What a surprise we got late last night when longtime friend to the Bunker Laurie “Chocolate Velvet” Harness posted some fascinating photos she had tracked down.
She tells us that just a few weeks ago, the woman in the photos, Alexis Connolly, had posted them on public websites, and Laurie immediately knew how significant they were.
Alexis, of course, is the daughter of L. Ron Hubbard who was born just weeks before her father published the book that changed his life, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950.
Laurie put together a couple of the photos with one of Hubbard and posted it last night on Facebook…
Hubbard was first married to Margaret “Polly” Grubb in 1933 and they had two children, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (1934-1991) who was also known as “Nibs” and later in life as “Ron DeWolf,” and Katherine (1936-2010) who was called Katy and Kay, and whose married name was Gillespie.
Hubbard married Sara Northrup (1924-1997) in 1946, a year before his divorce to Polly came through in 1947. It was Sara who was with Hubbard when he wrote and published Dianetics and then experienced huge success in 1950. And it was their split in 1951 — as well as the Dianetics craze fading — that made 1951 probably the worst in his life…
In Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name, Sara and her story play an important part. Here’s a transcript of a key segment, describing Hubbard and his actions regarding his wife and young child. (Sara’s words were from a diary she left behind that was read by an actress for the movie).
Sara: We were surrounded by sycophants. He began to believe that he was a savior and hero, that he really was this god figure. He was absolutely convinced that he had the cure for the psychological ills of mankind, and that the only reason that it wasn’t being propagated far and wide was that the medical profession had a vested interest in keeping people sick. I think he was afraid that some psychiatrists would pop him into an institution. He degenerated into a really paranoid, terrifying person.
Alex Gibney: Sara threatened to leave Hubbard unless he got psychiatric help. He responded by kidnapping their baby and taking her to Cuba.
Lawrence Wright: He was incapable of taking care of her, so he put her in the charge of a mother and daughter who were both mentally retarded. And they apparently kept her in some kind of cage.
Sara: He called me and told me that he had killed her. He said he had cut her into little pieces and dropped the pieces in a river, and it was my fault. Then he’d call me back and say that she was still alive. And this went on and on and on.
Gibney: When Hubbard came back to the U.S., Sara persuaded him to agree to a divorce and give her custody of their daughter.
Sara: When I left him, he cleaned out all the joint bank accounts so that I wouldn’t have any money.
After their split, Ron tried to erase Sara and Alexis from his life. In 1952 he married his third wife, Mary Sue, and they went on to have four children.
Sara and Alexis made a key appearance in our book about Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, and we thought it might be best just to reproduce the entire segment here, which included Paulette’s encounter with Alexis as a college student…
Hubbard met Sara Elizabeth Northrup in 1945, when he’d been demobilized from the Navy following the war. His wanderings in California had taken him to the large, notorious Pasadena
house of rocket scientist Jack Parsons, an amateur occultist who only rented rooms to other eccentrics. Northrup was Parsons’s girlfriend, but soon after Hubbard moved in and joined Parsons in his occult activities, he stole Northrup away. Parsons didn’t seem too put out by it. By that time, Hubbard had separated from his first wife, Margaret “Polly” Grubb, but he was still legally married to her when he proposed to Northrup. They were married in Maryland in 1946.
Northrup reportedly wrote some of Hubbard’s published stories, perhaps helping to explain his prodigious output, and she was with him when, in 1950, he published Dianetics: The Modern
Science of Mental Health, the popular book that sparked a brief craze. (Their daughter Alexis arrived just a few weeks before the book did.) By 1951, however, the craze had subsided, Hubbard was broke, and his marriage was a shambles. Things got so bad, at one point Hubbard absconded with Alexis to Cuba, while Sara went to the press with damning allegations about the state of her husband’s mind. She also accused him of torture.
A few months later, Sara got custody of her daughter when she signed a retraction of her previous statements about Hubbard, and the marriage was legally ended. But then Hubbard began a long campaign to erase any mention of her and to pretend that he’d never married her and even that Alexis wasn’t his daughter.
