March 26, 1997 - W.W. Higher Source - Up
to 39 bodies were found by sheriff's deputies inside a
multimillion-dollar mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, an exclusive community
in northern San Diego County. Victims of an apparent mass suicide, the
dead were mostly white males and females -- with some Latinos -- ages
18 and 24, with tightly cropped hair, dressed alike in dark pants and
black Nikes. Initial reports have identified them as members of W.W.
Higher Source, a self-sufficient new-age quasi-Christian group
sustaining itself by developing Web pages. Welcome to the
March 27, 1997 - A day after the
discovery of the mass suicide, the Higher Source Web site --
the busiest site on the net -- remains boastful of the company's
programming capabilities. On its Homepage the accompanying Java applet
states: "Welcome to Higher Source -- your best source for Website
Design, graphics & animation. Higher Source-computer programming -
Java, CGI, Perl, FoxPro & many other languages. Higher
Source-RealAudio, ShockWave, QuickTime movies, 3D modeling, VRML &
Web site Design."
The Web site itself features pictures of stars and nebulae dowloaded from
the NASA site, and appears as business-like as
anything else on the Web. Heaven's Gate -- another web
site designed by the Higher Source team -- cryptically states that
suicide is acceptable for cult members who want to ascend to a "higher
level of life." In this case the "higher level of life" refers to a
spaceship behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
Sam Koutchessahani, the owner of the hilltop mansion, rented it to
members of the group on October 1996. At the time he told a neighbor
that he couldn't sell the house and he was going to rent it to "bunch
of monks." Members of the cult told Koutchesfahani, that they were
sent to Earth as angels and met in "middle America." Locals thought
the group was a bunch of harmless "computer nerds" and "space
cadets" whom they described as "very conservative."
Real estate agent Scott Warren said the home had been on the
market for quite some time and that they were having trouble selling
it. The agent complained that every time they tried to show the house,
the religious cult was having a meeting. The last time he showed the
house he was greeted by about 20 people working mostly in silence, who
referred to the computer-filled mansion as "our temple." When people
entered the house they had to take off their shoes and wear surgical
socks. "It was very clean and neat. A lot of bunk beds, and they
referred to each other as brother and sister."
March 28, 1997 - New information about
the Trekkie cyber-suicide cult puts the numbers of the dead at 21
women and 18 men, ages 26 to 72, with the median age at about 40.
They all died of lethal cocktail of phenobarbital with custard and/or
applesauce and a vodka chaser. The name of the cult is now believed to
be Heaven's Gate, not Higher Source, as reported previously.
Authorities have determined that the cultist died in three groups over
a period of three days. 15 died the first day, 15 the second and the
remaining nine the third day. It appears that plastic bags were used
to speed-up the dying. A frighteningly anal-retentive suicide cult,
they cleaned up after each round of killing and even took out the
trash. Eager to be helpful even after death, all cultist had some
sort of identification on them. They also had five-dollar bills and change in
their pockets. Some had left their eyeglasses carefully folded next to
them. Most had small suitcases tucked neatly under the beds.
Nick Matzorkis, a Beverly Hills businessman who employs a former
member of the cult, said his employee -- identified only as Rio --
received two videotapes via Fed-Ex from the group that described their
intentions of shedding "their containers" and "moving to a higher
plane of existence." Alarmed, both men went to the Rancho Santa Fe
estate where Rio entered the mansion and discovered the mass suicide.
One of the videotapes showed the cult's leader, Marshall Applewhite --
a trekkie-like individual with bugged-out eyes -- in a weird triple
image , stating matter-of-factly their intention of leaving earth and
hitching a ride on a UFO hiding behind the Hale-Bobb comet. The
second video is a farewell from the other cult members. In the video
they all seem very content with their decision, and, at times, cannot
hold back their excitement about their next stage of existence.
