I first heard about the Heaven's Gate cult
in January, 1994, only back then
they were calling themselves "The Total Overcomers" or "The
Overcomers". It was during a board meeting for the UFO organization I chaired that
member presented a flyer she had gotten from a friend about a group of
people who were giving presentations about a "level above humanness" and UFOs.
The board member also said she had seen them interviewed on the ten o'clock news by a
local TV station.
No one on the board of directors had ever heard of such a group so we began to
investigate. I contacted all the facilities where they had given their
presentations in Dallas and got descriptions of the group and their claims.
I left a message on the voice mail station they had set up and they soon
returned my call. Two women spoke with me, one on each extension. As I was to later
discover, they always spoke in pairs or twos. Whether this
reflected some system of organization or in reverence to the title the
leaders once used, "The Two", I do not know. Eventually I arranged for them
to come to the town where I lived and talk about what their group.
I never told them I represented a UFO organization because I wanted them to speak just as
if we were any audience they may be trying to reach with their message. Neither did the
other two board members who came to the meeting acknowledge their involvement in the study
of UFOs and related phenomena and we all pretended to be complete strangers.
Right on time, four of "The Total Overcomers", 3 females and one male,
arrived at the clubhouse reserved for the meeting. I had brought some
cokes, vegetables, chips and dips for refreshments after the meeting. The
thin, lank "Overcomers" began eating the snacks as if they had not eaten in
days! They were all above average in height, wore the same, very short hair
styles, tennis shoes, the women wore no make-up, no jewelry and all dressed in baggy
shirts and pants. They took it upon themselves to arrange the seating in the room so that
they sat in four chairs at the front of the room
facing the audience.
Due to the impromptu nature of scheduling the meeting in just two days, only a few people
showed up. Counting myself and the two other board members, there were a total of about
ten to eleven people in attendance. I asked the four Overcomers if I could video tape the
meeting and they agreed.
One of the board members also audio taped the presentation for back up.
They told us they had been in the "classroom" for eighteen years and their
"Elders" had decided they were ready to go out into the world and find the
others who had been "implanted" with a certain "deposit of
regarding that Kingdom Level's existence. They said they had been "separate from the
world" - practicing "non-sexual, non-mammalian behavior" for the past 18
years. According to their handouts, "If you don't want *out* of the human kingdom,
you don't want *into* the Kingdom Level Above Human."
They spoke for a long time about how religions have "unknowingly" become
victims of slavery to Luciferian forces or "space races" as they called them
and who represent themselves as "gods" but are nothing more than technically
advanced humans "clinging to human behavior" from previous civilizations. They
said these beings use the "discarnate" (spirit) world to keep humans preoccupied
with their addictions and travel in "primitive UFOs". ("The Next Level-the
*true Kingdom of God* has the only truly advanced space-time travel vehicles, or
spacecrafts," according to their flyer.)
The four Overcomers described the "Level Above Human" as a PHYSICAL Kingdom
Level above the human kingdom "with souls, minds and *bodies* - not just
spirit". They claimed that beings from the "Level Above Human" would come
down in their ships and take "crews" who had been taught to transcend their
humanness and give them "new" bodies which would be better suited for survival
in the "Kingdom Level Above Human". They described human physical bodies as only
*containers* (like "suits of clothes") for souls which are our "true
Two of the Overcomers, the man and one woman seemed to do most of the
talking but said none of them were "leaders" of the group. They spoke of
how the "24 Elders" had been teaching them to overcome their humanness.
They said sometimes they would get up in the morning and their classrooms
would be totally rearranged. The Elders, they explained, said this "program" was
to keep them from becoming fixed on anything remaining the
same and to teach them to accept the unexpected. They spoke of the "Elders" with
great fondness and affection.
During the entire 2 hour 16 minute meeting, all four Overcomers sat very
straight in their chairs, hands folded in their laps and their feet either
crossed or flat on the floor. If one crossed his/her feet, the others
eventually mimicked this stance. Usually they all sat with very proper
posture, hands folded in their laps and both feet flat on the floor.
Near the end of the meeting they accepted questions from the audience.
