It was late summer 2005. That much our sources agree on. It might have been late August, or it might have been early September. But it was a full ten years ago, say our eyewitness sources, that Shelly Miscavige vanished.
When we started writing about Shelly and her strange situation, back in 2012, there was some confusion about the timing of her disappearance. But since then we developed new sources who were at Int Base and personally saw the events leading up to Shelly’s sudden departure. And those sources are sure of one thing: It was ten years ago, they tell us.
Ten years ago.
We’ve told Shelly’s story numerous times, and it also got a lengthy treatment in Vanity Fair. Leah Remini caused a stir in 2013 when she tried to get the Los Angeles Police Department to look into Shelly’s whereabouts. (They visited Shelly and reported that she was not only alive but didn’t want to make a public statement.)
The thing is, we know where Shelly has been the last ten years. It’s really not a secret, and we continue to get more evidence that confirms her location. But the astounding thing about Shelly is not that she’s “missing,” because she isn’t. The remarkable thing is that Scientology leader David Miscavige has gotten away with banishing his wife, who once helped to run Scientology with him, to a small compound in the mountains above Los Angeles.
Shelly Miscavige is not missing. David Miscavige has known exactly where she’s been for the last ten years, because he put her there.
And Shelly’s story is not a simple one. We asked numerous people for their memories of Shelly this week, and they weren’t all positive. Shelly was, along with her husband, a tough-as-nails Sea Org executive who wasn’t shy about berating people to get things done. But, as we explained in the 2013 story “Love in the time of Miscavige,” there were signs, in 2005, that her relationship with her husband was unraveling. We’re going to quote a key section from that story for our readers who may not be up on the Shelly Miscavige story.
At the beginning of 2004, Miscavige had ordered dozens of top executives into a locked room, calling them “SPs.” (A “suppressive person” is someone with evil intention to Scientology — being declared an SP is the church’s form of excommunication.)
Over time, that office-prison became known as “The Hole” as up to 100 base executives were held in it day and night, sleeping on the floor and eating from buckets of soupy slop.
Miscavige was becoming less and less predictable. Every Sea Org official walked on eggshells around him, and were hypersensitive to any of his rants, looking for ways to stay in his good graces.
And then, in 2005, a surprising thing happened.
Miscavige announced that he was going to Los Angeles to work on a new set of re-edited L. Ron Hubbard books he wanted published. (They would come out in 2007 and be called “The Basics,” and every Scientologist would be pressured to purchase multiple sets, with lectures, for about $3,000 each.)
Shelly, however, said she was staying at Int Base. And she asked the young woman [an assistant to Shelly] to stay with her.
It was the first time in the young woman’s career that David and Shelly Miscavige hadn’t traveled someplace together.
The young woman did what she was told, and she stayed at the Base.
While Miscavige was gone, Shelly got to work. She filled the org chart with names, and then informed those employees that they had new jobs. [Miscavige had complained bitterly that an “org board” — a personnel chart for the base — had long gone unfinished.]
Finally, the org chart would no longer be an issue.
Miscavige also had continually groused that he was going to need to move out of his quarters in the “Villas” — three buildings on the north side of the property — so they could be renovated and turned over to CMO Int, one of upper management’s alphabet soup of entities. “I’m going to give you the Villas, you assholes,” Miscavige would taunt his top lieutenants.
So while he was gone, Shelly finally made that happen. She had COB’s things crated up and moved out of the Villas to a drab set of quarters known as the “G’s.”
At about this time, Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder arrived at Int Base after visiting Miscavige in Los Angeles. He was immediately cornered by Shelly as soon as he arrived.
“She took me to the back patio of the RTC building, which is really isolated. There was no one around,” Rinder tells us. “She asked me, ‘When you saw him, was Dave wearing his gold or platinum wedding ring?’”
Rinder says he thinks she knew it would have been too much of a giveaway to simply ask if Miscavige was wearing a ring at all, which is why she asked it that way. Rinder had no idea if Miscavige actually had more than one version of his wedding ring.
“Oh, you know, I didn’t notice,” he told her.
“The question was so out of the blue, and so bizarre,” he tells us. “I knew that she was in deep shit. She was worried that he was going to abandon her.”
