TLW's Religious Cultscope™ (Religious Cult Historyscope)
By T.L. Winslow (TLW), the Historyscoper™
© Copyright by T.L. Winslow. All Rights Reserved.
Original Pub. Date: Apr. 21, 2016. Last Update: Jan. 26, 2018.
Westerners are not only known as history ignoramuses, but double dumbass history ignoramuses when it comes to religious cult history. Since I'm the one-and-only Historyscoper (tm), let me quickly bring you up to speed before you dive into my Master Historyscope.
About 1160 Dusum Khyenpa "knower of the three times - past, present, future" (1110-93), disciple of Tibetan master Gampopa attains enlightenment while practicing dream yoga, becoming the first Karmapa Lama, head of the Karma Kagyu, sub-school of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, holders of the Black Crown, becoming known as the Black Hat Lamas.
Early in the 18th cent. the Established Church of Scotland is so concerned with the spread of Bourignianism, a belief in direct mystical supernatural revelation originated by Flemish nun Antoinette Bourignon (1616-80) and spread by Calvinist minister Pierre Poiret (1646-1719) that it requires entrants to the ministry to solemnly renounce it.
In the early 1770s the Skoptzies ("castrated ones") religious sect in Russia arises in the Oryol region, practicing self-castration, and citing Matt. 19:12 and Luke 23:29; the "first purification" is to remove the testicles and scrotum, "the keys to Hell"; the second purification is to remove the penis, "the keys to the Abyss", and become "bearers of the imperial seal", "worthy of mounting white horses"; female members mutilate their genitalia and breasts but do not remove their ovaries - women have a higher IQ then men?
In 1792 Devon, England-born religious prophetess Joanna Southcott (Southcote) (1750-1814) announces that she is the Woman Clothed With the Sun in Rev. 12:1-6, and begins charging 12s to 1 guinea to seal followers as one of the 144K elect - the first Jehovah's Witness? On Dec. 26/27, 1814 she dies 10 days after announcing to the world that she is a pregnant virgin about to give birth to "Shiloh" (Gen. 49:10), after which the world will end and only her followers will be saved, and being examined by 21 doctors at her home on Winchester St., Marylebone, 17 diagnosing her as preggers; she originally fixed the date as Oct. 19; too bad, Shiloh doesn't show up, but MF has a long half-life, so she leaves a sealed locked box containing her prophecies of the end of the world, and her 100K Southcottians are fair game for new prophetesses such as Helen Exeter (-1914), who announces that Shiloh will come in 1914, but drowns early that year; in 1919 the well-endowed Panacea Society is founded in Bedford, England by Mabel Barltrop, who takes the name Octavia and claims to be the Big S, and recruits 12 female apostles called the Community of the Holy Ghost, but later backs off and claims that Southcott's Box contains the secret date for Shiloh's return, but can only be opened in the presence of all the bishops of England, and after enjoying their income and assets for decades knowing they're safe, in 1997 they place newspaper ads begging them to take their dare (to keep their tax exemption?); one box opened in 1927 in the presence of the Anglican bishop of Grantham contains a lottery ticket and horse pistol, so it is claimed to be the wrong box.
On Feb. 15, 1805 George (Johann George) Rapp (1757-1847) and his Rappists (Rappites) (Harmonists) (Harmonites) of Iptingen, Germany found the Harmony Society in Butler County, Penn., which soon grows to a pop. of 800 and becomes highly profitable, causing them to sell it at a 10x profit in 1814 when they move to Indiana - lame white rapper jokes here?
