Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Heaven's Gate Cult

The Real End

California map with Rancho Santa Fe marked (AP)
California map with Rancho Santa
Fe marked (AP)

In 1994, several members told a reporter for the LA Weekly that they would all be departing. They were going to walk out to the Santa Monica pier and catch a ride into space. But that did not take place, and in October of '96, they went to southern California, renting a large seven-bedroom house in the wealthy community of Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego, at 18241 Colina Norte. There they developed a computer business as Web page designers. They called the place "the Monastery" and their business "Higher Source." They also used the Internet's worldwide communication capabilities to promote their beliefs and gather more disciples. They renamed themselves Heaven's Gate. At this time, according to Wessinger, they had only around 25 adherents left in the group.

Rancho Santa Fe (AP)
Rancho Santa Fe (AP)

On the Web page, Applewhite posted six key points, paraphrased as:

  • I and my partner are from the Evolutionary Level Above Human and we took over two human bodies in their forties, which had been tagged at birth as vehicles for our use.
  • We brought a crew of students to Earth with us from the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Many of us arrived in staged crashes of spaceships and authorities confiscated some of our bodies.
  • Others came before us to tag our bodies with special chips.
  • Before our human incarnation, we were briefed by older beings with details about how to take over the human vehicle.
  • The Kingdom of God is genderless, multiplying through metamorphosis, and its inhabitants have free will.

Heaven's Gate logo (AP)
Heaven's Gate logo (AP)

There were more messages regarding Earth's impending demise, and once again, a few people left everything to grab their "last chance" and join the cult.

Then in November and December of 1996, a comet called Hale-Bopp made a big splash, not just for Heaven's Gate but for the entire New Age community and beyond. Its last visit had been in 2200 BC, which was viewed then as a harbinger for the arrival of a great teacher, or Peacemaker, who would visit many different civilizations around the world to deliver a sacred doctrine. He would bring purification and save true believers from the tribulations of the end times.

It's no wonder that many who knew about this viewed the approach of the comet as a sign of great change.

One amateur astronomer said that a ringed object was following the comet, which was four times the size of Earth and which had thrown the comet off its course several times. It was even said that the Vatican was looking for some sign in the heavens, since this would be the last comet of the millennium. It supposedly signaled the final three years of Satan's reign on earth and would usher in a more enlightened age.

Do told the group that Ti had communicated telepathically to him that it was time and that Hale-Bopp was the sign. On their Web page they excitedly announced Hale-Bopp's approach.

Dr. Courtney Brown, claiming to be adept at "remote viewing," or seeing things that occurred far away, told radio host Art Bell that he was in possession of photographs of the comet. They clearly showed an object in its wake and this object had all the appearances of an alien craft. In fact, Brown said he'd "looked" inside and had seen alien life forms. This claim drew many expectant listeners who wanted to see the photos, including members of Heaven's Gate.

Hale-Bopp comet (AP)
Hale-Bopp comet (AP)

Sensing the arrival of the most significant event in their short history, the crew-minded group went together to watch Star Wars. They also attended a UFO conference, bought insurance against alien abductions and impregnation, and purchased a high-powered telescope. They were looking for the "companion" to Hale-Bopp, they told the store manager, which they described as a small shape near the comet. That was their mothership. When they failed to find it, they returned the telescope. The manager found their ideas puzzling.

Then in January 1997, the promised photographs were finally posted on Art Bell's Web site and then were quickly exposed as a hoax. Yet the Heaven's Gate crew was not deterred. On their Web site they wrote, "Whether Hale-Bopp has a companion or not is irrelevant from our perspective." Its approach alone was significant as "the marker we've been waiting for." Visible or not, the spaceship would be there ready to take them home. They were about to "graduate" from human to more-than-human. Those who were reading the message might even want to get their own "boarding passes."

By the end of that month, on January 23, a remarkable celestial event occurred: the outer planets of our solar system aligned themselves in what many people said was a six-pointed star. That was the Jewish star, the symbol of Jesus. The last time this alignment had occurred had been just before the Renaissance. There was every reason to believe that something of universal significance was about to occur.


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