Those in attendance were very open and expressed genuine interest in the
philosophies described by the four speakers. At one point, the male Overcomer said most
people of the world had been programmed or "brainwashed" to believe Luciferian
lies. I asked him how he knew his "Elders" had not brainwashed THEM into
believing in the "Level Above Human" as mind control is a very subtle process.
For the first time, he reacted with intense emotion and yelled, "HOW DARE YOU!!"
A very visible "ripple" could be seen flowing through all four speakers and they
all looked very pointedly at the male. He seemed to blush for a second then sat back in
his chair while the female speaker to his left calmly resumed the conversation with me. He
had reacted as a "human" and they all seemed to disapprove of this.
They said that only adults could come with them and if anyone wished to
join them, they had to leave with them right then. I asked them their names
and they each told me names different from the ones they had told me on the
phone. I asked them why they kept changing their names and they said
because there were family members trying to locate members who had joined them and these
people did not want to be found. When asked if they had a mailing addess, they would only
give a P.O. Box in Richardson, Texas. They said the telephone number used on their fliers
was a temporary voice mail and would soon be disconnected.
We thanked them for their time and they climbed into a late model economy
car and left. The next day I called and spoke with them further. Two days
later, when I called, the phone was disconnected. I wrote a review of the
investigation and posted it on a UFO bulletin board on Prodigy. A couple of
days later, the man and one woman from the group who gave the talk called
and expressed anger about my post on Prodigy. I asked them how they had
read my post and they said they "monitor" all UFO bulletin boards. I told
them I had a right to my opinions and they said, "We'll be WATCHING you!" I
asked them if they were threatening me and they repeated that they would be "watching"
me. I said that was fine with me as I would be "watching" them too.
During the investigation of this cult, I was in daily contact with Dr.
Karla Turner, a researcher in Arkansas (she passed away in January, 1996)
and Barbara Bartholic, a researcher in Oklahoma. As I described the group
and some of their philosophies to Barbara, she said it sounded a lot like an
old UFO group led by a man and woman from the seventies who called
themselves "Bo and Peep", or "Him and Her" or " The Two".
Barbara said they had once invited her to witness the "landing" of the UFOs
who they believed were coming to pick them up and take them to the stars.
She and a camera crewman from a local TV station arrived to film the event.
The night was very stormy and the rain was coming down in torrents. Barbara said many
"strange phenomena" occurred but no UFOs or ships ever landed and the group
moved on. Before they left, she did manage to interview several members including
Applewhite. That tape still exists.
Acting on Barbara's tip, I began researching everything I could find on "Bo
and Peep". Dr. Turner also communicated with various researchers and
investigators around the country and they began sending me all kinds of old
newspaper clippings and information about the cult until I had a file almost
an inch thick!
Dr. Turner tried everything she could to locate the group and attend their
next lecture. When they were scheduled to appear at a New Age church in
Arkansas, she went to the church, several miles from her town, but the
Overcomers (who were then calling themselves "The Level Above") had
cancelled and did not show up. Dr. Turner was beside herself with
frustration. Then at the Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs in April of
1994, she discovered the group had just appeared next door at the "Lone Star
Bar" ( a make-shift bar for conference attendees and researchers) that
Saturday night and she had just missed them once again. She was hopping mad because she
seemed to come so close but not close enough. But the next day they showed up at the
conference and she finally got her chance to interview the group.
I was about to give a brief presentation about photographs taken during an
encounter when I was told The Overcomers were in the area. I found Dr.
Turner pounding a group of about five Overcomers with questions. Dr. Turner was furious
that they should go around giving UFOlogy a bad name by proclaiming UFOs were going to
come and pick them up and take them to a higher level of existence. Throughout the entire
Overcomers remained calm and placid.
I found another group of six Overcomers standing on the other side of the
room so I went over and started talking with them. Unlike Dr. Turner, I did
not believe these were "soulless" people who may be part "alien" or
aliens themselves. I was just curious about their philosophies and why they
believed what they believed.
They were extremely friendly, warm and open. The more I talked with them,
the more I felt as though we'd been friends all our lives. We discussed
theories and ideas and philosophies. There were young people around the
ages of 19 to 25 as well as older members between the ages of 30 to 60
years old. They all wore the same short cropped hair styles, no jewelry,
comfortable, casual clothes and tennis shoes. There was nothing fancy or
odd about them in their outward appearance and they blended easily with the rest of the
During the conversation, one young man said, "Have you heard of a woman
named Amy in Dallas who has been saying awful things about us on Prodigy?" I grinned,
looked at my name tag and back at the young man until he realized I was the
"Amy" he was talking about. He only said, "Oh."
