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Richard Teague speaks out after his horrific ordeal at a Scientology rehab center

Rick_TeagueYou may remember that we’ve written previously about the ordeal of Richard Teague, a man who in 2011 set himself on fire at a Scientology-affiliated drug rehab center in Michigan, resulting in a lawsuit that we’ve been keeping an eye on.

The last time we checked on the case, Teague’s attorneys had found some fascinating new testimony from a nurse who worked at a facility where Teague spent time.

Now, the lawsuit has been settled and Teague did not sign a confidentiality agreement. So, for the first time, he’s talking to the press.

First, some background to refresh your memory of his story. On January 7, 2011, Teague paid $12,000 to enroll at Narconon Freedom Center in Albion, Michigan, one of several Narconon or Narconon-like rehab clinics that are owned, operated, or housed in property owned by a man named Per Wickstrom.

According to Teague’s lawsuit, he was hoping to kick a problem with alcohol and klonopin, but after enrolling at Narconon Freedom Center, he was then sent for five days to a “medical detox” facility in Battle Creek called A Forever Recovery. while he was there, he was subjected to Scientology’s ideas about ‘detoxifying’ — long stays in the sauna, massive intake of vitamins, and drinking a concoction called ‘Cal-Mag.’ Teague was going through serious withdrawal, with numbness in his face and arms, but after five days he was sent back to Narconon Freedom Center. According to his complaint, On January 15, 2011, while being held in the “withdrawal unit” of Narconon Freedom Center, Teague, while exhibiting symptoms of severe benzodiazepine withdrawal, set himself on fire with the use of a cigarette lighter and a spray cologne bottle. With flames engulfing him, he ran outside and extinguished the fire by plunging into the snow.

Narconon Freedom Center was dropped from the lawsuit earlier, and now Teague has settled with A Forever Recovery — and we don’t know the terms. But Teague told us he is free to discuss his time at AFR, and his recovery since.

“I’m doing OK. I mean, I just had back surgery, so I’m a little sore, but I’ve been sober for three and a half years now,” Teague told us by telephone from Michigan last night. We asked him what A Forever Recovery had been like, as a facility.

“They took me to this, literally, beat up two-story house. It was like a place you’d live with some roommates. You sit around and watch TV. They said they had a hot tub. But it was on the deck outside, in January. It didn’t seem like much of a medical facility, really,” he says. “Given my history, I clearly needed a medical setting, not a dormitory setting. I never saw a doctor except for a few seconds when I first got there.”

After only five days, he was sent back to the other facility — too soon, his attorneys argued, and that resulted in his injury. (Teague says he can’t discuss what happened at Narconon Freedom Center, which was earlier dropped from the lawsuit.)

But his lawsuit described terrible injuries. We asked him how he’s doing today, three years later.

“I have permanent scarring. I had skin grafts. It has healed, but I have permanent scars, particularly on my abdomen,” he says. Besides the medical help, he also saw a psychiatrist, a therapist, and had intensive outpatient services. It’s that support, not what he experienced at Narconon, that really helped him, he says. He’s currently working as a building superintendent, and continues to attend a recovery program.

We asked him what he might say to someone considering the Narconon rehab network.

“It’s a cult, and I highly recommend that you seek professional help. I lived through it, and I have a better life today, and no thanks to them,” he says.

Meanwhile, yesterday we also heard about more bad news for Per Wickstrom’s facilities in Michigan. reported that it was publishing complaints made to the Michigan attorney general about Wickstrom’s clinics.

In the fall of 2013, Narconon Reviews submitted a FOIA request to the Michigan Attorney General’s office for any complaints filed against Best Drug Rehab, A Forever Recovery, Narconon Freedom Center and Tranquility Detox….The bill for the retrieval, review, examination, redaction, photocopying and shipment of the records came to $696.43. The cost was a tad prohibitive for a few volunteers with no outside funding.

Fortunately, a very generous donor, who wants to remain anonymous, emerged to pay for the records. As a result, 33 formal complaints with the Michigan Attorney General are now available on Narconon Reviews that were previously unavailable on the Internet.

Reading through some of those complaints, we saw the characteristic deceptions inherent in the Narconon system — not explaining to prospective clients, for example, that they’ll be going through Scientology training, and not get drug counseling.

After looking through those records we’re left with the question: How many complaints — or lawsuits like Richard Teague’s — have to be filed before the state of Michigan does something about it?


Sydney’s on fire!

Yes, just a day after we plagued you with a new release of Scientology Hip Hop, today we have another glossy production by the organization that loves to celebrate its impending planetary takeover.

And now that the Sydney Ideal Org is open, it’s bursting with energy to clear Australia! Come one, come all!



A cryptic note asking for calm

A few weeks ago, we received a friendly inquiry from a rather legendary name from Scientology journalism’s recent past. We were happy to be in a position to provide some small assistance to this person, who very shortly will have a new piece out that we are very much looking forward to.

We were going to keep our trap shut about it in the meantime, but a few days ago, the news organization this person works for put some preliminary material, in the form of links and a description, on its website. That material, which was prematurely posted, was then taken down.

That has caused some folks among our readership to freak out a little, and claim that this news organization had been “hacked” in some way. We’ve seen some pretty weird theories flying in our comment section.

Please, just remain calm. A kickass new story is going to show up soon, we’ll immediately link to it, and all will become clear.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 23, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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