Father-of-three who lives off-grid with his family reveals he sought peace after his mother was ‘brainwashed’ by a ‘religious cult’
- Magnus, 49, and his family live in a remote cottage on the island of Flores
- On Channel 5’s New Lives in the Wild, he told Ben Fogle about his upbringing
- READ MORE: Woman, 79, tells Ben Fogle she loves living alone in the Australian jungle
A father-of-three who lives in a remote, self-sufficient house has revealed how he sought the off-grid life after being raised by a mother who was ‘brainwashed’ by a religious ‘cult’.
Magnus, 49, told Ben Fogle how his tumultuous childhood in which he was part of a ‘religious group’ led by a ‘controlling leader’ compelled him to setting up a self-sustaining home for his family in the small island of Flores, in the Azores.
Speaking to the presenter in an episode of Channel 5’s New Lives in the Wild – which airs tomorrow at 9pm – the father-of-three admitted that his life on an off-grid cottage, positioned on a steep sloped mountain is influenced by a lack of stability in his own formative years.
The dwelling houses him, his partner, Yorkshire-born Lucy, their one-year-old baby Frey, and Magnus’s two sons from a previous marriage – Odin, 11, and Mitra, nine.
The nature lover, who is from the British Virgin Islands and spent 15 years renovating his home in a secluded valley, admits that his early life was as full of adventure as it was chaos.
Magnus (pictured with his partner and three children), 49, told Ben Fogle how his tumultuous childhood led him to setting up a self-sustaining home for his family in the small island of Flores, in the Azores
‘Although it was idyllic in many ways, my parents didn’t have a healthy relationship,’ he revealed.
‘There was a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting, a lot of throwing plates and dishes at one another.’
When Magnus was around seven or eight, his mother decided to move to North America, where she got involved in what he calls a ‘religious cult’.
‘You’re in the same group of 50 people all the time and they’re in charge and they’re by and large controlling the decisions of the weaker members of the group…getting them to invest money,’ he explained.
‘They’d say “we’re Christians and therefore we’re not a cult because we’re Christians and we’re an established religion” but they weren’t just Christians.
‘They had a charismatic leader…he was a salesman by trade…he could sell cars, he could sell Jesus.’
Soon, Magnus began to see his mother’s behaviour shift from liberal stances on upbringing to more conservative values.
‘The rules changed abruptly,’ he admitted. ‘My parents were very hands off in their parenting, they let me have a lot of freedom in the Caribbean, didn’t believe in corporal punishment.
A blown-away Ben, touched by his story, later reflected that his remote home provides Magnus with stability
‘Whereas my mom went to Virginia and the church insisted that she get comfortable with the idea of spanking me…My mom really struggled with that.’
Magnus says she was ‘brainwashed’ into thinking she was ‘doing her son justice’ by behaving how the church wanted, despite knowing it was ‘wrong’.
Aged 14, he decided to step away from the church to disconnect himself from the difficult family dynamic, telling his mother he was no longer going to attend.
‘I’m gonna spend my Sundays walking in the woods…that’s my church now,’ he said.
As a result, Magnus struggled to find ‘magic’ where the world made sense after leaving his faith behind, revealing it created a ‘void’ in his life which led to suicidal thoughts during that time – ‘just because he saw the pointlessness of life…and that was tricky to get around’.
The dwelling houses him, his partner, Yorkshire-born Lucy, their one-year-old baby Frey, and Magnus’s two sons from a previous marriage – Odin, 11, and Mitra, nine. Pictured, Magnus, Ben, Lucy and baby Frey
‘I needed real answers…more than what The Bible could provide,’ he told Ben.
Thankfully, the solution came in the flora and fauna around him, in which he found a solace.
‘Nature is honest…nature is just pure energy,’ he said. ‘It’s just a place to be in harmony…’
Magnus emotionally admitted he wants to provide the stability he never had for his family, opening up about the love he feels for his children.
‘I’ve learned from my parents what not to do probably more so I’d say than what to do,’ he said.
A blown-away Ben, touched by his story, later reflected: ‘I think for someone who experienced so much as a child…the way that he can take back control is by being somewhere like this.’
The house was given to Ben from his father, who would stop off on the island for water during his trips to The Caribbean.
Magnus (pictured with his partner and baby, alongside Ben) emotionally admitted he wants to provide the stability he never had for his family, opening up about the love he feels for his children
Moving into the initially humble property permanently in 2007, Magnus has painstakingly made the dwelling a home by vigilantly tending to the wild vegetation around him to provide food – and working around his isolated environment.
At one point, he admitted that with his first son Odin, there were times when there was no running electricity while he was caring for his newborn.
When Magnus first arrived, the house was ‘completely run down and inaccessible’. He has even had to build a zip-wire across the valley to get building supplies in.
The house is much more hospitable now – there is an access road and a hydro electric turbine which provides a power source – but takes a lot of maintenance, especially the surrounding greenery.
Lucy, who initially met Magnus after finishing her Master’s degree in Ecological Economics, also revealed a touching backstory to her journey to the Azores.
The Yorkshire-born mother-of-one initially met the remote dweller when he hosted her during a working holiday, and the pair fell in love – but back in the UK, Lucy had been dealing with her own mental health difficulties.
She told Ben about suffering from an eating disorder and feeling ‘severely depressed’ throughout school and her first year of university, going through intense highs and lows which were supplemented by erratic eating habits.
But being surrounded by the beauty of her new surroundings, she has found a healing power in her home.
‘After living here I’ve completely changed,’ she explained. ‘I don’t count calories anymore…I think of food as fuel.’
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