The Cult Of The Two
By Amy Hebert
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 one 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 recognition" 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 identities". 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 "confrontation" the 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 actual 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 50 or 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 crowd. 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 "Elder" 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 "family". 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 these circumstances. 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 them well. 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 11 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 cult. 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.