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Marshall Herff Applewhite

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Marshall Herff Applewhite

Posted: 1223084823000
Classification: Obituary
Surnames: Herff,Applewhite,Haecker
Marshall Herff Applewhite
Birth: May 17, 1931
Death: Mar. 26, 1997

Cult Leader. Born in Spur, Texas, grew up with a very religious background. As a young man he frequently attended church gatherings and even sang in the church choir. His later life was troubled by bouts with the law and frequent other problems. In 1974 on one of his arrests, his mugshot was taken and then later featured in a book, about famous mugshots. In 1975 along with his friend Bette Lou Nettles, Applewhite co-founded the Religious Cult, 'Heaven's Gate.' After Nettles died in 1985, Applewhite took over the group, proclaiming himself leader and that the members call him 'Do.' By 1997 the group had only 39 members including 21 females, a former cowboy actor, and the younger brother of "Star Trek" actress, Nichelle Nichols. Applewhite brainwashed the members in believing that if they would take their own lives, that UFOs would take their spirits to their mothership, and from there, they would travel with the Hale-Bopp Comet into Heaven. On March 26, 1997, the 38 bodies of the cult members and cult leader Applewhite were found in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California. All 39 had committed suicide over a period of 3 days. After the autopsies and identifications were done, all the bodies were ordered to be cremated by President Bill Clinton. The cult was also featured in several books, television, media, and in the film, "Mysterious Two" (1982), with actor John Forsythe portraying Marshall Applewhite.

Mission Burial Park South
San Antonio
Bexar County
Texas, USA

Marshall Applewhite

Marshall Herff Applewhite

Marshall Applewhite taping himself on March 19, 1997 five days before the mass suicide
Born May 17, 1931(1931-05-17)
Spur, Texas, United States
Died March 26, 1997 (aged 65)
Rancho Santa Fe, California, United States
Occupation Leader of Heaven's Gate
Religious beliefs Cult
Spouse(s) Louise Applewhite
Children Mark Applewhite, Mary Applewhite

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 and Marshall Herff Applewhite Sr., and was born in 1931 in Spur, Texas. He had an older sister named Louise Applewhite Linant. Applewhite's father was a Presbyterian minister who started new churches and moved from place to place in Texas about every three years. 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 his service was up, Applewhite became a college music 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,".

Bonnie Nettles and Heaven's Gate

In 1972, Applewhite met a 44-year-old nurse named Bonnie Nettles at a Houston,Texas 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.

After Nettles told him that he was "mightily powerful", Marshall Applewhite declared himself a messiah, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. 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 never happened they left the group. However, more people joined and had 93 people total in their group. The cult meetings were held in a mansion at Rancho Santa Fe, California, the eventual 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. At some point, Applewhite had himself surgically castrated.

Heaven's Gate mass suicide

On March 19, 1997, Marshall Applewhite taped himself speaking of mass suicide and believed "it was the only way to evacuate this Earth." The Heaven's Gate cult was against suicide but they believed they had no choice and had to leave Earth as quickly as possible. After claiming that a spaceship carrying Jesus was hidden behind the comet Hale-Bopp, Applewhite convinced thirty-eight followers to commit suicide so that their souls could board the supposed craft. Applewhite believed that after their deaths, a UFO would take their souls to another galaxy known as Heaven. This and other UFO-related beliefs held by the group have led some observers to characterize the group as a type of UFO religion.

Applewhite committed suicide with 38 other members in Rancho Santa Fe, California by mixing liquid with rat poison and cyanide. The 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 member to go down.

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.

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.

Only one of the members did not commit suicide, and videotaped the mansion in Rancho Santa Fe. However, the tape was not shown to police until 2002--five years after the event.

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