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Health and Sanity

Daria Sukharchuk
Journalist
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piqer: Daria Sukharchuk
Saturday, 26 January 2019

Why Would 39 People Simultaneously Drink Poison?

This nine-episode-long documentary tells the story of Heaven's Gate — one of the most notorious religious sects in modern history. The sect ended in 1997 when 39 of its members drank poison mixed with vodka in a house in San Diego. But before then, they spent 20 years as a tight-knit community of people who believed in the second coming of Jesus and were preparing to be taken away on a space ship.

Thankfully, not all members of the cult died in that house. So now, 20 years later, journalists tracked down those of them who still live and the families of those who died. You will hear all those interviews, as well as original records that were left by Heaven's Gate. It shows how naturally this kind of cult fit into the culture of the time, with its characteristic mix of the fascination with space, new age, and self-help.

The final feature of the podcast is that its host, Glynn Washington, grew up in a doomsday cult, preparing himself to be taken to heaven at any moment. So he can understand the Heaven's Gate members better than an outsider. In a way, this podcast isn't just a story of this particular cult; it's a detailed look at all the cults, the way they function, and the people they attract.

Why Would 39 People Simultaneously Drink Poison?
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