More than 60 years ago, social psychologist Leon Festinger and two of his associates infiltrated a cult. The cult leader, whom the researchers called Marian Keech, convinced her members that the world was going to end on December 21, 1954. She said a flying saucer would land in her back yard at midnight, December 20th. It would scoop up the faithful and take them to safety.
Expecting to emigrate to another planet, plenty of her followers quit their jobs, gave away their savings and their homes. On the night of December 20th, they huddled together, waiting for the saucer in Keech’s back yard. Her husband, who thought the whole thing was crazy, lay asleep in bed.