Brutal, horrific and downright terrifying are words used to describe the act of mass suicide. Unfortunately mass suicide has occurred throughout history and continues to haunt us till this day. Mass suicide can be defined by a group of people simultaneously killing themselves all at once, and in different parts of the world all together as a group. Although the amount of mass suicides has dissipated greatly in the 21st century they are still spoken about a lot.
When we talk about mass suicides most people associate them with religious sects or cults but throughout history we find that there are various reasons for these mass suicides that include avoiding capture by the enemy. Some of the biggest mass suicides in history have been disputed for a long time and still remain a mystery today. Firearms, knives, self mutilation and drowning are all methods that have been used throughout history. From throwing themselves off of cliffs to drowning their babies and then themselves, to drinking the infamous juice, these ten mass suicides are the creepiest in our history.
10. Masada, Israel
In AD 73, 960 members of the Sicarii Jewish community decided they would rather collectively kill themselves than be captured by the Romans. They were trapped on top of the rock plateau Masada with nowhere to run and time was running out. It is speculated that the men first killed their families and then killed one another. The last man to draw was the only man who took his own life. The men were to set fire and destroy all of their belongings as well. There is speculation from modern scholars whether or not this event is portrayed entirely accurately but for now it remains one of the eeriest mass suicides in history.
9. Pilenai, Lithuania
This fortress in medieval Lithuania is most well known for its part in the mass suicides of 1336. The armies of the Teutonic Knights were advancing and the inhabitants of the castle knew that they could not hold out much longer. Instead of surrendering they decided to burn the castle, all their possessions and commit mass suicide. With little history about this event it is speculation on how many people died that day but chronicles say that over 4,000 men were guarding the castle. Families set the castle ablaze as well as anything worthy of value to the army and then took their own lives; together as one.
8. Denpasar, Bali
In 1906 one of the creepiest mass suicides took place in Denpasar during a Dutch military intervention. As the Dutch soldiers advanced to the royal palace they could hear drums beating inside and saw smoke rising. What met them 100 yards away was a sight no one was prepared for. A silent procession of officials, women, children and priests were being led by the Raja and upon a silent signal the procession halted and the Raja signaled to a priest. The priest then plunged his dagger into the Raja and the rest of the procession starting killing themselves and each other. The Dutch eventually opened fire and the mounds of bodies grew to be over 1,000 people in all.
7. Demmin, Germany
A mass panic is what caused this horrific mass suicide in 1945 in the town of Demmin, Germany. The Soviet Red Army was the cause of this panic as they entered the town and started executing citizens, sexually abusing women and looting the entire town. The refugees that were seeking haven in the town began to commit suicide; often as families. Hanging themselves, cutting their wrists, drowning themselves in the river and using firearms were all methods of death used. The death toll ranged from 700-1,000 and Under the Communist East German government, the mass suicide became a taboo. Bodies were buried in mass graves which were not taken care of and at times were filled with sugar beet. Truly a horrendous mass suicide that showed these citizens would rather die than live in those conditions.
6. Heaven’s Gate, California
The Heaven’s Gate Cult was an American religious group that founded their beliefs on the idea that the planet earth was going to be recycled. In 1997 the group believed that an alien spaceship was on its way to earth and the only way to get onboard was to kill themselves, thus reserving a spot on the spacecraft and crossing into “Heaven’s Gate”. This group of 39 committed suicide inside a large white mansion that they had rented. In late March over the period of three days these folks all dressed in matching outfits, had the same amount of money in their pockets and drank a lethal mixture of Phenobarbital and vodka. They then tied plastic bags over their heads and laid down to die. It is believed they did this over three days in three groups; so the ones who were still alive could clean up after the others. A total of 39 people died that week; all believing their souls were headed to space.
5. The Solar Temple Cult, Worldwide
Founded in 1984 by Dr Luc Jouret and Joseph di Mambro this cult taught that life was an illusion and that followers would be reborn on a planet revolving around the Dog Star Sirius. It was also believed by Jouret and his followers that he was a Knight Templar in a previous life and the third reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Mass suicides began in 1994, starting in two villages in Switzerland with members using poison, bullets and smothering as a way to die. In 1995, 16 bodies were found in France in a star formation, using firearms as a means of death. In Quebec in 1997 a house fire was set deliberately and police found 5 bodies inside. Luckily the children were stashed outside in a shed; although heavily drugged. This cult claimed 74 bodies when all was said in done in one of the creepiest widespread mass suicides.
4. Saipan, Japan
In June of 1944 when the Americans landed at Saipan, they had a month long battle to seize control of the determined Japanese soldiers and civilians. Finally driving the people into the Northern part of the island it seemed that the war was coming to a close and that the Japanese were close to surrender. History debates what really happened here but some say the Emperor gave the order for all Japanese to kill themselves rather than surrender. Although the Americans used loudspeakers to offer food and a safe passage, the Japanese were either too frightened to listen or perhaps they were hearing the Emperor’s order in their head. Either way thousands committed suicide by flinging themselves off a cliff; now known as ‘the suicide cliff’. It is not known for sure how many people died but speculation has it in the 10,000 range.
3. MRTC, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Uganda
This religious movement was formed in the 1980’s in Uganda by three men who claimed they had visions from the Virgin Mary and set out to preach the words of Jesus Christ. When the millennium dawned and the world didn’t end this group believed the new date of entire world destruction was March 17, 2000. On this day over 500 group members arrived at their church to pray, sing and eat the roasted bulls. Not long after the building exploded; the doors and windows were boarded up and everyone inside perished. In the days following more bodies were found in the properties owned by group members. It is still unsure today if this was a mass suicide or a mass murder.
2. Waco Siege, Texas
What started as a siege of a compound that belonged to a religious group whom called themselves Branch Davidians led to a gunfire fight and eventually a fire that killed 76 people. American Federal and Texas State Law enforcement attempted to raid the ranch looking for weapons and after an intense gun battle that killed four agents and six Branch Davidians, the siege was handed over to the FBI. The standoff lasted 51 days until the FBI initiated a tear gas attack. During the attack a fire broke out and 76 members perished. The ‘who’ started the fire has been disputed and eventually a government investigation concluded that the members started the fire themselves; thus making this one horrific mass suicide.
1. Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, Jonestown
One of the most infamous mass suicides in history is the poisoning of 913 members in Jonestown. This religious organization under the leader Jim Jones was supposed to be a movement to help others in need. It soon became clear though that this was a cult and people were being held against their will. After a visit from a congressman where he was eventually killed by members of the cult, things went downhill. Jones caused a massive panic telling the members that they were going to be tortured and captured and thus encouraged everyone to commit suicide. In total 912 members drank the poisonous juice, 276 of them were children. Jones died from a gunshot wound to the head. Mass murder or mass suicide; the debate is still largely active.