Camilla Andersson spent 29 years in Scientology’s hardcore “Sea Organization” — many of those years at the secretive “Int Base” east of Los Angeles — and walked away to freedom only two years ago. Now, she’s talking publicly for the first time about what she saw inside Scientology’s most elite facilities, spending years in the church’s prison detail, and working closely with Scientology leader David Miscavige.
And she tells us, he’s not going to be very happy about it.
“He’s going to be boiling. I’ve always been the quiet one. But you can only beat me up for so long. That’s why I’m fuming,” she told us by telephone from her home in Seattle.
Recently, Andersson was in Southern California, and she filmed a series of videos with Karen de la Carriere. Here’s part one…
Camilla tells us she was born and raised in Denmark, and her parents got into Scientology when she was only three years old. She started courses at 7, and at 8 was enrolled at a Scientology school.
“I pretty much grew up with it, in every aspect of my life,” she says. After finishing the equivalent of high school, she had thoughts of becoming a translator at the United Nations. But she had a negative experience at college, and then her brother asked her if she wanted to join him at Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida.
He had joined the Sea Organization in 1969, when it really was at sea and first earned that name. He had served with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard on the Apollo as Hubbard ran the worldwide organization from the ship, which plied the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean before the Sea Org came back on land, invading Clearwater in 1975.
Within 24 hours of her brother asking her to go there, Camilla was in Clearwater.
It was 1982, she was 17 years old, and she signed a billion-year contract to join the Sea Org. A year and a half later, she was in the Commodore’s Messenger Organization at Gold Base, also known as “Int Base,” where the highest echelons of Scientology’s executive strata lived and worked, largely cut off from the outside world.
“I was there for 19 years,” she says. “I was just one of these quiet, follow-the-rules people. But the more I got older, the more I edited things in my head to stay out of trouble. I got smart about what to say, when to go against the stream and when not to.”
She reminds us what was going on in Scientology at the time she joined the elite ranks at Gold Base. L. Ron Hubbard had gone into hiding in 1980 in the wake of eleven top church members going to prison after Scientology’s infiltration of federal offices — the Snow White Program. Hubbard’s absence, along with the revelations that came out with the 1979 release of Snow White documents that recorded shocking behavior by Scientology’s highest ranks, produced a volatile situation. Mission holders began showing independence, and then were crushed in a 1982 crackdown by David Miscavige and the other CMO and Sea Org officials who were starting to take over in Hubbard’s absence.
“1983 was about recovering management control. And 1984 was the beginning of the dissemination era,” Camilla says, describing a new focus on producing higher quality materials for spreading Scientology’s ideas.
“It began with building a studio at the base. But Scientology wasn’t swimming in money. So building the studio meant a lot of cheap labor,” she says. The workforce, she says, were mainly Sea Org workers who were being punished in the Rehabilitation Project Force — the SO’s prison detail. “They were brought in on buses from Los Angeles. They were used as a workforce, up for days and days — for two weeks and more. And in dangerous conditions. This went on for two years, until the grand opening in 1986. There was insane sleep deprivation in the early 1980s.”
Camilla’s own work was in the Film and Equipment Unit. “I took care of LRH’s personal photography. I took care of David Miscavige’s photography. And the historical photography. In our unit we were in on privileged information, and we were called personal staff — originally for Hubbard — and then we slid into personal staff for Miscavige. And I had no history of breaching security. No one’s going to believe I’m speaking out.
“My unit was training to service Hubbard when he returned. There were about ten of us. We were all in various stages of training on checklists,” she says.
Hubbard never came back from hiding, and died on January 24, 1986 at a church-owned ranch near Creston, California. We asked Camilla if she was at the famous announcement event which happened three days later at the Hollywood Palladium.
“Yeah, I was at the Palladium, in the crowd. We were told it was going to be a special announcement from L. Ron Hubbard. That was what my unit was told — the rest of the Sea Org might have been told something else,” she remembers.
And when she heard the announcement from David Miscavige that Hubbard had “dropped his body”?
