Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


One of Scientology’s Early Celebrities: Charlie Manson!

Charles_MansonJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He now has a new edition of the book out, and on Saturdays he’s helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.

[ALSO TODAY: Another new lawsuit against Narconon Arrowhead; Scientology buys Larry Hagman’s Ojai palace; a big victory for blogging in Austria; and more!]

Jon, we know that Scientology relies on its celebrities to burnish its image. But in at least one case, there’s someone very famous whose involvement the church would rather keep under wraps. We’re talking about Charles Manson, diminutive cult leader and ward of the state of California. What do we know about Charlie’s time in Scientology?

JON: In 1969, when the Manson Family exploded across the headlines, the Guardian’s Office successfully downplayed Charlie Manson’s involvement with auditing. Manson says that he became “pretty heavily into Dianetics and Scientology” while he was in prison in the early 1960s. GO documents, seized by the FBI, show that Manson had received about 150 hours of auditing. This is more than I received in my nine-year involvement, and I reached OT V. The GO was also successful in keeping the involvement of other Family members from the press, but internal documents show that three others had been caught up in Scientology: Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Lanier Ramer, and Bruce Davis all received auditing. Manson was still keen on Scientology when he met Davis, and was attracted to Davis because of his involvement.

In prison, before the formation of the Family, Manson had gushed about Scientology to other inmates, including Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis, who was serving a life sentence for fourteen gangland killings.

THE BUNKER: In 1971, Paulette Cooper, in The Scandal of Scientology, not only reported that Manson had been involved in Scientology, but she also mentioned that he might have been involved in a Scientology breakaway group.


JON: That’s right. Two defectors had set up their own brand of Scientology and renamed it The Process. Along the way, they had also changed their own names, from Robert and Mary Ann Moore to “De Grimston.” Initially, they styled their splinter group Compulsions Analysis. Eventually, they settled on the title The Process Church of the Final Judgment. The De Grimstons and their followers dressed in black and walked their German Shepherds along the beaches of California. They accepted the Hubbard dictum that only adventurers make for worthy members of society, and they disdained the “greys,” who lived humdrum lives. For followers of The Process — of whom Manson was one — it was essential, as Hubbard stated his own central purpose in life, to “smash” their names into history. To the De Grimstons morality didn’t come into it, so they revered Hitler as a great success.

It is more than likely that Manson’s own despicable ideas were influenced by this take on Scientology.

Although it’s unrelated to Manson, Paulette Cooper also pointed to the gruesome murder of three teenagers in 1969: “Two were Scientologists. According to The New York Post, all three were brutally beaten, ritualistically stabbed, had their right eyes cut out, and were dumped 100 yards from a Scientology commune. One of the girls, Miss Doreen Gaul, nineteen, who came from New York to study Scientology, was naked except for a strand of Indian beads. The boy, James Sharpe, was fifteen years old. The third was unidentified. Doreen Gaul’s father allegedly told a New York Post reporter that she had lately become disenchanted with Scientology.”

For his book, The Ultimate Evil, author Maury Terry interviewed another serial killer, David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam.” Terry came to believe that Berkowitz’s involvement with Scientology had led him to accept direction from the De Grimstons, rather than from Sam the dog, whose son he claimed to be.

THE BUNKER: You’ve really managed to creep us out this week, Atack. Between today’s post and yesterday’s remembrance of Diane Colletto, we’ve heard enough about gruesome murders with connections to Scientology to last a while.


Scientology Pays $5 Million For Larry Hagman’s Ojai Palace. But Why?

HagmanOjaiYesterday, the Ventura County Star reported that Scientology’s wholly owned Social Betterment Properties International has paid $5 million cash for Larry Hagman’s palatial estate in Ojai.

Scientology’s “good works” umbrella front, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), has used SBPI in the past to purchase property for its programs, including the property that makes up its flagship drug rehab facility in Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead.

But why would Scientology buy up such an expensive piece of property at this point? The church has been in acquisition mode, buying expensive buildings for its “Ideal Org” program — but those are usually in the middle of sizable cities, not in a less populated part of California.

We asked former church spokesman Mike Rinder for his speculation on this purchase…

My guess is that it is for a celebrity detox/rehab facility.

Maybe even something with a completely different name than Narconon, which is rather rapidly going out of style.

Further, I would guess that Tom Cruise or John Travolta or someone has a celeb contact they want to help and there is nowhere to send them. So the Donald Trump of Scientology orders that a facility be found and purchased. 9 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms would be ideal. It will then be staffed with hand-picked people in a cost-is-no-object-when-it-comes-to-pleasing-Tom kind of way that Miscavige has used so often in the past (see plane hangar, motorcycles, limos, in fact the entire “Ideal Org” scheme).

It’s certainly not a retreat for ABLE executives to spend long weekends sitting by the pool. Unlikely to be used for criminals, or kids learning how to read or for printing The Way to Happiness booklets. So as far as ABLE activities go, that leaves detox/drug rehab. It even looks like Promises and some of the other high end drug rehab facilities north of LA.

