But inside, Ruppert battled depression. It sometimes emerged in conversation. And it certainly emerged in his final podcast.
Just as he had every Sunday evening at 6PM for years, Ruppert sat at his desk on April 13th and began recording “The Lifeboat Hour.” “Hello everybody, from that nightclub at the end of the world,” he said over music from the New White Trash. After introducing Carolyn Baker, a regular guest, and lamenting yet another environmental disaster in the news, Ruppert got personal.
A week earlier, a production company filming a presentation for the channel H2 flew Ruppert to the Seattle area for on-camera interviews. Ruppert thought the opportunity would be perfect — a means to re-legitimize himself in the mainstream five years after Collapse. Instead, he was disappointed. The first-class treatment, the attention, and the people he encountered made him feel hollow. “It was a daunting experience,” he told his podcast listeners — like “I was in the Matrix.” Everyone he encountered was “going through the motions of what they do in their life.”
“There’s a leadenness out there in the world right now that weighs on us like a blanket.”In the airport, waiting for his flight home, “I didn’t see a smile anywhere,” he said. “Everybody looked gray, they looked dead, they looked like robots, like they were going through motions…. My perception was that the reality of the collapse of human industrial civilization — or the reality of their reality — is disintegrating in front of everybody.” Later, he said, “There’s a leadenness out there in the world right now that weighs on us like a blanket.”
At 7PM, Ruppert said goodbye to his guests, completing “The Lifeboat Hour.” He spent some time on Facebook. He “liked” a shared post from a friend. A guest on his podcast wrote, “Michael, thank you for your show tonight, friend. Thank you. Your light illuminates the night sky.” He liked that, too. For a half-hour, he sat at the computer; the monitor’s glow shining through the trailer windows as the sun set. Re, who had been living with him since April, was on a road trip in Oregon. Martin and his son were away. Soon, the blacksmith who rented a garage on the property got into his truck and drove off down Martin’s bumpy dirt driveway. By 7:30, Ruppert was alone.
At 7:34 PM, in a Facebook post to his friends and followers, Ruppert wrote: “The Truth awaits just on the other side of the ever dissolving veil where all the screaming and the mess is going on.” A minute later, he sent an email to close friends. “This is my final offering,” he wrote. “I do it for the children so that they might live.”
At 7:45, Ruppert sent an email to Martin. The subject: “Come back to the property right now — urgent.” The email began, “Call the sheriff before you come.” It ended: “Best not to go to the blue and white GMC unless the sheriffs are with you.”
Ruppert walked to the trailer closet and retrieved the only gun he’d brought with him to Calistoga — a .45 caliber GLOCK G30 Subcompact Pistol. Ruppert used clear packing tape to hang instructive notes — “LET THE SHERIFF GO IN FIRST! DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING” — next to the mobile home’s entrance. He stepped out of the trailer and walked about a hundred feet toward the GMC truck. He stood in front of it, with his back to the truck and the mountains. He placed the barrel of the gun to his right temple. A shot rang out in the valley.
Apart from private emails he sent to friends and Jessy Re, and his final Facebook post, Ruppert wrote a suicide note and taped it next to the door of Martin’s trailer. Written in upper-case block lettering, the note read:
A FINAL OFFERING OF FLESH
FOR THE CHILDREN
ABOUT ALL I HAVE LEFT
MAY IT RELEASE LOVE + LIGHT
INTO A WORLD DYING
He signed it “Tracker of Truth,” before adding a last line, written in lowercase letters, seemingly an afterthought: “There is no more time.”
Ruppert’s suicide notes were designed to make it clear that he’d committed suicide and not been killed by CIA operatives or anyone else. Though a few online conspiracy theorists initially speculated that he’d been assassinated, those rumors soon evaporated.
