A 9,200-sq.-ft., seven bedroom mansion in one of the nicest gated communities in San Diego, for a mere $668,000? Whenever you hear of a real estate deal that good, there’s always a catch, and the first instinct is to ask, “Who died?”. Going for less than half of its worth, it’s either resting on a sinkhole, or something horrific happened there.
As it turns out, something horrific did happen here, horrific and completely bizarre. This is the Heaven’s Gate house, where Marshall Applewhite and 38 of his UFO-worshipping followers were found dead in a mass suicide, designed to free their souls to board an alien space craft that was tailing behind the Hale-Bopp Comet as it took its 1997 pass across our skies.
While there is no mass cult suicide that doesn’t fall under the definition of eerie, the scene at the rented mansion was beyond creepy. The people of Heaven’s Gate spared no detail in planning their escape from Earth, and were lined up neatly in bunk beds, dressed exactly alike in black shirts and sweatpants, identical Nikes, purple cloth covering their faces, and exactly $5.75 in each pocket. Tied around each members arm was a Star Trek-influenced arm band identifying them as “Heaven’s Gate’s Away Team”. They had killed themselves in shifts, one shift would overdose on vodka and phenobarbital, tying plastic bags over their heads for good measure, and the remaining shifts would clean up the mess, and then take their turn. The suicide shifts lasted for three days, and Applewhite, assured that his flock were all accounted for, was the last to go.
Media attention became so disruptive to the neighbors in this formerly quiet neighborhood that they bought the house for the ridiculously low price, bulldozed it to the ground, and changed the name of their street from Colina Norte to Paseo Victoria. The owner at the time of the suicides, Sam Koutchesfahani, had lost the mansion to foreclosure, and was later convicted of (unrelated) fraud and conspiracy.