The Heaven's Gate cult suicide: 10 years later
Most of the stories following up on the tenth anniversary of the mass suicide of Heaven's Gate cult members are focusing on "survivor" Rio DiAngelo, or on the "Weren't these people nutty???" angle. This piece, from the San Diego Union-Tribune, is interesting in that it chooses to focus on the law enforcement officers who dealt with the scene as opposed to the cult itself.
Rio DiAngelo, whose real name was Richard Ford, drove with his boss from Los Angeles to the mansion. After looking inside, he placed an anonymous phone call to 911 that dispatchers initially found inconceivable.
“I don't think anybody really believed what the person was saying,” said Robert Brunk, a sheriff's deputy who had just started his shift at the Encinitas station. “It was an anonymous call to the communications center stating that 40 people had committed suicide and they were cult members. It came out as a 'welfare check,' and they had held the call for a while because it was busy.”
Brunk went to the address, 18241 Colina Norte, which turned out to be a 9,000-square-foot, two-story home up a 200-foot driveway.
“As I'm driving, I'm thinking to myself, 'How am I going to explain to the people that live there the purpose for my visit?' ”
They were crazy UFO cultists who thought they were ETs, just like Jesus, who came to Earth to warn us about the impending disaster of the End Times and that the way to escape was to, hold on, saw your fucking balls off and then kill yourself with barbiturates and vodka. Sound odd? Yeah, think of how slowly you'd have to be brought into this shit before it started to make sense (Scientology, anyone?).
You'd think ten years without his spaceship friends might have given him some perspective on the matter, but Rio, a Westwood resident, remains confident he will one day join them, just as soon as he finishes some unfinished business for departed leader DO here on Earth: High on his To DO list, selling a studio on his Hollywood passion project, SIRUS FROM SIRIUS, a SCI/FI-ACTION-ADVENTURE-COMEDY, a script in which NBC once reportedly demonstrated some interest:
The script incorporates the Heaven's Gate cosmogony. Humans are bit players in a vast galactic drama, including at least one alien summit on Mars. The protagonist is a telepathic man-dog descended from the Atlanteans who has a crystal embedded in his forehead and journeys to Earth to grow a soul. The first draft was several hundred pages long, and featured concept art for all the different alien races and ships. NBC, Rio said, was interested.
i think the bunk bed pictures and nikes is what disturbed me most, it is a mindfuck to see on tv pictures of dead bodies like that, who willingly did that to themselves and they think that it would carry them to outerspace OK. oh don't forget the castration, yeah if i was castrated i would probably kill myself too.
By the time I finished Beyond Human Mind, it was clear that Rio’s book is a gospel, a testimonial about his time with DO and the call to transmit his wisdom - along with the "updates" he’s now receiving. If DO and TI had ushered in a new, alien apostolic age, then it is Rio who hopes to emerge as Heaven’s Gate’s John the Baptist, taking the word to the people. This was the reason he felt the urge to leave the mansion in March 1997. He was meant to tell the story. He now realizes that’s been his job since DO came up with the idea of writing a screenplay in 1996.
As loonerball as the Heaven's Gate guys were, I have to at least give them credit for one thing. They did useful work while they were here, they didn't impose their beliefs on anyone who didn't want to be part of the group, and when they checked out they didn't try and take anyone with them who didn't want to go. If only all religions were so benevolent...