Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Top Ten Deadliest Cults
Heaven's Gate
Heaven's Gate
The Heaven's Gate cult was a U.F.O. religion that fused some Christian apocalyptic thought with concepts popular in science fiction. Followers believed that the Earth was going to be destroyed in a great "recycling" and that the only way to survive was to leave the planet by evolving to the next level. The cult was founded in the 1970s by Marshall Applewhite (pictured) after he had visions of himself in the Book of Revelation, then as an evolved human relative of Jesus, and finally as an alien being in human form. The cult believed that in order to be eligible to ascend to the next level of existence, members would have to give up all things human: possessions, money, jobs, individuality, sexuality, friends, family and even life itself.

The members decided that if they killed themselves at precisely the right moment they would not die, but would be taken up to an alien spacecraft hidden by the tail of Comet Hale-Bopp then passing near Earth. Interestingly the group funded itself by doing web development. On March 26, 1997, the bodies of Applewhite and 38 of his followers were found dead in the cult's rented mansion. Police believe that they killed themselves in groups over the course of three days. The cultists ingested lethal doses of phenobarbital, though autopsies showed the presence of cyanide and arsenic as well, and put plastic bags over their heads. All the dead were found lying in their bunks dressed identically, down to their "Heaven's Gate Away Team" armbands.

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