4 Strange Cults

Posted on 05/29/2010
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Cult-like behavior (read, religion) is one of humankind's oldest preoccupations. Whether centered on God, gods, aliens, or energy forces, people have always been willing to believe and subsequently sacrifice for what they believe in. Here are a few of the strangest yet on record:

1. Heaven's Gate

A monastical, secretive society, dedicated to the belief that the Planet Earth was on the verge of recycling itself, and therefore it was important to evacuate it as soon as possible. Based on leader Marshall Applewhite's near death experience, and his attending nurse's instability, the cult began searching for ways to disconnect from or to leave Earth, including "hating this world, even our flesh body", selling all worldly possessions, castration of males, and most famously, leaving on a spaceship trailing comet Halle-Bop. Well known (and criticized) among UFO groups, Heaven's Gate was propelled to infamy in 1997, when thirty nine members committed mass suicide, in attempt to jump on a spaceship that Applewhite alleged was following the comet. Apparently, the UFO would pick up the kamikaze souls, and take them to another level of existence. To prepare, the group allegedly first completed a citrus cleanse of the impurities in the body, and then ingested a cocktail of applesauce or pudding, phenobarbital, and a vodka chaser, then tied plastic bags around their heads to induce asphyxiation. The thirty nine were found on March 26, 1997, in matching black sweatsuits, brand new matching Nikes (in case they were running a little late?), with five dollars in quarters and a purple armband reading "Heaven's Gate Away Team."

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