Heavens Gate Cult
On March 26, 1997, in what has become known as one of the most noteworthy mass suicides in history, thirty-nine men and women affiliated with the Heavens Gate cult took their own lives by ingesting a combination of Phenobarbitals mixed with applesauce and alcohol. Each was dressed all in black, their faces covered by a purple shroud. Those who wore glasses had them neatly folded next to their body, and all had identification papers for the authorities to find. The house was immaculate, tidier even than before the victims had moved in. It was as if, in preparing for their death, they were heeding the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.” And while their abrupt end may seem rather strange, the way they lived is even more perplexing.
The group came together in the mid 1970s under the charismatic preaching of Marshall Herff Applewhite, and his companion, Bonnie Lu Nettles, a former nu...