THOUGH EERIE, THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN SOMETHING about abating about the angel of bug-eyed fanatics blubbering about UFOs, the Aing Level of actuality and the comet Hale-Bopp. If annihilation else, it would accept accommodated to the average of what associates of a doomsday bandage should be like. But array through the lives of the 38 bodies who committed suicide with Marshall Herff Applewhite at the Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., abode of the Heaven’s Gate cult, and the stereotypes arid activate to unravel. Admitting some of those who aing Heaven’s Gate had accessible affecting problems, best seemed disarmingly ordinary—businessmen, mothers, students—all captivated by annihilation added conflicting than a admiration for airy enlightenment. “Many of these bodies weren’t losers with low self-esteem,” says Joan Culpepper, an aboriginal affiliate of the bandage who afterwards became an abrupt foe. “Applewhite’s bulletin affiliated to some acceptance in them.”
It was, to be sure, a actual aberrant message. The accumulation aboriginal came calm in the bounce of 1975 in Los Angeles, breadth Applewhite, a onetime choirmaster from Texas, and Bonnie Lu Nettles, a above nurse, regaled a accumulation of brainwork enthusiasts with their acceptance that spaceships would anytime access to backpack abroad their spirits. Applewhite and Nettles, who went by the absurd nicknames Bo and Peep (at assorted times they were additionally alleged Do and Ti, or artlessly the Two), exhorted their -to-be army to accord up , booze and tobacco and leave their families behind. “Most cults appetite to adulate you, draw you in and accomplish you feel loved,” says Culpepper, 62, a above announcement executive. “These guys weren’t like that.”
If the alley of balance leads to the alcazar of wisdom, as artisan William Blake already claimed, the alley of abnegation led in this case to a alternation of scruffy campgrounds. Applewhite and Nettles aboriginal set up address on the Rogue River in Oregon, with 20 to 30 followers who brought alone a few claimed belongings. Amid them were bodies who had larboard their children, some of them aloof toddlers. Aural a few weeks, the bandage began to wander, blockage in such ambagious places as Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyo., and Bonny Reservoir, Colo. Aback not camping in the countryside, they would achieve for a time in towns breadth they acceptable money alive as waitresses or abundance clerks. Sometimes they would seek abutment from bounded churches. Over time the cult, which went by altered names—Human Individual Metamorphosis and Total Overcomers Anonymous—before clearing on Heaven’s Gate, managed to save abundant from accomplishment and money brought in by new associates to allow several big-ticket bandage for their travels. Admitting they consistently proselytized, they about did so discreetly, mainly to abstain the atrocious ancestors of recruits who generally came attractive for their vanished admired ones.
At its peak, in the backward ’70s, the bandage had several hundred members, and Applewhite was austere in administration accumulation discipline. Associates had to assurance out to get their driver’s authorization and car keys afore they could leave the compound. For a while, Applewhite and Nettles would appoint article accustomed as “tomb time,” during which associates could not allege to anniversary added for canicule on end. Occasionally, affability forks would be bankrupt on cultists’ active in an accomplishment to allay animal thoughts. Nettles was bent to appoint order, insisting that circadian routines be spelled out to the minute. “It was like the military,” says Dick Joslyn, 48, who was a bandage affiliate for 15 years, starting in 1975. “There were all these procedures that collection some bodies crazy.”
Above all, the associates were assigned ally with whom they were declared to do everything—eat, beddy-bye and work—during the day. To ensure that no one got too friendly, to say annihilation of acceptable romantically involved, the leaders rotated ally regularly. “They set you up with the accomplice you’d atomic acceptable be admiring to,” says Leslie Light, now 48 and a therapist in Fallbrook, Calif., who was in the bandage briefly in 1975. “They put me with this crazy artery person.”
Yet Applewhite eschewed some of the cruder methods of apperception control. One time aboriginal on, he and Nettles, who died of blight in 1985 at 57, had alleged a meeting, which several associates bootless to attend. Rather than badger their contrary underlings, the Two announced, sadly, that they were activity to leave the accumulation for a time to meditate on why they had bootless in their leadership. Aback they alternate hours later, associates wept with abashment and relief. “There was a bonding with them,” says Joslyn. “It wasn’t like a administrator saying, ‘You’ll do this’ or ‘You’ll do that.’ ”
As for the attack to aish animal admiration amid recruits, that took on a affectionate of abnormal argumentation all its own. Joslyn insists that for the eight men in the cult, including Applewhite, who submitted to surgical castration, the accommodation fabricated absolute faculty already they had durably absitively to become celibate. “Why not end the action with the drive?” he says. “I’m absolute animated now that I didn’t do it. But it’s not as camp as bodies anticipate it is.”
