We’ve put together a list of our favorite stories that we did in previous years. Some of the stories were scoops, others were investigative features, and some of them we just really enjoyed writing. We’ve picked out stories we 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).
Best of the Bunker, 2016
20. Scientology’s 20 biggest celebrities in order of those most likely to defect
Sure, you get lists of Scientology celebrities all the time. But we put this one together after Jason Lee bolted from the church because we wanted to know, from our Hollywood Celebrity Centre source, who he thought might be the next to walk. This list kicked up a lot of disagreement, and that’s what it was designed to do.
19. A Scientology spy comes forward — now he’s ready for war with David Miscavige
Skip Young had a small but significant place in Scientology history as a San Diego cop who provided a footnote to the Snow White Program. But we found out that today he’s been abandoned by his two daughters, who have “disconnected” from him in the Scientology way. From Scientology spy operative to grieving dad. His was one of the most unexpected stories we covered this year.
18. How Liz Gale came to disconnect from her own mother, Scientology style
Mark Ebner had done an amazing job telling the story of Philip Gale, a young genius who had grown up in Scientology and then had thrown himself off a building on the MIT campus on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday in 1998. But Philip’s younger sister, Liz Gale, had a journey out of Scientology that deserved a telling of its own.
17. VIDEO: David Miscavige’s entire speech at Scientology’s Atlanta ‘Ideal Org’ opening
What a coup this was. If you know how hard it’s been just to get a decent photo of David Miscavige at his appearances opening new Scientology buildings, you know that our correspondents had finally squared the circle with this one. From a perch across the street, they managed to video the Scientology leader’s entire speech at the Atlanta ceremony in April. Sure, there’s traffic noise, but the quality of this video is really pretty good considering how difficult it was even to obtain it.
16. What you didn’t see on ‘I Am Cait’: Kate Bornstein and Caitlyn Jenner at Scientology HQ
Kate Bornstein and Caitlyn Jenner, walking into the Los Angeles Org and asking to see Kate’s long-lost Sea Org daughter? And cameras weren’t rolling? We’re just fortunate that Kate told us all about it. What a scene.
15. Appeals court strikes Scientology’s $1 million judgment against Ken Dandar
This may have been the biggest surprise of the year. Scientology appeared to have attorney Ken Dandar dead to rights after winning a ruinous $1 million judgment against him. How he got there was incredibly complex, but a retired judge seemed determine to make Dandar pay for suing Scientology. Ken was appealing, but they looked like long shots. How wrong we were.
14. What’s the worst that can happen when you sue Scientology? Here’s one frightening example.
Karla Taylor believed that Scientology had misused the trademarks of her company, the National Association of Forensic Counselors, in order to hide the problems of its drug rehab network, Narconon. But after filing her lawsuit against 82 defendants, alleging a widespread conspiracy run by David Miscavige, she then found herself in the crosshairs. Eventually, a magistrate judge ordered Karla to turn over her private laptop to attorneys representing Narconon, which our legal observers told us was beyond the pale. What is it about Scientology and the courts?
13. For Scientology’s most infamous dirty trickster, retirement has a happy ending
If you study the dirty tricks played by Scientology on its perceived enemies, one name comes up as much as anyone’s: Eugene Ingram, disgraced former Los Angeles cop and chief private eye for Scientology in the 1980s and 1990s. What a treat it was, with the help of our researchers, to find Gene today, “el Jefe” of his own Mexican cantina.
12. THE BILLBOARD IS UP: Scientology’s disconnection policy on view in Los Angeles
What a day this was in the Bunker, whose readers had helped raise the lion’s share of the money Phil and Willie Jones used to post their own billboard in Los Angeles bringing attention to Scientology’s policy of “Disconnection.” After, that is, two previous billboard companies had turned them down in the face of Scientology intimidation.
11. Is Scientology using Tommy Davis to get Aussie billionaire James Packer back in the fold?
Former Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis continues to be a favorite around here at the Bunker, and so we like to keep tabs on him. And did that pay off this year. Tommy has a cool new job in Hollywood, but our experts tell us he’s still likely to be trying to get James Packer back into the Scientology fold. We’re still looking for evidence of that.
10. Scientology’s Space Man: The newest defector from church management opens up
Paul Burkhart was another key defection from Scientology’s upper ranks. He was in a unique position to watch what was happening at both Int Base and then at the Hollywood Guaranty Building in Los Angeles. And having left in August 2013, his information was years fresher than anything else we’d seen. And most shocking? His estimate, based on access he had to enrollment documents, that Scientology’s active membership worldwide has now fallen under 20,000.
