THE Heaven’s Gate cult believed they were ‘graduating’ from Earth when 39 members died in a mass suicide 25 years ago.
Police were called to the scene of what turned out to be the largest mass suicide in the United States on March 26, 1997.
Leader Marshall Applewhite recruited members by word of mouth and with advertisementsCredit: Getty
Bonnie Nettles preached with Applewhite in Heaven’s GateCredit: AP
Each body was found dressed identically with a travel bag next to themCredit: Getty
Police found 21 men and 18 women total who died by suicide
For the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, a new two-hour documentary, The Cult Next Door: The Mystery and Madness of Heaven’s Gate, is exploring never-before-seen footage found in the investigation.
Detective Rick Scully, a former investigator for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, searched the home, known as “the Monastery,” where the bodies were found and said, “We realized this definitely is a cult.”
At the house in San Diego, police found 21 men and 18 women who died by suicide.
They were found wearing identical black clothing with Nike sneakers and staged in bunk beds.
Each body had a shaven head and was covered with a purple blanket. They also had had $5.75 cash in their pocket and a travel bag next to them on the floor.
Cult leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, who had legally changed their names to Do and Ti, used advertisements to find people who were seeking to reach the “next level,” to shed their earthly and human instincts and move on to enlightenment
Heaven’s Gate cult was a religious group that falsely believed they were destined to go to heaven on a UFO.
They had taken out an “alien abduction” insurance policy that would pay $1million per person for up to 50 members if their death was to be caused by aliens, the Associated Press reported.
The suicides were achieved by drinking a lethal cocktail of phenobarbital mixed with apple sauce and vodka.
Phenobarbital is a drug used by doctors to slow down the activity in your brain and nervous system and is generally used to treat people who suffer from seizures, or as a sedative to help you relax.
Florida resident and 15-year Heaven’s Gate member Dick Joslyn told The Baltimore Sun: “Each one did this of their own volition, even though they were in a cult.
“At every step of the way [the leaders] gave us the option to go forward with the next step or to leave.”
Graveface Museum, in Savannah, Georgia, has an exhibit on Heaven’s Gate featuring videos of Applewhite speaking, including a farewell video, and news clips from the day the bodies were discovered.
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