March 30, 1997 - Postmortem information
on Heaven's Gate reveals that eight members, including Do
(Applewhite), had been surgically castrated so to better adhere to
their doctrine of container evacuation readiness. It has also been
revealed that Do first started the cult when he met his "fellow
traveller" Ti -- a nurse -- in a psychiatric hospital where he was
trying to cure his homosexual impulses. Ti died of cancer in 1985 and
apparently was believed to be steering the spaceship coming to pick
Family members of the dead cultist painted a sad picture of
intelligent but extremely alienated human beings in search for
something. Ironically, one of the dead cultist, Thomas Nichols, was
the brother of the actress Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura on
the original "Star Trek" TV series, which, one could argue, could be
held accountable for the millennial ufology that led to the mass
March 31, 1997 - According to Simon
Burgess, the managing director of Goodfellow Rebecca Imgrams Pearsons,
an insurance brokerage firm, the ever-cautious Trekkie cult had --
after watching too many episodes of the "X-Files" -- insured
themselves against being abducted, impregnated or killed by aliens. As
far as the insurance company is concerned, none of the Heaven Gaters
were abducted by aliens in their rash departure from earth, so they
won't be paying for any claims.
Evidence now suggest that several cult members killed themselves
because they thought Applewhite was dying of cancer. Do, a dead ringer
for My Favorite Martian, told his followers he only had six months to
live because his body was "disintegrating." In computer disks sent to
ex-cult member Rio D'Angelo an unidentified female cultist left a
message saying: "Once he is gone ... there is nothing left here on the
face of the Earth for me ... no reason to stay a moment longer."
Contrary to Do's medical expertise, the coroner discovered no terminal
cancer in his body.
A detailed ledger chronicling the cult's activities revealed a final
spree of earthly fun before moving on to the spaceship. The group --
described by surviving member Rio as a bunch of "fun loving"
individuals -- went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Stratosphere Hotel.
There they rode the High Roller roller coaster and the Big Shot free
A week later they went to see "Star Wars" and its two
sequels, perhaps as preparation for their star trekking. They also enjoyed
a visit to the San Diego Wild Animal Park
and Sea World. After videotaping their farewells they all had $417 worth of pizza.
They celebrated their last earthly lunch on March 21 at Marie
Callender's where they all ordered chicken pot pie and a slice of
cheesecake. The next day they started the first rounds of
April 1, 1997 - Federal authorities are
confident that there are no more Heaven Gaters or other splinter cults
out there ready to "shed their containers." The FBI reported that
they were not able to substantiate the rumor that a group in Arizona
was planning to rendevouz with Do and the rest of the crew in the now
infamous spaceship hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
In related news, the shadowy ex-cultist formerly known as Rio has now
been identified as 43-year-old Richard Ford. Ford left the group four
to six weeks before the mass suicide because he disagreed with their
plans of ascending to a higher level of existence. We have to wonder
what kind of offers Ford has been getting for the book and film rights
to his story.
April 4, 1997 - As predicted, ABC
announced it had inked a deal with Richard Ford, the ex-cultist
formerly known as Rio, for the film rights to his story. The deal was
brokered by Ford's employer, Nick Matzorkis of InterAct Entertainment.
Surprisingly, ABC stated previously that they were not interested in
the story because they thought it was, "tasteless and had little
dramatic value or conflict."
April 7, 1997 - In an exclusive
interview in Newsweek Magazine, the cultist formerly knows as Rio,
talked about how Applewhite decided to get castrated a year ago after
two cult members went to Mexico to be neutered. After Do
snipped off the offending organ, five other cult members eagerly
followed and "couldn't stop smiling and giggling" about the procedure.
In the article Rio expresses that he was left behind as "part
of the plan" to explain to the world the philosophy of Heaven's Gate.
DiAngelo -- who seems to be living in some sort of purgatory between
the cult's astral reality and real life -- does not think that his
"brothers and sisters" committed suicide. On the contrary, he insist that they merely
"exited their vehicles" and, he is quick to point out, they did it willingly.
Rio also talks about how regimented life was within the confines of
the cult. Apparently all personal interaction was shunned and all
communications went through Do's vehicle. All doctrines of the group
pointed towards becoming as "nonhuman" and depersonalized as possible
in preparation to evolving beyond their humanness. All personal
desires and traits were considered obstacles blocking them from their
eventual departure from earth in a spaceship. "You can't be thinking
like a human, you can't be thinking are you going to have sex or
you've got to shave or you have angry thoughts or raging hormones. You
got to be ready."
