March 26, 1997
Failed opera singer Marshall Herff Applewhite and his soul-mate, a spirit-channelling registered nurse named Bonnie Lu Nettles, hook up in the 1970s and start their own little saucer cult. Typical story: He’s a two-thousand-year-old alien, she’s no less than God Almighty and the mother ship is supposed to swing by to pick them up in the 1975. It….doesn’t. Bonnie ends up being mortal after all and dies of cancer in 1985. Applewhite (known to his followers as "Do," as in "Re Mi Fa So") continues to attract cult members, collecting them in a sprawling house in Rancho Santa Fe, California, under the pleasant moniker "Heaven’s Gate." Most of them are computer geeks. They build websites. They shave their heads. They wear colourful little jumpers and matching tennis shoes. And the guys get castrated.
They all live happy little productive robot-like lives until 1997, when amateur astronomer Chuck Schramek mistakes a star for a "Saturn-like object" following the Hale-Bopp comet. Schramek goes on the Art Bell radio show, and before you know it, his "object" has become a bona-fide UFO hiding in the comet’s wake. Which is good news for Do and his androids, because that’s exactly what they’ve been waiting for all this time. It’s Bonnie Lu! She’s swinging by to pick us up!
So the Gaters shoot a creepy video in which they each say bye-bye to family and friends. After dropping the tapes in the mail, they share a few spoonfuls of poisoned apple sauce. Police get a tip from a family member who gets nervous after watching the "I’m-leaving-on-a-spaceship" video. Next stop is the nightly news, complete with footage of each member stretched out dead on his or her cot – their shed "earthly vehicles" covered by a purple cloth.
October 1997, St Louis.
Pentecostal pastor Kenneth Hagin predicts Christ’s Second Coming and the Rapture of the saints, starting in St Louis, ‘The heart and centre of the nation." Of course. Never having personally been to St Louis, the Pocket Guide can’t give an accurate report. Did anything happen? Is anyone still there? Did Jesus become mayor or what?
From chapter 3 of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse – the official field manual for the end of the word, published by RelevantBooks, 2005