One of the most intriguing mysteries of the Church of Scientology is the disappearance of Shelly Miscavige, wife of the church’s leader, David Miscavige. A frequent refrain heard from critics of the church is “Where’s Shelly?” — and that question is also central to the recent defection of Leah Remini, who began to break away from the church when she didn’t get a satisfactory answer.
We can now say that we have received new confirmation that Shelly Miscavige is living and working at Scientology’s super-secret CST headquarters near Lake Arrowhead in the mountains above Los Angeles, where she has been the entire time since she was sent there in late 2005 or early 2006.
We’re told that attempts to have Shelly visit her family have been futile, and when she was asked recently when she might see her family again, she answered, “There’s only one way,” with no further explanation.
We asked former church spokesman Mike Rinder how to interpret that. He said it seemed an obvious reference to Shelly’s only previous opportunity to leave the compound, when she was briefly allowed to attend the funeral of her father in the summer of 2007, and was accompanied by a church “handler” who never let Shelly out of her sight.
Another funeral in the family may be Shelly’s only opportunity to leave the confines of the CST compound.
Shelly, we’re told, has been conditioned to believe that she is at fault for her confinement, and that her job of working to preserve the works of L. Ron Hubbard is a worthwhile goal.
She may not believe that she needs to be “rescued” from her fate.
In April, we published our most complete story yet about the events leading up to Shelly Miscavige vanishing from view. Now, Leah Remini’s defection has put Shelly into the news like never before, and we wanted to update what we know.
Michele “Shelly” Diane Barnett married David Miscavige on December 30, 1980. Both were members of Scientology’s “Sea Organization,” the corps of dedicated workers who sign billion-year contracts and promise to come back, lifetime after lifetime. Miscavige was only 20, but he was already beginning to lay the groundwork to take over Scientology after its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, had gone into hiding earlier that year. Hubbard died in 1986, and Miscavige was soon fully in control of the organization.
Shelly became known as a formidable executive in her own right. She could be harsh, in the Sea Org tradition, but next to her unpredictable and ferocious husband, she seemed kinder, and more patient. We’re told that the two always traveled together and worked together. They had no children, but in the Sea Org that was the way.
For much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Scientology’s top management was preoccupied with the criminal investigation and civil litigation that resulted from the 1995 death of Lisa McPherson, a woman from Texas who had died at Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. After the criminal prosecution fell apart in 2000 and a legal settlement with McPherson’s family was reached in 2004, Miscavige seemed elated, but then he began to turn his focus onto his own top lieutenants.
Early in 2004, at Scientology’s International Base — a secretive, 500-acre compound about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, near the town of Hemet — Miscavige took his ideas about discipline to strange new lengths. A few dozen executives he wanted to punish were locked into a set of rooms that had been an office, and “The Hole” was born. Over the next several years, even more executives who had fallen from his favor were added to the bizarre and harsh office-prison, reaching about 100 total prisoners.
Around that time, Miscavige also became obsessed with the base’s “Org Board.” It was a roster of jobs that Miscavige wanted filled, but for some reason his underlings could never fill out the empty slots in the roster to his satisfaction. People who worked there at the time tell us that Miscavige’s tirades about the org board were maddening and relentless.
Then, in 2005, Miscavige did something surprising — he traveled to nearby Los Angeles to work on a publishing project, and Shelly stayed behind at the base. People who worked at the base tell us it was the first time they remembered seeing the couple apart.
Shelly took advantage of her husband’s absence to fill in the org board that had proved such a headache. She also made progress on another project Miscavige had been promising to start by moving his belongings out of a set of buildings called the “Villas.” She moved his things into another set of rooms called “the G’s,” so the Villas could be renovated.
Also at this time, Mike Rinder came to the base after working with Miscavige in Los Angeles. He says he was immediately pulled aside by Shelly and taken to the back porch of the large RTC building on the base, which was more private than other areas. There, she asked him if her husband had been wearing his wedding ring when Rinder saw him. Rinder said he didn’t notice, but he tells us that at the time, he immediately realized that the marriage was in serious trouble.
“I knew that she was in deep shit. She was worried that he was going to abandon her,” he tells us.
When Miscavige returned from Los Angeles and found the org board filled and his belongings moved, he erupted. A week later — which was sometime late in 2005 or early in 2006, our sources tell us, Shelly vanished.
In November 2006, several months after Shelly’s disappearance, Leah Remini traveled to Italy for the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. She was stunned to see that Miscavige, who was Cruise’s best man, was there without his wife. Remini asked about it, and was surprised when she was told her question was inappropriate. She asked Tommy Davis about it, and the son of Anne Archer who at that time was a church spokesman, told her, “You don’t fucking rank to ask about Shelly.”
As we reported earlier, Remini wrote up a “Knowledge Report” about that and other things she saw at the wedding that alarmed her, complaining about Miscavige, Cruise, Davis, spokeswoman Jessica Feshbach and others.
For daring to write up the leader of the church, Remini was ordered to go to “Flag,” the spiritual headquarters of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida. Thinking she was going to advance her case on the “Bridge,” instead she was subjected to three months of sec-checking — a brutal form of interrogation — and “The Truth Rundown,” an Orwellian practice of thought reform. As a result, she was convinced to rescind her reports about the wedding.