April 16, 1997 - Looking for
a cheap computer? On June 7 San Diego County plans to auction off the
cult's belongings -- worth an estimated $1 million -- and give the proceeds to surviving family
members. However, former cultist Rio, claiming that his containerless "brothers
and sisters" wanted him to assume ownership of the Higher Source web design firm,
announced his intentions of settling the matter in court. "If they want to start
some ugly, post-death
battle, then we may have to pursue legal action," said Rio's attorney,
April 18, 1997 - Making the strange
a little insipidly stranger, Nick Matzorkis -- the employer of the
cultist formerly known as Rio -- was arrested in California for a parole
violation in Ohio. Free on bail, he has been ordered to travel to
Ohio to face charges of auto theft. Apparently Nick was recognized by his
parole officer when he appeared on TV elaborating on the mysteries
of the cultist deaths. As for Rio himself, he too is having
his share of legal difficulties. Not only does he plan to battle San
Diego County in court for the belongings of the containerless cult buddies,
now his ex-wife has decided to sue him for
years of unpaid child support.
April 26, 1997 - A group of homeowners
have voted to change the name of the street where 39 cultist
"shedded their containers" and moved on to a higher level of existence.
The street, Colina Norte, has had a string
of "strange visitors" who tend to get out of their cars and start
praying. The neighbors, tired of all publicity and curiosity seekers,
want to change the name to Paseo
Victoria in honor of a little girl that lives there.
April 30, 1997 - Because of the
smell of death, the mansion where 39 Heaven's Gate cult
members "shedded their containers" was taken off the market
as work crews strip, gut and restore it. "Unfortunately,
there's a smell throughout the entire house." said Randall
Bell, whose real estate firm is overseeing the work,
"Anything porous has to be removed. Wallpaper, carpets, some
of the wood cabinetry, the vent system. We're stripping the
house down to the bare bones."
After the restoration the owner, Sam Koutchesfahani, plans
to move back in before trying to sell it again. Before the
mass suicide, Koutchesfahani had entertained offers for up
to $1.6 million for the mansion. Unfortunately for him, even
after all the free publicity, after the suicide the price of
the property was cut in half.
May 6, 1997 - Wanting to join
their classmates and teachers, two members of Heaven's Gate
tried to "exit their vehicles" in an Encinitas Holiday Inn
Express four miles from the cult's Rancho Santa Fe
mausoleum. One died, the other was found unconscious and is
now in critical condition in Scripps Memorial Hospital in
The two men were found with small tote bags next to them,
dressed in star trekking black, wearing black Nikes, with
purple shrouds next to them, and five dollar bills in their
pockets. Wayne Cooke of Las Vegas was found dead with a
plastic bag on his head. Chuck Humphrey of Denver was still
alive with a plastic bag near him suggesting that he had
second thoughts about dying. Like those who went before,
they both ingested phenobarbital washed down with vodka.
Cooke, who's wife was among the 39 cultist who committed
suicide in March, said in an interview on CBS' 60
Minutes: "I wish I had the strength to have stuck it out
and gotten stronger and continued to be a part of that
crew." On his videotaped "exit statement" which was sent to
family members and CNN, the star-crossed cultist said he
wanted to "assure people, number one, that I'm sane and I'm
happy. I want very much to join my classmates and my
teachers ... I've never doubted my connection with them." He
concluded his comments by saying "Goodbye" with a smile.
At a San Diego news conference after the March mass suicide,
Humphrey, 56, said, "I left the group because it had been 15
years, because many of the things we were told were going to
happen didn't... I got tired of waiting." In his "exit
statement" he erroneously states: "By now you should be
aware that I ... too have exited my vehicle... I do not
pretend to have accomplished my task of overcoming this
human vehicle and gaining the degree of control I would have
liked, but nonetheless, I know who I am and that I must go
back with them whether I am ready or not... I'd rather
gamble on missing the bus this time than staying on this
planet and risk losing my soul." Sadly for him, he both
missed the bus and lost his soul.