9. Some churches take care of the old — Scientology instead works them to death
The story of Claire Reppen was not an easy one to read. In her late 60s and suffering the effects of advanced cancer, she was still a Sea Org member and was expected to work like one. Her son provided for us a handwritten letter Claire wrote, asking for relief from her work, and her supervisors own complaint about her tendency to slack off. The details are gruesome, and point to a larger problem: Scientology has no idea what to do with the many older members it has now, except work them to death.
8. Disconnection, neglect, and suicide: Scientology, it’s even worse than you think
More than a disconnection story, this is a saga about a Scientology family that is so disturbing, we can’t look at that photo, above, without feeling astonished that it exists. Share this story with your friends, and tell them that Scientology is always worse than you thought.
7. CLAIM: Frail looking Shelly Miscavige spotted near Scientology compound in California
After years of writing about Shelly Miscavige, the wife that Scientology leader David Miscavige made disappear more than a decade ago, we were stunned to learn that there’s a good chance she’s been spotted — and exactly where we’d been telling readers to look for her. We’ve vetted the couple that reported these sightings, and we’re taking their claim seriously. And because of that, we’re more concerned than ever about the state that Shelly is in. Much more on this is coming soon.
6. Lucia Ribisi ditches Scientology and says of famous dad Giovanni, he’s questioned it
We spent months checking our facts before revealing that Lucia Ribisi had talked publicly about ditching Scientology on a Los Angeles radio show, but under an assumed name. Her defection puts enormous pressure on her famous dad, Giovanni, who, she claims, has had his own doubts about the church. This is huge: The Ribisi clan is one of the most prominent in the church, and Giovanni’s divorced parents are among the most dedicated Scientologists still left in the organization.
5. Tom Cruise penthouse in Scientology’s spiritual mecca? We have the plans
It’s so fun to beat the celebrity-obsessed bigs to a story like this. Tom Cruise is having a $3 million, double-level penthouse with a private, 9-car garage with car elevator built out in a former bank building smack in the middle of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida. Mom lives nearby, and son Connor is also in town, so maybe it makes sense to Tom to have a place in Clearwater. But the location at the center of Scientology’s “spiritual mecca” also says a lot, doesn’t it?
4. The fight over the secrets on a Scientology spy’s seized laptop that no one is talking about
Years of detailed information that spells out Scientology’s elaborate and possibly illegal spying operations is sitting in the evidence room of a Wisconsin town, and someone has gone to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on it. Can journalists get there first? We obtained a couple of court documents that spelled out this extraordinary situation, but then we made a call out to our fellow journalists — someone needs to get their hands on that crucial information before David Miscavige does.
3. Scientology’s secret sites: The Bunker premieres drone footage never before seen of Int Base
We never knew him. We only know that he showed up out of nowhere and gave us the links to a set of the some of the most vivid footage we’ve ever seen. Our mystery man had flown a drone equipped with a 4K camera over Scientology’s super secret compounds in California and New Mexico, giving us unprecedented looks at them, with knockout clarity. Twin Peaks, where Shelly Miscavige is most likely being held? This footage not only shows you the compound, but we pinpointed the house where Shelly probably lives, and the building where she works. Other flyovers included Int Base where David Miscavige lives, the Creston ranch were L. Ron Hubbard died, the spaceship-looking vault site on the Northern California coast, and the famous Trementina base in New Mexico.
2. How Lisa Marie Presley became Scientology leader David Miscavige’s worst nightmare
This was a two-part series in April that had taken us more than a year to put together, and coincided with the publication of Ron Miscavige’s memoir, Ruthless. Ron’s escape from Int Base and his memoir were part of an ongoing destruction of his family, orchestrated by his son, David, Scientology’s iron-fisted ruler. But what no one knew until we revealed it was that one person who was intimately involved with the Miscavige family saga was Lisa Marie Presley. She became so incensed with how Ron was being treated by his own children, she went to the Flag Land Base in Clearwater in October 2014 to have a showdown with David Miscavige. He sent his sisters in his stead to scream at Lisa Marie in what has to be the single weirdest scene we’ve written about in several years.
1. Spying, intimidation, and ruin: Two lives caught up in Scientology’s notorious ‘Fair Game’
We will probably fail at trying to impart how much this story meant to us. We knew, when Rob Ramsay first brought us his dead brother’s private papers, that we had a unique opportunity. Rob’s brother, Peter, had been a dedicated Scientologist, and he had also been a spy for the church who helped Scientology carry out its ‘Fair Game’ campaigns. And on one person in particular, a guy named Gregg Hagglund whose own history was odd and wonderful. Telling the tale of how the lives of these two men were intertwined because of Scientology’s vicious thirst for revenge was one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences of our career.