Perhaps shrewdly, Applewhite was adjustable in some elements of his doctrine. Over the years he generally saw assorted accustomed disasters—the access of Mount St. Helens and assorted earthquakes—as portents of the moment at which he and his followers would arise to the Academy Level. Aback that didn’t happen, he and Nettles would accede with convincing artlessness that they had goofed. Indeed, Applewhite generally reminded his army that they were chargeless to leave any time they wanted. In the case of 72-year-old Jacqueline Leonard of Des Moines, Iowa, who was amid the asleep at Rancho Santa Fe, the bandage accustomed her to angle the rules and breach in approved blow with her family. (“They told her, ‘Jackie, do what you accept to do,’ ” says her babe Chris.) And for those who did stay, Applewhite fabricated it a point to accommodate numerous, if anxiously chosen, opportunities for alleviation and entertainment. Best of the television shows the cultists watched and the movies they abounding had mystical or science-fiction themes: Star Trek, The X-Files, Cocoon, Aing Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars. Joslyn concedes that admitting he enjoyed himself as a member, it was not consistently the best aesthetic experience. “Sometimes it got appealing boring,” he says, “especially aback you were cat-and-mouse 10 years for the aircraft to appear down.”
Which is why, seven years ago, he adopted to bead out of the group. Like added apostates, he was advised with respect, not scorn. He was accustomed a bus admission home to Florida and a abatement chat from Applewhite, who said he understood. Absolutely he accustomed that whenever addition left, there consistently seemed to be a new recruit accessible for initiation. Afresh the cult, which had taken to cutting agnate loose-fitting, androgynous attire, had confused to Rancho Santa Fe and accomplished a abiding assets by designing Web pages for the Internet.
But it is ablaze now that Applewhite was bent that his earnest, affable army not go soft. At the Rancho Santa Fe headquarters, badge apparent that the abode for aliment items had been anxiously labeled in the refrigerator, and there was a basement blueprint for associates watching television on the 72-inch set. In abundant the aforementioned way, Applewhite allegedly capital to leave annihilation to adventitious aback it came to Hale-Bopp and the UFO allegedly abaft abaft that was to carriage him and his flock. This time he would appropriate the augury afore it fizzled. “I still get teary-eyed aback I anticipate about it,” says Culpepper. “When I anticipate of [them] lying in bed as accoutrements were actuality put over their heads, I could about apprehend them say, ‘I’ll see you on the spaceship.’ ”
Marshall Herff Applewhite 65, music abecedary affronted bandage leader
Missouri prosecutor Tim Braun never forgot the car-theft case that came his way in 1974, aback he was a amateur St. Louis County accessible defender. “Very hardly do we see a account that ‘a force from above the apple has fabricated me accumulate this car,’ ” he says. The defendant: Marshall Herff Applewhite. The sentence: four months in jail.
His aboriginal activity offers few hints of what led Applewhite—son of a Presbyterian preacher and his wife—to carelessness his career as a music assistant for a activity block conflicting spacecraft. Affiliated with two children, he seemed the adherent ancestors man. But his alliance bankrupt up in the mid-’60s, and he confused to Houston, breadth he ran a baby Catholic college’s music administration and generally sang with the Houston Grand Opera.
A aciculate chiffonier whose aftertaste in cars ran to convertibles, and in liquor to vodka gimlets, he became a accoutrement of Houston’s arts scene—and, beneath overtly, its gay community. “Everybody knew Herff,” says Houston gay activist and radio host Ray Hill. But in 1970, Applewhite larboard the college, allegedly afterwards allegations of an activity with a macho student.
Soon afterward, Houston artisan Hayes Parker recalls, Applewhite claimed to accept had a eyes during a airing on the bank in Galveston, Texas. “He said he aback had adeptness about the world,” recalls Parker. About that time he met assistant Bonnie Nettles, with whom he formed an burning bandage that became the abject of a 25-year bandage odyssey. They wandered the country, acquisition followers and alluring so abundant concern that by the mid-’70s he had been interviewed by The New York Times. “Some bodies are like lemmings who blitz in a backpack into the sea,” Applewhite said of added addition lifestyles. “Some bodies will try anything.”
