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Heaven’s Gate 15-years later: What Sneakers Did They Wear?

[ 4 ] March 26, 2012 |

When something memorable takes place, I have way of remembering it by thinking about where I was, who I was with, and what it was that I was doing when I heard the news.  You can call it “obsessive”, and I’m alright with that!

So, March 26, 2012, marks the 15th anniversary of the Heaven’s Gate cult shocking the world!

I was living and working in Boston, and trying to decide if I wanted to become a college dean or not when, around lunchtime, it was reported that police officers were tipped by a former Heaven’s Gate member, who had received videotapes stating that by the time he watched them the group would’ve already be on the spaceship and leaving planet Earth, of  a mass suicide pact.

For the folks that are old enough to remember the news reports, and the pictures: The 39 corpses wore the same black sweatsuits, the same black and white Nike sneakers, and their bodies were draped in purple cloths.

Yeah, it was some weird stuff!

Days later, we started to get more information about the group, and their leader Marshall Applewhite a/k/a/ Do.  When the news showed Applewhite’s face on screen, it wasn’t hard to tell that this homie was just a little “off”.

What struck the police officers, and many of the folks that showed up at the San Diego, California house was that the house was huge….we’re talking 9,200-square-feet big!

When I started paying attention to the news reports, I couldn’t help but notice that the 39 dead all wore black outfits, and they all wore the same Nike sneakers!  (Hey, I’m not afraid to say it……I paid attention to their feet, and the news kept showing the same picture over and over, so it was hard not to look at their feet!)

For a long time, I wondered what sneakers it was that the 39 dead wore, and a few newspapers reported that they all wore Nike Cortez sneakers.

Well, I KNEW just from the grainy-ass pictures (read: Before high definition television) that the sneakers were NOT Nike Cortez’s.  I mean, any person could look a the picture and tell within seconds that the sneakers were not Nike Cortez.  They resembled Nike Air Pegasus’.  But, even then after looking at the pictures in The Boston Globe, I wasn’t sure.

It took some research, and I was able to narrow it down to either the Nike Air Pegasus or Nike Decade.  It took me almost a week to figure it out, but I finally settled on the Nike Decade.

I mean, these were folks who were coerced to give up their jobs, homes, possessions and money to Marshall Applewhite.  And, I think what Applewhite did, in the days or weeks leading up the mass suicide, was he probably had someone visit a Nike outlet, and purchase the Nike Decade sneakers for him and the rest of the folks that were going to “make that trip” on the spaceship that was supposedly following the Hale-Bopp Comet.

For years, on a number of message boards such as NikeTalk, ISS and others, folks posted pictures of the bodies wearing the the black and white sneakers.  I’ve even had conversation where someone brought up Heaven’s Gate to me because they know I “like” sneakers, and they were surprised to find out that I knew what sneakers the dead folks were wearing (It’s called OSD for a reason)!

So, on the 15th Anniversary of the Heaven’s Gate cult making that “peaceful journey” on the spaceship, we send prayers and positive vibes to their families!  The memories live on, nonetheless.

And, for the record, they wore Nike Decade sneakers!



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Category: A Look Back, Culture, Footwear, News, OSD Live, Talk Show

About Dee Wells: Dee Wells calls Worcester, MA his home but grew up in the beautiful US Virgin Islands(STT/STJ). Heavily influenced by Hip Hop, Dee has always been fascinated by people and what they wear. Thus, began his love for fashion and, more importantly, sneakers. It all started with him watching his parents play tennis; his father wore adidas Rod Laver sneakers, and his mother wore adidas Stan Smith sneakers. From there birthed Dee's love for leather and rubber. Dee's first pair of sneakers were Puma Clyde sneakers, which he religiously changed the laces in, and kept clean with water, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and a toothbrush. While Dee has amassed many pairs of sneakers, it's the stories that are the most important to Dee; he calls them Kickstories. Dee has also been instrumental with bringing the sneaker subculture to the forefront with his involvement with Sole Collector Magazine, and his latest creation, the OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder) brand. View author profile.

Comments (4)

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  1. PremiumPete says:

    that dude is 7:30

  2. Solefresh says:

    Crazy story

  3. Dee y says:

    Hey Dee,

    Been wondering what Nike’s response to this sort of negative publicity was. did they stop making the Decade shoe? Was the dunk or air force Heaven’s Gate shoe, actually developed by Nike?

    Thanks for the story!

  4. Dee Wells says:

    Hey Dylan,

    Thank you for reading the article.

    I don’t remember Nike ever responding to the fact that the folks wore their sneakers. Honestly, the best response was for them to not make a statement.

    And, when the Dunks came out a few years ago, it was the sneaker community that gave the sneakers their name, Nike did make them, but I’m sure they didn’t set out to make the “Heaven’s Gate Dunk”.

    It’s always interesting what names the “community” give kicks. Some are good names, and some are plain stupid. Lol.

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