Rinder wonders if, knowing that she was on thin ice, she was suddenly taking on the things Miscavige always complained needed to be done — the org chart and the renovation of the Villas — as a way of getting into his good graces. Shelly was trying to make things go right for COB.
“That was the last conversation I had with Shelly,” Rinder says. (He was not around when Miscavige returned. He was later put into The Hole as a prisoner for more than a year, and then defected from Scientology while he was in London in 2007.)
By the time Miscavige did return to the base, a couple of months after he’d gone to LA, the org chart had been filled and the Villas were gutted.
He was not pleased.
“He had a total psychotic fit,” one eyewitness tells us. “He said we were a bunch of treasonous fucks.”
A week later, Shelly Miscavige vanished.
Since we wrote that story in 2013, we talked to two new sources who were at the base at the time, who filled us in on a new detail we haven’t seen reported elsewhere. Over the course of that week between Miscavige’s meltdown and Shelly’s disappearance, something telling happened. Our new sources tell us that Miscavige went back to Los Angeles, and then Shelly, apparently knowing she was facing oblivion, took the unusual step of driving from the base to LA to see if she could patch things up with her husband. Apparently, that mission didn’t succeed. And someday, we’d love to know how that scene unfolded.
Shelly soon returned to the base, and then she vanished.
We know now, from multiple lines of evidence, that she was transferred from the International Base near Hemet to a super-secret compound near Lake Arrowhead in the mountains above Los Angeles. The compound is the headquarters for Scientology’s most secretive entity, the Church of Spiritual Technology. We’ve written extensively about CST and its underground vaults, where L. Ron Hubbard’s works are stored so they can survive a nuclear holocaust. For the past ten years — except for a couple of days in the summer of 2007 when she was let out to attend the funeral of her father, Barney Barnett — Shelly has been living and working at CST’s headquarters compound, which Scientologists call by numerous different names, depending on whom you ask: Twin Peaks, Rimforest, Rim of the World, or Crestline.
Whatever you call it, it’s a small complex that houses maybe a dozen people who work on the project to archive Hubbard’s works. Since she was transferred there, Shelly, who once was a major figure in the church and even helped select girlfriends for Tom Cruise, has attended no public church events and has not even been allowed to see her own family. Is Shelly happy working there? Is she being held against her will? Would she take the opportunity to escape if she could?
We reported in 2013 that Shelly does have some limited communication with the outside world, and was asked by a family member how she might be able to leave the base. “There’s only one way,” she responded, and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder told us he interpreted that to mean that only another family funeral would allow Shelly to go outside the confines of the compound.
That same year, Leah Remini made her missing-person report about Shelly to the LAPD on Monday, August 5. By Thursday afternoon, August 8, police told a reporter that they had checked on Shelly and considered Leah’s report “unfounded.” What happened? Well, LAPD Lt. Andre Dawson sent two of his detectives to meet Shelly. A missing-person report has a very narrow goal — to find out if a person is, well, missing. When Dawson’s detectives found that Shelly was fine and that she didn’t want to make a public statement, the case was over. But we asked Dawson — had his detectives questioned Shelly in the presence of other church executives?
“That’s classified,” Dawson said to us. (Since then, we’ve noticed that Lt. Dawson has been a participant in numerous Church of Scientology activities.)
And that brings us up to date on the disappearance of Shelly Miscavige. We believe that she’s still at the CST headquarters, and she may or may not be resigned to her fate. We’ve been assured by former Scientology executives that David Miscavige put her there after making her a non-person, and that he will never let her leave.
So, ten years after she vanished, we asked some of the people who knew her to send us some of their memories of her.
CLAIRE HEADLEY: It’s hard to imagine the Sea Org without Shelly Miscavige. Some people hated her. And I certainly saw just cause for that at times. Personally, I thought Shelly was quite simply in an impossible situation, as so many of us were at the Int Base. It was a twilight zone, a horrifying dog-eat-dog world where one did as one was told or faced impossible and life-destroying consequences. In the end I have Shelly to thank, in some ways, for helping me wake up. You see, Shelly explained to me on multiple occasions that when you became a member of RTC (the Religious Technology Center, run by Miscavige himself) one has then foregone the right to leave — you’d be hunted to the ends of the earth if you tried to escape. I thoroughly believed her. After all, I’d heard of Sue Gentry being brought back when she blew to Africa! Marty Rathbun blew twice and was brought back both times. No one was capable of escaping RTC’s reach, it seemed to me at the time. So when I was booted out of RTC for refusing to divorce Marc, and Marc then blew just a few months later, Shelly’s words came back to me in my final analysis. And since I was no longer in RTC, I figured I had a fighting chance of actually making it out of there. And that’s all I needed in the end, a firm dose of belief, someone on the outside to help me (Marc), and a purse to sit on in the middle of the Las Vegas bus station when they came after me. Of course there was a bit more to it than that but there you go. I hope Shelly is OK, and that perhaps one day, she too will find the strength of will to get out of there. I know that would make her father, Barney, happy. May he rest in peace.
