In 1997, 39 people took their own lives in an attempt to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp.

Heaven's Gate Suicide
A San Diego County Sheriff’s investigator shines a light at a window outside the Heaven's Gate mansion.

The cult leader Marshall Applewhite persuaded 38 followers to prepare for a ritual suicide, believing it would enable their souls to board the supposed extraterrestrial craft.

Heaven's Gate Suicide
Gurneys in front of the Heaven's Gate mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Applewhite believed that after their deaths, an unidentified flying object (UFO) would transport their souls to another "level of existence above human," which he described as being both physical and spiritual.

Heaven's Gate Suicide
A Los Angeles County Coroner truck arrives at the scene.

Heaven's Gate Suicide
An EMT arrives at the scene.

All cult followers were dressed in black tracksuits, with customized patches identifying themselves as the “Heaven’s Gate Away Team,” and wore Nike Decade sneakers.

The followers committed suicide by ingesting barbiturates mixed into applesauce or pudding and chased it down with vodka. After tying plastic bags around their heads, the 39 followers climbed into bunk beds to wait for their "graduation."

The cult didn’t refer to the act as suicide. They called it graduation. To them, those who stayed behind were the ones killing themselves.

Heaven's Gate Suicide
Bodies of the cult members inside the Heaven's Gate mansion.

The 39 cult members committed suicide in shifts over three days, so that those still earthbound could tidy up after those who had just left, draping purple shrouds atop the bodies.

Inside their pockets, each cult member had a five-dollar bill and three quarters for the "interplanetary toll."

Enjoyed the preview? Continue reading by becoming a member!

New crime scenes added tri-weekly!

  • Membership Details

    One-off payment, unlimited lifetime access to the photo gallery
    Applying discount code. Please wait...
    • Payment Details