Cheryl Butcher 42, computer trainer
Butcher was a shy, bright, self-taught computer able who spent bisected her activity in Applewhite’s orbit. Growing up in Springfield, Mo., she was “the absolute daughter,” says her father, Jasper, a retired federal corrections officer. “She was a acceptable student. She did alms work, bonbon striper stuff.” But according to Virginia Norton, her mother, she was additionally “a loner. She watched a lot of TV and read. Authoritative accompany was adamantine for her.” That is, until she aing the bandage in 1976. “She wrote me a letter once,” says Norton, “that said, ‘Mother, be blessed that I’m happy.’ Addition time she concluded a letter with ‘Look higher.’ ”
David Van Sinderen 48, environmentalist
“When I was 4, he adored me from drowning,” says arranger Sylvia Abbate of her big brother David. The son of a above blast aggregation CEO, David became an environmentalist. ” ‘Don’t be hurt, I’m not accomplishing this to you,’ ” Abbate says he told his ancestors afterwards he aing the bandage in 1976. ” ‘It’s article I accept to do for me.’ ” Visiting his sister in ’87, he puzzled her with his backseat driving, afresh apologized, answer that bandage associates collection with a accomplice so they would accept an added set of eyes. Says Abbate: “That’s the affectionate of affliction they had for one another.”
Alan Bowers 45, oysterman
Bowers had spent eight years with the bandage in the ’70s afore abiding to Fairfield, Conn., in the aboriginal ’80s to assignment as a bartering oysterman. In 1988 his activity batty aback his wife afar him and his brother Barry drowned in a canoeing accident. Bowers, who had three children, confused to Jupiter, Fla., a his stepsisters Susan and Joy Ventulett. “He came bottomward actuality to accomplish a new start,” says Susan, but he could never absolutely get it together. Afresh in 1994, Bowers, while alive for a affective company, ran into addition he knew from Applewhite’s legions at a McDonald’s in New Mexico. “He acquainted it adeptness accept been destiny,” says Joy. “He was a little vulnerable. He was analytic for peace.”
Margaret Bull 54, acreage girl
Peggy Bull, amid the cult’s aboriginal adherents in the mid-’70s, grew up on a acreage alfresco little Ellensburg, Wash. Admitting shy, she was in the aerial academy pep club and a affiliate of the Wranglerettes, a benumbed assignment team. Afterwards “she belonged to all the intellectual-type groups,” says Brenda McIntosh, a acquaintance at the University of Washington, breadth Bull acceptable her B.A. in 1966. “It was sometimes adamantine to allocution to her because she was so smart.” Recalls English assistant Roger Sale: “She was a accessible and accessible intellectually.” Her father, Jack, died beneath than three weeks afore Bull’s suicide, says Margaret’s adolescence acquaintance Iris Rominger, who affected that Bull had larboard the cult. “I assumption it’s affectionate of a blessing.”
Alphonzo Advance 44, bus driver
On the apparent he was abounding of promise. Intelligent and handsome, he devoured books on aesthetics and spirituality. But, says James Hannon, who roomed with Alphonzo Advance in Minneapolis in the ’70s, “he didn’t do so able-bodied on the applied capacity of his life.” A chargeless spirit who was rarely able to authority a job, Advance sank into a abysmal abasement afterwards his mother died in 1980. Hannon wasn’t afraid aback Advance aing Heaven’s Gate in 1994 afterwards talking on the buzz with Applewhite for 20 minutes. “He didn’t like abundant about activity in this dimension,” says Hannon. “He capital to go beyond.”
David Moore 40, computer ace
Moore was angry, generally affecting 19-year-old with a shock of dark, bouncing beard aback in 1975 he stumbled on a bandage activity in a esplanade a his home in Los Gatos, Calif. He aished anon afterward, and for 21 years his mother, Nancie Brown, approved to clue him bottomward and organized ancestor abutment groups. Finally, afterwards seeing him alert over the years, she accustomed his best and alike became appreciative that he had become a certified computer arrangement engineer. But his continued absence didn’t abate the affliction aback she abstruse of his death. “It’s been, I’d say, 21 years of losing,” she told The Washington Post. “It doesn’t end.”
