by Willy Wegner, translated by Claus Larsen
Breaking the isolation
In May 1993, the cult published a statement, “UFO Cult resurfaces with final offer”. In the statement, they reiterate the cult’s final offer of transferral to the heavenly realm. This statement was later published in the magazine USA Today. Additionally, the statement was published in dozens of fringe magazines and weeklies, primarily in the US, but also in Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand. It was a revised edition of a statement, “Last chance to advance beyond human”, originally distributed at about 60 public meetings from 1993 to 1994.
The cult was at this time operating under the name T.E.L.A.H., “”The Evolutionary Level Above Human”, only later to change it to Heaven’s Gate. The message had not changed much, but the cult members were much more open and accommodating to spectators than in the old days. Some members even started visiting their families, which had otherwise been abruptly abandoned.
The foundation of the last base
After September 1995, the cult withdrew once more from the public. Moving from a nomadic lifestyle, the cult ended up in Rancho Santa Fe, a small community in Southern California of 5,000 people, a mild climate and sunshine 320 days a year. This should be Applewhite and his “crew”‘s last base on Earth. With 13,000 m2, tennis courts and a pool, and a two-story house with seven bedrooms, it must have been like, well, Heaven on Earth. But in Rancho Santa Fe, it was a small house. The house was rented by the Iranian businessman Sam Koutchesfahani.
From this base, the cult started to use the Internet. During this time, the various “crew members” wrote short essays, which can be found in the book ”How and when Heaven’s Gate may be entered”. Two more videos were produced towards the end of 1996.
It was also in Rancho Santa Fe that the cult started their computer business, Higher Source, which produced websites or was a subcontractor for local businesses. All customers were satisfied with the work done: They were fast, skilled and cheap. The company was a necessity to pay the rent, which according to Newsweek was around $6,000 a month. The rent was paid on time, and in cash. Additionally, some cult members supplied the income by working for computer companies in nearby cities.
The suicide statement
During 1996, the cult published a declaration, stating their opinion on suicide. Based on the perception that their bodies were merely an Earthly container, they also made it clear that only through the human body could they learn what was needed for their task, which was a personal “education” and to offer others the same opportunity to access the Kingdom Level Above Human.
We know that it is only while we are in these physical vehicles (bodies) that we can learn the lessons needed to complete our own individual transition, as well as to complete our task of offering the Kingdom of Heaven to this civilization one last time. We take good care of our vehicles so they can function well for us in this task, and we try to protect them from any harm.
We fully desire, expect, and look forward to boarding a spacecraft from the Next Level very soon (in our physical bodies). There is no doubt in our mind that our being “picked up” is inevitable in the very near future. But what happens between now and then is the big question. We are keenly aware of several possibilities.
It could happen that before that spacecraft comes, one or more of us could lose our physical vehicles (bodies) due to “recall,” accident, or at the hands of some irate individual. We do not anticipate this, but it is possible. Another possibility is that, because of the position we take in our information, we could find so much disfavor with the powers that control this world that there could be attempts to incarcerate us or to subject us to some sort of psychological or physical torture (such as occurred at both Ruby Ridge and Waco).
It has always been our way to examine all possibilities, and be mentally prepared for whatever may come our way. For example, consider what happened at Masada around 73 A.D. A devout Jewish sect, after holding out against a siege by the Romans, to the best of their ability, and seeing that the murder, rape, and torture of their community was inevitable, determined that it was permissible for them to evacuate their bodies by a more dignified, and less agonizing method. We have thoroughly discussed this topic (of willful exit of the body under such conditions), and have mentally prepared ourselves for this possibility (as can be seen in a few of our statements). However, this act certainly does not need serious consideration at this time, and hopefully will not in the future.
The true meaning of “suicide” is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered. In these last days, we are focused on two primary tasks: one – of making a last attempt at telling the truth about how the Next Level may be entered (our last effort at offering to individuals of this civilization the way to avoid “suicide”); and two – taking advantage of the rare opportunity we have each day – to work individually on our personal overcoming and change, in preparation for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Applewhite reveals: I was Jesus!
In January 1997, Heaven’s Gate published a statement on the Internet: Undercover “Jesus” surfaces before departure. In the statement, it is made clear that Do (Herff Applewhite) acknowledges that he has left Earth before, leaving his human contained behind. That happened around 2,000 years ago, when he was Jesus.
He also warned that he was facing the process of leaving his body yet another time, and return to the Kingdom Level Above Human.
It was from this level that he in the beginning of the 1970s was incarnated in his present body, together with his heavenly father, who lived in a female body, Ti (Bonnie Nettles).
Ti returned to the Kingdom Level Above Human in 1985. Reportedly, she died of cancer in the liver, but Do still claimed to receive guidance from Ti by an unspecified, but very advanced, method.
Do also speaks about the other members of the group, whom he referred to as the “students”. They also have a wish, even a desperate one, to get away from this world and reach the Kingdom Level Above Human, leaving, like Do, to “leave their bodies behind” to achieve it. On the next level, bodies and gender are not what counts, but only souls.
