Applewhite (a preacher's son) and his female partner, Bonnie Lu Nettles, concluded that they had been chosen to fulfill biblical prophecies, and that they had been given higher-level minds than other people. They wrote a pamphlet that described Jesus' reincarnation as a Texan, a thinly veiled reference to Applewhite.Furthermore, they concluded that they were the two witnesses described in the Book of Revelation in the Jesus Novel.
21 women and 18 men of varying ages–were all found lying peaceably in matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers. The largest U.S. mass suicide.
Each was laid out in bed clad in black sweatpants, black button-down tunics and out-of-the-box Nike Decade jogging shoes. Each torso and shorn head was enshrouded by a square of deep purple fabric.
Each of the dead had exactly $5.75 in a pocket, and all wore a Trekkie-inspired arm patch that read, "Heaven's Gate Away Team." Computers in the mansion flashed a Starship Enterprise-style "Red Alert."
Their leaders preached that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily “containers” and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
Applewhite rented a large home in Rancho Santa Fe, explaining to the owner that his group was made up of Christian-based angels.
The leader, Applewhite, advocated sexual abstinence, and several male cult members followed his example by undergoing castration operations. Most of his members followed him for 20 years.
The Hale Bopp Comet was a rocky blob of dirty ice hurtling through the Milky Way.
The world was alerted by videotapes mailed by the cult to a former member who visited the mansion, then left and called 911.
The tapes, including 90 minutes of Applewhite's New Age babble and pitiful farewells from disciples trying to justify irrationality, have had 2 million views on YouTube. (Former disciples who missed the spaceship maintain the group's website, frozen in time from March 1997). http://www.heavensgate.com/