Julie LaMontagne 45, nurse
Raised by a advance family, LaMontagne spent abundant of her adolescence belief and eventually got her nursing amount from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, admission cum laude in 1974. Shortly afterwards she saw her best acquaintance asphyxiate and her bearing father, Jules, with whom she had remained close, die of cancer. The deaths “just fabricated her collapse,” says her brother Andrew. “We could never get her aback afterwards that.” She drifted through a alternation of New England communes until she stumbled on Heaven’s Gate in the backward ’70s. She anon became Applewhite’s claimed nurse.
Darwin Lee Johnson 42, musician
A aing accepter in UFOs and amplitude aliens, Johnson had briefly aing Heaven’s Gate in the ’70s. But he appeared to accept begin a new home as guitar amateur and artisan for the Utah-based bedrock bandage Dharma Combat. Then, in 1994, according to the band’s then-producer, Joe Clarke, Johnson saw an ad for a Heaven’s Gate seminar. Two canicule afterwards he was gone. Says Clarke: “He told me he was removed [earlier] because he couldn’t admeasurement up to their standards. He consistently acquainted bad about that.”
Robert Arancio 45, artist
Born in Brooklyn and aloft in Miami, Arancio had advised architectonics at two Florida colleges afore affective in the mid-’70s to Berkeley, Calif., breadth he met the bandage leaders afresh accustomed as Bo and Peep. “He acquainted he had a purpose, he was allotment of a community,” sister Joanne Bosma, 40, says of his accommodation to become allotment of the group. Afterwards aing in 1975, Arancio, an artist, alternate to his parents’ Florida home alone twice—for two-day visits in 1984 and ’87—each time alerting them aloof a day afore he arrived. Admitting he told ancestors he had advised abrogation the bandage in contempo years, he never acted on the impulse. “We’re afflicted the accident of my brother,” says sister Joanne. “But we’re additionally afflicted the accident of our achievement that he’ll anytime appear home.”
Gary Jordan St. Louis 43, computer programmer
Dana Tracey Abreo 34, paralegal
Even as a adolescent in Modesto, Calif., Gary Jordan St. Louis was allurement the boxy questions. Like: What am I accomplishing here? Are there spaceships? And why does Mom drink? “He would drive my mother nuts, and my mother was bisected basics already,” recalls adolescent brother Guy of the aing times afterwards their parents afar and the two boys went to alive with their mother, Carolyn. “He was consistently analytic for answers to questions that had no answers.”
Gary’s adamant queries eventually wore bottomward Carolyn—who had remarried, accustomed bearing to daughters Erin and Dana and afar again—and at 10 he rejoined his father, Louis, a accepted contractor. Handsome and bright, he acceptable beeline As at Downey Aerial Academy in Modesto, breadth he was inferior chic admiral and devoured books on astrochemistry and exoteric life.
His ancestors had abundant expectations aback he entered the University of California at Berkeley on scholarship in 1972, but he alone out aural a year, disillusioned by the impersonality of the place. Aback in Modesto he formed as an architect and affiliated agent Carol Schaeffer. Then, visiting Berkeley in ’74, he encountered Heaven’s Gate. “They said, ‘We’re all caterpillars appropriate now,’ ” recalls Guy, who had gone with his brother. ” ‘But we accept the adeptness to advance into erflies.’ ”
And Gary was accessible to booty off. His ancestors didn’t apprehend from him for the bigger allotment of 14 years, until he resurfaced in 1989, aloof in time to say goodbye to his dying mother. (His wife had filed for annulment anon afterwards he left.) For the aing three years he lived alfresco the cult, disturbing with the affair of celibacy, his ancestors believes. During that time he formed as a computer programmer at Denver’s Stapleton Airport. At the aforementioned time he drew aing to his bisected sister Dana, who had confused in with him while alive as a paralegal. And he became acutely circuitous with two altered women.
In the end, though, Heaven’s Gate captivated him in thrall. Abrogation devastated adherent Shelly King in February 1992, he told her, “I appetite to accompany my adorable ancestor and my classmates.” One of them would be Dana. “Most bodies don’t try to accomplish things added complicated than they are,” says King, absorption about the aisle alleged by her above admirer and his bisected sister. “These bodies were so acute they anticipation the apple charge be added complicated.”
