• Akshath A.P.

The Heaven’s Gate Cult

The Heaven's Gate Cult was co-founded by Marshall Applewhite. He, along with 39 other members of his cult, died by mass suicide.

Back in 1931, Marshall Applewhite was born to a religious family in Texas. He lived a very ordinary life. He had finished school, got a degree, married, and had two children. After which, he decided to pursue music and shifted to New York. Unsuccessful at achieving what he wanted, he eventually settled to teach music at the University of Alabama. This is where his life took a turn.

In 1965, Applewhite lost all that he had when everyone found out about his secret affair with a male student. He lost his job, his wife and him separated, his religious beliefs went against what he did and he was confused about his sexuality. Upon losing everything, he moved to Houston, then Mexico, and then back to Texas where he went into severe depression after hearing that his father's demise. Fast forward to 1972, in the hospital where he met her, his soulmate.

When visiting a hospitalised friend, Mrs. Nettles entered the room. Bonnie Nettles and he shared an interest in theosophy and Biblical prophecy which made them close friends. It felt like he had known her for an aeon. It was his wish to have a platonic, deep and loving relationship with someone and she fulfilled that. They started living together and conducted thefts together, for which they got caught and ended up in prison. During the six months they were in prison, Bonnie and he began redefining the beliefs they shared and founded Heaven's Gate.

They decided that they came from the 'Level Above Humans', a physical and literal version of heaven in outer space. They thought they were sent to earth to help other humans reach the next level they were on. They were sure that a UFO would come and take them back to the Level Above Humans once they completed their 'mission'. Marshal Applewhite thought of himself as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that the human body was just a vehicle used to ascend from this world. And in order to achieve this, they were convinced that they had to separate from all that was human in them, including earthly needs and desires.

By 1975, Bonnie had taken the name Ti and Peep and Marshall took the name Do and Tiddly. They found people like them and recruited them, and called them 'the crew'. They all abandoned their families and agreed to join the duo and reach the Level Above Humans. The group successfully grew to include 41 members. They all gathered at a hotel in Oregon and sold all material goods and disappeared from the public eye. They then began sleeping in tents, begged on streets, and traveled state to state. Life went on like this for 10 years, until Bonnie died... In 1985, Bonnie died of cancer, two years after she was diagnosed.

This changed a lot of beliefs for the group. They now envisioned deserting their human bodies on Earth. They started experimenting with atypical diets. Male members of the crew, including Marshall Applewhite himself, got themselves castrated. Some of them even got jobs. By 1996, they were well established and successfully operated a web design business. They even made a website for Heaven's Gate. During all of this, the group lived in a neighborhood in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

1995 was the year they "saw" the alien spacecraft they were waiting for. Scientists called it the Hale-Bopp comet. They believed that the alien spacecraft was behind the comet so that it didn't get detected by humans. The group was now sure of their pre-existing beliefs and encouraged more people to join them before it became "too late". Applewhite even made videos called "Beyond Human: The Last Call" which aired on television - warning everyone that it was the last chance to evacuate earth.

1997 was the year. The thought they had to take drastic measures in order to transfer their consciousness to the Level Above Humans and the alien spacecraft was reassuring. Marshall Applewhite and his crew went to a restaurant to have their last supper one day before they drank a cocktail of vodka and barbiturates (a central nervous system depressant), committing mass suicide.

All 39 members of the Heaven's Gate Cult were dressed in black shirts and black sweatpants, new black and white Nike Decades athletic shoes, an armband patch reading "Heaven's Gate Away Team", a tote bag with one $5 bill and 75 cents in quarters in their pockets and covered themselves with purple shrouds. Some of them even had plastic bags on their head.

They performed this act in shifts, the remainders made sure the bodies were arranged and placed "properly".

The website that was made in 1996 about the Heaven's Gate Cult still exists - and this organisation is the epitome of the word 'cult'.

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