- Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 19:01
- Written by Keith Rowell
This is a UFO story sent via email to your Oregon MUFON Assistant State Director, Keith Rowell, in September 2010 by Oregon resident R. H. In the mid 1970s, he attended the Portland State University meeting of the infamous "Two"—Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite. Applewhite went on to found the Heaven's Gate UFO cult that ended in tragedy in the suicide deaths of 39 cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, March 26, 1997. Fortunately, R. H. did not join the cult, but he had a strange UFO experience about a week after he attended the PSU meeting. At 1 AM, he saw from his upstairs window a triangular-shaped UFO about the size of a house hovering quietly over a streetlight. He tells the story—and a whole lot more—below in a piece he wrote for Oregon MUFON. This is a good example of what some ufologists call "high strangeness" associated with the UFO phenomenon at times. Thanks, H. R.
UFO Type: Triangular UFO.
Sighting Duration: About a couple of minutes.
Date: Around September 1975.
Time: About 1 AM.
Place: Portland, Oregon.
Witness: R. H.
Here is R. H.'s write up of his own story (with some editing for clarity):
In 1975, when I was taking part-time classes at Portland State University, there were two people running around calling themselves Bonnie and Herf, Bo and Peep, "The Two," and other names like that, but they were actually a man by the name of Marshall Herf Applewhite and his lady friend Bonnie Lu Nettles. For a while in the beginning of their campaign they traveled through the Pacific Northwest starting in or near the Waldport area where they had acquired some 93 people who, according to them, were going to go with them to a “higher plane” by way of a UFO—or so they claimed.
Up to that point, I had only a very casual interest in the subject of UFOs. Although what The Two had been saying and doing had been making news for weeks, it didn't really interest me at all that much, but I had decided to go see them only because I was taking a photography class at the time. And, also, at the time, a friendly manager of a local camera store had either given me free film and camera supplies or sold equipment to me at obscenely low prices. So I had decided to put all that stuff to good use and maybe take some pictures for the class. But I was to be oddly disappointed that night.
When I arrived there that night, the crowd wasn't nearly the size they had in Astoria and Waldport—only ten to twenty people at the very most. There was also a big sign that said prominently that no picture taking was allowed. Normally, I'm the kind of person who respects the wishes of others, but those two people didn't seem to be in any way "normal." They were creepy.
There was something about these two that was just so freaky, so unnatural that they gave off a bad vibe that I had never felt before. They spoke in hollow, emotionless voices—I first thought they were on dope but, no, they were more like
they were robots or people possessed. I got such a shiver from them running up and down my spine that I had to try and get at least one or two pictures. Something told me that these two people weren't your usual pair of con artists or even nut cases, that something was going on beneath the surface that shouldn't be ignored. So without any regard for the sign, I started to quickly snap off a few pictures when I suddenly felt dizzy as if things had gone momentarily black. I felt like I had been mentally (or spiritually) "punched" in some way, and staggered my way out of the meeting room. Probably nobody else noticed what was going on—nobody tried to stop me—but at that moment, I didn't care. All I wanted to do was to get home.
[I needed to have the photos I took developed and] I had the equipment to do it myself, but I let the films be developed at the camera store. A few days later when the photos came back, everything on the roll turned out perfectly except for the three or four shots of "The Two" that were at the end of the roll—those came out completely black! I had expected the photos to be a bit underexposed given the poor fluorescent lighting normal to PSU, but [they were] inexplicably [completely] black(1) and not because I had left the lens cap on!
I'm rather glad that I didn't know [at the time that] things weren't quite over with yet. I didn't know if The Two actually had anything to do with UFOs or not. Although strangely, for some reason, I didn't think that they did. However, about a week or so later, the subject of UFOs was being awakened [for me] again and in a major way!
At that time I was living in a rather [active] neighborhood.(2) Things—oftentimes, unusual things—were going on all the time in the streets. One year, a suicidal man had even blown himself up along with a part of the neighborhood on a New Year's day, so something was always going on. For that reason I was in the habit of looking out of the upstairs window at night. It was only for that reason I happened to look out about 1:00 in the morning and see hovering about ten to fifteen feet over the streetlamp across the street a huge triangular shape about the size of a house. I was looking at what appeared to be four bluish-white lights of indeterminate size arranged in a triangular pattern. I still think to this day that there was something solid (and black) that the lights were attached to, but I never actually saw anything. I think now that the feeling of integrity came from the fact that the four lights never shifted their position—something that's understandable if they were fixed to a common object instead of floating about individually.
