Twelve Tribes is subject of upcoming investigative podcast


By – Published on February 26, 2018

A new investigative podcast will take a look at the story of The Twelve Tribes, a religious organization and founders of the internationally known Yellow Deli restaurants.

Produced locally by a media company Good Scout, “The Twelve” will follow the legacy of the organization from its formation and controversial exodus from Chattanooga in the late 1970s.

The podcast—scheduled for 10 episodes—features an overview of the Twelve Tribes as a religious community, interviews with ex-members and an exploration of allegations surrounding the community.


It will debut in late December and will be available on iTunes, Google Play and Public Radio Exchange. WUTC-FM plans to offer it locally.

Shelton Brown is the co-executive producer of “The Twelve.” Along with 10 other team members, he plans to delve into the story of the Twelve Tribes beginning with their exodus from Chattanooga, growth as an organization and subsequent return to the area.

The Yellow Deli on McCallie Ave. (Photo: Shelton Brown)

The Yellow Deli on McCallie Ave. (Photo: Shelton Brown)

Chattanooga’s Twelve Tribes community is located at 900 Oak St. in the Fortwood area near UTC. The group also operates The Yellow Deli at 737 McCallie Ave, which opened in 2008.

Read a short history of the Yellow Deli here.

“It’s a full-blown investigation,” Brown said. “If you go back through the archives, you’ll find controversy after controversy surrounding the group. There was a gentleman who felt like the Twelve Tribes had kidnapped his granddaughter, folklore, rumors … If there was a legacy they left at all, it was controversy.”

He said the goal of the podcast was to “make sense of the rumors” and to specifically focus on whether the term “cult” should be applied to the group.

Brown said it has taken months to gain the trust of ex-members, but the investigation was jump-started by an anonymous tip on Facebook. He has traveled throughout the country to interview former members and he said those interviews have helped form the story arc.

“A woman in Chattanooga was able to connect me with 30 ex-members,” he said. “Most of them are incredibly skeptical and, in one case, it took me months to gain trust. This story just kind of fell into my lap.”

Although details are limited, Brown said the primary protagonist of the story is Gene Spriggs, the founder of the Twelve Tribes movement that began in Chattanooga. The group initially formed the “Light Brigade” and eventually developed into a communal living collective which grew and remains active in Chattanooga and throughout the world.

“It’s not a well-known story,” Brown said. ” The content isn’t flat; it’s pretty dramatic content we’re digging into. There are certain allegations we’ve looked into.”

Brown said “The Twelve” will likely span multiple seasons and that the podcast has already received interest from national syndicates.

He is still conducting interviews for the podcast. He can be reached by email at

Good Scout will host a listening party at the Camp House on Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

Team members include Hamilton Barber, Michael Miller, John Michael Forman, Mary Gower, Nathan Boler, Chuck Harris, Eric Higgins, Jonathan Goff, Matt Busby and Emily Selleck.

The show’s format will be a serialized, narrative style that is common with investigative podcasts such as “Heaven’s Gate.” Hosted by Glynn Washington of the “Snap Judgment” podcast, “Heaven’s Gate” follows the 1997 incident where thirty-nine people took their own lives in an apparent mass suicide. Washington interviewed those who lost their loved ones and those that still believe.

One Comment On “Twelve Tribes is subject of upcoming investigative podcast”

  1. I’m curious if you’re reading this, if you are currently a member of the Twelve Tribes communities, and if you are allowed to be reading this? And if you are an elder or shepherd? Let me know. Thanks.

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