OAK CREEK – It was all fun and games at the local pickleball court until rising religious fanaticism within the sport turned the low impact hobby into a horror scene right out of the movies.
The fun alternative to tennis for aging locals took a turn for the worse as the club’s numbers increased so rapidly, it caught the attention of the local FBI office. Deemed “suspicious” by the Bureau, they quickly launched an investigation. Within three weeks, Special Agent Mack Janis presented charges to Milwaukee County’s Circuit Court Criminal Division.
Over 70 members of the club were subpoenaed and appeared Thursday afternoon. Testimonial evidence painted a grim picture of a manipulative, dangerous cult thriving under the guise of a recreational club.
One member who has requested anonymity spoke of the horrors they faced. “It all started out harmless. My partner and I are retired and have played tennis our whole lives but were looking for something new to spice things up,” the tearful victim told the court.
“We saw a couple playing pickleball. We chatted them up thinking they were harmless,” they continued. “They invited us to join them for a game and consider joining the club. Frankly, it was exciting. We played with them for weeks and truly enjoyed their company.”
That’s when things began to go downhill. The former member hid their face with their hand as they continued to retell the details of the ordeal. “They started talking about an initiation, we didn’t think much of it. But later that month they came to pick us up in an unmarked van.”
Other victims sitting in the gallery nodded knowingly, some even beginning to sob. “We knew the club took pickleball very seriously, but they were always so playful. When they placed the bags over our heads, I became uneasy.”
The victims’ bags were removed from their heads and found themselves in a dimly lit pickleball court with the president sitting in the center of the room. Wearing a large cloak seemingly made of the same polymer as a pickleball and surrounded by torches, the frightened club members didn’t know what to make of it.
“We thought it was a joke. Then they made us play pickleball until we bled as they chanted and called upon their god,” the anonymous member reported. “The president demanded we call him the Pickle Lord, and that’s when it got worse. So much worse. He drank our blood as he made us read a lengthy oath pledging our allegiance to the pickleball club.”
It was hours before the tired, bloody, and terrified members were allowed to return home. Hiding the truth from their families for weeks, they recovered from the shock of the events that had unfolded. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning.
“We were still forced to play pickleball with them every day. We had to recruit new members, at least four a week, or we would suffer consequences. Luckily, the two of us never learned what that actually meant, but we were still bringing people into the cult. Some members even went missing.”
The cult leaders placated the members with courtside Bucks tickets, but that hardly made up for the constant unannounced home visits, taking their mail, and controlling what they ate and wore.”
“We couldn’t even contact our families without them knowing. They controlled and monitored everything.”
Despite the grueling tribulations, the member claimed it wasn’t all bad. “I hate to admit it, but the sense of community and power felt nice for a while. We were finally being recognized as someone needed, not just retired old bags. We did some awful things – some as awful as what they did to us – but we eventually had enough. We realized it had to end and alerted the authorities.”
If you or a loved one have fallen victim to pickleball mania, we want to hear your story. Contact WNT and take your shot at taking down the unlawful, dangerous entity that is pickleball.
-Ja Cavanoro Reporting