But she wasn’t done asking about Shelly. For years, Remini had sent Shelly Christmas gifts, and always got back gifts or thank-you notes from Shelly. But after 2006, even after she continued to send gifts, Remini never received anything in return.
Still determined to get an answer to her question about Shelly’s whereabouts, in 2011 Remini sent a letter to Shelly care of her old post at the Religious Technology Center (RTC), the controlling entity of Scientology. Our sources tell us that six months later, Remini was informed by church officials that they had never delivered it, and told her that what she had written was “inappropriate.” She wrote a second letter, and also mailed it.
At least three times, our sources tell us, Remini also threatened church officials that she would go to the police or the FBI if they did not produce Shelly — or her corpse.
It was John Brousseau who first told us that Shelly was at the CST Headquarters. He is one of the last people to escape from the International Base near Hemet, having left it in 2010. He tells us that he personally saw that mail arriving for Shelly was put in a bin for letters that would be delivered to CST’s compound. We confirmed this with another base employee who also witnessed it. We have a third source who confirms that Shelly is still at the CST headquarters to this day.
The Church of Spiritual Technology is the most hush-hush unit of a secretive organization. We’ve talked to former church officials who worked in Scientology for decades and never knew anything about CST or where its facilities were.
CST has a very odd purpose. It’s one of the top three entities of Scientology, and it owns the copyrights of L. Ron Hubbard’s works. In order to preserve Hubbard’s legacy for future generations — and in order to ensure that his legacy survives a nuclear holocaust — CST’s job is to create underground vaults for storage. Such vaults have been built in New Mexico, Wyoming, and several in California. CST also owns a ranch in Creston, California which has no vault but was the place where Hubbard lived out his final few years. And CST has a headquarters compound on Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead, California. The compound goes by several different names, depending on which Scientologist you’re talking to — we’ve heard it called Twin Peaks (after a nearby hamlet), Rimforest (for another local village), Rim of the World, and Crestline (for yet another nearby town).
Although it seems to have several different names, almost no Scientologists have ever been there. We did a lengthy piece about the only former CST employee who seems to have done a press interview, Dylan Gill. He worked there and at CST’s vault in New Mexico, Trementina Base. (Trementina is known for its giant CST logo carved into the desert which is visible from aircraft. While some jokingly refer to this as a landing strip for aliens, Gill told us that it was actually meant to guide L. Ron Hubbard’s “thetan” — immortal spirit — upon its return to earth. Similar logos can also be seen at the Creston Ranch and the vault near Petrolia, California.)
Gill tells us that the CST Headquarters has several buildings that are used for housing workers and for doing the work of archiving — plans for the vaults include etching Hubbard’s millions of printed words on steel plates and storing them in titanium boxes.
For the past seven years, Shelly Miscavige has lived and worked at this compound, helping to preserve Hubbard’s words.
There are only a small handful of people who work at the CST Headquarters. To the thousands of Scientologists who were used to seeing Shelly at church events and the hundreds of Sea Org workers at the International Base who saw her on a daily basis — to them, she suddenly vanished.
Mail and other communications go from the Int Base to the CST Headquarters, but since 2006, people like Remini who were so used to communicating with Shelly have heard nothing.
In the past year, once questions were raised about Shelly following the Cruise-Holmes split, the church, through its attorneys, has said numerous times that Shelly is not “missing,” and that she has been working hard for the church.
But why the banishment to the small mountain compound? Why can Shelly no longer go to the large church events in nearby Los Angeles where she had been such a fixture? Why can she no longer even see her own family?
Where is Shelly?
Now that she has left the church, Leah Remini, our sources tell us, is hoping that with enough public scrutiny, Shelly will be forced to appear and speak for herself.
UPDATE: Mike Rinder, at his blog, helps explain how years of Scientology conditioning would keep Shelly from trying harder to get out of her confinement. Rinder also wrestled with this question in a series of remarkable video interviews we did with him last year.
Nicole Remini, Leah’s Sister, Gives Radio Interview
On Monday, Leah Remini’s older sister Nicole called into a Minneapolis radio station to talk about what her sister is going through. The interview starts at about the 25-minute mark. She confirms what we have been reporting, but then you knew we were telling the truth all along, right?
MyTalk 107.1 followed up with a print interview, which you can see here.
Karen de la Carriere Takes on Scientology’s Celebrity Culture
This newest video from Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and the Angry Gay Pope that skewers Scientology’s obsession with celebrities.
Also, we hear that Karen is suddenly getting some unwanted attention now that she’s pumping out so many videos that tweak the church. Private investigators have been visiting her neighbors, asking if people have seen anything unusual or alarming happening at Karen’s Los Feliz house.
But her neighbors were savvy enough to realize that it had all the earmarks of a Scientology “noisy investigation,” chased away the private eyes, and then ran to tell Karen about it.
Meanwhile, in Florida, former church spokesman Mike Rinder has suddenly found himself tailed by private investigators, something that had become less frequent.
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 17, 2013 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to email@example.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.