Best of the Bunker, 2015
1. Felony raps for Scientologists running L.A. rehab scam with corrupt educators
2. AUDIO LEAK: Hear a Scientologist being declared suppressive and facing the loss of her family
3. Jim Carrey’s Scientologist girlfriend on SRD when she killed herself: friends
Cat White’s ‘twin’ | Cat’s Hollywood clique | Scientology spied on Carrey | Cat White’s husband Mark Burton | Cat’s secret wake | The man who found Cat | Cat’s Ireland-Scientology connection
4. The shocking case of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill you haven’t heard
5. NY Times reports link between Scientology and hack of two who appeared in ‘Going Clear’
6. Scientology’s day care from Hell: The scandal the church managed to keep hidden, until now
7. Why Steve Fishman — of the notorious Fishman Papers — is today serving 21 years in prison
8. Hear the full police interview of Scientology spies and their stalking Ron Miscavige Sr
9. Ten year gone: Shelly Miscavige, the wife Scientology’s leader wants us to forget
10. The life and death of Scientology ‘Clear’ Lisa McPherson told in real time
11. The Leah Remini files: An exclusive look at the ‘KRs’ that inform her memoir
12. Another Scientology rehab death, and why this one is particularly bad for David Miscavige
14. How Scientology broke up Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers: The story you haven’t heard
15. The story of Brian Sheen and his disconnected Scientology daughter you haven’t heard
16. Louis Theroux’s ‘My Scientology Movie’: A hilarious take on an unfunny bunch
17. New government release contains a surprise: L. Ron Hubbard flunked out of high school, too
18. John Coale, Greta Van Susteren, and the miracle of Scientology drug technology: A meditation
19. Listen to Jim Jones root for Scientology against Paulette Cooper in a 1978 Jonestown address
20. Reed Slatkin dies of heart attack: Scientologist served time as major Ponzi schemer
Best of the Bunker, 2014
1. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world
2. Up the Bridge: We finally reach OT 8, but was its first version really a hoax?
3. Shock dox: Scientology’s book value for just two of its entities is $1.2 billion
4. Scientology’s disconnection policy foiled as Jeremy Powers reunites with his family
5. Rare tape reveals how L. Ron Hubbard really came up with Scientology’s space cooties
6. Monique Rathbun files for sanctions, submits Scientology leader’s foul-mouthed texts
7. Five things to watch for in today’s first Scientology wedding in the UK
8. ‘Bare-Faced Messiah’ back in print: Our interview with author Russell Miller
9. Jillian Schlesinger: How I got into Scientology and how I got out
10. We asked David Miscavige’s tailor for his exact height and here’s what he told us
11. Where is Scientology keeping Barbara Cordova Oliver?
12. Media advisory: Stop saying that Scientology is infested with big movie stars already
13. Denise Brennan, 1952-2014: A truthteller who exposed Scientology’s corporate shell game
14. Verdict: Scientology’s Quebec rehab facility violated human rights of David Love and two others
15. LAWSUIT: Oklahoma officials hid wrongdoing at Scientology drug rehab
16. The rising business star, his mother, and Scientology’s attempt to rip them apart
17. The Scientologist who wouldn’t fly: The rise and fall of insurance mogul Richie Acunto
18. Jamie DeWolf: I’ve found the last memoir of the son of Scientology’s founder
19. Scientology says it’s received $5.7 million from Google in advertising grants
20. L. Ron Hubbard explains to a friend the real reason he wrote ‘Dianetics’
Best of the Bunker, 2013
1. How Scientology coerced a child to have an abortion: The Laura DeCrescenzo files
3. Monique Rathbun files suit against Scientology over harassment
4. PZ Myers helps us plunder the riches of L. Ron Hubbard’s book of Scientology evolution!
5. LEAKED: Scripts spell out how Scientology directs the unsuspecting to its rehab network
6. The history of Scientology’s weird vaults — the bizarre ‘Battlefield Earth’ connection!
7. SCIENTOLOGY’S PRIVATE DANCER: A story of seduction, intervention, and betrayal
8. LIVE OVER CLEARWATER: Watching Scientology from an Eye in the Sky
9. Will Smith-backed school that used Scientology materials closes its doors
10. Did the Headleys and their lawsuit torpedo the FBI investigation of Scientology?
11. Leah Remini files missing-person report on Scientology leader’s wife
12. Blogging Dianetics: Vance Woodward helps us parse L. Ron Hubbard’s masterpiece (series)
13. Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: We don’t think Scientology is going to like this book much