JEFFERSON HAWKINS: Some people called her the “ice queen” and thought she was pretty cold. I occasionally saw a softer side to her. It seemed at times like she was almost embarrassed by Dave’s excesses, and she would sometimes come around afterwards and try to patch things up or smooth things over. On several occasions after Dave had raked me over the coals verbally or beaten me up physically, she would call me and try to smooth things over and mitigate the damage. She would ask me how I was doing, if I was getting any auditing and so on. She seemed genuinely concerned. I don’t think Dave knew she was doing this. Publicly, she was always 100 percent supportive of Dave. At the same time, I think she had private doubts about his increasingly erratic behavior. And I think she thought the best thing to do to support him would be to try to rein in or mitigate his behavior when she was able to do so. That may have been her downfall.
MARC HEADLEY: Shelly was at the Int Base the entire time I was there. I worked very closely with her sister Clarisse for years, so I heard many stories about them when they were on the Apollo with LRH and growing up as his messengers. I had many interactions with Shelly over the 15 years I worked at the Int Base and on most occasions it seemed she would do David Miscavige’s bidding but with her own twist. There were also times when she pleaded with us to get stuff done so that Dave would not “lose his temper” and get violent with us. There was one conversation Shelly had with me in 1994 that I would never forget. She asked me how old I was and after I answered she told me, “COB was running all of Scientology when he was that age.” It was one of the first personal conversations I had with her. What stuck me is that even when just talking personally, she referred to Dave, her husband, as “COB.” I don’t think she will ever escape his control and it is likely she will die never knowing true freedom.
MARK FISHER: I worked for Shelly for almost seven years and knew her much longer than that. Many of the people who were at the Int Base and had interactions with Shelly will tell you that she was not a very nice person to deal with. She had her moments where she tried to be nice to me and our staff, but you never knew when she might flip on you and tell Dave something which would get you or your staff in trouble. Shelly was very much a loner. She worked with Dave in his office and went with him many times on his motorbike around the base to observe and write down things he wanted done. She would then enter these “orders” into a computer log with an expected due date for these wild actions to be done. If they were not done, there was hell to pay with her. My biggest objection was about staff getting sec checked (interrogated). Reports from these private sessions were forwarded to Shelly, and she would then gladly forward the “juicy” details to Dave who could use them against that person the next time he saw them. Shelly was not well educated at all, never finishing even high school. She was, however, a true believer and she would quote L. Ron Hubbard’s writings to others all the time. Because of her position being the wife of Miscavige, she was protected for many years even before she worked directly for him. She loved being close to DM and his power and being the “Queen of Scientology.” She loved to spend money and if she could get something covered by Church money, she would gladly do it – expensive gifts to celebrities etc. All in all, she was not well liked by the staff at the base and did not have any friends, or if she did, they eventually did not last because they would get into trouble. That being said, if Shelly escaped and came out into the real world, I would give her a big hug and forgive her as I and many did Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun.
KAREN DE LA CARRIERE: Shelly was an unhappy little girl on the Apollo. She was younger than the other Messengers and so they wouldn’t take her along to places in port. Her only role model was L. Ron Hubbard. She was often sullen and withdrawn when I saw her. Years later, at Int Base Shelly was a queen. The staff might have been paid pennies, but if Shelly needed a $5,000 evening gown, she got it. But Shelly was not unfeeling: She actually anticipated her husband’s brutality. She dutifully followed him around as part of his entourage and carried antiseptic, cottons swabs and first aid. When Mark Fisher was hit in the face by Miscavige and his nose was streaming with blood, Shelly was there within seconds to dab the blood because she was already walking around with a first aid kit. In 1985, after Shelly’s mother Flo died under unusual circumstances, I ran into Shelly during a social gathering, a barbecue, at Int Base. I told Shelly how sorry I was that her mother had died. “Good riddance to the bitch,” Shelly snarled at me. But that was Hubbard — we’re just thetans, and family relationships are an illusion. She was just doing what she’d been trained to do. And now, she’s incarcerated and I’m sure she doesn’t know her civil or constitutional rights.
