We noticed Tim DeWall made an interesting comment at his Facebook page about a new set of people coming out of Scientology and reaching out to him and his wife, Sylvia. You may remember the story we did about the DeWalls, and the audiotape that recorded the moment Sylvia was learning that a young ethics officer at the Flag Land Base planned to have her declared a “suppressive person,” forcing her to cut off all of her relationships with other church members.
We told Tim we’d be interested to hear from any of the new people who have contacted them. So Tim introduced us to Kelly Jordan. Kelly lives in Sarasota after leaving her job at Scientology’s Clearwater mission eight years ago. What follows is the Facebook messenger conversation we had, edited only a little for clarity.
I was on staff at the Clearwater mission for 14 years and it was pretty horrible. I left in 2008. I live in Sarasota now, I have a very good life. Mostly I just feel really stupid for sticking around so long. During my time in Scientology there was quite a bit of what I would consider to be emotional abuse, not to mention financial instability in the extreme.
How about the rest of your family? Were they in and did they get out?
No, I moved to Florida from Texas and got in right after that. All my family was still in Texas, and so for all those years I barely saw them, I guess because we were in Clearwater.
When you say ‘Clearwater,’ we tend to think of the Flag Land Base. But Clearwater also has a mission, about four miles east of the Fort Harrison Hotel and the rest of the Flag compound.
Yep. It’s been there since the ’80s.
We suppose it exists because Flag isn’t for beginners.
No, Flag is not for beginners. The Captain of Flag asked the mission holder, Ann Manierre, to start the mission in 1986, I think. It was very successful in the 80’s. But in the last several years, not so much. There were only 5 or so staff when I was there.
How about a typical day?
Arrive in the morning for study time. Break at noon for lunch, which was eaten during a meeting. Greet public at 12:45, work until 5, eat dinner at our desks while meeting, then work until 1030 or so, depending. Sometimes later, especially on Wednesdays. For the last few years we closed at 5pm on weekends. But we worked 7 days.
And for what pay?
“What pay” is right. Anywhere from nothing to $300 a week. Basically, we had a Sea Org schedule.
A Sea Org schedule, at a mission?
Yes, we started at 9 am and went until 10:30 or 11:30 at night, seven days a week and then eventually we closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We were supposed to have study time in the mornings, but since I was either “PTS” or “suppressive” repeatedly over all those years because it was so hard to get the stats up, I really didn’t have very much study time. I had no life. There were five Flag terminals [officials from the nearby Flag Land Base] coming and going from the mission all the time. If we didn’t do some kind of fundraising correctly for them then they would basically sit in the mission until we did it. The ED, Ann Manierre, is erratic. One day everything would be amazing and the next day the world was ending and it was all my fault. I never knew what I was walking into. You see why I feel so bad about staying so long? But I was married to a Scientologist and I didn’t want to lose him. Also, he supported me, so what choice did I have? There was a certain amount of glory being that close to Flag. My husband and I were Cornerstone members of the Super Power Building, and there was stature connected with that.
How much did that cost you?
Super Power Cornerstone I think was $100,000. Plus he was a patron of the IAS, which was $40,000 at the time. And that was before 9/11. My husband was in a tech industry, and then the stock market crashed and he had to declare bankruptcy at some point after that.
Are you still married to him?
No, but we are still friends because I left the mission on good terms, I was not declared or anything.
How high on the Bridge did you get?
That’s the big joke, I only got to ARC Straightwire. And Student Hat on the training side. In 14 years. When you are constantly in ethics trouble for absolutely no reason, you don’t make it very far up the Bridge. Since I’ve left Scientology I’ve now been at my job for five years and I’ve had two promotions and my boss loves me. So if you compare the two, it makes no sense.
When was the last time you were sec-checked? What was it for? The reason for being in ethics trouble, in other words.
I was only sec-checked [interrogated] once because we only had one auditor who didn’t have time for staff. So I did Lower Conditions over and over. Each time was different. Down stats. Not meeting quota. I can’t even remember. Such trivial stuff.
So describe for us what the last eight years have been like as you’ve adjusted to life after Scientology.
