As Heaven’s Gate progressed, the concept of aliens as part of the religion became more prevalent. It was this part of the belief system that would lead to the death of nearly 40 members, including Marshall Applewhite , the co-founder. In this article, you will learn more about the mass suicide associated with the group.
Applewhite and Nettles had adopted another belief linked to New Age concepts that involved beings from other planets. The ancient astronaut hypothesis was used to reference different variations of a theory centered on UFOnauts that visited our planet in the distant past. Heaven’s Gate preached that these aliens planted seeds of current humanity millions of years ago, and will come back to “reap the harvest of their work.”
Holding onto this notion, the group believed that a flying saucer would come back for the people, but only a select few of humanity would be chosen to advance to the next stage in life. The rest of the world would be left to survive a corrupt world. Applewhite and Nettles promised members that they would be allowed to escape this fate if they joined their group and made the sacrifices associated with gaining a membership.
Group members discarded their material possessions and lived a life free of excess and indulgence. This shared way of life created a tightly knit group of people. As a way to display their extreme devotion to the religion, seven of the male members (including Applewhite) voluntarily underwent castration in Mexico. The group made money by offering professional website development services to paying clients. They operated under the name Higher Source.
The Mass Suicide
On March 19 and 20 of 1997, Marshall Applewhite taped himself speaking of mass suicide. He believed that it was the only way to “evacuate the Earth.” The group was ultimately against suicide, but believed that they needed to take quick action in order to make contact with alien space craft. Applewhite was successful in convincing members that they needed to commit suicide so that their souls could board the space craft. He told them that after their deaths, the UFO would take their souls to another ‘level of existence’ that was beyond being human. The experience was supposed to be physical, as well as spiritual.
Interestingly, the group actually purchased alien abduction insurance to cover up to 50 members. It cost $10,000. The religious group rented a mansion that spread across 9,200 square feet of land in the gated community of Rancho Santa Fe in California. It was a place dotted with upscale homes. Heaven’s Gate paid $7,000 per month in cash as a rental fee. On March 26, 1997, police uncovered the bodies of 39 members of the group , they had committed suicide , believing that they would be able to reach an alien space craft that they thought was following the Comet Hale-Bopp (which was at its brightest).