Marshall Herff Applewhite Jr. (May 17, 1931 - March 26, 1997) was the leader of Heaven's Gate group. He died in the group's mass suicide of 1997.
Marshall Applewhite, the son of Louise Haecker Winfield (1899 - 1947) and Marshall Herff Applewhite Sr. (3 September 1901 - 8 January 1971), was born in 1931 in Spur, Texas. He had an older sister named Louise Applewhite Linant (born 1928). Applewhite's father was a Presbyterian minister who started new churches and moved from place to place in Texas. Applewhite hoped to follow in his father's footsteps and become a preacher as well, but his sister and father encouraged him to develop his musical talents. In high school, Applewhite proved more dedicated to music than religion, and joined the school choir. In 1950, at age 19, Applewhite enrolled at Austin College, where he pursued a degree in Music and Pre-Theology at his father's urging.
In college, Applewhite studied voice and education, fueled by his passion for choir singing. In 1954, Applewhite graduated. He was drafted into the U.S. Army upon his graduation. He was stationed in Salzburg, Austria, and then White Sands, New Mexico, where he became a Signal Corps instructor. He was drafted a year after the Korean War ended, so he did not go to Korea, nor did he see any action while in the service. According to his sister, he was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Sergeant in 1956 after two years of service. After having been discharged, Applewhite taught music at the college level.
After his service was up, Applewhite became a college teacher. By age 28 in 1959, Marshall Applewhite had written about outer
space, aliens, and the galaxy which he shared with his college students. He believed that there was another species on another
planet in the solar system. Later, in his thirties, Applewhite led a musical career. He played starring roles in stage musicals
in Colorado and Texas, was the choir director at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Houston, sang 15 roles with the Houston Grand Opera,
and taught music at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. In 1962, Marshall Applewhite got married in a Presbyterian church. He
had a son, Mark (born 1965) and a daughter, Mary (born 1967). He was fired from his job as a Music professor at the University of
St. Thomas in 1970. The official reason given by the University was "health problems of an emotional nature," although local
news reports at the time stated that the reason was a homosexual relationship with a male student. One of many teachers
in America preying upon students for sex in exchange for good grades.
In 1972, Applewhite met a 44-year-old nurse named Bonnie Nettles at a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he had hoped to be cured of homosexuality. He saw her again in a theatre and they started courting each other. Two years after he met Nettles on August 28, 1974, the 43 year old Applewhite was arrested in Harlingen, Texas and charged with stealing credit cards. It was becoming increasingly certain that Marshal Applewhite was sick with sin.
Nettles told Applewhite he was "mightily powerful." She was wrong. Applewhite was demon driven.
He declared himself a messiah, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. By this means we know he was an antichrist. "LITTLE CHILDREN," Saint John wrote down through the Ages to you, "IT IS THE LAST TIME; AND AS YOU HAVE HEARD THAT ANTICHRIST SHALL COME, EVEN NOW ARE THERE MANY ANTICHISTS; WHEREBY WE KNOW THAT IT IS THE LAST TIME." (1 John 2:18) There is no doubt we are in THE LAST TIMES.
By 1975 they had begun Total Overcomers Anonymous together, which was eventually to become Heaven's Gate.
In 1975, Applewhite and Nettles convinced 20 people from Portland, Oregon to join their group. Applewhite told them there would be an alien abduction and when the abduction did not materialize, they left. But the group continued to grow in 93 gullible believers in the lie. Part of the attraction being access to the mansion at Rancho Santa Fe, California, the site of the group's mass suicide.
Nettles and Applewhite were nicknamed 'Ti and Do' or the 'UFO two'. Nettles died in 1985 of cancer and Applewhite led Heaven's Gate alone from her death to his suicide in 1997.
On March 19, 1997, Applewhite taped himself speaking of mass suicide and
believed "it was the only way to evacuate this Earth."
The group believed they had no choice but to leave Earth as quickly as possible.
After claiming a spaceship carrying Jesus was
hidden behind the comet Hale-Bopp, Applewhite convinced thirty-eight followers
to commit suicide so their souls could board the UFO.
Applewhite said after their deaths a UFO would take their souls to another galaxy called Heaven.
Applewhite died with 38 other members in Rancho Santa Fe, California by mixing liquid with rat poison and cyanide. Cult members aged between 26 and 72, are believed to have died in three groups, 15 the first day on March 24, 15 the next and nine on the third. Applewhite was the last to die. A sure indication he had power over their minds.
In the heat of the California Spring, many of the bodies had begun to decompose by the time they were discovered. The corpses in the San Diego mansion underwent autopsies; cyanide and arsenic were found. The bodies were later cremated. Drugs were apparently not in use.
Authorities discovered other curiosities upon investigating the scene: each of the cult members wearing black Nike sneakers, and eight of the male members of the cult had been castrated suggesting homosexuality was rampant among them.
One of the members did not commit suicide.
That individual showed the police a video film taken at the mansion five years later in 2002.