Heaven's Gate Cult
Heaven's Gate was the name of a cult that believed an alien spaceship was behind the comet Hale Bopp, and that to get aboard, members had to kill themselves, which they did in 1997. They believed in reincarnation, and that their leader, Marshall Applewhite, was the reincarnation of Jesus. 39 followers of the cult ended their lives between March 24–26, 1997.
The Mass Suicide occurred between March 24–26, 1997. 15 died on the 24th, 15 more on the 25th, and 9 on the 26th. Marshall Applewhite was the third to last member to die. After him, two women remained, the only two out of the 39 without bags over their heads. The suicide was administered by toxins put into pudding or apple sauce. The members all wore Nike shoes and, after eating the poison, put bags over their heads, which were then covered by purple cloths.
The Heaven's Gate mass suicide has become an example of how cults can go to extremes. It is ofter compared with the Jonestown Massacre, which occurred 18 years prior. Both groups, including their respective leaders, killed themselves by being poisoned. Although Jonestown is the more tragic of the two as children were killed and some members who refused to drink the poison were injected with it.
Further Reading on Cults
- http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_highe.htm - Destructive cults:Heaven's Gate: UFO believers