A former Heaven’s Gate member is looking back on the time he spent with the cult 20 years after dozens of its members committed suicide together at Rancho Santa Fe.
The man, who goes by the name Sawyer, told Inside Edition that he spent 18 years with the cult, reaching the rank of “overseer” before leaving in 1994.
He recalled his conversations with the leader of the cult, Marshall Applewhite, who was known by his fellow followers as “Do.”
“He said that there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t think of himself as insane,” Sawyer said.
Applewhite founded the group in 1974. In March 1997, he and 38 other members were found dead in their beds in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego in California. The 18 men and 21 women were all dressed in identical black clothing and sneakers and were covered with purple sheets.
It emerged that Applewhite was somehow able to talk his followers into consuming a toxic mix of vodka and chocolate pudding or apple sauce that was laced with barbiturates. Some also had plastic bags pulled over their heads.
Applewhite told them the comet Hale-Bopp was being trailed by an alien spacecraft and, if they died, they could board it. He said that after their deaths, they would be transported to a new level of existence.
Reporters were stunned when they gained access to the mansion following the mass suicide. They found blood stains and splatters across some of the rooms.
The bunks and shrouds discovered at the mansion are now on display at the Museum Of Death in Hollywood, California. Mannequins wear the actual clothes taken from some of the bodies.
The website for the cult is also still working and looks just like it did decades ago.
Professor David Taylor, who has studied the cult, told Inside Edition: “Everybody’s wearing exactly the same kind of uniform.”
“They wore drab loose clothing to minimize men being attracted to women and vice versa,” he added.
He pointed out one of two different patches that they designed for the suicide event. “It says ‘earth exit,’ which indicates their intention,” he said.
Nine of the men inside the cult castrated themselves “by their own volition,” he added.
Every month, the bills get paid on time. The emails get answered, and any orders filled. Which, for HeavensGate.com, is positively extraordinary. Because as far as the public is aware, every last member of the suicide cult died 17 years ago from a cocktail of arsenic and apple sauce. A few stayed behind, though. Someone had to keep the homepage going.
Today, at first glance, the fully functional, 17-year-old website seems like just one more of the many GeoCities-era relics that litter the internet. Visitor counts, flashing text, Word Art gradients; the whole gang’s here and then some. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that almost every link adds yet another layer to a wildly extensive dogma, totally earnest in its interweaving of disembodied space aliens, Jesus, secret UFOs, prophets to whom aliens speak, comets coming to save us, and the suicide it takes to get there.
It’s not just text (though there is plenty of that); Heaven’s Gate’s internet remains also include hours upon hours of video recorded some time between 1993 and 97, the year the majority of the group committed suicide in anticipation of sublimating to the spacecraft that trailed comet Hale-Bopp.
Those recorded statements from “students” before their deaths (as well as their leaders’ own testimony) exist not only as videos on the site, but as transcripts. These were intended to last. And they have, thanks to the guardians of HeavensGate.com.
Today, only a few Heaven’s Gate believers remain. Two of them sit on the other end of the website’s sole contact email address, and will promptly respond to your inquiries. Which seems odd for a group whose members are all widely believed to be dead.
The people who respond to HeavensGate.com queries refer to themselves simply as “Telah” and “we.” They’ll answer questions if you ask—that’s part of the gig—but they’ve wearied of the rubberneckers that have passed through ever since their fellow active members committed suicide in 1997. Which is perhaps to be expected when you’re the only official contact point for one of the largest, most bizarre mass suicides in human history.
In fact, what’s most surprising about the Heaven’s Gate website is that for all the hundreds of pages of sermons and prophecies and transcripts held within the site and its advertised wares, the bizarre, often incoherent text really doesn’t tell you all that much
And what it does tell you isn’t half as interesting as the people who are doling it out.
–Ashley Feinberg, Gizmodo. For more, visit here.