At first it was hard because I was super broke and my credit score was low and I had nothing. I literally lived in a one-room studio for $500 a month which my mother helped pay. It was humiliating. And the reason I left (even though I had wanted to leave for years) is that I got so sick I couldn’t get out of bed for a month. So eventually I got a part time job and a bigger place, and a full time job. Now I am happily remarried, have a great job, an excellent credit score and financial stability. At first when I left, it was very difficult for me to function; I always felt like Ann was watching me — I could hear her in my head, criticizing me. I couldn’t just sit and relax, I had to always be doing something because that was expected of me for so long. It took years for me to sort of become a real person again. I mean, I joined staff one year out of college. I had no life experience. When I left I had no real life job experience. It was not easy. It was even hard not to talk with my speech not being littered with Scientology terminology – I had done it for so long.
And what got you in to begin with after you moved to Florida?
I met a guy in Austin and we moved to Clearwater to be closer to his family and they were all Scientologists. His mom took me to the mission.
So you recently reached out to Sylvia and Tim?
Yes, I was on your site and saw an article about Sylvia, and I messaged her just to say I was happy for them. I didn’t know them well but I always liked them.
Have you reached out to other ex-members? Have you run into any former friends criticizing you for leaving the church?
No, I just sort of vanished. And I’m not in an area where there are any Scientologists.
Do you know anyone who is still there? Do you know if things have changed at all?
I just know Ann and her husband Carter are still there. Everyone else that was there with me is gone. Last I heard there was only Ann, Carter who audits, and a part time supervisor.
When you were working so many hours for so little pay, how did you live? And how did you come up with such large donations?
Before I was married I rented a room, it was tight. My husband had a very good job.
What else do you want readers to know about your experience?
I still can’t believe I wasted all those years but I had to put it behind me. I’m really not gullible but when you’re young, it is easy to think you really are saving the world. They have a very crafty way of getting you in with the basic stuff and then before you realize it, if you want to leave, you could lose all your connections. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in, and I had to start my life over from scratch. But if there there is anyone who wants to leave, they absolutely should. Life out here is real. In there it isn’t.
It’s a pretty familiar call or message that you receive in a job like this. The person who wants to talk to you has read your stories about Scientology’s legendary retaliation tactics. About the private investigators, the surveillance, the harassment, and in cases like Paulette Cooper’s or Lisa McPherson’s, even worse.
So they call you up or send you an email or Facebook message, and they desperately want to get together or want to talk on the phone about how they’ve become victims of Scientology Fair Game, and the church has tapped their phones, broken into their homes, kidnapped family members…and all for no particular reason at all.
We get that call about once a month now. At times in our career they used to come more frequently. Sometimes it was less. And you try, politely, to suggest that the person seek professional help of some kind. You then never hear from them again.
Like we said, it’s a very familiar experience, and you tend to forget them pretty quickly. But there was one call exactly like this that we received at the Village Voice in 2011 that we’ll never forget.
Because it was from Shelley Duvall.
The actress, famous for The Shining and Popeye and other films, had been reading our stories and wanted to tell us that her house was under constant attack by Scientologists.
For about a minute, we were tempted to write a story about it — the National Enquirer had already said Shelley was living in squalor in Texas and had lost her mind. But we just hoped she got some help and figured it wasn’t newsworthy that someone who had played such interesting characters had descended into madness.
We bring this up today because Dr. Phil McGraw has decided to put Duvall and her mental state on television and it’s kicking up controversy. Some feel that he should have left her alone with her delusions. No doubt others will be glad that he’s tried to help her out. We can see both sides of that argument.
But what really caught our attention was that Vivian Kubrick has spoken up publicly and is attacking Dr. Phil for exploiting Shelley.
Why Vivian? For the connection with her father’s film, The Shining, apparently.
But the USA Today piece that mentions her doesn’t point out the other weird connection: That Kubrick herself is a Scientologist, and maybe is not the first person you’d think of to be an authority on mental health.
We’ve written at length about Vivian’s journey in Scientology and how it broke her father’s heart. She might want to address those issues before going off on other people about the best way to treat persistent delusions. It’s just a thought.
Go here to start making your plans.
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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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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