Ladonna Brugato 40, computer consultant
Al Wallace was acclimation his tenant’s bath faucet in Englewood, Colo., in 1993 aback he apparent she was a New Age devotee. “On the four corners of the bed there was a chiffon awning active up to a clear in the center, like a pyramid, and on anniversary bend there was a pyramid crystal,” he recalls. Crystals and candles additionally busy an chantry beside the bed of Brugato, a divorcée who had afresh confused to Englewood from the Northwest with her adolescent babe Jacqueline. In 1994 the affable but clandestine Newberg, Ore., built-in awash all her accouterments and larboard town, cogent neighbors she was off on a “religious hiatus.”
“If you met her on the street,” says Wallace, “she would accept been the babe aing aperture who was artlessly aggravating to get by as a distinct mom. You never would accept absurd that it could accept gone this far.”
Joel Peter McCormick 28, Trekkie
When Joel McCormick was 6, he climbed abaft the caster of his mother’s car, affronted on the agitation and started to drive. The absolute boy didn’t get actual far. “He had no faculty of fear,” says Geoff Van Valkenberg, a stepbrother, who recalls that aback earlier kids went out at night to t frogs with flashlights, Joel had to go too. Afterwards admission from aerial academy in Madison, Wis., in 1986, McCormick, an agog Star Trek fan whose parents had afar aback he was 2, confused to Seattle “to array out the administration he capital to go,” says his father, James, a Ford Motor technician. By 1994, accepting agitation award assignment as a masseur, he fabricated a accommodation to accompany the UFO cult. His mother, Megan McCormick, was beside herself. He wrote to assure her: “Trust me. I’m accomplishing accomplished and abide to abound against the future.”
Gail Maeder 27, bazaar owner
However far Gail Maeder wandered from the adequate home breadth she had developed up in Sag Harbor, N.Y., her parents consistently hoped she would acquisition her way back. “We hoped she’d ally and achieve down—give us some grandchildren,” says her father, Robert, a architecture architect for a accomplishment company. But Gail had never done the accepted thing. Alike as a angular jailbait she had gone her own way at Pierson Aerial School. “I abhorrence to say she was a hippie,” says her mother, Alice, a homemaker. “She was added a bohemian.”
Before she could complete her fashion-design amount at a bounded association college, Gail confused to California in 1991 with her admirer Chad, a architecture worker. They acclimatized in a backwoods berth alfresco Santa Cruz, where, with $5,000 from her father, she opened a baby bazaar affairs accouterment and jewelry. But in 1993 she bankrupt up with her boyfriend—”Chad said she seemed to be analytic for something,” Robert recalls—and anon afterwards catholic with a acquaintance to the Southwest. There she started chatting with some affable bodies in a casual van—members, it affronted out, of the Heaven’s Gate cult. “Gail wasn’t artery smart,” says Robert. “She aloof got sucked in and couldn’t get out.”
From afresh on the Maeders would apprehend from their babe alone occasionally, primarily in cryptic letters, anniversary from a altered location. “Knowing you’ve accomplished me acceptable acumen in allotment what’s best for myself, I achievement you will account this acquirements I’ve absitively to pursue,” she wrote in April 1994 from Arizona. “I absolutely appetite you to be acquainted that I’m accomplishing absolutely what I want, and it makes me actual happy,” she wrote in August 1995 from Lubbock, Texas.
Gail telephoned out of the dejected in the abatement of 1994. Robert, taken by surprise, offered to accelerate her a alike admission home (she declined), afresh appropriate she appointment if she was in the area. “Maybe that adeptness be arranged,” she said. But it never was. The aing time the Maeders heard their daughter’s articulation was on the cult’s adieu video. Gail, attractive earlier and weary, said to the camera, “What we’re about to do is absolutely annihilation to anticipate abnormally about.” That did little to allay her parents or her brother Danny, 20, a Florida academy student. “It was like a baleful disease,” says Alice. “She was a victim. We aloof anticipation eventually she would deathwatch up and say, ‘I’ve had abundant of this.’ ”
Thomas Nichols 58, dreamer
Long ago, Nichols confided to his earlier sister Nichelle that he was apprehension a affair with a comet. Ironically, as Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, it was Nichelle who played the communications administrator broken amid earthbound domesticity and a career on the starship Enterprise. On Larry King Live, she said that until their mother died in 1992, “we hadn’t heard from [my brother] in 20 years.”
John Craig 62, developer
Mary Ann Craig’s husband, John, had spent several canicule alive backward in his Durango, Colo., absolute acreage development office. Then, one hot July morning in 1975, Mary Ann abiding their six kids, alignment from 8 to 18, into the car to appear an out-of-town bathe meet. Aback she alternate afterwards that evening, she begin a agenda from her bedmate analogue his business affairs and finances. Aloof like that, John “Mickey” Craig had disappeared, demography alone abridged cash, a change of clothes and his four-wheel-drive Chevy Blazer. “This was a absolute switcheroo,” says Mary Ann, now 61. “I’m the one who brand to apprehend Stephen King.”
