The beliefs behind the The Order of the Solar Temple cult were the usual sort of stuff.
Sadly, more than 70 followers believed in them enough to kill themselves.
Founded in 1984, the cult's beliefs combined elements of the Knights Templar, UFOs, New Age philosophies, Freemason rituals, preparing for Armageddon and the coming of the solar God king.
It soon grew in popularity in France, Canada, Switzerland and elsewhere across the globe, boasting more than 400 members.
Money was at the centre of the cult. Members had to pay fees and those who donated more rose up its ranks and achieved access to rituals and secrets the poorer did not.
Its leaders were obviously treated as demigods.
Co-founder Luc Jouret, who believed he was the third reincarnation of Jesus Christ, would choose female member to have sex with to give him the "spiritual strength" to do his holy duties.
The other co-founder, Joseph Di Mambro, said he hadn't made his wife pregnant, god had, and declared one of his kids, Emmanuel, to be the son of god.
This did not mean he wasn't having sex – he and Jouret would declare married couples in the cult were not "cosmically compatible”, force them to split and then sleep with the single wives.
For 10 years things went well, but children were at the centre of its demise, and the mass tragedy which soon followed.
One of Di Mambro's older children publicly spoke out against the cult having discovered some of the "miracles" witnessed during ceremonies had been stage managed, while other members left when they saw how lavishly its leaders were living on the back of their donations.
The cult leaders were also rowing and by 1994 things were falling apart.
Two members, Antonio and Nicky Dutoit, had a baby and called it Emmanuel. Di Mambro was incensed. He decided the child was the anti-Christ and ordered cult members to kill them. They were all stabbed to death with wooden stakes.
The leaders decided now was time for members to shed their Earthly bodies in order to be reborn on an unnamed planet orbiting the Dog Star, Sirius. There was about to be a tragedy.
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A tape recording later found had the following conversation on it.
Mambro: "People have beaten us to the punch, you know."
Jouret: "Well, yeah. Waco beat us to the punch."
Mambro: "In my opinion, we should have gone six months before them… what we’ll do will be even more spectacular…”
A Swiss lodge was soon ablaze.
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Firefights found 22 corpses laid out on the floor of a secret underground chapel in a pattern of the shape of the sun. They were all wearing cult robes, 19 had been shot in the head. Farewell letters left by the believers said they were leaving to escape the "hypocrisies and oppression of this world."
Another fire was spotted at a farmhouse. Twenty-five people – including five children – were dead of a drugs overdose, including Di Mambro and Jouret.
Things did not stop there. The following year a third mass suicide took place in a wood in France. Again the 16 corpses were arranged in the shape of the sun. Just like their predecessors, they had plastic covers over their heads and had been drugged and shot.
In 1997 five corpses were found at a fire in Canada. Three teenagers were found alive, but heavily drugged, and told officers their parents had wanted them to join them in suicide but they had persuaded them to let them live.
In 1998 other suicide plots were discovered, and prevented, by the authorities.
In total, 74 people had died by murder or suicide.
Rumours persist the cult still exists. It can only be hoped there will be no more tragedies.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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