“People went into a complete state of shock. There were no words to describe it at all. No one really talked. No one knew what to do. People were crying. I didn’t cry. I was thinking, what do we do now? That was my thought. I didn’t have the idea of him not running it. This whole thing had no purpose anymore. Why do we get up in the morning now? That’s where I was at.”
But Scientology carried on. Over the next four years, Camilla says she worked in “human resources kind of stuff. Getting people put into jobs, getting them trained.”
And during this time, she was especially close with Ann Tidman.
Known more widely under the name Annie Broeker, Tidman had been one of L. Ron Hubbard’s most trusted personal aides. She and her husband Pat Broeker had gone into hiding with Hubbard in 1980, and she was his primary caretaker to the end of his life. Hubbard had seemed to signal that the Broekers would succeed him by naming them “Loyal Officers” before his death. But the Broekers had been pushed aside by David Miscavige.
After Hubbard’s death, Annie was sent to the RPF at Happy Valley for “two or three years,” Camilla says.
“That was her welcome back present, and I’ve never understood that.”
Annie then moved to Gold Base, and worked as a darkroom technician as Miscavige kept her close under his thumb.
“I was one of her four best friends,” Camilla says. “She was in the Film and Equipment Unit. That’s how I got to know her.”
Camilla vividly remembers when Annie’s possessions from Creston Ranch, where Hubbard had died, were finally returned to her at Gold Base.
“There was expensive jewelry missing, and she was livid. To this day I have no idea what happened to it. It might have been Shelly or Dave Miscavige. Hubbard had given her a lot of jewelry over the 18 years she had served him, and that was all gone. I happened to be right by her when she opened her boxes and started looking for stuff. She was very, very upset about it.”
She also says that Annie told her about the stress she went through the day Hubbard died. “They knew he was dying for a couple of days. And the legal issues were taken care of the day before. That morning, when he died, she was not only in shock, she had to call the police.”
And making matters worse, in a completely random, unrelated incident, a couple of large dogs at the ranch got into a vicious fight that morning.
“One of the dogs had blood dripping out of his ear, and he was shaking his head, getting blood all over the kitchen. Annie’s there by herself, trying to handle things. The police are there….She explained this to me in detail. She said it was the most intense day of her life,” she says.
“She said she took notes on the last things that Hubbard dictated about the upper OT levels the day before he died. I was in awe. She wasn’t even OT 3 when she was taking dictation. How did that work? ‘Well, it was my duty. There was no one else there,’ she said.”
Camilla herself attained the state of Clear during her long career, but never experienced the higher-level “OT” levels that cost hundreds of dollar an hour in counseling.
The highest “OT” level — OT 8 — was released in 1988, two years after Hubbard’s death, and Scientologists were told that when conditions were right, OT 9 and 10 would be released. But Marty Rathbun, a top former Scientology official, says that OT 9 and 10 do not exist. We asked Camilla: Did Hubbard tell Annie differently in that final day of dictation? “I really don’t know. And Marty would be in a better position to know the truth about the OT levels than me,” she says.
In 1990, a very important visitor arrived at Gold Base — actor Tom Cruise. Marc Headley, in his book Blown For Good, has described that Cruise came to Gold to learn how to audit, and that Headley was chosen to be his subject.
Camilla says she ran into Cruise one day at the studio, where a music conference room had been turned into his courseroom.
“I just passed by him and greeted him,” she says.
Later, she says her unit went into high gear when Cruise and Nicole Kidman got married. Two members of her unit went to Telluride to photograph the nuptials, and then she and others worked around the clock to get the photos ready.
“All that film came back to Golden Era. And we developed the film, and over a week to ten days, we printed everything, made blow-ups, and created albums. There was a custom, hand-sewn photo album made for Tom. He paid for the supplies, and then the rest was church labor. The whole point of us doing it was to keep it out of the hands of the media,” she says. “I’m 99 percent sure those negatives are still there. It’s something that’s not really known about — Tom Cruise’s personal photo lab is Golden Era Productions.”
By 1993, Camilla was such a trusted employee, she worked closely with Miscavige as he prepared for his finest moment — revealing to the rest of the organization that Scientology had finally won its decades-long battle with the IRS. That year, after a two-year process with the federal agency, Scientology’s entities were gaining tax-exempt status. Miscavige would announce to a crowd at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that “The War Is Over.”