I'll buy that for a buck, yuk yuk? On Sept. 22, 1827 everhard 22-y.-o. Sharon, Vt.-born blonde Elvis lookalike Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-44) (known for being "a great babbler, credulous, not especially industrious, a money digger, prone to the miraculous and withal a little given to difficulties with neighbors and petty law suits", plus a "glass-looker", which gets him into criminal trouble), who goes on treasure hunts around the area allegedly digs up ding-dong magic golden plates (8 in. x 6 in. x 6 in. = 200 lb.?) inscribed with "Reformed Egyptian Text" near his farm in Palmyra in W N.Y., after his 1819 First Vision, followed by an 1823 appearance of angel Moroni, who, having a pipeline to God had told him the true history of the American continent, how it was first colonized by the Lost Tribes of the Jews, then visited by fictional Bible figures incl. Jesus Christ, who gave them the true religion, after which there was a dreadful apostasy, causing their skin to darken as punishment (creating the Indians), and how now that his pure whiteness has arrived, he will become head of the one true, new, and improved church and get all the worshipful, adoring white poontang he can shake his fork at as compensation, making everybody look like snack-and-seal Elvis?; of course, he has to endure a get-the-odors-out 4-year college-free worthiness quest before being permitted to graduate into the big leagues of come-hungry-leave-happy prophetdom?; on Dec. 12, 1912 the New York Times pub. the article Museum Walls Proclaim Fraud of Mormon Prophet, claiming that Joseph Smith couldn't really translate hierglyphics but just made translations up out of his imagination; "Within three months the only one of these sacred writings in which the test of scholarship could be applied has been submitted to such a test and its authenticity has been destroyed completely." In 2016 the Mormon Church releases the first photos of the magic stone allegedly used by Smith to translate the sacred text, a brown egg-sized rock - and it won't talk?
The original Rael? In May 1832 the new free-love Saint-Simonian Socialist religous sect of Prosper Enfantin (1796-1864) (who wears a breast badge titled "Pere", claims to be the Chosen of God, and sends emissaries out looking for his Female Messiah) is shut down by the French govt., and he ends up going to Egypt, where he tries to stir up interest in starting a Suez Canal before returning to France and going bourgeois; the word "Socialism" comes into use in England and France this year.
When does a fashion statement make a bank statement? On Oct. 24, 1844 the Millerites, followers of Pittsfield, Mass.-born Baptist preacher William Miller (1782-1849) begin to face the Great Disappointment of 1844 when the 2,300 Year-Days of Daniel 8:14 don't jive like they thought, and the world doesn't end with the Second Coming of Christ; never fear, in Dec. Maine-born Ellen Gould White (1827-1915) begins having the first of 2K personal visions, causing the true believers to regroup and form the Seventh-Day Adventists, who claim that Christ didn't make his Second Coming because he entered the Holy of Holies in the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the Investigative Judgment, and that they should worship on Saturday not pagan Sunday - Sunday didn't work so why not go back to the Jewish sabbath?
In 1859 poor peasant farmer Kawate Bunjiro (1814-83) founds the Japanese religion of Konkokyo, worshiping the god Tenchi Kane No Kami by making the world a happier place.
Enter the Age of Science, where religious skepticism is king, fed by their prophet (rebel from the Anglican Church) Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82), 1859 founder of the original wonder-mop Darwinian Theory of Evolution, a body blow to the fundamentalist belief in the Bible, whose devotees can reduce all religion to the size of a circus peanut, but is currently e xperiencing a crisis with the problem of maybe-it's-maybelline irreducible complexity. Meanwhile in 1848 German Jewish big brain Karl Marx (1818-83). used it as a foundation for Marxism, the religion of a lot of atheists, just don't put it that way, even though when you don't call it a religion people take it seriously as a way of life and seek to impose it on others with an all-powerful state, causing an eventual day of reckoning when the fit hits the shan and the Berlin Wall comes down.
In 1860 the Tonghak (Donghak) (Eastern Learning) mass movement in Samnye, Cholla Province, Korea is founded by Choe Je-u (Che-u) (Korean "save and proclaim") (1824-64) AKA Su-un ("water cloud"), a syncretic religion combining Confuscian, Buddhist, Daoist, and Roman Catholic elements to fight Western influence (learning), return to the Way of Heaven, and help the rural poor, sparking peasant revolts leading to his execution by order of the Daewongun on Apr. 15, 1864 on trumped-up charges.
On Apr. 12, 1861 - May 9, 1865 the horrific U.S. Civil War sees the invention of the first modern weapon when N.C.-born agricultural equipment maker Richard Jordan Gatling (1818-1903) patents the 10-barrel hand-cranked hundreds-of-rounds-per-min. Gatling Gun (the first practical machine gun) just in time for use on some Johnny Rebs; it is first used by the Union Army in 1864, but luckily never sees extensive use.