We continued to converse for almost an hour. Dr. Turner kept trying to
literally pull me away reminding me of the presentation but I was enjoying
their company so much, I wouldn't leave. It was just a small presentation
so I asked my associate to do it and returned to the conversation. Dr.
Turner was certain they had some kind of "brain lock" on me and was quite
worried that I might up and leave with them right then and there or they
might "suck" my soul from my body.
They told me they travel from town to town telling others about their
philosophies. They take only two days worth of clothes for each member and
camp out or stay in motel rooms donated by compassionate managers. And like the Texas
group, they do not use their real names because they don't want family members to find
them and try to take them away from the cult. They said there were groups in almost every
state in the United States and some in other countries.
When asked if they were a cult, they said "yes" and explained that all
religions are cults too, according to the definition. I found this point
hard to argue with because it is basically accurate. I asked about
Applewhite or "Do" as he was called and they described him as an
with great wisdom. There are a lot of hardships and discipline in the
groups and they said many who join the cult cannot endure for long unless
they are very committed to their ideals. They said the "Elders" teach them
many things and they spend a lot of time in the "classrooms" but they
wouldn't say where those "classrooms" were located.
In reference to people abandoning their children to join the cult, the main
speaker for the group, a white haired woman of about 50, said they do not
accept children into the cult because they are not old enough to make such
choices in their lives. She said only adults are accepted and when their
children are old enough, they, too, can join if they so desire. When I
asked about the emotional trauma these abandoned children must feel when one or both
parents leave to join the cult, the white haired woman said the children are always left
in the best possible care and the parents - as
spirit beings in these vehicles - had their choices to make and that's the
way it happens. Though we reached agreement on many concepts, this was the main objection
I had to the group's belief systems.
The cult seems to place the individual in a "vacuum" within a
Each person is held responsible for his or her decisions but they are also
expected to function as a family, a unit or a ..."hive". These seem very
contradictory expectations and I cannot imagine any group functioning under
The Arkansas Overcomers were the most intelligent, open, friendly and
caring group of people I'd ever met. I wanted to take them all home with me
and keep them. Now whether this was due to some cult "brainwashing"
techniques or some unsatisfied need within myself, who knows? They seemed to have found
what they wanted in life and wanted to share everything with others.
I apologized for being so unfair in my comments about the cult on Prodigy
and promised to always represent the cult in an objective, unbiased manner
in any articles I may write about them. I intend to live up to that promise
with any persons or groups I investigate.
Just before we parted company, I asked the group if I could take their
picture and they said that was fine with them. They gathered together and
smiled broadly and openly for the camera. I look at that photo now and
remember the warmth and kindness I felt when with these wonderful human beings. It also
causes me great sadness because I believe the little white
haired woman who often spoke for the group was among the 39 who ended their lives and are
no longer with us. I liked her best of all and would have loved to have known her better.
As the group left, Dr. Turner rushed outside and wrote down the license
plate number of one of the vans the group was driving. She later had it
traced and discovered it was not registered to the vehicle on which it was
posted. She tried to talk with the people to which the license plates were
registered but was unable to locate them.
I learned a sharp lesson from these my first encounters with a "cult". I
learned not to judge others so quickly just because their beliefs are
different from my own. I learned that no matter how bizarre or strange
one's beliefs, they can still be warm, caring human beings (even if they
don't want to be human). And now when I listen and read all the harsh words
and hushed whispers about the Heaven's Gate cult, I feel anger and pain
because so few are stopping to mourn the loss of these 39 fellow human
beings. Now that they are gone, we may never know all they had to share and this is a
great loss for those of us who prefer to remain in these
"vehicles" in this dimension.
Most of us never got to know who these people were or what they thought.
