Escape from New York
Rejecting the separation of church and state, Dowie openly declared that Zion would be run as a absolute theocracy, with himself as priest-king. While Dowie lay back in his luxurious mansion, his followers worked long hours at Zion’s highly profitable candy factory. When their tiny salaries became too inconvenient, Dowie began paying them in coupons that could only be spent at the general store in town. Its hand-picked police force patrolled the streets, enforcing strict laws against everything from whistling to wear tan shoes. Dowie also banned all doctors and made possession of modern medicine punishable by imprisonment, insisting that all illnesses should be treated with a combination of prayers, and giving him large sums of money.
But Dowie didn’t just run the smallest dictatorship to David Geffen’s beach house. He wanted to conquer the world. And like most villains, he decided to start in New York. In 1903, eight specially chartered trains part of Zion for the Big Apple. They carried Dowie’s luxurious private car (the Gulfstream jet of his day) and 3,000 of his closest supporters, who scattered across town to spread the good news. Dowie himself had reserved Madison Square Garden for two consecutive weeks of sermons, which he was sure would convert all of New York to his teachings. It…didn’t work out that way.