Following an extended period of conflict between the Hostiles and the DHARMA Initiative, the Island's natives executed the Purge, releasing poison gas and killing almost every Initiative member. After inhaling the gas, which originated from DHARMA's own Tempest station, the members suffered violent spasms, nosebleeds and eventually death.
Sometime between its 1970 founding and 1973, by which time they established themselves on the Island, the DHARMA Initiative became aware of a defensive group of indigenous people. ("The Man Behind the Curtain") Mikhail claimed that the DHARMA Initiative "foolishly initiated a war against" his group and called it "the Purge". ("Enter 77") On the other hand the Others had previously exterminated other groups who came to the Island, like the US Army. ("Jughead")
DHARMA Initiative strategist Horace Goodspeed acknowledged that his group had been "having some skirmishes with the natives." While Benjamin Linus was still a schoolboy, his lessons were interrupted by skirmishes between the factions, involving a shoot out and explosions near the Barracks. The DHARMA Initiative installed a warning system to alert the community against incursions. The sonar fence built around the perimeter of the Barracks may have functioned to protect the community against attack.
DHARMA took further steps as the conflict escalated, including devoting one of their stations to developing new defensive strategies, installing of security cameras and other monitoring systems, stockpiling weapons (an unusual step for a utopian community) and even employing a professional interrogator. The conflict does not appear to have been helped by the appearance of the time shifting survivors in 1974-1977.
The conflict between the two groups may have spanned as long as 22 years.
Violation of the Truce by the DHARMA Initiative
According to the Richard Alpert's addendums to the original Truce from August 1973 between him and Horace Goodspeed, the DHARMA Initiative was not allowed to enter or violate any ruins, drill any more than ten meters into the ground, stay longer than fifteen years or exceed a maximum population of 216. However, the DHARMA Initiative conducted digs, performed drills at the Orchid and Swan Station and hadn't left the island by August 1988 in addition of developing counter-measures against "the Hostiles".
After years of conflict, the Others reacted with extreme measures. The Others' leader, Charles Widmore, ordered that the Others use the Initiative's Tempest station to release poison gas to kill its members.
At 4 P.M. Ben murdered his father, Roger Linus, with a canister of toxic gas. When he returned to the Barracks, the bodies of DHARMA Initiative members lay strewn about on the ground. Horace Goodspeed, who brought Ben and his father to the Island, sat dead on a bench, and Ben closed Horace's eyes in a gesture of respect. As Ben and the Others removed their gas masks, Richard Alpert offered to retrieve Ben's father's body, an offer Ben declined. ("The Man Behind the Curtain")
Horace in Locke's dream ("Cabin Fever")
It is unknown how many members of the DHARMA Initiative defected to the Others before the Purge, but Ben indicated he was not alone in doing so. ("Through the Looking Glass, Part 1") Other DHARMA Initiative members may have survived the Purge, protected from the gas attack by quarantine safety measures such as had been implemented at the Swan. Stuart Radzinsky is known to have survived the Purge, although the exact year in which Kelvin Inman joined him inside the Swan remains unspecified.
According to Locke's dream in "Cabin Fever", Horace died 12 years before 2004, in 1992. Kelvin Inman, who served in the Gulf War (1990-1991), eventually joined Stuart Radzinsky at the Swan at some point after Kelvin's service in the Middle East had ended. ("Live Together, Die Alone") When Danielle arrived in 1988, several of the Others appeared to be living in the jungle, and she claimed that they took control of the radio tower sometime after she added the distress signal. ("Dead Is Dead") ("Solitary")
This chronology leaves unclear how Danielle would have entered the radio tower and replaced its message without DHARMA's intervention. A Lost Experience interview, which aired between seasons 2 and 3, said the Hanso Foundation cut DHARMA funding in 1987. In addition, The Lost Encyclopedia dates the Purge to 1987.
Ben's gas grenade ("The Man Behind the Curtain")
- In an EW.com article published on March 6, 2007, when asked for a 10-word teaser about "Enter 77", Damon Lindelof replied that only a one-word tease was required: "Purge."
- The term "purge" in politics means to "remove people considered by the group in power to be 'undesirable' from a government, political party, a profession, or from community or society as a whole, often by violent means." The term is often associated with the totalitarian Stalinist and Maoist regimes.
- The event of the Purge, especially where it took place, bears resemblance to the real-world event of Jonestown. The people of Jonestown sought a utopia just like the people of DHARMA Initiative; the Barracks look similar to the Jonestown Troolie Cottages; and they had a radio tower.
- Lost: The Complete Third Season (DVD) commentary revealed that the mechanism for the Purge at the Barracks was different from the mechanism Ben used in the van. The gas canister was added in post-production to give Ben a more active role in his father's death. The original plan was for something to happen more-or-less Island-wide to cause the Purge.
- This mass purging, rather than a series of individual acts, was later confirmed by Charlotte's statements while neutralizing the Tempest. ("The Other Woman")
- For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: The Purge/Theories