In 1968, Hubbard gave an interview to the UK television program, World in Action. By then, he’d had four children with his third wife, Mary Sue Whipp. The interview included this exchange:
Hubbard: How many times have I been married? I’ve been married twice. And I’m very happily married just now. I have a lovely wife, and I have four children. My first wife is dead.
Interviewer: What happened to your second wife?
Hubbard: I never had a second wife.
It was a nonsensical answer that made obvious how badly Hubbard wanted to erase from his life his bigamous marriage to Sara Northrup, and his fathering of her child, Alexis. By the time Paulette’s book came out in the spring of 1971, Alexis Hollister was in college. (She had taken the last name of the man Sara had married after Hubbard, Miles Hollister.) While she was researching the book, Paulette had contacted Sara Hollister in Hawaii. They had exchanged some letters. After the book came out, Alexis also reached out to Paulette. She said she wanted to visit Paulette in New York. Paulette was wary, suspecting that it might be a hoax. But she gave Alexis directions for how to find her at 16 E. 80th Street, and the young woman came down from Smith College in Massachusetts.
As Paulette waited for her to show up, she thought about all the forms of identification she was going to ask for. This woman was going to have to do a lot to convince Paulette that she
really was the daughter of L. Ron Hubbard.
And then there was a knock at the door. Paulette opened it, and all of her doubts melted away. It was L. Ron Hubbard’s daughter all right. There was no mistaking it. Alexis was 22, she had the characteristic red hair, and she even had some of his facial features. Paulette was convinced. Alexis explained her reason for wanting to see Paulette, and it made her wince. Alexis wanted to know how Paulette had been convinced that her father had committed bigamy. Because if it were true, Alexis said, it made her a bastard.
Paulette’s heart sank. In the early 1970s, the notion of “illegitimacy” was still a serious social stigma. Paulette didn’t know what to say. “Don’t worry. I’d rather know the truth. I can take it,” Alexis told her.
Paulette showed her the documents which proved that Hubbard had still been married to his first wife, Polly Grubb, when he married Sara Northrup in 1946. Even though the divorce with Polly was final by the next year, 1947, and Alexis wasn’t born until 1950, the fact that her mother’s marriage had been bigamous when it started was enough to convince Alexis that her birth wasn’t legitimate. She thanked Paulette.
Then, on March 20, Sara sent Paulette a lengthy letter from Maui. She said that in the fall – in the months after Paulette’s book came out – a couple of men had come to visit her. “They were very pale – wore cheap black suits, white shirts, dark ties,” Sara wrote. They claimed to be “agents,” but wouldn’t tell her what agency they worked for. They asked her a lot of questions, and then warned her that reporters – or people posing as reporters – would be coming around to ask about Hubbard. They told her not to say anything. When Sara said she wouldn’t answer any of their questions unless they properly identified themselves, the men left, saying they were going to check with “headquarters.” They never returned.
Sara wrote that Alexis had also been approached by Hubbard’s agents, and they had delivered her a note at college that said Sara had been a prostitute, that she’d worked during the war as a Nazi spy, and that Alexis was an illegitimate child. The men who read it to her told her the note was written by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
But Alexis didn’t buy it. She knew they weren’t FBI agents. She understood who had written the note. “She was both angry and shocked that Ron could do such a thing,” Sara wrote to Paulette.
In June 1951, Sara had signed a retraction of her earlier claims about Hubbard in order to get custody of Alexis and to finalize the divorce. But her 1972 letter to Paulette showed that in
fact, she hadn’t changed her mind at all. And if Sara went public with such thoughts, it could be the nightmare of 1951 all over again for Hubbard.
Alexis today lives on a horse farm, and she’s married and has three grown children. As Paulette discovered back in 1971, Alexis does resemble her father.
Alexis has turned down interview requests in the past. Does her putting photos online indicate that she’s ready to change her mind on that? We’ll try to find out.
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,655 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,252 days.
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Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,094 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,180 days.
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E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
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.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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