Stay tuned for scenes from one life to live? The year 1874 marks the year in which Christ's Second Presence (Second Advent) is due, according to Allegheny, Penn.-born Pastor Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), author of the 7-vol. Studies in the Scriptures, 1879 founder of The Watchtower mag., and 1871 founder of the Internat. Bible Students, who in 1931 change their name to Jehovah's Witnesses, and go on to recruit millions of followers, incl. some celebs; when a Bible-based Armageddon prediction goes wrong, there is always a shakeup in the org., after which they regroup and make new predictions, because after all, the Bible is still telling them that there will be one; luckily by the 1980s they officially give up Big A predictions, claiming that only God knows the exact time. On Oct. 31, 1916 Charles Taze Russell (b. 1852) dies in Pampa, Tex., and his org. the Watch Tower Society is taken over by self-proclaimed Mo. "Judge" Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942), who goes on to mount his "millions living now will never die" campaign, claiming that Armageddon will come in 1925, causing his followers to sell their homes and live in their cars travelling around to spread the urgent message while trying to avoid either marrying or having children; meanwhile the few who only wanted to study the Bible and think for themselves and not be dictated what to believe splinter off into the Bible Students org., which by the end of the cent. only has 10K members vs. 6M for the Jehovah's Witnesses.
On Aug. 4, 1914 - Nov. 11, 1918 the horrific World War I causes 15M deaths and 39M military casualties, and destroys the Old Order of white formerly Christian Europe. The U.S. played the Savior role, and lost a piddling number of troops compared to everybody else, and even after the horrific 1918 Spanish Influenza (Flu) Pandemic, you might call it lucky that it began to become the New Kid on the Block.
In 1926 the syncretistic monotheistic vegetarian religion of Cao Dai (Vietnamese "high place") is founded in Tay Ninh (55 mi. NW of Saigon), South Vietnam, growing to 4M-6M adherents by modern times, complete with a Roman Catholic Church-like hierarchy and Holy See, building a temple (holy see) in 1933-55, later cloning it in Dallas, Tex. and other countries.
On Mar. 31, 1930 Ras Gugsa Wells is KIA, and on Apr. 2 empress (since 1916) Zewditu I (b. 1876) dies; on Nov. 2 Ras ("Prince") Tafari ("Respected") Makonnen is crowned emperor Haile Selassie ("Might of the Holy Trinity") I (1892-1975) of Ethiopia, claiming to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; in Jamaica, marijuana-smoking Rastafarians are wowed by his claims plus his status as the only black African monarch of a fully independent state, and declare him their messiah, the Second Coming of Christ the King on Earth; by 1997 there are 1M followers worldwide.
On July 4, 1930 travelling salesman (a New Zealander of half-Indian descent, who claims to be born in Mecca?) Wallace Dodd Fard (1893-?) forms the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America in Detroit, Mich., with the goal of resurrecting the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of Am. blacks, claiming that they were history ignoramuses about their true African history, which was Muslim, and that they are the lost ancient tribe of Shabazz that goes back 66T years, and that a renegade black scientist named Yakub on the island of Patmos created the pesky white race 6K years ago as a test for the black master race, who are a divine race created by Allah; he mysteriously disappears during summer 1934, and Sandersville, Ga.-born Elijah Muhammad (Elijah Robert Poole) (1897-1975) becomes the new leader on Nov. 22, moving to Chicago, Ill. in 1932, and in 1972 establishing Temple Number Two (Mosque Maryam) as the Nation of Islam HQ - shine yo' shoes, bazz?
