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 millennium!

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 them up.

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 suicide.

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 fall ride.

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 suicides.

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, Robert Zakari.

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 Encinitas.

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 too."

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 growing.

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 charity.

February 20, 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 rendevouz.

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