 years ago.
‘Waco’ Through the Eyes of a Former Branch Davidian
For Clive Doyle, the new mini-series ‘Waco’ isn’t just TV drama—it’s personal.
A Mother’s Words
Bonnie Haldeman, the mother of David Koresh, dies at 64.
The Fire That Time
On April 19, 1993, the world watched as the Branch Davidian compound, outside Waco, burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff. Fifteen years later, witnesses and participants—from federal agents to loyal followers of David Koresh—remember what they saw during the deadliest law enforcement operation in U.S. history.
Walking Among Ghosts
Senior editor Michael Hall revisits Waco’s Branch Davidians and describes the challenges and nuances of writing about the remaining followers and the controversies of their tragic history.
Is Waco Wacko?
After the latest standoff thereï¿½by an armed UFO cultistï¿½you might think so. But on the fifth anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege, the Central Texas community is doing just fine, thank you.
For Posterity’s Sake
Coming Soon: Groacho Marx The Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum, Plano. Michael Bohdan, who calls himself Cockroach Dundee, runs the museum at his pest-control business, featuring such exhibits as H. Ross Peroach and Liberoche, a dead roach covered with sequins sitting at a miniature piano topped by a candelabra. If It’s Closed, Just Break Down …
David Koresh and the Myth of the Alamo
He was no William Barrett Travis, but in many ways, the leader of the Brand Davidians was an archetypal Texan to the end.