It's so whacko it won't go away, but thank Gawd I'm a country boy? In 1930 the Davidians (Davidian Seventh Day Adventists) (AKA The Shepherd's Rod), founded by Bulgarian-born Victor Tasho Houteff (1885-1955) split off from the Seventh Day Adventist Church; in 1955 the Branch Davidians (AKA The Branch) spit, er, split off from them; on Feb. 28, 1993 the 51-day 1993 Waco Siege begins when a gun battle erupts at the Branch Davidian Compound in Mount Carmel Center in Elk (9 mi. ENE of Waco), Tex. when ATF agents try (in SWAT gear) to serve trumped-up warrants in a master plan to shut them down and arrest 33-y.-o. high school dropout, failed rock guitarist and Jesus Christ messiah wannabe leader David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) (b. 1959) of the Branch Davidians (a disavowed sect of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church), but catch hot lead instead, causing four agents and six Davidians to be killed, and one ATF agent in particular to be caught looking bad trapped on a roof while the cultists use him for target practice, causing a standoff led by the FBI; on Apr. 19 armored vehicles tear large holes in the compound and spray tear gas for several hours, and at about noon a fire breaks out throughout the compound, which burns down in 30 min., killing all 77 members of the cult, incl. many children; after fingers are pointed both ways, the govt. investigates and clears itself in Oct., claiming that fanatical cult members started the fire in an effort to bring on Armageddon; on Sept. 30 a U.S. Dept. of Justice Report on Waco criticizes the ATF for mishandling the initial raid; white supremacists have a new legend to justify hatred of the U.S. govt.; U.S. atty. gen. Janet Reno takes responsibility for the decision to attack the compound, and in 1999 it is revealed that despite FBI denials, pyrotechnic gas grenades had been used in the siege; an investigation in 2000 by former Mo. Repub. Sen. John Danforth clears the Justice Dept. of wrongdoing, and a Waco civil jury decides for the govt. in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the survivors.
In 1936 the Brahma Kumaris (originally Om Mndall) Hindu religious movement is founded in Hyderabad, Sindh, India by Brahma Baba (Dada Lekhraj Khubchand Kripalani) (1876-1969), teaching that all souls are intrinsically good and that all labels associated with the body must be transcended to establish the global "soul-consciousness" culture; too bad, it preaches equality of women and men, pissing-off the Indian pop., causing the Sindh govt. to outlaw it; by 2008 it has 825K adherents in 8.5K centers in 100 countries.
On Sept. 1, 1939 - Sept. 2, 1945 the horrific $3.5T World War II results in 24M military and 49M civilian deaths, and features the low point of the Jewish Holocaust (Shoah) by the German Nazis - I guess it was the Jews' fault for not ransoming themselves to go to Israel before they could round them up for the camps? The whole experience turns Jews from lovers into fighters, ramping up the Zionist movement with full world sympathy and support by new world superpower U.S., which has its own guilt trip because on Nov. 24, 1942 Budapest-born Am. Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise (1874-1949) announces in a press conference in Washington, D.C. that he was authorized by the U.S. State Dept. to confirm that the Nazis had murdered 2M Jews as part of a plan to exterminate all Jews in Europe; too bad, the nat. newspapers don't consider it front page news, and the U.S. govt. does nada. After the war ends and Americans toud the concentration camps in horror, Polish-born Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin (1900-59), who single-handedly led an unsuccessful campaign to get the League of Nations to give internat. protections against genocide starting in 1933 finally gets what he wants after his own people got it, namely the Dec. 9, 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Gen. Assembly Resolution 260), which doesn't come in force until Jan. 12, 1951, and which the U.S. doesn't ratify until 1988. By the end of WWII the U.S. is the World's Policeman, with half the world's wealth, and a Baby Boom accompanied by an economic boom created a huge mass-market for novels and everything else.
In 1947 Pontotoc County, Okla. Choctaw-Cherokee descent Baptist preacher Oral Robber, er, Granville Oral Roberts (1918-2009) has a magic moment with the Third Epistle of John, causing him to buy a Buick, see God, and turn Pentecostalist, going on radio, followed by TV in 1954, conducting 300+ faith healing crusades in the U.S. and six continents, laying hands on 2M people, claiming to heal them of all ailments and even to be able to raise the dead, raising lakes of cash via direct-mail campaigns under the banner of seed-faith, maxing out at $120M/year and employing 2.3K, going on to become "the Godfather of the Charismatic Movement", founding the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Assoc. in Tulsa, Okla., followed by Oral Roberts U. in 1963 in Tulsa, whose students must sign an honor code to not engage in premarital sex, drink, or smoke; on Mar. 17, 1968 he and his wife convert to the United Methodist Church. In Jan. 1987 two-bit phoney Am. Okla.-born backwoods so-called faith-healer Oral Roberts (1918-) (Oral Robber?) announces that back in Mar. of 1986 God had told him he had 12 mo. to raise $8M for medical scholarships for his Oral Roberts U. or he would die; on Mar. 23 greyhound racetrack owner Jerry Collins donates $1.3M, and with all the other donations Roberts lives - he has a double dose of Fokker in him?