And it’s close enough to be accessible and easily controlled by Miscavige’s RTC Storm Troopers (unlike Arrowhead).

Just my conjecture.

We think Rinder is right. And we can’t help thinking of something Luke Catton wrote about in his recent memoir, Have You Told All.

In the book, Catton described a Very Important Person arriving at Narconon Arrowhead in the Spring of 2003. It was a friend of Tom Cruise, and when he arrived, this big shot was given first-class treatment. But from Catton’s description, it was obvious that a remote facility in Oklahoma was maybe not the best place for such a global player needing to dry out. If Cruise was not pleased with how his friend was treated, this new place in Ojai may just be the ticket the next time a high-roller needs to go through withdrawal

UPDATE: In our comments, Catton confirms that as early as 2005, Narconon officials were talking about creating a special rehab facility for celebrities. It looks like that’s what the Hagman estate will become.


Another Lawsuit Alleging Fraud Filed Against Narconon Arrowhead

NNArrowheadThere are now eleven lawsuits pending against Scientology’s flagship drug rehab program in Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead — and ten of them have been filed by former prosecutor Gary Richardson.

Richardson filed five lawsuits against Narconon Arrowhead and its parent organizations on March 21, and yesterday, he added another complaint alleging fraud — but this one has a curious twist.

The plaintiff in the latest lawsuit is Rachel Petersen — the same Rachel Petersen who wrote about a wrongful death lawsuit facing Narconon Arrowhead for the McAlester News-Capital last August.

A reporter suing Narconon? We called Richardson last night, and he said that Peterson was once a patient at Narconon Arrowhead, and that’s what her suit is about. He said he’d send us the complaint today, and we’ll post it as soon as we get it. We also left a message with Petersen, wanting to ask her about the suit.

Briefly, here are the eleven suits now facing the drug rehab facility that have been filed in the last year (except for Landmeier’s which was filed earlier):

Heather Landmeier: Negligence; student of Narconon Arrowhead in 2008, now in a vegetative state.
Gabriel Graves: Wrongful death; died of unknown causes at Arrowhead in October 2011.
Hillary Holten: Wrongful death; died of unknown causes at Arrowhead in April 2012.
Stacy Dawn Murphy: Wrongful death; died of a drug overdose at Arrowhead in July 2012.
William Scott: Negligence; attended Narconon Arrowhead in November 2010.
Sue Ann Newman & Dena Shobe: False representation and fraud; Newman attended in May 2012.
Mary Cantu: False representation and fraud; son attended Arrowhead in July 2011.
Lisa Gray: False representation and fraud; son attended Arrowhead in May 2011.
Gina Nelsen: False representation and fraud; son attended Arrowhead in October 2012.
Vicki White: False representation and fraud; son attended Arrowhead in February 2011.
Rachel Petersen: Fraud; Petersen attended Arrowhead a few years ago, Richardson says.


In Austria, a Big Victory for Scientology Blogging

Wilfried_HandlIf the German-speaking world has a parallel to The Underground Bunker, it’s Wilfried Handl’s “Blog gegen Scientology,” which he runs out of Vienna, often linking to our stories.

Our total ignorance of German, however, has kept us from staying on top of Handl’s legal troubles, and for that reason we hope to catch up fast. Last year, several thousand German Scientology e-mails were made public by Anonymous, and Handl posted some of them on his blog.

Scientology sued Handl and also reported him for criminal prosecution. Yesterday, he told us that the civil lawsuit had been settled — on very favorable terms.

Handl has agreed to black out the names on the e-mails that he’s posted, but otherwise his blog can proceed as normal.

“Scientology paid all my attorney expenses (around 6,500 Euro) and I can use all hacked mails freely — they agreed about that!” Handl tells us.

Handl is still dealing with the investigation by Vienna’s National Criminal Court, and he says Scientology is trying to make him out as a leader of Anonymous. But for now, he’s encouraged by how things are going.

“I feel good. They paid about 20,000 Euro in court and attorney costs for some black outs on the e-mails. But the fight is not over yet,” he says.



Meanwhile, in Ireland…

Pete Griffiths, what have you done?



And For the Professorial Set…

Diane Johnson does the New York Review of Books thing, reviewing the new tomes by Lawrence Wright and Jenna Miscavige Hill in a lengthy and erudite piece.

We sincerely appreciate that Johnson, like so few others, brings up Scientology’s methods of retaliation:

People leaving the fold often will find themselves victims of vindictive harassment, Internet accusations, sometimes from fictional or quasi-fictional groups or websites like ReligiousFreedomWatch, or other Scientology front organizations pretending to be neutral public interest groups. The church has a baroque flair for imaginative persecution.

“Baroque” is a good word for it.

And finally, we somehow missed this bit of Hawaiian Punch which occurred last month.



Posted by Tony Ortega on April 6, 2013 at 07:00


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email