³ ³ ³ ³ ΙΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝ» Ί T R U S T N O O N E Ί ΘΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΝΌ ³ ³ ³ ³ /\ +--+ +----+ / \ //======// ===\\ / \ // // \\ / \ //====// ==\\ +------------+ /// \\======================================/// \\====================================/// Things to beware of in 1997: Charlatan prophets, fakir diviners, cults of personality, and the general insanity of the approaching millenial madness! ------------------------------------------------------------------- March 28, 1997 'Task Completed': Cult Members Hoped for Cosmic Rendezvous By DEBORAH HASTINGS Associated Press Writer RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. (AP) -- The New Age cult leader who died with 38 followers in a mass suicide was a former music teacher who was preaching a bizarre mix of Scripture and UFOs as far back Leader as the '70s. Marshall Applewhite, 66, was identified today as one of those found dead Wednesday at the cult's palatial home near San Diego. Investigators believe the 21 women and 18 men drank a lethal mixture of phenobarbital and vodka and then settled back to die. "We couldn't be happier about what we're about to do. Doubt was never an issue," a woman says in a videotaped farewell statement. Meanwhile, authorities wrestled with a dizzying onslaught of information about the Heaven's Gate cult from multiple sources -- a book, the Internet, relatives of the victims, and acquaintances and experts from all over the country. The victims apparently believed that their human bodies were just temporary vessels and that their deaths would lead to a rendezvous with a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, which passed closest to Earth last weekend. The group had posted a statement on its World Wide Web site that said, "Hale-Bopp's approach is the 'marker' we've been waiting for. We are happily prepared to leave 'this world."' Group members, who supported themselves by running a computer business, had sent out videos in which their leader described the hoped-for space encounter. Members came before the camera two at a time, side by side, to say their last goodbyes. "Maybe they're crazy for all I know, but I don't have any choice but to go for it because I've been on this planet for 31 years and there's nothing here for me," one woman said. "It's just the happiest day of my life," said a man. "I've been looking forward to this for so long." The people were taped seated in chairs outdoors, as trees and bushes swayed in the background. Most smiled as they talked of taking their lives. Some laughed. One woman cried. "People who thought I completely lost my marbles, they're not right," said one person to laughter. "We take off the virtual reality helmet. We take off the vehicle that we've used for this task," a man said, an apparent reference to their bodies. The cult published a 4-inch-thick book last year and posted part of it on one of its Web sites, Heaven's Gate. It contains a strange blend of Christianity and outer space similar to Applewhite's former proselytizing. The book contains "exit statements" that resemble suicide notes. "Survival requires that you allow nothing of this human existence to tie you here," wrote one cult member, identified only as Anlody. "No wealth, no position, no prestige, no family, no physical pleasure, and no religion spouting to hang on to any of the above will enable you to survive. They are only entrapments." A writer calling himself "Do," apparently Applewhite, said, "We take the prize, I guess, of being the cult of cults." Back in 1975, Applewhite, along with a colleague named Bonnie Lu Trusdale Nettles, persuaded hundreds of people in California, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon to leave their families and belongings behind and join them. They were known then as the "UFO Cult," and Applewhite and Ms. Nettles referred to themselves then as "The Two." The Heaven's Gate web site refers to its founders as "The Two" and said they began "rounding up their crew in '75." A leader -- apparently Ms. Nettles -- is called "Ti" in the Heaven's Gate writings. She died in 1985. ("Do" and "Ti" are apparently from the musical "do re mi" scale.) One of the videos sent out before the suicides shows images of a bald, elderly man in a black, collarless shirt on a white plastic patio chair who apparently is beckoning followers to leave the Earth. That man -- who called himself "Do" -- is presumably Applewhite. "I can be your shepherd," the man says. "You can follow us but you cannot stay here and follow us. You would have to follow quickly by also leaving this world before the conclusion of our leaving this atmosphere in preparation for its recycling." "He was a very loving, caring person very intelligent and a wonderful singing voice," said Applewhite's 69-year-old sister, Louise Winant, in an interview today on ABC's "Good Morning America." She said her brother studied at a theological seminary in Richmond, Va., and went on to teach and sing professionally. "Oh, he sang beautifully. He could play almost anything," she said. "He was extremely talented." Ms. Winant said in the early '70s, Applewhite was in the hospital in Houston with some heart block of some kind and had a "near-death" experience. It was then that he met Ms. Nettles, a nurse who Ms. Winant said was interested in "occult-type things." She said Applewhite, who had two children from a previous marriage, never saw his relatives after that. The suicides took place over at least three days, authorities said at an extraordinary news conference Thursday that included a brief videotaped tour of the immaculate home. The video shows corpses clad in identical black clothing and Nike shoes, all neatly laid out on mattresses, some with eyeglasses near the bodies. All were covered with purple, triangular-shaped shoulder patches bearing the Heaven's Gate name, although some hands peeked out. In their pockets were IDs, $5 bills and quarters. The coroner's office has tracked down seven families and was trying to reach the others, Dr. Brian Blackbourne, the medical examiner, said this morning. The victims, 26 to 72 years old with driver's licenses from nine states, apparently died in shifts over three days -- 15, then 15 more and then the final nine. "Who or what would make 39 people take their life in this manner?" asked Sheriff Bill Kolender. "While at the scene last night, I told myself that the question cannot be answered in terms, I think, that the rest of us will ever understand." The cult ran a business at the home called Higher Source that built Web sites for businesses. Ranging in age from 20 to 72, the members were by all accounts efficient as a company, puritanical as individuals. They called each other brother and sister, dressed alike and wore short haircuts. But their beliefs were odd by any standard; modern civilization, wrote a student identified online only as Smmody, "seems ready to be recycled." A self-described prophetic minister from New Mexico, the Rev. Mike Dew, recalled meeting a Heaven's Gate leader eight months ago. "They're preying on weak Christians," said Dew, of the Prophetic Voices of the Wilderness in Mountainair, N.M. "They're portraying themselves as ascended masters or a 'Higher Source.' They'll use the terms 'Jesus' and 'God,' but not in the traditional way. If you're not careful, you'll miss what they're doing." Nick Matzorkis, a businessman who employed a former cult member, said he and the employee, whom Matzorkis called "Rio," went to the mansion after Rio received the videos and a farewell letter. Rio went in and discovered the bodies, said Matzorkis, president of Interact Entertainment Group in Beverly Hills, "By the time you read this, we suspect that the human bodies we were wearing have been found, and that a flurry of fragmented reports have begun to hit the wire services," the farewell letter said. "We'll be gone -- several dozen of us," it said. "We came from the Level Above Human in distant space and we have now exited the bodies that we were wearing for our earthly task, to return to the world from whence we came -- task completed."