Date: Wed Aug 24 1994 00:20:00
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: UFO Cult
Another landing for `UFO Cult'
07/31/94 Montreal Gazette
CHICAGO - One recent night, 40 inquiring souls entered a University of
Illinois at Chicago classroom; a flier outside the room billed the lecture-
discussion as "UFOs, Space Aliens and Their Final Fight for Earth's Spoils."
Curiosity brought that audience face-to-face with the remnants of a nomadic
community that aroused the media and law enforcement in the 1970s: Dubbed the
"UFO Cult," the group blended spacecraft and spirituality under the offbeat
charismatic leadership of a man and woman known variously as "The Two" and "Bo
They said their souls were from a level above human, a kingdom higher than
Earth. They said the "Kingdom of God" was a real place in the universe whose
inhabitants have travelled by spacecraft as far back as 2,000 years ago, when
one of them came to Earth as Jesus.
And they said there would soon be more spacecraft arriving to take
deserving souls to that higher level. The story made it to the lips of TV's
then-top journalist, Walter Cronkite, and thus to the ears and eyes of
A flurry of harsh publicity followed - questioning the claims and cultlike
regimen of the group and recounting how dozens of spouses or children had
forsaken families, jobs and possessions to become sheep of Bo and Peep.
The two were identified as former Houston residents Marshall Herff
Applewhite, a divorced college music professor, and Bonnie Lu Nettles, a nurse
and married mother of four. They had cut all ties to those past lives.
As the media glare intensified, the group went underground. But 18 years
later, as members appeared at three Chicago-area locations last week, one of
their fliers declared: "We're Back."
In the college classroom, Evan, June, Matt, Oliver and Sawyer spent more
than two hours explaining themselves. They said their male and female bodies
are merely "vessels" infused with souls from the level above human.
They said they've abandoned their old names, their families, their
possessions and all forms of sexuality, relationships and addictions that had
been part of their "human-mammalian" personal lives.
Amid lengthy rhetoric on everything from the Earth being a "hothouse
garden" experiment created by the Kingdom of God to "Luciferians" who have
dropped out of the kingdom but also use spacecraft in an ongoing campaign to
tempt and confuse humans about good and evil, June uttered arguably the
understatement of the session.
Leaving behind all earthly pleasures to follow them "is one of the hardest
things you'll ever have to do," she said.
Rob Balch, a University of Montana sociologist, infiltrated the group for
two months in 1975 and has continued his research by interviewing former
He said he and a partner worked odd jobs and begged for money to keep
travelling with the group among different camps. However, he said, the group's
regimen has become much tighter, including a ritual in which members at camps
are supposed to report to supervisors every 12 minutes.
"I don't think this is a dangerous cult. It is not in the mold of the
Charles Manson family, Jim Jones's People's Temple or David Koresh's Branch
Davidians," Balch said. "It does not have a violent history.
"But it can be dangerous from parents' perspective. Anybody who joins this
group is going to drop out of sight."