Bidders snapped up televisions, books, bunk beds and other household items yesterday that were left behind by the Heaven's Gate cult when its 39 members committed the worst mass suicide on U.S. soil.
Ken Powell, a San Diego dealer in secondhand goods, bought seven of the 19 bunk beds in which the cult members were found dead on March 26, 1997, from a mixture of applesauce, vodka and barbiturates. He paid about $115 for each and hopes to sell them via the online auction house eBay for 20 times that amount.
The auction drew about 300 people, from serious collectors to the curious.
Heidi Peterson, a San Diego pastry chef, had her eye on a commercial-size blender and was trying to ignore rumors that it had been used to mix the deadly applesauce concoction.
The cult's most distinctive property, including artwork and patches with the Heaven's Gate logo, was turned over to surviving cult members as part of a legal settlement.
The money generated from the remaining items--appraised at $50,000--will pay claims filed by relatives of the cult members who died, San Diego County officials said. The total raised was not immediately available.
"This stuff has a certain cachet just because of who it belonged to," said bidder Julie Stangeland of Seal Beach, Calif.
The 39 Heaven's Gate members were found dressed in black with "Away Team" patches, Nike tennis shoes, purple shrouds and plastic bags over their heads. They left behind a video saying they were shedding their "earthly containers" to join a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
Shawn Brennan, a salesman from Orange, Calif., said he plans to put the bunk bed he bought in a guest room. "I think it will make a good conversation piece when people stay over," he said.