TOM DEVOCHT: I guess I first met her in 1983. I liked Shelly. A lot of people didn’t. She liked my brother and took care of him, in whatever weird way you took care of someone in a cult. I have three really strange anecdotes I can tell you about Shelly. Make of them what you will. One of them happened at Building 50 — the RTC building — that was being constructed at Int Base. I was called over there, and Dave and Shelly were walking through it — Dave did that every day to watch the progress. We were in the legal department of the building and there was a vault being put in. It was where they were going to store the trademarks and copyrights and other things. Dave told Lou (his “personal communicator”) to get some coffee. After she left, it was just Shelly, Dave, and I. Dave got really agitated and said, “Shelly, where do we put the gold? Do we bury it? Do you remember where I put the gold?” It’s like he flipped out for a minute. Then he snapped out of it, and we walked on like nothing happened. But it was really eerie, a really weird thing. We then parted ways, and about a half hour later Shelly called me over. She told me that Dave was going “Type III” — Scientology jargon for someone losing their mind and going psychotic. She wasn’t kidding. Another story: I was married to Jenny Linson, and she worked with Miscavige a lot. At one point, Shelly came into my office, slamming the door. She was in a rage. “You get your bitch whore cunt wife away from my husband!” she yelled at me. “She’s in there hanging her tits in his face and I know she’s trying to seduce him!” I didn’t know what to say. We all worked so closely together all the time. Two days later, I got a call — come up to Building 50. I was walking down the hall and Shelly came walking up to me, crying. “She’s doing it again. She’s hanging her tits in his face!” and she ran past me in tears. Another weird detail: Dave tried to get me to call my wife Jenny “sir” when I was in his presence — in the Sea Org, everyone is a sir, even the women. But I refused. And one more story. Also at Building 50. The last conversation I had with Shelly. She took me into an auditing room to ask me something in private. “Listen, I need to know something from you,” she said. “Can you be salvaged?” This was after the “Hole” had started, after Marty Rathbun had left, and Dave was accusing everyone of betraying him. “Dave has no friends,” Shelly said. “Everybody’s gone. He can’t trust anyone. They’re all SPs. I just need to know, can we trust you? He needs to have friends and you’re his last friend. Can I count on you?” And I said, “No.” I was so disaffected at that point. There wasn’t a chance I wanted to be connected to him. I don’t know if she talked to Miscavige about that. She and I both left about the same time — I left Scientology, and she disappeared. I liked Shelly, I actually liked her. There was a side of her that I thought was really normal. But then she’d start spouting “Simon Bolivar” at you and talking like Hubbard. I felt she just needed someone to talk to, and that’s when we had those conversations.
We want to thank all of the people who responded to our questions. One of the questions we get the most from readers is about Shelly and her fate. Why, we’re frequently asked, can’t law enforcement rescue Shelly if we’re so confident we know where she is? Well, as these anecdotes indicate, Shelly’s situation is a complex one. She may be resigned to her fate of working to preserve the words of L. Ron Hubbard, whom she regarded so highly. But it sure would be interesting to ask her if that’s really how she wants to spend the rest of her life, cut off even from her own family — and to conduct that interview away from other members of the church. We really don’t know how she’d answer.
After ten years of banishment, is Shelly Miscavige ready to come home?
We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.
Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…
Sept 15: Phoenix, Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus, Walter Cronkite Theater, 5:30 pm
Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio
Sept 24: Minneapolis, Grumpy’s Bar & Grill, 2801 Snelling Ave, Roseville, 7 pm, sponsored by Minnesota Atheists
Sept 27: Portland, Friendly House, 1737 NW 26th Ave, 12:45 pm, sponsored by Humanists of Portland
Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists
Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm
Oct 14: London, premiere of Louis Theroux film, ‘My Scientology Movie’
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 25: Melbourne, venue secured (announcement coming later)
Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 30: Perth
Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24)
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 7, 2015 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT 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…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield