Recently, the Underground Bunker was contacted by an anonymous source who said he had something rather spectacular he wanted to share with our readers. We were stunned when we saw what he was talking about. He has made super-high-quality films of Scientology facilities, using a 4K camera mounted on a drone.
You have never seen Scientology’s secretive compounds like this. Our source says that he complied with local laws when he made these videos, but we have a feeling Scientology will be contacting YouTube to try have these films taken down. So while they’re available, please give them a good look.
Today, we’re embedding two flyovers of Scientology’s 500-acre international management headquarters near Hemet, California. Known as “Int Base” to Scientologists, it’s also called “Gold” or “Gold Base” because it houses the studios of Golden Era Productions, where Scientology makes its films.
When you play the videos, make sure to full-screen them so you can take in the incredible detail.
We sent some screenshots from the videos to Tom DeVocht — a man who worked at the base over two lengthy stints, the last ending in 2005. In the shot below from the opening of the first video, he pointed out that “berthing” — a set of newer apartment buildings — can be seen in the middle of the picture.
“Berthing was one of the things I got declared for,” DeVocht says, referring to being “declared” a “suppressive person,” which is how a Scientologist is excommunicated. Construction of the berthing apartment buildings had been taking a long time, but DeVocht was aware that when they were finished, Scientology leader David Miscavige was going to use them to lock away dissident members.
“I didn’t complete them so DM could lock up the SPs there. Fuck that, I’m not locking anyone up,” he says, which is what got him in trouble.
Also in the frame, at the bottom of the picture on the right side, you can see a building that DeVocht says was a special gym constructed for the use of Miscavige and his best bud, Tom Cruise.
The view then moves on to take in a closer look at one of the most significant places in the compound, Building 50, the offices of the Religious Technology Center and its chairman, Scientology leader David Miscavige. It’s a massive building that houses elaborate rooms dedicated to Miscavige’s use — rooms that we gave you a good look at a couple of years ago.
DeVocht says that on the far side of Building 50, you can see a long, rectangular building. That’s a garage for Miscavige’s automobiles. And to the right, out of the picture, there’s a power plant that was built to make sure that Int Base has its own electricity supply. DeVocht says that Miscavige complained that noise from the power plant would be heard from his offices, so they had to make sure that it was far enough away, and that Building 50 was built like a tank, so the noise wouldn’t bother him.
The view then moves to the left, and we get our first really good look at Bonnie View and the outbuildings near it.
Bonnie View was the name of a Scottish-themed residence that was on this spot when the church bought the property, which had been a resort known as Gilman Hot Springs. L. Ron Hubbard liked the Bonnie View house, modest as it was, and intended to live in it when he was visiting the base and no longer in hiding. But Miscavige had the house torn down and replaced with this much larger version.
When we asked what was in the building today, DeVocht says the place is filled with items from Hubbard’s life.
“There are maybe just a couple of staff members in Bonnie View now. It has all of LRH’s artifacts. His Boy Scout stuff. It’s supposed to be a museum, and there was talk that maybe someday it would be open to the public.” He adds that construction of the house was rushed and shoddy. “That place was built as badly as Building 50. In a major quake, that building will come down.”
He also learned that the artifacts in the house are just replicas. “The originals are kept in a vault at CST,” he says, referring to the Church of Spiritual Technology, the strange Scientology entity that digs vaults in various places for storing Hubbard’s writings so they survive a nuclear holocaust.
As for the structures around Bonnie View, the small building to its right, with a peaked roof, is a garage that houses Hubbard’s Dodge Dart and his Bluebird motorhome.
To the upper left in the picture, there’s a long rectangular building — DeVocht says it houses an Olympic-sized pool that was built for Hubbard’s use. And the three small buildings at the top of the picture feature visitor suites, which Tom Cruise would use when he was visiting. One of them houses a full-sized theater for Cruise’s use.
The view turns again to the left, and downhill, back toward the highway that bisects the compound. From this view we can see quite a few buildings clustered in front of us.
At the far left edge, in the middle, is the “Qual” building with its steeple. Tom tells us it’s filled with courserooms. Next to it on the right is “Del Sol.”
