In 1997, 39 people took their own lives to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp.
The cult leader Marshall Applewhite persuaded 38 followers to prepare for ritual suicide so their souls could board the supposed craft. Applewhite believed that after their deaths an unidentified flying object (UFO) would take their souls to another “level of existence above human”, which he described as being both physical and spiritual.
All followers were dressed in black, wearing Nike Decade sneakers, and killed themselves in shifts over three days, with members arranging the bodies of those who died before them.
To this day, after more than 20 years, the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide still lives inside American consciousness. As of today, the cult’s website is still active and maintained by the surviving members.