Whatever the case, I ran downstairs and grabbed my camera from my room and ran back upstairs, expecting the thing to be gone, but much to my surprise, it was still there—almost as if it was waiting to be photographed! I carefully snapped a few pictures from the window and having heard how such things can be incredibly dangerous sometimes to witnesses, I immediately ducked down from the window for a few moments. When I looked back up, it was gone—vanished, apparently as quietly as it had arrived. Unlike the previous pictures, these new ones turned out with surprising clarity. It dawned on me that they may have come out so clearly because the film I had in the camera at that time wasn't ordinary daylight film but high-speed B&W infrared film I had been experimenting with a few days earlier. All the lights (including the street light below) showed up very clearly, but I couldn't see anything in between them except darkness.
But maybe my first impression was wrong: instead of a solid object carrying four lights, there were only the four lights in a triangular pattern moving together. However, since I didn't see it (or they) either arrive or leave, there was no real way I could be sure. But the funny thing was that I had gotten the really odd impression that while Applewhite and Nettles were claiming to be from a "higher plain" via UFO, there was no connection between those two people and the object I saw that night. Maybe its appearance might have been nothing but coincidence or synchronicity for all I knew. Whatever the case, though, so much of it didn't make a whole lot of sense.
I made about three copies of the prints. I gave one copy to some friends who were really interested in UFOs. Another copy I sent to one of the prominent UFO groups at the time—it was either APRO or NICAP, I don't remember which now. And I sent a third copy of the photos to the local Air Force base with a letter explaining the circumstances. I figured that a honkin' huge UFO over Portland was something that would interest them, but I was apparently wrong: I never heard from the Air Force at all. I suppose after Project Blue Book, if they cared at all, they sure didn't show it. Or at least I at the time didn't think they cared. But then, a short while after the sighting, I found myself being plagued by unmarked green phantom helicopters that constantly flew low over my house morning, noon, and night, and just about everywhere I went for the following month or two. On the other hand, the response from the UFO group was only marginally better than that of the Air Force in that I got a pathetic postcard back from them which was a barely polite form letter that basically said "Thanks but no thanks. We're not interested. Go kiss off." I suppose if I had photographed a flying disk they might have been more responsive, but I had had a close encounter where I saw a whopping huge UFO outside my window, and it seemed nobody cared at all! Portland is often the center for weird events, but people were taking disinterest about this to an all-time low.
Later that summer I went off to Washington, D.C., on a short vacation. The world and the airlines back then weren't as security crazy as they are now, so I had brought a copy of the photos to get opinions from the pilots. The stewardess actually took them up front with her and a few minutes later she came back to tell me that the pilots really looked at them and said that in all their experience they knew what I photographed was not the running lights of any aircraft. I had pictures of something genuinely strange. I wasn't surprised. When I got back from Washington, D.C., the helicopters had gone and I eventually put the whole bizarre incident out of my mind. It was easier than it should have been because somehow the negatives simply disappeared from my basement darkroom. I looked all over for them, but never found the negatives and I didn't bother trying to get a copy of the prints made from the ones I gave to my friends. At the time, it just didn't seem to be worth the effort. But if I had known what was going to happen later on, I would have made the effort to get at least one of the photos back.
* * *
One day, some years later on March 26, 1997, when the comet Hale Bop was supposed to be at its brightest and closet to the earth, I came in and turned on the TV set and saw all of the network stations talking about the mass suicide of 39 people in the Heaven's Gate group. I didn't think much about that—thought it was just another tragic but silly cult self-destructing— until they mentioned the leader of the cult and my blood froze: it was Marshall Herf Applewhite, the man I had actually seen speaking about UFOs that frightening night over twenty years before at Portland State University! He looked different, more animated and "normal" than the emaciated, zombie-like guy I had tried to photograph over two decades before. But it was him, and I was floored! At the time, I had felt deep in my gut that something evil was at work and that something really bad was going to come from "The Two's" strange campaign to gather followers, but I didn't think it would turn out to be anything as horrendous as castration and mass suicide!
Long before this time I had started watching the popular British sci-fi TV show Doctor Who, where there was a line from an episode, The Image Of The Fendahl that had immediately come to mind after that first meeting. The lead character was shouting "I have been used! Mankind has been used!"(3) No kidding . . .
(1) It wasn't until quite a few years later that I learned from reading The Mothman Prophecies that in some circumstances of UFO phenomena, BHM (big hairy monster), Nessie, Bigfoot sightings, etc., cameras can either fail to work properly at the worst possible time—or conversely—that the subject seems to be actually waiting around just to be photographed.
(2) There was a school only a couple of blocks from my house. Keel would have recognized the significance of that because he has said on many occasions that a higher level of UFO sightings take place on or near schools for unknown reasons.
(3) When a UFO "contactee" passes along supposed messages from the UFO brothers or whatever, it is called "being used." I think Applewhite and Nettles were being used from the beginning, but I don't know by whom, what, or why. I had hoped John A. Keel could have explained it all to me since he seemed to know more than anyone else about these things, but he died before I could get the chance to write him.