“For two years we knew that it was very close. We knew that David Miscavige and Marty Rathbun had been working with our attorneys to win this. And three months before we won it, in the summer 1993, our unit was asked to prepare photographs, to blow them up and put them on foamcore, like for use as exhibits in a courtroom,” she says.
“Some of the photos included David Miscavige’s bedroom. His lounge. His office.”
Why? Camilla believes they were part of an exhibit to convince the IRS that Miscavige did not live a lavish lifestyle. (Since that time, Miscavige has benefited greatly from the labor of Sea Org workers, and stories are thick that he lives in a very posh environment, with meals prepared for him every two hours, and closets full of custom made clothes, and rooms with expensive personal furnishings.)
There were also photo exhibits made of various Scientology properties. “I think it was Marty who came down and picked them up,” she says. Then, in October, the process with the IRS was completed. Scientology had its tax exempt status. It was time for the big announcement.
“I was heavily involved in The War is Over in 1993,” Camilla says. “I rehearsed DM for his speech for five days.”
What was that like?
Working directly with Miscavige was intense, she says. “He never stops. The word ‘calm’ has nothing to do with that man. He is running through his speech, and he just goes, ‘Add a comma there, and move that paragraph down.’ Meanwhile, I’m in ASCII on a teleprompter, and I’m trying to keep track of everything he’s saying. If I’m too slow or too fast and irritate him, that was no good. English was my third language, and the legal terms? Whoa.”
The night of the event itself, Miscavige’s speech went off fine. But Camilla says she ended up almost getting arrested.
“Until 6 pm, I was in the broadcast truck with the hired professionals. My job was to make sure the right slides came up at the right time.”
When the slides were set, she then switched to photography. She went into the hall with her camera and a tripod to capture the event.
“I missed all the rehearsals, and I didn’t know you couldn’t have a tripod in the audience. And fire marshals were everywhere because there was live fire up on the stage.” Three times, she was told to stop taking photographs and take the tripod out of the building. Eventually, a fire marshal dragged her to a police officer, who began to take her away to jail. Inside, everyone was watching Miscavige, and they had no idea she was getting hauled away.
“Just as police come to take me away, a woman from OSA shows up [Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs is its intelligence and covert operations wing], and she asked, ‘Can we please use our internal justice to take care of this?’ She convinced them to turn me over to Scientology.”
Camilla says she was supposed to sit for a sort of court martial for the flap, but then her photos turned out so good, one was used for a poster about the event. So she skated.
But a few years later, she wasn’t so lucky.
Camilla says that things seemed to change after the War Is Over event. “Up to then, Miscavige was following Hubbard’s goals. But now what do you do? There was no boss above him to say, OK, now we do this. At that point he became the origination of what to do next. That was the big shift.”
In 1998, a big shift arrived for Camilla when she got an order from David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly. “We were in the production of a slide show, for recruiting for the Sea Org. We hadn’t been to bed for weeks. Shelly sent a collection order down to get me. My files were in disorder, I was told. And I said, ‘She doesn’t have all the data’.”
In other words, the quiet, subservient Camilla Andersson had talked back. And to the leader’s wife.
“I got sec-checked for 30 to 40 hours,” she says, referring to Scientology’s brand of brutal interrogations.
“The meter is reading, you’re in fear, and you’ll say anything to get it to end. There came to a point that I didn’t care. You get so in anxiety to say things that satisfy the hunger for something nasty,” she says, remembering the hours of interrogation to discover her “crimes” against Scientology.
And her biggest infraction? “I had destroyed an original photographic negative of L. Ron Hubbard. That was the biggest point. A year later it was proved that there wasn’t even a scratch on it.” If that was the biggest strike against her, over more than a day of questioning, she’d also admitting to various errors.
“Jennifer DeVocht read my confessions from that session to the entire unit I worked at. Each day she would read from them. My husband was in that unit, Joe Jarchow,” she remembers.
“I actually wanted to leave the Sea Org. And that’s what really ticked everybody off,” she says. She had by this time thought seriously of “blowing” or escaping.
