Heaven’s Gate

Heaven’s Gate was an American UFO religion that gained notoriety in 1997 when 39 members of the group committed mass suicide. The group believed that a spaceship was following the Hale–Bopp comet and that if they committed suicide, their souls would be transported to another level of existence.

The group was founded in 1974 by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. Applewhite was a former college professor and Nettles was a nurse. The two met in 1972 and began to develop their religious beliefs together. They believed that they were the two witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation and that they were on a mission to save humanity.

The group’s beliefs were a mix of Christianity, New Age, and UFOlogy. They believed that Jesus was an alien and that he had come to Earth to save humanity from itself. They also believed that the Earth was about to be destroyed and that only those who joined Heaven’s Gate would be saved.

The group’s teachings were kept secret from the public and only revealed to members. They were also very strict about their members’ behavior. Members were required to give up their possessions, their families, and their jobs. They were also required to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen.

The group’s beliefs and practices led to a great deal of controversy. Many people accused the group of being a cult and of brainwashing its members. The group was also criticized for its secrecy and its strict rules.

In 1997, the group’s beliefs led to the mass suicide of 39 members. The members believed that the Hale–Bopp comet was a sign that the end of the world was near. They also believed that a spaceship was following the comet and that if they committed suicide, their souls would be transported to another level of existence.

The mass suicide shocked the world and led to a renewed interest in Heaven’s Gate. The group’s beliefs and practices have been studied by sociologists, psychologists, and religious scholars. The group has also been the subject of books, documentaries, and films.

The Heaven’s Gate case is a complex and tragic one. It is a story of faith, hope, and despair. It is also a story of the dangers of cults and the importance of critical thinking.


Balch, R. W., & Taylor, D. (2002). Heaven’s Gate: A Study of Conversion, Apostasy, and the Mass Suicide. University of California Press.

Bromley, D. G. (1998). The social psychology of cults: A reader. Transaction Publishers.

Hall, J. R. (2000). Gone to Heaven: Understanding Cults and the People Who Join Them. HarperCollins.

Lewis, J. R. (2004). Legitimating New Religions: The Structure of Controversy. Oxford University Press.

Partridge, C. (2004). UFO Religions. Routledge.

Rochford, E. B., Jr. (1998). Cults and conversion: A study of brainwashing and deprogramming. Praeger.

Singer, M. T. (2003). Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives. Jossey-Bass.

Listen to the Heaven’s Gate Episode

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