Ruppert’s friends dismiss the notion that he killed himself as “a final offering of flesh” in preparation for end times. Instead, they told me that suicide was a preoccupation for Ruppert — an impulse that emerged whenever prospects seemed bleak. Cheri Roberts, a Ruppert acquaintance and independent journalist who investigated his suicide before anyone else, said that he saw a kind of dark dignity in suicide; he harbored “suicidal ideations,” she wrote. In 2004, when Gary Webb — the author of the “Dark Alliance” series — was found dead with two gunshot wounds in his head, Ruppert went to Webb’s home in Sacramento to investigate and then dispel rumors that Webb had been killed by CIA operatives. Ruppert kept a photograph of the deceased journalist hung on the wall of his FTW office.
“There is no more time.”Ruppert talked of suicide so frequently, in fact, that some of the people closest to him dismissed the comments as meaningless. When Ruppert’s ex-wife, Mary — who asked that her last name be withheld from this story — asked Ruppert to sign divorce papers in 1996, Ruppert told her that the mere thought of divorcing her made him want to kill himself. “I just didn’t believe he was serious,” Mary told me. “I thought he was trying to manipulate me. So I told him, ‘Sign the papers first.’”
The thought of Ruppert actually carrying out his own suicide still baffles her. She remembers him as driven toward exposing government corruption and obsessing over his work. But she never took his more recent end-of-the-world doomsaying very seriously. “I thought it was his schtick,” she told me. “I thought it was something he did for the cameras.”
Ruppert shot himself in front of this blue GMC truck on Jack Martin’s property just outside the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, California.
Wes Miller, Ruppert’s lawyer, casts aside suggestions that Ruppert was bipolar, or that his mental illness, coupled with his decision to start drinking again, might’ve pushed him to suicide. But many of Ruppert’s friends are more open to those ideas. “I never confronted him with one of the main aspects of his emotional turmoil,” Carolyn Baker told me, “which was that he left AA in 2004 and told people that his sponsor told him that he was so advanced that he didn’t need to go to meetings anymore.” She continued: “Anyone who confronted him about that was pretty much cut out of his life.”
Doug Lewis, Ruppert’s close friend, Colorado roommate, and bandmate in New White Trash, declined to be interviewed for this story. But Baker told me: “About two weeks before Mike left Colorado to come out to California [in February], Doug confronted him and said, ‘Mike you’re an alcoholic.’ And Mike grabbed Doug by the collar and slammed him against the wall and cursed him out. A week later, [Ruppert] gave notice that ‘I’m leaving.’”
By the end, Ruppert had gone into “full-blown psychosis,” the journalist Cheri Roberts told me. He wanted to take his own life, decided he was going to do it, and “he wasn’t going to let anyone argue with him about it.”
Ruppert’s cousin, Sherry Colliton, came to similar conclusions. When he began selling off his possessions in 2012, he told her he was purging himself of unnecessary baggage. But Colliton now believes he was making final plans. Ruppert moved at least five times between 2006 and his last days in Calistoga. In each new place, with each new roommate or landlord, he set up a revised will, and named a new executor to that will.
He wanted to take his own life, decided he was going to do it, and “he wasn’t going to let anyone argue with him about it.”In Calistoga, Jack Martin became Ruppert’s final executor. But Jesse Re, his girlfriend at the end, was the person he was closest to.
Last month, I met Re in the South Portland, Oregon suburb of Lake Oswego, where she’s staying in a bunkhouse behind the rental property where Wes Miller, his wife, and their two kids reside. Calm and thoughtful, Re smiles often and frequently punctuates her sentences with laughter. She now cares for Ruppert’s dog, Rags, and is still unabashedly in love with the man: she told me they were “soulmates” and “meant to be together.” Ruppert, she told me, inspired her to try anything, to think about things in new ways. (Though she has no background in journalism, she and Wes Miller are attempting to revitalize CollapseNET as TrackerOfTruth.com, with Re as the site’s star and lead reporter.) That’s why she was willing to uproot her life in Colorado to live with Ruppert in Calistoga merely two weeks before he killed himself.