“The whole time I was being sec checked, I was living at the Old Gilman House,” a secluded location at the Int Base compound. “I was no longer living where my husband was. We were disconnected. He came to see me before I went to Happy Valley for the RPF. ‘I cannot believe you. You are despicable,’ he said. That is the last time I spoke to him.”
Camilla was moved to another facility near Hemet known as Happy Valley, where members were sent for the prison detail, the RPF (the church no longer owns the property). She was berthed in a converted freight trailer.
“It was so awful,” she says. “It was like being on an extended camping trip with people you didn’t want to be camping with. There was a hut in the middle of the property with a roof and plastic windows. That’s where we ate. The food came on a little wheelbarrow from Golden Era, in a car. It was lukewarm, rice and beans sometimes. If you didn’t eat what was on your plate, you didn’t eat. It was like a prison camp.”
And what did you do on the detail?
“We were farming. If we weren’t farming, we were digging trenches. The worst thing we did was dig a flood channel up in the mountains. We moved huge boulders and rocks. It was very dangerous.”
Camilla was on the RPF at Happy Valley for three years. There was no TV. No telephone. No radio. No books. No newspapers.
“Nope. Three years. Sometimes people would get a letter or a card, but we were disconnected from the world. It was way worse than the RPF in Big Blue,” she says, referring to another location for the prison detail, at the former Cedars of Lebanon hospital building painted blue in Los Angeles.
Most of the people who finished the RPF were sent out of the Sea Org or to Big Blue. But Camilla was one of only a very few who actually got to return to Int Base. She was sent back to work with Ann Tidman.
“I returned to Gold on January 6, 2001.”
She had spent the turn of the millennium at Scientology’s desert prison.
A year later, in 2002, Camilla was moved to PAC base — the Big Blue complex in LA — and worked in its kitchen for the next ten years.
“I didn’t know anything about The Hole, or about Shelly disappearing. Inside the bubble, you don’t know anything about what’s happening at Gold. You have no idea. I didn’t even know what the Hole was. I knew who Debbie Cook was. And I saw her in a video on YouTube. She was testifying in a courtroom. I had no idea why.”
We asked Camilla when she first realized that something had happened to Shelly Miscavige.
“It was a live New Year’s Eve event, at the Shrine Auditorium. Around 2006 or 2007. I would always do the food for New Year’s, and I fed the crowd afterwards. I noticed that David Miscavige was walkinng around looking at the setups, and Shelly wasn’t with him. Only Laurisse, his personal communicator. I thought that was odd.”
Camilla has no first-hand evidence of it, but she’s convinced that Shelly is being held at the Church of Spiritual Technology headquarters near Lake Arrowhead, above Los Angeles — something we’ve been saying for a few years.
And how did Camilla manage to get out of the Sea Org in 2012?
“I had been wanting to leave for a while. I had no money. Both of my parents are deceased. Where was I going to go? I didn’t even grow up in America,” she says.
“I wanted to get away from Scientology. But every time I would say that I wanted to leave and was routing out, I’d be convinced otherwise.”
She knew she couldn’t talk her way out. She would literally have to escape.
At the time, she was attending chef classes in Culver City. So, for a month she made plans, being very careful not to get into any trouble, which might jeopardize her ability to attend the weekly class. On the day she chose, she gathered up her green card and passport and what little money she had, and then made her way from the Big Blue complex to the Culver City classroom with the help of a friend.
“A guy in my division drove me there,” she says. She attended the class, which involved making eight different salads. Then, instead of staying after class to talk with the other students, she left, walking across the street. Then she kept walking. She didn’t even have a direction in mind.
“My theory was, if I don’t know where I’m going, they can’t follow. I know how security thinks.”
Eventually, she made her way to her sister’s house near the Los Angeles airport. Then, the next day, she got on a Greyhound bus for Idaho Falls.
Why Idaho Falls?
“I randomly picked it. There was no logic. Except that it was a cheap place to live. And there’s no Scientology in Idaho. I knew I could go under the radar quickly and disappear.”
Now she lives in Seattle, and she’s reconnecting with her old friends who have also left Scientology.
“They didn’t chase after me. Everything has gone fine.”
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 16, 2014 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.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43