On May 1, 1954 wannabe messiah Rev. Sun Myung Moon (Mun Seon-myeong) (Mun Yong-myeong) (1920-2012) founds the Unification Church (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification) (Holy Spirit Assoc. for the Unification of World Christianity in Seoul, South Korea, with its textbook "The Divine Principle" explaining that God is both Creator and Heavenly Parent, not Father, combining masculine and feminine in true love, going on to perform mass male-female marriages and spread worldwide, with most members in Korea, Japan, and Philippines; in 1977 the U.S. Congress investigates it for its involvement in South Korean politics; in 1982 Moon is convicted in the U.S. of income tax fraud; meanwhile critics slam it for heretical and anti-Semitic views, and brainwashing of "Moonies".
In 1958 Indian guru (former disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati) Maharishi ("great seer") Mahesh Yogi (nee Mahesh Prasad Varma) (1918-2008) begins a series of world tours to teach Transcendental Meditation (ends 1965), which catches on and becomes popular with celebs incl. The Beatles, The Beach Boys et al.
On Feb. 27, 1959 (his birthday) the Mahikari (Jap. "true light") cult in Japan (1M members by 1978) is founded when founder Yoshikazu Okada (1901-74) allegedly receives a revelation that he has been appointed to save humanity from destruction; it relies on the Takenouchi Documents, unveiled in 1928, which claim that all religions trace to Japan, and that all the religious leaders of the past either visited or died there incl. Lao Tzu, Moses, and Jesus; too bad, the Japanese govt. confiscates them during WWII, and they are lost in air raids.
In 1959 Lowgap, N.C.-born former carpenter Kirby James Hensley (1911-99) founds the Universal Life Church in Modesto Calif.; in 1962 it offers $5 mail order ordinations, which become popular with atheists and skeptics (12M by 1991, 18M by 2009); too bad, after men begin using the ordinations to avoid the draft or taxes, the federal govt. comes down on him, and in 1984 the IRS revokes its tax-exempt status, causing it to settle in 2000 for $1.5M.
In 1968 the Children of God (later the Family Internat.) Christian cult is founded in Huntington Beach, Calif. by new Messiah David Brandt Berg (1919-94), who calls himself Moses David, starting the new evangelism method of "Flirty Fishing" in 1974, where members engage in religious prostitution, incl. child members; to combat it, the anti-COG group Freecog (Free the Children of God) is formed in 1971, becoming the first anti-cult movement in the U.S.
In 1969 the United Order Family of Christ is founded in Denver, Colo. by David-Edward Desmond for young gay Mormon men of sucking, er, ages 18-30; it becomes defunct by 1974.
In 1969 Am. Jewish Christian convert Tony Alamo (Bernie LaZar Hoffman) (1934-) and his wife Susan (d. 1982) found the Alamo Christian Foundation in Hollywood, Calif., going on to predict impending Armageddon and call Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan "Anti-Christ Devils" while gathering a cult of runaways and addicts that become his sexual slaves, with "marriages" to girls as young as eight; they support themselves by selling rhinestone-studded denim jackets; in 1976 they move to Alma, Ark.; in 1994 Alamo is convicted of federal tax evasion; on July 24, 2009 he is convicted of 10 counts of transportation of minor girls across state lines for sex, and put away for life - Jesus saves?
In 1969 the not-really-Jewish communal Love Israel Family (Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon) cult is founded Seattle, Wash. by real estate agent Paul Erdman, who changes his name to Love Israel (love is real), fathering a dozen children to prove it; other members incl. Strength Israel, Zeal Israel, Courage Israel, Reality Israel, Integrity Isreal, and Encouragement Israel, which stage musical performances; in 1984 they buy 300 acres near the Cascade Mts. in Wash. state, which reopens in 2005 as Camp Kalsman for real Jewish kids.
In 1975 the Jehovah's Witnesses stir up believers with frightening Bible-quoting predictions that Armageddon will come this year; after they are proved wrong they suffer massive defections, but survive and never again fix on a specific date, finally accepting the part of the Bible that says that no one knows the exact time, not even the angels or the Son of Man, but the Father alone (Matt. 24:36); actually, there's no need anymore since all those who wanted a fixed date quit?