May 7, 1997 - Dick Joslyn, a
former member of the Heaven's Gate cult, said he was worried
that at least six other cultist might try to join their
classmates. Joslyn, who had been in contact with Chuck
Humphrey -- the cultist who survived the latest passage to
the "next level" -- said his friend had grown frustrated by
the lack of attention given to the group's ideas. "He was a
little discouraged by the inability to get the word out. He
made it clear to me that when his work was done, he would go
Another former member who goes by the name of Sawyer said
that Humphrey, one of the brains behind the Higher Source
web design team, "was supposed to spread information about
the 'next level' and maintain the Internet site." When
someone "commandeered" the site and he could no longer work
on it, he tried to kill himself. At the Scripps Memorial
Hospital in Encinitas Humphrey's condition was upgraded to
serious. He is still breathing through a respirator and has
not regained consciousness.
May 11, 1997 - An Oklahoma
attorney and the William Morris Talent Agency announced
their intentions to market a two-hour videotape of Bo and
Peep that was recorded 1976. As per a
contract drawn 21 years ago between an Oklahoma video
distributor and the star trekking cultist the tape was to be
kept locked in a vault until 30 days after their
"departures" from earth.
Now that the 30 days have passed representatives of the
Great Satan in the form of the William Morris Agency have
gotten their greedy hands on the tape and plan to release
it, first as a TV special and then as a home video.
May 16, 1997 - Charles
Humphrey, fully recovered from his failed suicide attempt in
an Encinitas motel, persuaded a judge to release him from a
psychiatric facility so he could write a book and go on the
speaking circuit. According to the ex-cultist, his
opportunity to meet up with his class in the "next level"
had passed and suicide was no longer an option. "I feel that
short window of time has expired, and that's one of the
reasons I was rejected at this point -- along with the fact
I still need to do some personal growth." Sounds like we'll
be hearing from him as soon as he's done with his personal
August 24, 1997 -
Chuck Humphrey, the surviving cultist who unsuccessfully
tried to commit suicide a month after his 39 "classmates"
exited their "vehicles," held a public recruitment meeting
in Berkeley, California. Feeling that the cult has been
getting a bum rap from the media, Chuck showed a 70-minute
video of the cult's bug-eyed co-founder, Marshall
Applewhite, and explained the group's mission. It is unclear
if anyone of the 50 attendees joined the cult or if the
existing members are planning "to take off the VR helmets"
and head for the spaceship anytime soon. Stay tuned to the
"X-Files" for further details.
December 2, 1997 -
A prospective buyer has offered to swap an estate in
Hawaii for the mansion where the 39 Heaven's Gate cultist
committed suicide last spring. The Hawaii offer, an "even
swap" of an Oahu estate for the 9,000-square-foot,
seven-bedroom mansion, is one of at least three under
consideration. The other offers come from a Texan who
specializes in problem properties and a local buyer. To
screen out gawkers, people who wanted to see the house were
charged $250. According to the realtor, the fees went to
1998 - Charles Edward Humphrey,
one of the remaining Heaven's Gaters on spaceship Earth,
committed suicide in a tent in the Arizona desert. Humphrey
-- who unsuccessfuly tried to kill himself last May --
originally said he did not "exit his vehicle" with his fellow cultist
because he had been chosen to propagate the cult's teachings
by mantaining their web site and lecturing at meetings.
The cultist was found with his head sealed in a plastic
bag and pipes running to a car's exhaust pipe and a tank
marked "carbon dioxide." He was dressed in black sweatpants
and a black T-shirt with a patch on the sleeve that read
"Heaven's Gate Away Team." Like those who went before him he
wore a pair of brand new black sneakers, kept a purple
shroud next to him, and carried a five dollar bill plus five
quarters in his pocket.
March 26, 1998 -
As the one-year anniversary of the Heaven's Gate suicides
approaches, Sam Koutchesfahani -- the owner of the Rancho
Santa Fe property -- and his family have moved into the
million-dollar estate. Perhaps it's the stigma of being the
site of a mass suicide, perhaps it's the smell of
formaldehyde in the air conditioning, but Koutchesfahani is
finding it impossible to sell the place.
With the "Away Team" gone "beyond human", Rio DiAngelo
-- the cultist who discovered the 39 bodies and made the
cover of Newsweek -- has been maintaining the Heaven's Gate
Web site, and sold his story for an upcoming TV "movie of
the week." Next, he will finish the science fiction script
his star trekking friends were writing before their cosmic