Oh, Heaven's Gate. I remember this whole thing pretty vividly as a preteen growing up in Southern California: the footage of bodies lying in bunk beds, draped in all black and wearing Nike running shoes, the Comet Hale-Bopp spaceship they were all trying to leave on, and the ridiculously unhinged look on cult leader Marshall Applewhite's face in photos splashed all over the news.
Marshall Applewhite founded Heaven's Gate in the 1970s along with Bonnie Nettles, a nurse he met while staying in a psychiatric hospital. They bonded over a shared interest in biblical prophecy and extraterrestrials and began to recruit disciples. It was in 1975 that Applewhite convinced the crew to sell their earthly belongings, say goodbye to their loved ones, and essentially disappear.
In a San Diego-area mansion in March 1997, Marshall Applewhite and 38 of his followers drank a lethal cocktail of phenobarbital, applesauce, and vodka and lay down to leave their bodies, enter an alien spacecraft, and follow the Hale-Bopp comet through Heaven's Gate into a "level of existence above human." Twenty-one women and 18 men were found wearing matching black shirts and sweatpants and brand-new Nike Decades, and it is believed that they perished over the course of three days (many of the bodies had begun decomposing in the Spring heat).
The mass suicide was creepy, but what's even creepier is the fact that the Heaven's Gate website is still up and running (and terribly '90s).