Heaven’s Gate I: The Beginning

Heaven’s Gate was a religion that incorporated beliefs regarding UFOs. The group started during the early 1970s, but truly made headlines when members committed suicide in hopes of coming in contact with an alien space craft. In this article, you will learn about the early phases of the religion and information on the founders.

Heaven’s Gate was a religion based in San Diego, California. It was founded and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles , both of who are now deceased. Marshall was called ‘Do’ by his followers and was the leader of the religious group. He was a self-proclaimed prophet and messiah, who died with his followers in a mass suicide that took place in 1997. He was 65 years old at the time of his death.

There are conflicting stories regarding the first encounter of Marshall and Bonnie in 1972. One account states that Applewhite met a nurse named Bonnie Nettles at a psychiatric hospital in Houston. He had voluntarily entered the facility because he was suffering from depression and claimed to have been hearing voices. Another account says Applewhite was recovering from a heart attack during which he claimed led to a near-death experience. Another story tells of the two meeting in a drama class.

Nettles convinced him that they were on earth as aliens and that Armageddon was nearing. Nettles later told Applewhite that he possessed unique astrological traits, which prompted him to declare himself linked to Christ in his mind. By 1975, the two established the Total Overcomers Anonymous group, which eventually turned into Heaven’s Gate.

That same year, Applewhite and Nettles convinced 20 people from a city in Oregon to join their group. Applewhite told the people that there would be an alien appearance that would come in the form of an UFO, but when the encounter did not occur , the followers left the group. Despite the failed appearance, more people continued to join until there were 93 members. At first, the meetings took place in various locations about town (in the Waldport area). The meetings later spread to churches, halls, and lecture theatres. There were even New Age awareness centers that the group congregated at.

The last public meeting of the group was in Oregon , held in Lincoln Hall at the Portland State University. Before the actual meeting had taken place, flyers had been distributed. However, not many people were interested and only around 12 or so people showed up. In 1975, Applewhite, Nettles and small groups of their followers would travel to the 50 states and parts of Canada. These statewide visits took place over the course of nine months. During that time, the group became more structured.

Over the years, Heaven’s Gate would move on a periodic basis , setting up shop in locations in California, Colorado, and New Mexico. Along the way, the pair were called different nicknames, including ‘Ti and Do’, ‘Bo and Peep’ and the ‘UFO two.’