Autobiographies of Three Surviving Branch Davidians

An Initial Report


  • Catherine Wessinger Loyola University



Branch Davidians, oral histories, methods in social sciences


This article provides an initial report on oral histories being collected from three surviving Branch Davidians: Bonnie Haldeman, the mother of David Koresh, Clive Doyle, and Sheila Martin. Their accounts are being made into autobiographies. Interviews with a fourth survivor, Catherine Matteson, are being prepared for deposit in an archive and inform the material gathered from Bonnie Haldeman, Clive Doyle, and Sheila Martin. Oral histories provided by these survivors humanize the Branch Davidians, who were dehumanized and erased in 1993 by the application of the pejorative ‘cult’ stereotype by the media and American law enforcement agents. These Branch Davidian accounts provide alternate narratives of what happened in 1993 at Mount Carmel Center outside Waco, Texas, to those provided by American federal agents, and flesh out the human dimensions of the community and the tragedy. Branch Davidians are differentiated from many other people primarily by their strong commitment to doing God's will as they understand it from the Bible. Otherwise they are ordinary, intelligent people with the same emotions, loves, and foibles as others.


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Author Biography

Catherine Wessinger, Loyola University

Catherine Wessinger is professor of history of religions at Loyola University New Orleans. She is co-general editor of Nova Religio: the Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Her books include How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate and Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (edited). Religious Studies Loyola University 6363 St Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118 USA





How to Cite

Wessinger, C. (2005). Autobiographies of Three Surviving Branch Davidians: An Initial Report. Fieldwork in Religion, 1(2), 165–197.