Two months before they killed themselves, the Heaven’s Gate cultists bought a $3,600 computerized telescope to study the flying saucer they believed was shadowing the Hale-Bopp comet.
A week later they were asking for their money back. The refrigerator-size telescope wasn’t showing them the UFO, they complained.
They “were very frustrated. They said: ‘Well, gosh, we found the comet, but we can’t see anything following it,”’ said Mike Fowler at Oceanside Photo and Telescope.
Cult leader Marshall Applewhite and a disciple named John Craig paid $3,645 with Craig’s credit card for the LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope Jan. 30.
They didn’t know much about astronomy, Fowler said.
“They were like any Joe off the street who had seen 8,000 episodes of ‘Star Trek’ back to back,” he said.
They came back for a refund Feb. 7, said store manager Penny Hauck. “They said, ‘Well, you know, we didn’t see the spaceship, so, of course, this instrument is not going to suit our needs.’ I just kind of said, ‘Well, OK,”’ she said.
The two then went to another astronomy store, Scope City in San Diego, and bought binoculars.
“They did mention they had looked at the comet through a telescope, and they said they liked the binocular view better,” said clerk Tyler McClelland.
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