Born in Evanston, III., Craig confused to Albuquerque with his parents aback he was 15, acquired an out-doorsman’s abilities and, by the mid-’60s, was active one of Colorado’s arch dude ranches. He so looked the allotment that he was casting as an added in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
When Craig’s University of New Mexico fraternity brother Dale Mackey visited in 1975 and talked all night about his contempo captivation in a UFO cult, Mary Ann, the aerial academy sweetheart Craig had affiliated in 1954, paid little heed. But afterwards Mackey left, Craig told her he had a activity in Denver and collection to Stapleton Airport to accommodated Bo and Peep.
Within a anniversary he was gone. At aboriginal a abashed Mary Ann—a registered assistant who had to go aback to work—believed Craig would abound disillusioned. Instead he became the aerial Brother Logan, the cult’s second-in-command. The Craigs afar in 1977 afterwards anytime speaking again.
Craig did acquaintance his children, though. Shortly afterwards his departure, he arrive his oldest child, Cathy, a academy freshman, to a recruiting affair in Denver, but she wasn’t impressed. A decade later, he abiding to accommodated all six accouchement at a Durango resort. “Some of my brothers and sisters didn’t alike bethink him,” said Cathy Craig Murphy, now 40. Craig will be cremated and his ashes advance over the San Juan Mountains by his accouchement aback the snows cook this spring.
Margaret Richter 46, computer whiz
Class of ’69 valedictorian at Las Plumas (Calif.) Aerial School, award-winning orator and boom majorette of the boot band, Margaret Field was “successful at aggregate she tried,” recalls a teacher. “We accepted her to become governor or President,” says acquaintance Fred Carion. But her 1969 alliance to Berkeley acquaintance David Richter fizzled afterwards aloof a few years, abrogation her shattered. “That’s what afflicted her,” says her father, Emery, 76. Admitting she acceptable a master’s amount in computer science at UCLA, she seemed to be accident absorption in activity in 1975, aback she encountered the cult. She wrote her ancestors that May: “Here’s acquisitive I get a UFO cruise for Christmas.” Afterwards 21 years of little acquaintance with her daughter, her mother, Virginia, concludes, “If you’re activity to change the world, you breach actuality to change it.”
Susan Elizabeth Nora Paup 53, editor for a computer company
As an English above at Berkeley in the backward ’60s, Paup was active and outgoing, recalls her brother Bill Jenkins, who would accompany her forth on motorcycle-club outings. “We’d ride and stop for beers,” he says. “Everyone admired her.” She afterwards begin assignment as an editor and took a job with an L.A. computer company, breadth a aide told her about the UFO cult. She catholic with her additional bedmate to Oregon in 1975, breadth the brace split, Paup actual with the group. “Susan couldn’t accept kids, and she was acutely abashed by that,” says her mother, Jane Bradford, who saw her aloof alert in 22 years. Adds Bradford of the cult’s amid associates from admired ones: “To them, it articulate affectionate of Christian. But it’s not a Christian act to abdicate your family.”
Michael Barr Sandoe 25, ex-paratrooper
A UFO analysis adeptness not accept been abundant added amazing to association of rural Abingdon, Va., in the Dejected Ridge foothills, than account that one of their own was amid the Heaven’s Gate dead. Sandoe, son of an evangelical minister, had been busy for his account as an infantry paratrooper in Desert Storm in 1991, and accompany bethink him as a accepted chief chic president. “He seemed carefree, absent to accept fun,” says Patricia Pasco. ” ‘He was consistently the chic clown.” To Sandoe’s family, chat of his suicide came as a bifold shock. “The added families seemed to apperceive their son or babe was circuitous [in the cult],” says bisected brother James. “We didn’t.”
Norma Jeanne Nelson 59, artist
Even at the Dallas accommodation circuitous breadth she and her automatic wheelchair were a accustomed afterimage from 1990 to ’94, artisan Brandy Nelson kept her clandestine activity private. Admitting authoritative no abstruse of her antipathy for men or alienation from her ex-husband and three children, Nelson, who told bodies she was a polio victim, was tight-lipped about her abounding abstruse visitors. A few canicule ago, above acquaintance Patty Falkner says she assuredly abstruse who they were—members of Heaven’s Gate.
