Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr. (May 17th, 1931 - March 26, 1997) was the leader of the cult Heaven's Gate.
Applewhite was born in 1931 and became religious at a young age due to his father being a Presbyterian minister. Applewhite later attended Austin College where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in philosophy in 1952. It was around this time he married Anne Pearce and had two children with her His original goal was to become a minister so he enrolled in the Union Presbyterian Seminary. In 1954 he was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Army Signal Corps for two years. After this he enrolled in the University of Colorado and earned a Master's Degree in music. Applewhite moved to New York, but failed to have a successful singing career and ended up teaching music at the University of Alabama. He was fired in 1965 for pursuing a sexual relationship with a male student, which caused his wife to divorce him. Applewhite got another teaching job that same year at the University of St. Thomas. He also became a choir director for a local Episcopalian church and was fairly popular among students for being a gifted speaker. Despite coming out as gay, Applewhite pursued a relationship with a woman who would end the relationship due to pressure from her family. Applewhite resigned in 1970 citing "health problems of an emotional nature". His father died a year later sending him into an even more severe depression. Applewhite checked into a mental hospital claiming he was hearing voices.
Heaven's Gate Cult
In 1972, a nurse at the hospital named Bonnie Nettles befriended Applewhite. Applewhite claimed that shortly after meeting her he felt like they had known each other their whole lives, even speculating they met in a past life. Nettles told Applewhite that she was fortold their meeting by space aliens and that they had a divine mission to accomplish. They soon broke off contact with their families and moved in together. Though their relationship was not sexual, Applewhite regarded Nettles as his soulmate. They came to believe that they were the two witnesses described in the Book of Revelation and that they were to bring certain human beings to the next evolutionary level, which they thought was the Kingdom of God. They traveled to colleges all around the country and gained a small following, as well as mockery from news media that they had garnered attention from. They originally called the organization Human Individual Metamorphosis, though it was later renamed Heaven's Gate. Members were forced to give up relationships with family and friends, wear identical clothing and hairstyles, and be as assexual as possible to the point of some members being castrated. Applewhite claimed giving up earthly attachments was necessary for the next evolutionary level. Nettles died from cancer in 1985, which Applewhite explained as her preparing for the group's departure to the next level. Applewhite soon began calling Nettles "The Father" and himself as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. In 1997, Applewhite became convinced the coming comet Hale-Bopp was a spacecraft to take his followers and himself to the next level. Applewhite committed suicide wih 38 other followers so their souls could board the spacecraft. Applewhite recorded his final statement that the world was going to be recycled and the last chance was to escape with him. He also stated, "We truly hate this world."