On Nov. 18, 1978 (Sat.) after arriving to investigate complaints of mistreatment of relatives, and being told by 20 members that they want to leave, then accompanying him to Port Kaituma Airport, anti-cult crusading Calif. Rep. Leo Joseph Ryan Jr. (b. 1925) (D-Calif.) and four others are killed in Jonestown, Guyana by Larry Layton and three other members of Rev. Jim Jones' Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ (founded 1955), making Ryan the first U.S. congressman killed in the line of duty (until ?); the killings are followed by the Jonestown Massacre, a night of mass murder-suicide by 911 cult members, becoming the worst religious mayhem since John of Leiden's cult in 1535; Jones kills himself, and only 32 members escape, incl. their controversial atty. Mark Lane (1947-); 75% of church members are black, a majority of them women who bought his promise of a black paradise sans racial prejudice, segregation, and economic inequality; the publicity hurts sales of Kool-Aid, even though a cheaper unsweetened brand called Flavor Aid (first marketed in 1929) might have been used instead of or as well; the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) is founded to deprogram its members; too bad, in 1996 the Church of Scientology buys it in bankruptcy court - making its name an oxymoron?
In Apr. 1990 the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult of Japan (founded in 1984) sends three trucks into C Tokyo to spray poisonous botulin mists, then attacks U.S. bases at Yokohama and Yokosuka; when the botulin does not work the cult turns to anthrax. On Jan. 17, 1995 (6:45 a.m.) the 6.9 Great Hanshin (Kobe) Earthquake devastates beef capital Kobe in W Japan, killing 5,502-6,434, injuring 36,896-43,792, and leaving 251K-310K homeless, becoming the largest death toll from an earthquake in Japan since 1923; Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara (Chizuo Matsumoto) (1955-) predicted the earthquake on Jan. 8, and blames it on U.S. earthquake weapon technology, causing the cult to soon be destroyed, along with the Branch Davidians, who hacked into U.S. defense files? On Mar. 20, 1995 (a.m.) members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult in Japan release sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo Subway during morning rush hour, killing 12 and causing 5.5K to be hospitalized; on Mar. 22 police raid the sect's training compound and find equipment and chemicals for making the gas; on May 16 Sorry Ass, er, Shoko Asahara (1955-) the leader of the cult is arrested and charged with organizing the attack; the group never confesses, claiming that renegade members carried out attacks secretly. On Apr. 24, 1996 the Japanese "Trial of the Century" of Aum Shinrikyo sect founder Shoko Asahara for masterminding the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack opens; he claims to be Christ; after being found guilty on 13 of 17 charges, he is sentenced to be hanged on Feb. 27, 2004.
Think that today's enlightened atheistic scientists are immune from the urge to create yet another religion? How about Vernor Steffen Vinge (1944-), author of the 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", predicting the Singularity, a point at which artificial intelligence will exponentially take off, leaving humans behind to worship their new god of Silicon. I might try to tell him that if sand or other inert chemical elements could become infinitely intelligent, it would already have happened, and he'd call himself Jehovah and send you to Hell for idolatry. I also have to mention Rael (Raël) (Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon) (1946-) and his Raelian Movement, which believes in extraterrestrial intelligence and the potential of human cloning, with vague hand-waving arguments about uploading the contents of your mind to your new brain so that it's immortality and not just duplication of people who look like you but have a different religion; in actual practice Rael attracts beautiful female scientists who are willing to have sex like rabbits with him, what charisma.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the greatest star of all? On Mar. 26, 1997 as the approach of Comet Hale-Bopp stirs the world's imagination (incl. a rash of Hollywood movies, all making money from Millennium Fever), police discover the Heaven's Gate cult mass suicide in San Diego, Calif. via phenolbarbitol, vodka, and plastic bags on their heads; these 39 castrated web designers (18 women, 21 men) (all dressed alike, with close-cropped hair), led by zany Spur, Tex.-born Marshall Herff "Bo" "Do" Applewhite Jr. (b. 1931) believed that their spirits will meet ETs in the comet after leaving their "vehicles"; they made their dough by designing Web sites under the name Higher Source, and ran their own cool Heaven's Gate Web Site.