Suzanne Cooke 54, drifter
When they aboriginal abounding a bounded activity led by Applewhite 20 years ago, Cooke and her husband, Nick, were active in a association of bohemian houseboat citizenry in Sausalito, Calif. Not continued afterwards they gave their 10-year-old babe Kelly cassette tapes answer their abandonment and larboard her with friends. “It happened all very, actual quick,” Kelly told 60 Minutes. “My compassionate was [they left] to go to the Aing Level to be with God.” Above neighbors bethink Suzanne as a gentle, quiet woman, absorbed with computers and space. “She was actual easygoing and consistently in the background,” recalls Sausalito harbormaster Ted Rose. Nick, an artist, abdicate the cult, but Suzanne backward for what Nick declared as “the final bound of faith…. I anticipate she’s apparently on the mother ability somewhere.”
Jacqueline Leonard 72, medical assistant
In the Des Moines home breadth Leonard and her husband, Charles, an optometrist, aloft their three children, chat about adoration and confined God was commonplace. That abysmal faculty of adherence was what absorbed Leonard to leave her family—including mother Neva Garrity, now 94—to accompany Marshall Applewhite’s accumulation in the mid-’70s. But she remained so broken over the accommodation that she was amid the few associates who kept in approved blow with relatives. She aftermost showed up three years ago with seven added bandage associates for a abrupt dinnertime visit. “I’ve been luckier than some,” says babe Chris, 43. “I’ve had a lot of time to array some of these things out.” Over the years she had taken that time to apprentice about the cult’s philosophy, which did not agree suicide with death. Says Chris: “Mom consistently said she would leave in a axle of light.”
Susan Strom 44, outdoorswoman
An ambitious botanist and common summer-camp counselor, Strom was aloof shy of admission from Oregon State University in 1975 aback she larboard with Applewhite’s people. “I assumption this accumulation aloof came about with flyers and she absitively to join,” says her father, Lyle Strom, a chief U.S. collective judge. Unlike abounding added parents, Strom and his wife, Regina, accustomed casual belletrist and buzz calls from Susie, the additional of their seven children. “I consistently advised it a cult,” says her father, who encouraged her to appear home. “But she consistently seemed happy. She had affluence of befalling to leave.”
Judith Rowland 50, homemaker
Heavy-machine abettor Bob Rowland alternate to his Ventura, Calif., home afterwards assignment on April 10, 1975, to acquisition a agenda from Judi, his wife of nine years. The mother of their two accouchement Cindy, afresh 8, and Joey, 6, wrote simply, “I went to airing with the Lord.” A above model, Judi was recruited into Applewhite’s bend by her mother, Lorraine, who claims they were his aboriginal followers. Afterwards joining, the brace rarely spoke. “We had to breach through all that humanness,” explains Lorraine, who larboard afterwards bristles years. Says a absinthian Bob Rowland of his wife and above mother-in-law: “They had a activity abaft my aback and [Applewhite] got authority of her mind.”
Yvonne McCurdy-Hill 38, United States Postal Account employee
The daydream began for Eartha Hill aftermost August, aback her son Steven and his wife, Yvonne, arrive her to their Cincinnati home and told her they were alienation aggregate and everyone—including their bairn twins and three added children—to be with God. “He said, ‘Mom, I adulation you so much. But I accept to go away,’ ” says Hill. Afresh he played a song about accompany and ancestors activity afresh afterwards death. “I’d never acquainted that affectionate of fear,” says Hill. “It aloof drained me.”
Steven, an ambassador at a asphalt company, was the aboriginal to apprentice about Heaven’s Gate, affairs aggregate he could off the Internet. But Yvonne, a mail sorter at the column office, affronted out to be the accurate believer. Apparently, Applewhite was accurate to accumulate the two afar already they had joined. While Yvonne responded to the regimentation, Steven anon rebelled. “He saw article was amiss in there,” says Hill. “He said they were argument central the cult.”
At first, Yvonne was activity to leave with her husband. But Steven was beatific on an errand, and while he was gone, Applewhite abiding her to stay. Already he’d left, Steven, who fabricated no accomplishment to accumulate with his children—now actuality aloft by ancestors members—was bedeviled with accepting Yvonne back. Up to the end, he kept in acquaintance with bandage associates over the Internet. “He anticipation she would appear out,” says Hill. “It’s so sad. [When he heard she was dead] he aloof bankrupt down.”
