The truth about the cult that only ate coconuts

A lot of people like to describe foods as "to die for," but how many people would willingly live up to that claim by actually dying? Sure, maybe Augustus Gloop took the words "Death by Chocolate" to heart. And patrons of the notorious Heart Attack Grill have put their money where their mouth is, either biting the dust or coming close to it, via USA Today. But Gloop's fictional gluttony and even the real-life "dead-ication" of people willing to eat a 6,000-calorie Bypass Burger can't hold a candle to the five-alarm commitment of the coconut-obsessed cult, Sonnenorden, or "Order of the Sun."

Founded in present-day Papua New Guinea, Sonnenorden had at least 15 adherents led by August Engelhardt, whom NPR describes as "a sun-worshipping German nudist and history's most radical cocovore." Loving the sun and hating clothes might sound like a charmingly hippy-ish way to develop melanoma, but thanks to an all-coconut diet, skin cancer was probably the least of the cult's concerns.

Man shall not live on coconuts alone

August Engelhardt regarded coconuts as the best thing since sliced bread — communion wafers in particular. How Stuff Works explains that the bread used in Catholic Communions is thought to become the body of Christ in a change called transubstantiation. Similarly, Engelhardt believed that coconuts embodied the flesh of Christ through a "tropical transubstantiation" of sorts, says Atlas Obscura. Presumably, he imbibed pina coladas instead of wine to represent Christ's blood.

Engelhardt seemed to see God and the coconut as akin to the Father and the Son in the Christian Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, his devotion made him wholly a spirit. His meals consisted solely of coconuts from 1902 to 1919, per NPR. While his all-Jesus diet literally sounds like soul food, it ruined his body and his blood. He became emaciated, dropping to 66 pounds by the end of his life. His legs developed ulcers, and his mental health deteriorated. It's believed that he passed away around the age of 44. A few of his other disciples died as well.