20 years later, Heaven's Gate lives on - via internet, scholarly debates - 2017-03-18
The jokes started right away, even though 39 people had died. Heaven's Gate felt ripe for ridicule.
It happened 20 years ago this month. In a Rancho Santa Fe mansion, Marshall Applewhite, a preacher's son and former seminarian who had fashioned a religion that merged evangelical Christianity with New Age science fiction, led his followers in a ritualistic "exit" of their human shells. They were convinced they would literally ascend to a better world via a spaceship riding behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
They donned matching black track suits with customized patches identifying themselves as the "Heaven's Gate Away Team." They slipped on brand new black Nike shoes. They packed duffel bags.