U.S. religious group that committed mass suicide in 1997 and that had been founded on a belief in unidentified flying objects. Established by Marshall H. Applewhite (1932–1997) and Bonnie Nettles (1927–1985) in 1972, the group assumed a variety of names over the years, including Human Individual Metamorphosis. As preparation for the transition to a new life on a spaceship, it advocated self-renunciation to the point of castration. Settling finally in the San Diego area in 1996, the group support itself by creating sites on the World Wide Web and quietly preparing for the end time. They believed that the comet Hale-Bopp was followed by a spaceship that would take them to a better place. On March 26, 1997, as the comet approached, the remaining 39 members of the group took poison and committed suicide in a carefully orchestrated manner.
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