14. Document leak: Scientology sexual histories
15. Jenna Miscavige Hill on her uncle, Scientology’s leader: A bully too afraid to show his face
16. Today you begin your training as a Scientologist
17. Former Scientology enforcer Marty Rathbun examines his past as the church’s ‘warrior’
19. In his new book, is Neil Gaiman exorcising his Scientology past?
20. Mary Sue Hubbard’s last will fulfilled: Her dog bereft of life, it’s time to sell her house!
Best of the Bunker, 2012
1. Scientology’s master spies
3. Scientology abandoned by L. Ron Hubbard’s granddaughter and David Miscavige’s father
4. Scientology’s secret vaults: A rare interview With a former member of hush-hush ‘CST’
5. SCIENTOLOGY CRUMBLING: An entire church mission defects as David Miscavige faces leadership crisis
6. How Scientology spied on Tom Cruise
8. Scientology’s homophobia: Even the church’s token gay guy was disgusted
9. Scientology’s Writers of the Future Contest: Troubling ties to abuse in the church
10. Kate Bornstein’s amazing voyage
11. Scientology, deep in the heart of Texas: The Voice at the Debbie Cook hearing
12. Death of a Scientologist: Why Annie Broeker, Famous in the Church, Had to Die in Secret
13. Scientology and the occult: Hugh Urban’s new exploration of L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley
14. VIDEO: Proof that L. Ron Hubbard was the most awesome human being ever
15. Scientology, ‘disconnection,’ and homophobia: Derek Bloch’s story
16. Why do Scientologists accept the Xenu story?
17. Scientology’s concentration camp for its executives: The prisoners, past and present
18. The Strange Death of Flo Barnett, Mother-in-Law to Scientology Leader David Miscavige
19. Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook’s email, annotated
20. Scientology Spokeswoman Who Disconnected From Her Father Criticizes Scientology Victim Who Didn’t
A Sample of earlier stories, 1995 – 2011
[Link] Scientology’s Cruise Ship as Prison: The Voice Interviews Valeska Paris
[Link] THE TOP 25 PEOPLE CRIPPLING SCIENTOLOGY
1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
[Link] Scientology in The New Yorker: Lawrence Wright Buries L. Ron Hubbard For Good
[Link] Tommy Davis, Scientology Spokesman, Secretly Recorded Discussing ‘Disconnection’
[Link] Scientology’s Enemies List: Are You On It?
[Link] Inside Scientology’s Labor Camp That Benefits Tom Cruise: The Photos
[Link] Daniel Montalvo Hits Scientology With Stunning Child Labor Lawsuits
[Link] ‘Inside Scientology’ Promises a Lot, And Delivers: David Miscavige Has Much to Worry About
[Link] Melissa Paris, Valeska’s Sister, And Her Own Ordeal in Scientology’s Cadet and Sea Orgs: Forced to Marry at 16
[Link] Scientology in Israel: Arson, Attempted Murder, Foreclosure, General Paranoia — And a Visit by the Voice!
[Link] Scientology Never Forgets: A Telemarketing Holiday Miracle
[Link] Scientologists: How Many Of Them Are There, Anyway?
[Link] When Scientologists Attack! (First coverage of the Squirrel Busters in Texas)
[Link] Milton Katselas Pleads With Scientology After Grant Cardone’s Attack: A Church Jihad?
[Link] Scientology Cruise Ship as Hellhole: The Ramana Dienes-Browning Story
[Link] Scientology and the Nation of Islam: A Heartwarming Independence Weekend Parable
[Link] Another Ex-Scientologist Publishes Damning Tell-All (‘Counterfeit Dreams’ by Jefferson Hawkins)
[Link] Scientology “Dark Ops” Program Exposed, Says Former Top Official
[Link] Daniel Montalvo, 19, Leaves Scientology, Which Convinces LA Sheriff to Jail Him For It
[Link] Aaron Saxton, Scientology Enforcer, Stops By For a Chat
[Link] ‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Ditches Scientology
[Link] Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’: Life at Scientology’s Secret Headquarters (Marc Headley’s book ‘Blown for Good’)
[Link] Scientology’s Leader a Sadistic Slapper, Say Top-Level Defectors: St. Pete Times
[Link] Scientology Gets Its Ass Kicked In the Desert
[Link] Scientology’s Crushing Defeat (The Larry Wollersheim story)
[Link] Scientology’s First Celebrity Defector Reveals Church Secrets
[Link] Jason Beghe Turned Away at NY Scientology Building
[Link] What to Get L. Ron Hubbard for his Birthday
[Link] Nightline Swings at Scientology, Misses
[Link] Isaac Hayes Was No Expert Scientologist
[Link] Sympathy for the Devil (The Tory Christman story, written for New Times Los Angeles)
[Link] John Travolta won’t talk to The Finger (Written as “The Finger” for New Times Los Angeles)
[Link] Double Crossed (The Graham Berry story)
[Link] Picket Fencing (The Jeff Jacobsen story)
[Link] Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans (The Rick Ross story)