It was on 26th March, 1997, that officers of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department entered a house in Rancho Sante Fe, a suburb of San Diego. Inside they discovered the bodies of 39 members of a cult known as Heaven’s Gate. This group believed that an alien spacecraft was following in the wake of the comet, Hale-Bopp, and their souls would be taken on board. They took their own lives to achieve this goal.
Heaven’s Gate was founded in 1974 by Marshall Applewhite (son of a Presbyterian minister), and Bonnie Nettles (44-year-old married nurse). Their beliefs were based heavily upon religious scripture with Applewhite believing himself to be a type of reincarnated Jesus. The pair eventually took their show on the road, convincing others of their sincerity. They used aliases such as Bo and Peep and Do and Ti and claimed that Applewhite’s body was inhabited by the same alien spirit as the carpenter from Nazareth. Phew, quite a claim.
Bonnie Nettles died of cancer in 1985 which tossed a spanner in the works of the group’s early belief system. Their ‘manifesto’ had to adapt rapidly from the original belief that their bodies would leave earth someday for a spaceship, to believing that only the spirit would leave, their bodies to remain behind.
To kill themselves, the group took apple juice or pudding laced with phenobarbital washed down with vodka. They died in small batches with the living taking care of the remains of the dead and dying, ensuring their deaths by tying plastic bags over the heads of those who had already consumed the lethal cocktail.
They were all dressed in identical garb of black sweat pants and shirts and all were wearing new Nike Decades trainers. They each wore an armband with the words ‘Heaven’s Gate Away Team‘ on them. The dead were arranged on the beds in the house by the living, with a purple cloth covering their heads and torsos. Only the final two to die did not have the cloth covering. Applewhite was the third last to die. Each left a video message, and some members of the media received packages with videos in them.
Curiously, one of the dead was Thomas Nichols, brother of Nichelle Nichols, an actress best known for playing the role of Uhura in the cult TV series, Star Trek.
Prior to the 1997 mass suicide, the group website was updated with the following message;
“Hale-Bopp brings closure to Heaven’s Gate… Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion – ‘graduation’ from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave ‘this world’ and go with Ti’s crew.”
Rebel Voice is of the obvious opinion that the Heaven’s Gate cult was little more than a group of emotionally vulnerable people who fell under the spell of two very disturbed and charismatic individuals. Those who perished were symptomatic of the societal disaffection that makes movies such as X-Men so popular today. Whether it’s alcohol or drug abuse, video games or role-playing fantasies, there is an increasing trend for escapism born of disillusion with our modern social structures.
Sadly, there appears to be no end in sight. Will this mean that cults such as Heaven’s Gate are but a precursor to an explosion of extreme delusions that will manifest in yet more wacky religious cults, survival networks and an unfathomable desire for a zombie apocalypse? Is modern society to be a victim of its own temperamental success? Christian fundamentalism and its perverse attitude to Zionism might be one greater example of this quickening malaise.
Take a look at the following video of Heaven’s Gate and their creepy founder, Marshall Applewhite, and then perhaps hope that you never have cause to see such insanity in person.
(Is there more than a passing resemblance between the two men shown in the intro image below? It’s in the eyes)