Exclusive FACTNet Interview With Margaret Singer : Part I
(Margaret Singer conducted a series of interviews with a former member of the Bo Peepers, now known as Heaven's Gate or Higher Source, in 1978. Dr. Singer shared her notes during a lengthy interview with FACTNet. This is the first part of that interview with Dr. Singer. More transcription will follow.)
Back in 1978 I was contacted by a woman who had been a member of this group from 1975 until 1978, although back then they didn't call themselves Heaven's Gate or Higher Source, of course.
At first they called themselves Guinea and Pig -- she was Guinea, and he was Pig -- because that was what they were: guinea pigs for the higher power in the space ship. They didn't want their real names used because they were in the process of getting rid of their identity. Later they called themselves Bo and Peep, apparently because they considered themselves to be shepherds. Their followers became known as Bo Peepers.
This woman had written a diary about her experiences while she was in the cult. My informant, as I call her, told me that she had found out the names of the real names of the leaders of this cult were Marshall Herb Applewhite, and the woman's name was Binder Truce Dell Nettles. They were from Houston, and he was an ex-mental patient and she was an ex-nurse, and they wouldn't give their real names. They told their followers in Los Angeles that they had met at a lecture on metaphysics in the early 1970s.
This woman, Binder Truce Dell Nettles, told her followers that in addition to being a nurse, she had also been an astrologer and was into entities that would consult with her. These were disincarnate spirits. After Nettles and Applewhite met they gradually awakened to who they really were, and they said they had a breakthrough into enlightenment in Los Angeles. They realized together that they were the two witnesses prophesied in Revelations 11:1-14.
The two of them had conjured up this idea together that they would be killed in the street, lie dead for three and a half days, and would be resurrected by a beam of light from a UFO. That was basically their trip: a combination of a little bit of the Christian Bible, lots of UFO interest, and this metaphysical thing about the entities. They taught their followers that when the resurrection took place they would be beamed off the planet by a UFO and that their followers would be beamed off with them. When this happened, the world would be left in darkness for two thousand years.
Their theory was that everyone should aspire to be a twelfth grader. A twelfth grader was a person who was enlightened enough to graduate to the College of the New Kingdom. Part of what they taught was that if a person wasn't a twelfth grader and available when the space ship came and the light went out in the world -- in other words, if you weren't a member of their group and going to beamed up to the UFO -- that you would have this strange and horrible death of having your soul disintegrate. That would be the way that people on Earth would die, but they were going to be transported up on this beam to the space ship.
My informant said that they didn't all live in one compound back then. They did live in their own separate houses at that time, but Bo and Peep told them they had to stop having contact with relatives and really cut them off from their relatives, because it would pollute them.
If anyone ever questioned or challenged Bo or Peep during a lecture, Bo and Peep would tell them that those resistive questions were spirit entities within them that were rebelling. This spirit entity was a disincarnate soul that was floating around without a body, and this entity had been the person's teacher up till now, to get them this far along the path. But now that Bo and Peep were here, they had to stop following any spiritual entity, because Bo and Peep were the only teachers.
They told their followers that they were going to have many lifetimes. Everybody was going to have many lifetimes. They had a series of meetings up in Oregon in 1975 where they talked a lot about people dying, and would they be brave enough to kill, because people might want to kill us. They met on three different occasions up in Oregon, and then at some point Bo and Peep sent the people out to go in little groups to different places. They were told, "Do not contact your families, because if you do, it will harm your families," and that people who had been their followers had been hit by cars after leaving the group.
This is the usual fear that cult leaders put into their followers: that not only you will be harmed if you leave, but also your nearest and dearest. My informant said that she was impressed with how much everybody believed Bo and Peep, and that she wasn't able to believe quite as intensely as the others. But she said they really had a lot of impact on people. What was interesting was that way back then, some of the men in the group began to speak slowly and haltingly, a step at a time, just like Bo did. If you've heard him in the videotape that has played on television, you know what she was talking about.
Bo and Peep gave everyone a code name and a fake identity, and told everyone that their time on Earth was short. The planet was going to be here only a short time, and their followers' time was even shorter.
By April of 1976 my informant said they were all to go underground up near Salt Lake City. She thought there were about eighty people at that time. When she first became involved they had twenty-eight, but by April of 1976 she thought there were about eighty who attended most of their meetings. They were being told to keep themselves isolated, to have fake identities and to make sure they were not traceable.
Sometimes they were told that they were being taught how to send their thoughts to other people. She told me about what sounded like a rather bizarre exercise: They would sit at these campsites, and each of them took turns with a 440 tuning fork, twanging it and holding it up to their ears. They were to have a tuning fork in each ear and this was supposed to open their minds so that Bo and Peep could get directly into their minds.
At one point, she said she thought it was somewhere in late 1975, she had been contacted by the Secret Service, who knew that she had defected from the group. They wanted to know if the Bo Peepers were threats to politicians, and she said she had never thought of them that way. But part of the teaching of Bo was that if anybody stood between you and your being prepared to be lifted up when the space ship came, it was all right to kill a person if they stood in their way.
They also taught that it was ridiculous to fear death, that death was nothing to worry about. They also taught that murder victims are people who died and are being freed. This was scary stuff. They said it was all right, when you were in your last stages of human growth, to be sure that you put aside anything that came between you and your upward thrust. If you had to kill to be sure you were there when the space ship took off, you would not be bound by sin or karma if you had to kill, and you would be permitting that person to continue on their own evolution upward.
It doesn't really make sense, but what cult leader does make sense? This woman said they told them over and over that if anything stood between you and your thrust upward when the UFO came to beam you up, it would be all right to kill. This woman said that they had been so thoroughly trained into this kind of thinking that the leader would never have had to say to us, "You go kill the president; you go kill Jimmy Carter." All he would have to say was, "Did you know that Jimmy Carter, through his ineptitude on the energy problem, is standing between you and your evolution?" For all intents and purposes, Jimmy Carter would be dead the next day.
She was afraid that Bo and Peep were getting people so accustomed to this that she did have concerns that someone might be hurt. I have no way of knowing if anyone ever was.
For the most complete and well researched overview of the cult problem, please read Dr. Singer's seminal work on the subject, Cults In Our Midst, published by Jossey-Bass. The book can be ordered directly from the Jossey-Bass web page.