Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Heaven’s Gate is a destructive, doomsday cult centered in California. 21 women and 18 men voluntarily committed suicide in three groups on three successive days starting on March 23, 1997. Most were in their 40′s; the rest covered an age range of 26 to 72. Two months later, two additional members, Charles Humphrey and Wayne Cooke attempted suicide in a hotel room a few miles from the Rancho Santa Fe mansion; Cooke succeeded. Humphrey tried again in the Arizona desert during Feb 1998 and was successful.
They followed a syncretistic religion, combining elements of Christianity with unusual beliefs about the nature of UFOs. They interpreted passages from the four gospels and the book Revelation as referring to UFO visitation. In particular, they emphasized a story in Revelation which described two witnesses who are killed, remained dead for 3 1/2 days, were revived and taken up into the clouds. They look upon earth as being in the control of evil forces, and perceived themselves as being among the elite who would attain heaven. They held a profoundly dualistic belief of the soul as being a superior entity which is only housed temporarily in a body. Applewhite said that bodies were only “the temporary containers of the soul…The final act of metamorphosis or separation from the human kingdom is the ‘disconnect’ or separation from the human physical container or body in order to be released from the human environment.”
Members called themselves brother and sister; they looked upon themselves as monks and nuns; they lived communally in a large, rented San Diego County (CA) home which they called their monastery. Most members had little contact with their families of origin or with their neighbors. Many followed successful professional careers before entering the group. Some abandoned their children before joining. They were free to leave at any time. They dressed in unisex garments: shapeless black shirts with Mandarin collars, and black pants. They were required commit themselves to a celibate life. Eight of the male members, including Do, submitted to voluntary castration. This seems to have been a form of preparation for their next level of existence: in a life that would be free of gender, sexual identity and sexual activity.
Thirty-eight group members, plus Applewhite, the group’s leader, were found dead in a rented mansion in the upscale San Diego community of Rancho Santa Fe, California, on March 26, 1997. The mass death of the Heaven’s Gate group is said to be one of the most widely-known examples of cult suicide. In preparing to kill themselves, members of the group drank citrus juices to ritually cleanse their bodies of impurities. The suicide was accomplished by ingestion of phenobarbital mixed with vodka, along with plastic bags secured around their heads to induce asphyxiation. They were found lying neatly in their own bunk beds, with their faces and torsos covered by a square, purple cloth. Each member carried five dollar bills and a few quarters in their wallets. All 39 were dressed in identical black shirts and sweat pants, brand new black-and-white Nike tennis shoes, and armband patches reading “Heaven’s Gate Away Team”. The suicides were conducted in shifts, and the remaining members of the group cleaned up after each prior group’s death.
Posted by Chloe Grace at 9:58 PM