“International management was there in 1983,” Tom says. But then in 2001, he did a renovation of it that put in auditing rooms with video cameras. Below that, the collection of small buildings at an angle, is “The Ranchos.”
“That’s where all the book compilations were done, the Basics. I renovated it for that.” At the very bottom of this image, there’s a large rectangular building that is an air-conditioned storage facility. “That has every photograph ever taken of Hubbard, and copies of every film. They have photos of Hubbard that the world has never seen.”
Above the storage facility, the building with a flat white roof in the middle of the image, is where voiceover work took place.
“Somewhere in this picture there is a whole laundry facility just for doing Miscavige’s laundry,” Tom says.
To the upper left, just this side of the highway, you see two square buildings with flat white roofs. They housed “The Hole,” the notorious prison for executives where Miscvaige, beginning in January 2004, locked away up to about 80 people, some for several years.
Each morning, the prisoners in the Hole would be let out to march through a tunnel under the highway to the long double-building you see on the other side, where they could shower. That structure also housed the Landlord Office, where Tom worked and planned renovations to the compound.
The camera makes its way across the highway, and we get a great view of the “Cine Castle” — the huge studios used by Golden Era Productions.
Tom directed our attention to the mostly dried-up lake at the top of the image. He said it was from the back nine of the golf course, which was abandoned after an attempt to turn the compound’s nine-hole course into a full 18.
After sweeping around, the camera makes its way over the south side of the compound, with its large body of water.
“That lake used to be a small pond. It’s where they used to make people jump into the water,” Tom says. Mike Rinder and Marc Headley have described being marched down to the lake and told to jump in, sometimes in chilly weather, as a form of punishment.
But the lake also prompted another memory from Tom: “They use millions of gallons a day watering that grass,” he says.
The camera sweeps back over Berthing and uphill, then turns around and comes back down over Building 50.
We pointed out to Tom that we could only see one car in the photo. Seems like a pretty huge expense for so little use.
“I spent close to $47 million on that building, after Bitty [Miscavige] had spent $47 million already,” he says. “And you see all those big trees around the building? You have to understand, this was desert. I had Miscavige telling me, ‘Tom, I want my building to look like it’s in the forest. I want it to look like you cut down trees to build my buildings. I don’t want small trees that will eventually grow. I want big trees so it looks like you had to cut them down to put up the building.’
“So I hired a guy — he was 94, and he had built the Wynn in Las Vegas, total character this guy — and we hired him and a local company. I showed him around. He said, ‘Are you kidding me? Who the hell is this building for? You’re out in the middle of the desert. What’s this building for?’
“He said it was impossible to put in really big trees. So we went as big as we could. It was very expensive — and then Miscavige busted me for spending too much and being over budget. But then, he complained, ‘I thought I told you to make it look like it was in a forest. What are these small plants?’
DeVocht says the trees cost as much as $10,000 each.
The view then sweeps down to the highway, and we get a good look at the Star of California, the building next to a pool that’s supposed to evoke a sailing ship, complete with three masts.
“That was meant for Hubbard,” Tom says, to make the “Commodore” feel at home. Did DeVocht get to use the pool? “I think twice the entire time. On Sea Org Day, or something.”
And some images from the second flyover. A closer look at The Hole, on the right, and just below it, at the very bottom edge, buildings known as the “200s,” which, Tom says, house L. Ron Hubbard’s personal auditing folders.
To their left, also at the bottom edge, are sound studios for music recording, known as the “Ravs.”
A later view puts the Qual building right in the center…
And then, across the highway, we see the Massacre Canyon Inn on the right, where there’s a large mess for crew to eat.
“It has a big galley kitchen. We held staff meetings there. And it has executive game rooms, where Miscavige would play video games all the time.”
Attached to it, slanting to the left, were buildings which contained meeting rooms. And behind it, the building with a gingerbread look…
“That was the original film studio. It was one of the first things they built there. In front of it, you see the Tavern, where talent would go to eat. To its right, Hubbard office when he was going to be at studio. The studio was mostly defunct when I was there.”
Thank you, Tom, for that guided tour. We look forward to hearing from other former residents of Int Base about their memories of specific locations found in these remarkable films. Tell us all about Int Base, readers!
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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