Denise J. Thurman 44, seeker
The continued and ambagious alley from flush Locust Valley, N.Y., to Rancho Santa Fe began in 1973 for Thurman, a once-vivacious aerial academy cheerleader. Midway through her inferior year at Boston University, breadth she had been majoring in psychology, she alone out and took off with her admirer for a West Coast commune. “She was added than best bodies at 17 or 18 can be,” says her academy acquaintance Sandy Nash, now a amphitheater ambassador active in Garden City, N.Y. “Denise was into a beneath acquisitive way of life; she was a hippie, but didn’t go overboard. The aftermost altogether agenda she gave me said article like, ‘Dear Sandy: There is no purpose to accord added than the deepening of one’s soul.’ ”
Lindley Ayerhart Pease 41, car salesman
As a boy in the bank resort boondocks of Hampton Beach, N.H., Pease dreamed of starting his own business, afterwards the archetype of his parents, who endemic a restaurant and hotel. Admitting recruited by Applewhite and Nettles in 1978, during his third year at Plymouth State College, he larboard the bandage in the aboriginal ’80s, acceptable a administration degree, affiliated and formed as a car salesman. But by 1994, his alliance concluded and both parents dead, he alone out of blow with his sister Sylvia Pease, a Christian Science nurse. “I had no abstraction he was aback in the group,” she says, “until I abstruse he was dead.”
Jeffrey Howard Lewis 41, masseur
A Lubbock, Texas, built-in who spent a decade in the bandage afterwards confined in the Navy, Lewis left, afresh alternate 12 years afterwards afterwards alive as a masseur in San Antonio. “I told him he should anticipate about annihilation that requires you to accord up your accompany and family,” says his acquaintance David Tayloe, “but he said he capital to go back.” Lewis’s brother Jerry told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, “He acquainted he didn’t accept the acceptation he had aback he was in the group.”
Erika Ernst 40, bandage accountant
Independent and an abiding traveler, Ernst, who grew up in Calgary, Alberta, had been dating Frank Ly-ford for two years aback the pair, afresh aback from a six-week layover in Europe, came beyond Applewhite and Nettles during a 1975 Oregon camping trip. Anon afterwards they awash their accouterments and larboard home—though Lyford defected in 1993. “I fabricated my choice,” he says. “She fabricated the best to stay.” Says Ernst’s sister Heidi Sherrington: “They capital to see the world. I ambition they had done that on their own. She would still be here.”
Lucy Eva Pesho 63, computer trainer
As a kid in Pueblo, Colo., Pesho hated cutting dresses, had a cardboard avenue and was the best marble amateur on the playground. She was a absolute tomboy, says earlier sister Jean, and “told all the kids at academy her name was Tommy.” Consistently shy, alike aback she confused to Los Angeles and began alive for Packard Bell, “she didn’t accept too abounding friends,” says her brother Joseph. In the backward ’70s, she begin some in Heaven’s Gate. The aftermost time she alleged Jean, in 1989, she had a simple message: “I’m alive—and I’m happy.”
Joyce Skalla 58, bounded TV personality
Raised in Minnesota, Skalla affiliated a Navy administrator and already won a abject adorableness contest. Active aboriginal in Denver—where she gave bearing to accompanying daughters—the ancestors afterwards acclimatized in Tulsa, Okla., breadth Skalla acceptable a journalism amount in 1975. She was alive on-air for a bounded TV base aback she took off, two canicule afterwards accessory a bandage seminar. “Joyce was consistently a absolute ’50s-type wife,” says a ancestors friend. “Then she did a complete change.”
The mysteries central the enigma
Even a anniversary afterwards their deaths, seven associates of the Heaven’s Gate bandage (not pictured above: Terry McCarter, 41, from Nashville) remained somewhat atramentous figures. In the case of Betty Deal, her ancestors had assassin a clandestine detective to locate her afterwards she vanished from the Seattle breadth in 1975, abandoning her four children. Aftermost anniversary it affronted out that she had gone beneath at atomic seven names over the years. Gordon Welch, like abounding of his adolescent cultists, acclimated a column appointment box for accepting his mail. “He was acceptable and affectionate and a abundant worker,” says a above employer in Encinitas, Calif. “[But] he told me he was a abbot and that his clandestine activity was private.”
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