All we seem to see is "39 CULT MEMBERS COMMIT SUICIDE". Perhaps their
philosophies were a little messed up but there were/are a lot of good, sound concepts in
their "religion". Maybe they were ashamed to be "humans" and wanted to
leave their identities to reach for something better. When I look around at the way humans
treat others of their own species, I can hardly blame them for being embarrassed by their
"humanness". But there are many good things about humans too. I hope these 39
have found what they were looking for but we will never know. As far as I know,
Applewhite, aka "Do", did not return after three and a half days of being dead
as promised. Easter '97 came and went with no sign of anyone returning from the dead.
After I heard of the relationship between these 39 people and the
Overcomers, I called several local TV stations and offered to share the
information I had gathered in my files about this cult. Before I could turn
around, there was a reporter and a camera-man on my doorstep wanting to
interview me! I told them before they ever left the station that I would
NOT appear on camera but they acted so disappointed and had such a "lost
puppy" look I finally agreed to an on-camera interview only if they hid my
identity. The reporters interviewed me for an hour and a half and when it
was over, we discovered a huge van blazoned with the TV station's logo
parked in front of our house with telescoping poles towering over the
neighborhood topped with all kinds of camera equipment and microwave dishes. So much for
anonymity! The whole neighborhood was standing outside watching and wondering who I had
murdered or what I may be "hiding". After that, I told all the TV stations and
newspaper reporters calling that I would have to think about any future interviews and I'd
let them know.
I am not an "expert" on this cult or any cult. But because of their covert
lifestyles, few people know much about them. The media must have had a hard time scurrying
to find information about this cult. I'm sure the FBI knew
It is just my personal opinion based on my studies and interactions with
these individuals but I believe the cult is by no means "dead". If there
were "24 Elders" and 6 members sent to "spread the word" in Texas and
members in Arkansas, there may be more members scattered over the United States and the
world. Applewhite would not leave his followers unless he felt his "teachings"
would be carried on by others. I believe Applewhite
planned this mass suicide as a "demonstration" to gain attention for his
cult and add funds to the cult treasury.
Applewhite probably planned this mass suicude for some time. The use of
expensive rental property indicates his intentions to "go out in style". He
knew the media attention 39 suicides would draw and planned his final
"appearances" even beyond his death. His choice of an expensive, lavish
mansion (paid for by members) rather than a cheap, simple house or warehouse gives us a
clear indication of the way he wanted the world to remember him and the 39 members of his
Many people ask if the cult ever gave any indications that suicide was an
option. Even as far back as 1976, the press expressed concerns that cult
members might commit mass suicide in one of their secret camps. Letters left by those who
abandoned all they cherished to join the cult often sounded
like suicide notes and reflected desires to leave "this plane of existence".
So the possibility has always been part of the cult personality.
I've also noticed that the ex-cult member who "discovered" the 39 bodies
stopped long enough to video tape the scene before calling the police. What
person claiming to be in "shock" would have the presence of mind to video
tape such a grizzly discovery? Could this video tape be part of Applewhite's plans and was
the video sold to the media to add funds to the remaining cult's treasury? Applewhite may
have been suicidal but he wasn't stupid.
And finally, the media has overemphasized the cult's connection to the
comet Hale Bopp and it's alleged "companion". Why didn't these 39 people
kill themselves last week or a week later? Why did Applewhite time the mass suicides to
coincide with Hale Bopp AND Easter? Applewhite was often quoted as saying he and
"Peep" (Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles) would be assisinated and would rise again
in three and a half days and be taken up in a UFO to the "Next Level". This is
very similar to Christ's return from the dead and ascension into Heaven. Perhaps
Applewhite believed he would arise from the dead like Christ and ascend into
"Heaven" on or before Easter Sunday.
The Heaven's Gate cult is not just a bizarre anomaly to be dismissed and
forgotten. They are part of the Zeitgeist, a sign of the times we are
living in. They are human beings who want to be something more than human. Rather than
improve the human species as a whole, they seek only the transendence of their individual
souls. We must ask ourselves in what ways we, as a society, prompted or promoted the
events which led 39 people to leave this classroom called "Earth" and seek
alternative experiences to life. These drop outs from life will not "graduate"
with the rest of us and may, indeed, be left waiting at Heaven's Gate. The entrance to the
"Next Level" may rest solely on our ability to evolve as a species and that
is the most important lesson we must all learn.