No one from this civilization would be able to reach the heavenly kingdom if not through Do. There is no other incarnation on Earth without him. However, there are space entities seeking to “harvest” bodies they can possess, and these entities will try to recruit those who failed to become children of God’s kingdom. In Heaven’s Gate, these are called Luciferians because of their ancestry, and they will create a new religion based on an opaque mix of truth and misinformation.
When the group from Heaven’s Gate leaves Earth, nobody else will be able to access the Kingdom Level Above Human in this age. It is still possible to join and go with the group in their evolution, and avoid the recycling of this planet. “Believe it or not, it is your choice”, ends Do.
The message that it was about to happen real soon came from Ti (alias Bo, alias Bonnie Nettles). Apparently, a spaceship would appear to collect them. Their 22 year long education in the earthly class room had come to an end. They were finally about to reach their goal.
One of the many myths that might have spurred the cult on, originated from “Coast to Coast”, a nation-wide radio show, hosted by Art Bell, and a website. Art Bell really likes mysteries and inexplicable things, and he launched the rumor that the newly discovered comet Hale-Bopp had a hidden companion, a Saturn-like object, which was described as an alien spaceship.
On November 14, 1996, an amateur astronomer by the name of Chuck Shramek called Art Bell and told him, that he had taken a photograph of a large object behind the comet, about 4 times the size of Earth.
The following evening, Art Bell had Courtney Brown on his show. Brown is a social scientist at Emory University, and a strong proponent of remote viewing. As head of the Farsight Institute, based in Atlanta, he claimed that three of his psychic people at the institute could confirm Shramek’s information. Furthermore, Brown could affirm that it was a metallic object, manned with aliens. Brown sent Bell a photo, purportedly taken by an anonymous top astronomer, but unfortunately, the photo could not yet be published on Bell’s website.
It is claimed that NASA knows all about this case, but suppresses it to the public. Exactly who is in the know is not mentioned. Who says they are hostile? Who says they even exist? How can you control a comet? If the comet hits Earth, how can it at the same time zip by?
Why a spaceship should follow the comet Hale-Bopp is also not explained by Courtney Brown and his psychic cohorts. The closest the comet would be to Earth was on March 22, 1997, 197 million km. It would return to Earth in 2.400 years.
In the meantime, other astronomers had discovered that Shramek’s photo showed a misidentified star, which Shramek naturally contested. One of those astronomers was Alan Hale, who together with Thomas Bopp, had discovered the comet in 1995.
After two months, Art Bell’s patience ran out, and he put the secret photo he had gotten from Brown up on his website. A day after, Bell was contacted by two astronomers from the University of Hawaii, Oliver Hainut and David Tholen. They stated that Brown’s photo was one of their comet photos, which had been manipulated – which they also provided evidence of. Brown’s photo was fake, and his frequent appearance on Bell’s radio show ended abruptly.
In the time to come, Art Bell was busy distancing himself from the case he had been so busy promoting. He had trusted, he said, a university professor, Courtney Brown. But Brown had not appeared as a professor, but as director and founder of the Farsight Institute, where he sells expensive courses in “remote viewing”, the (alleged) psychic ability to “see” people, places, and events, outside the five senses.
Bell, however, took no responsibility whatsoever, and pointed to the fact that the whole story was revealed a couple of months before the cult members decided on killing themselves. On the website of Heaven’s Gate, it also said that it was not relevant to them if Hale-Bopp had a companion or not. Art Bell also points out that he cannot be responsible for what mentally unstable listeners do.
But Applewhite did investigate the matter. The owner of Oceanside Photo and Telescope in San Diego reported to the newspaper the Miami Herald that Applewhite and a cult member early in 1997 had bought a large astronomical telescope for thousands of dollars. The owner, Mike Fowler, could, after listening a bit to his two customers, tell that they had precious little knowledge of astronomy. Fowler thought that perhaps they had been watching too many episodes of Star Trek. After a week, they returned the telescope, saying that they had not been able to see any spaceship. They generously received a refund from Mike Fowler.
As a token of hope to all of us who didn’t make it, Heaven’s Gate writes on their website that it is possible to find a “boarding pass”, if we read the material they left behind.
The final decision
On Easter Week 1997, 65-year old Herff Applewhite and his “crew” decided to incarnate themselves, according to the suicide declaration they had previously published: They chose the Masada solution.
Right to the end, everything went smooth and voluntarily. They had packed a suitcase, carried ID cards, and had produced a video, which they sent to a former cult member. Apparently, they had taken an overdose of phenobarbital mixed with vodka, and pulled a plastic bag over their own heads. This was the one way ticket to the Kingdom Level Above Human, using very effective, but not very superhuman means.
The first to arrive after the mass suicide was a former cult member, Rio D’Angelo, and his boss, Nick Matzorkis, who owned Interact Entertainment Group, in Beverly Hills, Californien. Matzorkis had previously used the cult’s company as a subcontractor.
