In March 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate, a cult started in the early ’70s, put on matching dark clothes, swallowed barbiturates, and placed plastic bags around their heads. It was one of the largest mass suicides in the history of the United States.
Although you may have heard of that incident, when it comes to the world’s most infamous cults, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
INSIDER looked back on some of the most dangerous and infamous cults throughout history and the charismatic leaders who founded them.
The Manson Family famously murdered seven people over the course of two nights to start a race war.
In the late ’60s, Charles Manson brought together a group of displaced young people and called them his „family.“ They settled in Spahn Ranch, a sprawling former movie studio near Los Angeles, where drugs were free-flowing, mandatory orgies were enforced, and Manson pushed his ideas about an imminent race war.
The cult leader told his followers he wanted them to go on a killing spree. On August 8, 1969, a few members of the cult headed to a Beverly Hills home and murdered five people, including actress Sharon Tate. They wrote the word „PIG“ in Tate’s blood on the door. The violence continued the next night when Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were murdered in their Los Feliz home by Manson’s followers on his orders. Rosemary was stabbed 14 times.
Manson was convicted of first-degree murder in 1971. He served out his prison sentence until he died on November 19, 2017, at age 83.
Members of Heaven’s Gate were told that God was an alien. 39 members died by suicide.
In the early ’70s, Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles went on a road trip across America and found a group of people they dubbed „the crew.“
Applewhite told his followers many things, including that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ, the end of the world was upon them, and that God was an alien. He encouraged them to give away all their money and cut off contact with their families. Cult members were also put on a Master Cleanse diet of lemonade, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup, in order to get rid of sexual thoughts. Eight men volunteered to be surgically castrated.
In March 1997, 39 members of Heaven’s Gate donned dark outfits and matching Nike shoes. They drank vodka and ate applesauce and pudding that contained barbiturates and put plastic bags over their heads to suffocate themselves. When police officers entered the home, they found a line of bodies, each covered with purple fabric. It was one of the largest mass suicides in the history of the United States.
Members of Aum Shinrikyo left five bags filled with a toxic nerve agent on three Tokyo train lines during rush hour.
The cult Aum Shinrikyo was founded in the ’80s by Shoko Asahara. He claimed to be Christ and — at one point — garnered tens of thousands of followers across the world. His teachings started out spiritual and then became increasingly violent. Cult members even paid money to drink Asahara’s blood.
On March 20, 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo left five bags filled with a toxic nerve agent on three Tokyo train lines during rush hour. Passengers began choking and throwing up. 13 people died because of the attack and 5,800 were injured. As months went by, the cult tried — and failed — to attack other subway stations with a deathly cyanide.
Asahara was sentenced to death, along with 12 other members of Aum Shinrikyo. Seven members were executed in July of 2018, including Asahara himself. The other six members are still on death row in Japan.
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Source: Business insider