In March 1997, a mass suicide at a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California, stunned the world and made Heaven’s Gate a household name at the time. Started by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, the religious movement’s outlandish beliefs combined evangelical Christianity with science fiction. ABC News’ ’20/20: The Cult Next Door’ plus Netflix’s ‘How to Become a Cult Leader’ episode 4 features the story behind this cult and how it all ended. However, if you’re wondering if Heaven’s Gate is still around all these years later, we’ve got you covered.
Heaven’s Gate’s End: No Longer Active Post-1997
Marshall and Bonnie met each other in 1972 and traversed the country to preach their beliefs in the years that followed. The two staunchly believed they were the messengers of God and were sent to bring followers to the Next Level. When God revealed the plan to Marshall and Bonnie, they were the “two lampstands,” with God seeing the world through their eyes.
After Bonnie died in 1985, Marshall remained the sole leader of the group and believed that an alien spaceship was coming to Earth at the heels of a comet approaching. So, by killing themselves, all of them would free their souls from their “containers” (bodies) to ascend into the spaceship as it flew over the planet. One of the former members received a goodbye tape and rushed to the mansion, eventually finding all 39 of them dead by suicide.
Before the scarcely believable incident, members of Heaven’s Gate used the internet to recruit new members. They also made money through a web designing group called Higher Source. The group also had a website with their teachings and some videos, and surprisingly, it is still online. The link still contains videotapes, exit statements made by the cult members, and various other religious materials.
However, the group itself isn’t active anymore. While there are a few former members, two of which keep the website running, it has been clear that Heaven’s Gate has not operated since the mass suicide in 1997. Nevertheless, many people have still found themselves interested in the ideology and wanted to learn more about Heaven’s Gate. The website provides information in addition to the former members replying to emails. Not just that, there is a subreddit with more than 2,300 members that has the users posting discussions intermittently.
What Happened to the Surviving Members?
As per many reports, the website is being run by a married couple, Mark and Sarah King, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. The administrators of the site once said, “We joined at the beginning, in 1975, and have been with them for 45 years. There are us two here in Arizona and a couple more around the country.” They still believe in Marshall and Bonnie’s ideology and answer any questions that come their way from interested people. According to them, at least four to five people inquire about joining every day. Regarding why they still run the website, they stated, “[The group] asked us to do it, and we were honored to perform the task.” Apart from them, there is a confirmed continued believer by the name of Sawyer as well, but not much is known regarding his current standing or how he survived the mass suicide. Then there’s Rio DiAngelo, or Richard Ford, who is now a Spiritual Teacher and Master of Soul Development.