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Mysterious Couple Appear To Be Founders of Suicide Cult

 * Forwarded from 'UFO'
 * Originally by David Bloomberg, 1:2430/2112
 * Originally to All
 * Originally dated Fri 28 Mar 1997  8:40P

 -*- Forwarded message follows: -*-

March 28, 1997

Mysterious Couple Appear To Be
Founders of Suicide Cult

Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Marshall Applewhite, found dead with 38 other suicide
victims near San Diego, was not always roaming the West preaching about
UFOs and exhorting others to follow him to eternity.

Applewhite, 66, was considered a gifted singer and likable music professor
in the 1960s who had potential for a career on stage. His 69-year-old
sister, Louise Winant of Port Aransas, Texas, got a sinking feeling when
she heard of the mass suicide.

"It's not surprising," she told Corpus Christi, Texas, television station
KRIS. "He has so much charisma, he can convince others of almost anything."

Asked if that included suicide, she said, "Yes."

Applewhite was born in Spur, Texas, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He
attended high school in Corpus Christi and studied music at the University
of Colorado.

"He did a lot of work with musicals," retired professor Charles Byers of
Mesa, Ariz., told The Denver Post. "He was happy-go-lucky, popular with

Applewhite played the lead in "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma" at the
university, Byers said. Then he and his wife went to New York so he could
become a professional singer. They reportedly had two children.

"They broke up," Byers said. "He didn't get the roles. He was doing a lot
of commercials, making a living."

In 1966, Applewhite was hired as a music teacher at the University of St.
Thomas, a private Catholic college in Houston. He sang 15 roles with the
Houston Grand Opera before leaving in 1970, according to a New York Times
Magazine profile.

It was not long before his life took a strange turn when he met a nurse
named Bonnie Lu Trusdale Nettles, then about 44. Applewhite's sister said
they met when her brother had a "near-death experience."

"He had an illness in Houston and one of the nurses there told him that he
had a purpose, that God kept him alive," Ms. Winant said. "She sort of
talked him into the fact that this was the purpose -- to lead these people
-- and he took it from there."

The couple opened a store in Houston called the Christian Arts Center,
selling information on astrology and other religious-type materials.

Soon they left to travel and developed beliefs that they were reincarnated
aliens. Others followed, and in 1975 the two received quite a bit of
attention when they convinced 25 Oregon people to sell their belongings,
leave their children and trek to the Colorado desert to await the arrival
of a UFO.

One of them, Robert Rubin, 48, who now works at a store in Waldport, Ore.,
said the group soon ran out of money.

"We went all around the United States," he told The Oregonian newspaper.
"We tested the (charitability of the local) churches. We had nothing. We
left everything behind, no money, no anything."

Calling themselves "Bo" and "Peep," "The Him and the Her," or "The Two,"
Applewhite and Nettles described life as only a transition to another, and
the only way to make the trip was to rid oneself of possessions.

"There were a lot of Biblical references to what they did," Rubin said.
"Something out of Revelations. ... They said when they did, a few days
later they'd be taken off in spaceships."

Applewhite and Nettles called their group Human Individual Metamorphosis,
or HIM, and recruited members from California, Colorado, New Mexico and
Oregon. Media attention and investigations by police forced the group

Robert Balch, a student who said he infiltrated the cult during the 1970s,
was quoted in James Lewis' book on cults titled "The Gods Have Landed."

According to Balch, "Bo and Peep" used to camp until they came into an
inheritance and then rented homes in Denver and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Balch said the group was extremely secretive in the 1980s. They were rarely
heard from, and Nettles died in 1985.

But in 1993, under the name of Total Overcomers Anonymous, the group ran a
full-page advertisement in USA Today entitled "UFO Cult Resurfaces with
Final Offer," according to Balch.

"The ad focused primarily on the group's beliefs, which appeared to have
changed little in the last 18 years. However, it had an apocalyptic tone
that was much more dramatic than anything I had heard in 1975," Balch

"The earth's present 'civilization' is about to be recycled -- 'spaded
under.' Its inhabitants are refusing to evolve. The 'weeds' have taken over
the garden and disturbed its usefulness beyond repair."

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