It’s been 24 hours since we posted stunning drone footage of Scientology’s secretive Int Base near Hemet, California, and those videos, made by an anonymous drone pilot, are still up at YouTube where you can view them for yourself or even download them, with the blessing of the filmmaker. [Int Base flyover 1 and flyover 2]
We’ve been talking to former Int Base residents who were blown away by the quality of the footage, as well as what they noticed were numerous changes at the site since they were last there.
One of the things that many people noticed was that in the first few seconds of the first video, you can see a soccer game going on.
“There were 14 people playing soccer on the soccer field. That almost never happened when I was there,” Paul Burkhart tells us. “The sports fields were only used on Sea Org Day for the most part. A few brief periods of ‘Exercise Time is Mandatory’ and then the next flap would happen and the sports fields were forgotten.”
Chuck Beatty noted that about ten minutes later in the video, the game is over and the field is empty. Had the drone been spotted, or was exercise time over?
“My guess is that this was shot on a Sunday morning (the shadows indicate it’s morning) during CSP (personal room cleaning and laundry time),” Jefferson Hawkins wrote in the comments section. “Probably Miscavige is not on Base and they are allowing people to exercise ‘if they’ve passed their berthing inspection and if their stats are up,’ something like that. The few staff leaving MCI (the cafeteria) are heading back to berthing, not to post. It would be interesting to do a flyover during crew muster.”
Paul Burkhart agreed with that Hawkins about the time of the week: “This drone flyover appears to be happening in the morning, but not really early in the morning, judging from the shadows. I wonder about the time because the whole base looks really inactive. There are no projects in the driveways and roads around the Castle, one or two joggers are seen, no cars are present at DM’s Berthing or at Building 50 or at the Villa’s guest rooms. No cars are at motor pool gassing up or washing. An External Comm Van goes across the highway to berthing. About 15 people not in uniform are seen leaving the dining building (MCI). It makes me think that this must be a Sunday morning, when staff clean their rooms etc, until noon. I saw one person coming out of the Laundry building with sheets and towels, but I would expect more staff doing that if this was Sunday morning.”
At one point, Int Base housed something like 800 workers, but we’ve been told that that number is way down now. In 2009, the Tampa Bay Times series “The Truth Rundown” revealed that Int Base housed a bizarre prison for executives, “The Hole,” and was otherwise a scary compound where workers were starved and punished. After that series came out, we’ve heard, the prisoners of the Hole are still segregated, but they spend their time in courserooms during the day and confined to spartan rooms in Berthing at night. And the overall population of the compound has come way down as Scientology leader David Miscavige seems to be putting more emphasis on the Clearwater, Florida base, as well as a new studio compound in Los Angeles.
Still, Int Base is largely the way it’s been for many years, with some important differences. Hawkins, for example, pointed out something that numerous other people noticed: Near a roundabout down from Building 50, the RTC headquarters, there was a bare spot that is marked with an “X.”
Sinar Parman tells us this was where Building 119 stood, which housed CMO Gold and the Household Unit. Sinar had a room in the building from 1981 to 1986.
It was the Household Unit that Gerry Armstrong was assigned to when he discovered that there was a huge collection of L. Ron Hubbard’s personal documents and artifacts on the property that he archived and which eventually became the center of intense litigation for years.
Paul Burkhart tells us what was being planned for this spot after Building 119 was torn down: “This is where Building 51 was supposed to be built. Building 51 is where Int Scientology Management staff were to be located. But those staff were all assigned to the Hole. Even when they were in the Hole, this building was still being planned. Probably 200 different space plans were done (no exaggeration) and submitted to Miscavige on how Management was going to be set up. Staff in the Hole even worked on the plans. Eventually my senior and I got plans for Building 51 approved. I did renderings of the new building. An Architect was hired to produce construction drawings for the building, and those were construction drawings done. Contractors provided bids on the cost of the construction. The small building that used to be on that lot was demolished to make room. And a decade later – the lot is still empty.”
Burkhart and Hawkins also both noted that the place in general is looking a bit dog-eared.
Burkhart: “In 2010, there were a lot of plans being submitted (and eventually approved) with regard to Base Landscaping and Lighting. After all that planning, I don’t see that much of it ever got done. Overall the drone flyover gave me a feeling of quiet acquiescence and not much happening. Maybe it was just the serene music track. A handful of people on a 500 acre $250 million base going thru the same motions, day after day, week after week, year after year … decade after decade.”
Hawkins: “The grounds are in terrible shape compared to when we were there a decade ago – large areas of what used to be lawn are now brown, desert landscape. Probably due to lack of staff to maintain it and lack of water. Huge brown spots on the lawns which Miscavige never would have tolerated in the ‘old days.’ Still huge areas of lawn wasting water.”
One big change from previous years was the way a whole section in the northwest has been altered. “All of the buildings out at OGH are gone – Old Gilman House, Maintenance Man’s House, etc. There was a whole group of buildings out there at the northwest end of the property – all dirt now. These buildings were mostly used as prisons for wayward staff. They probably use sections of Berthing for that now, as Tom mentioned,” Hawkins noted.
Also, a swamp in that area has been removed, as Sinar Parman noted. He said that besides the removal of the Old Gilman House (OGH) and “Maintenance Man House” that as nearby, something called the “Wiese House” has been taken away, as well as the “Horwich House.”
Sinar — who at one time was L. Ron Hubbard’s personal chef — also noted some changes to the south fields.
And he wanted to clear up some identifications of structures near “The Hole.” It was at the music studio here that Hubbard’s “Space Jazz” album was recorded, as well as the “We Stand Tall” video. It was also used for Tom Cruise’s courseroom when he visited in 1990.
But maybe the most important thing we left out of our tour of the base yesterday was to pinpoint where David Miscavige lives when he’s on site. In the middle of the compound, on the north side of Gilman Springs Road, there are three rectangular buildings known as “The Villas.” Miscavige’s personal quarters are in the easternmost one, known as “Upper Villa.” Paul Burkhart helped us out with the identity of the other structures around it.
Burkhart spotted a couple of other things in the high-definition footage. “The Berthing Building landscaping has grown in nicely. When I was last there in 2012, I saw staff that had been assigned to the hole out working on the landscaping around Berthing….It looks like there is a sand sorting operation going on by the generator. The base is probably selling sand. A lot of sand washes off the hills.”
And: “The usual piles of shredding in large bags are seen outside the shred room by the dumpsters.”
Isn’t it fun what we’ve learned, thanks to our anonymous drone pilot friend?
And we’re working on some expert help to identify what we can in our next video, coming soon.
In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this question.
Chris Shelton on ‘Scientology’
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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…
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