D’Angelo had received a package by express delivery on March 26, containing two videos, two computer disks and a letter. When he went to work the next day, he told his boss that he was convinced that everyone in the cult were dead. The two drove straight away to Rancho Santa Fe, and saw for themselves that it was true. They immediatedly called the police. Nick Matzorkis also started working on securing the rights to the cult’s videos.
The videos contained interviews with cult members, appearing in pairs. Two members tell that they are looking forward to this. There was no doom mood, it looked more like a garden party, with the sun above and trees and bushes in the background.
The people seemed happy: One woman said that they couldn’t be other than happy for what they were about to do. Another woman rejected the notion that she had gone mad, and stated that she couldn’t have made a better choice. A man said that they had been looking forward to this for a long time. Everything looked as if it had gone according to plan for the 21 women and 18 men, from 26 to 72 years old.
The members killed themselves in an orderly and disciplined fashion, over several days, in three teams, by taking a strong barbiturate with vodka, followed by a plastic bag over the head. All bodies lay on mattresses and beds in the spacious but spartan, almost clinical, house, wearing black clothes and brand new Nike running shoes.
All had packed a suitcase, in preparation to the big journey, and all, except two, were covered in a purple cloth. Several of them had put their spectacles beside their final resting place. All had ID cards and a five dollar note and 3 quarters with them.
Rumors – and fear – had it that there might be other subgroups of Heaven’s Gate in other localities, also planning to commit suicide. If that was the case, the police hoped to find information on the many computers the cult had also left behind.
It turned out that there were only three members left: In a canyon close to the small town of Marysville, California, a local police man discovered a dead man in a trailer. The body was identified as one Robert Nichols, 58 years old. Nichols had previously been a roadie for Grateful Dead, and had left a note, dated on March 28, 1997. In the note, he said that he intended to meet up with his friends in the Heaven’s Gate spaceship. He chose a plastic bag over his head, combined with a hose to the trailer’s gas flask. Nichols had also covered himself with purple cloth.
On May 6, 1997, the police found two more bodies, both members of the cult. The two had also sought to replicate the ritual from Rancho Santa Fe, this time in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express, in Encinitas, near Las Vegas.
Wayne Cooke, 54 years old, was dead, while the other, Charles Humphrey, was unconscious. Humphrey was in critical condition, and was taken to hospital at once.
Cooke had hopped in and out of the cult over the past 23 years. His wife was one of those who committed suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, and during an interview on CBS’s program “60 Minutes”, he stated that he wished to be reunited with Applewhite and the rest of the group.
Their approach was identical, and they were also wearing the cult’s uniform: Black clothes and black Nike shoes. A note said that they were going to meet with their leader and the rest of the group, behind the comet. They were found, because Cooke had contacted his daughter through a letter, which could be traced back to the hotel.
Almost a year later, 55-year old Charles Humphrey was found dead near Ehrenberg, Arizona. His second attempt was successful: He was found in a tent, close to his car. The method was again a plastic bag over the head, with a hose connected to the exhaust of his car.
Dick Joslyn is a former cult member and a friend of Humphrey’s. He stated to the local newspaper that he wasn’t surprised at all that Humphrey had committed suicide. He also said that there could well be more ex-members who considered following in their footsteps.
Many rumours abounded: One was that Applewhite had brainwashed his disciples. But several of the cult’s members held jobs outside the house. The owner of a computer company in Del Mar had employed two of the victims, David Geoffrey Moore and Real Steele. The owner, Mike Afshin, described Moore as both physically and mentally strong, and a basically happy person, someone who never complained about anything. The two cult members never proselytized their beliefs and, according to Afshin, didn’t seem as if they either were or could be brainwashed into doing something they didn’t want to do.
Many of the dead had left their families behind years earlier. Some family members knew where their relatives were, and already knew what had happened through the media. To others, it came as a complete surprise. The police opened a telephone hotline for relatives, while the media began searching for former members, employers, old school mates or left behind relatives.
An example was the New York Times, which tried to get an interview with Applewhite’s former wife, Ann. She had absolutely no intention of speaking to the press. Her present husband, Sam Nickerson, stated that his wife hadn’t heard from her ex-husband since he left her in 1964, and that his stepson hadn’t seen his father since he was 5. It was a different man who killed himself in California from the music teacher who married Ann – they didn’t even know it was him, Nickerson said.
What is it that draws cultists to California? That was the question on a CNN show, on April 1, 1997. This time, it was Heaven’s Gate. Earlier, it had been Charles Manson and his deadly cult, and Jim Jones’s cult, which ended as a massive pile of bodies in the jungle of Guyana, also started in California. However, other cults had their beginnings in other parts of the world, e.g., Canada, Japan and Switzerland. A psychiatrist, John Hochman, has a reasonable explanation: If you want to found a cult, you might as well do it where the weather is nice. Now, that is logic, even for cultists.
To be continued.