On this day: in history (1997), an anonymous caller directed police to a mansion outside San Diego where authorities discovered 39 victims of a mass suicide, the largest mass suicide on U.S. soil. The deceased, 21 women and 18 men, of varying ages were all found lying peaceably in matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers and had no noticeable signs of blood or trauma. It was later revealed that the men and women were all members of a strange and secretive cult called Heaven’s Gate, which had a goal to transcend to “higher beings” by spaceship.
Heaven’s Gate was started in the early 1970s by Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lou Nettles – a Texas music teacher and nurse that he met during a stay in a psychiatric institution.
Applewhite was the son of a Presbyterian preacher and was fired as a music professor at the University of St. Thomas in 1970 after administrators learned he had sex with a male student. He struggled with his sexuality and had a complicated relationship with his father. Over the course of several years, Applewhite and Nettles required their followers to adhere to increasingly more strange and severe rules, including severing all contact with family and friends and encouraging the adoption of an asexual appearance. In later years, some members of the group underwent castration.
One of the ways that Heaven’s Gate paid the bills was with a web design group called “Higher Source.” Their website is still online.
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Created by Okey Obiabunmo