The Story of the Doomsday Cult that Drank the Kool-Aid

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This is the story of the Heaven’s Gate cult, which operated on America’s West Coast for around 22 years until the members took part in the largest mass suicide in American history. The infamous alien-obsessed spiritual group would somehow lead 39 members to commit mass suicide, with one aspect of the event leading to an interesting fashion trend.

People can quite easily be taken advantage of in the name of whatever religion they believe. This is exactly what happened with Heaven’s Gate. Unfortunately, many of its members were met with more than just a loss of time or finances — they lost their lives.

The Early Beginnings of Heaven’s Gate

Marshall Herff Applewhite Jr. was born on May 17, 1931, to a Presbyterian family in Spur, Texas. Actually, his father was a Presbyterian minister, so he grew up heavily around religion. He initially enrolled to study as a Minister but changed his mind and went into Music. He did a brief stint in the US army corps from 1954 to ’56. By 1959 he had obtained his Masters in Music from the University of Colorado. He would then go on to teach music at several different universities. However, in 1970 he was dismissed for ‘health reasons of an emotional nature’.

Basically, he wasn’t doing so well mentally. His father’s death a year later brought on severe depression. So he checked himself into a mental institution. Even though he really tried and underwent some psychotherapy, he found no relief. His marriage began to fail and by 1972 he had divorced his wife and was estranged from his two children.

It was during this period in his life he met a woman by the name of Bonnie Lu Nettles. I’ve read a few different sources with different information — some sources say they met at the mental institutions, and some are unclear. Bonnie was a former nurse and mother of four who was actually married when she met Marshall.

In her early years, Bonnie was born and raised in Houston into a Baptist family. As an adult, she moved away from religion. After becoming a registered nurse, she married businessman Joseph Segal Nettles in December 1949 with whom she had four children. Their marriage remained mostly stable until 1972 when she met and fell in love with Marshall. But it wasn’t just her meeting Marshall that broke her marriage and family up. It was also this really strange belief system that she began to follow.

Basically, Bonnie believed that a 19th-century monk named Brother Francis frequently spoke with her and gave her instructions. She began conducting seances with mediums in order to contact other deceased spirits. A circle group was held every Wednesday at her house to contact the dead. Bonnie had a strong interest in astrology, theosophy, and the occult. And her husband wasn’t down with it.

In 1972, Bonnie went to see multiple fortune-tellers, who told her that she was soon to meet a mysterious man who was tall with light hair and a fair complexion. This description was fairly close to Marshall’s appearance ,  so when she saw him, she fell for him quickly and deeply, feeling like this was the man she was destined to meet.

Little did anyone know that this romance between Marshall and Bonnie would be the catalyst of a huge tragedy.

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1 comment

  1. The last meal eaten by the cult members illustrates complete cult control. Each member ordered the exact same things, no doubt dictated by their leader.

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