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Scientology Photoshopping: Erasing L. Ron Hubbard’s second wife from ‘The RON Series’

We have a real treat for you today, and it comes courtesy of someone we are honored to have helping us out.

We met Lauren Wolf when she was helping Lawrence Wright as the research assistant on his epic 2013 book on Scientology, Going Clear, and she’s been a friend to the Underground Bunker ever since.

Recently, she emailed us with a hot tip, and we are so glad that she did.

First, for a little background. Longtime Scientology Watchers know that the founder of Scientology was married three times. L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) married Margaret “Polly” Grubb (1907-1963) in 1933 and they had two children, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (also known as “Nibs”, 1934-1991) and Katherine, known as Katie or Kay (1936-2010).

In 1945, after the war, Hubbard moved into a room at the Pasadena home of John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons, a rocket scientist at Caltech and an amateur occultist. At the time, Parsons was seeing a woman who Hubbard soon stole away. Her name was Sara Elizabeth Northrup (1924-1997). She also went by “Betty.”


In 1946, Ron, Sara, and Jack came up with a business scheme which would involve buying sailboats in Florida (with money that was almost all Jack’s) and then sailing them to California to sell for a profit. Hubbard and Sara went to Miami and bought a sailboat, but it soon became clear to Parsons that his money had gone to buy his friends a nice life in Florida and they weren’t going anywhere. Jack ended up suing them, there was a settlement, Ron and Sara sold the boat, and by August 1946 they were in Maryland, where Ron convinced Sara to marry him.

There was the little problem, however, that he had not yet divorced Polly, and wouldn’t for another year. But his bigamy didn’t become public until 1951 when, a year after Ron and Sara had had a child together (Alexis, who arrived just a few weeks before Dianetics did in May 1950), Sara sued for divorce and went public with accusations that her husband was a lunatic.

1951 was a nightmare year for Hubbard, who at one point absconded with Alexis and hid out in Cuba while the press was at its worst. Sara eventually got Alexis back, and in return signed a retraction of what she’d said about Ron as the two divorced.

By 1952, he’d regrouped in Phoenix, came up with something called Scientology to succeed Dianetics, and met and married his third wife, Mary Sue Whipp (1931-2002). And ever after, Hubbard did his best to erase Sara Northrup and Alexis from the record of his life.

But let’s now return to June 1946. Hubbard and Sara were in Miami, having bought a sailboat with money from Jack Parsons, when the opportunity of a little publicity presented itself. A glowing (in fact, practically worshipful) article about Hubbard appeared in the June 30, 1946 issue of the Miami Daily News, written by staff writer Mike Schindler. Titled “The World’s His Oyster,” Schindler’s article talks of Ron and “Mrs. Hubbard” preparing to set sail for the Caribbean, and it features a number of photos of the two of them getting their vessel ready.

Lauren explains how she ran into a version of that news story as it was reproduced in the “RON Series” of biographical books put out recently by the Church of Scientology…


While working as a research assistant and fact-checker for Larry it became clear that a great starting point for new research trails was the church’s own publications. For example, you look at the LRH magazines (which they recently republished as “The RON Series,” supposedly a “biographical encyclopedia”) and see correspondence between Hubbard and his friends. We’d say, well, where are those originals? You highlighted the Heinlein archive the other day, which holds extensive correspondence between the two men. We found more letters in other library collections. Sure enough, when you compare the original copies of Hubbard’s letters with the church’s publications it’s clear that they’ve carefully excerpted what they want from them. There are many mentions of Sara in Hubbard’s correspondence, and obviously the church isn’t going to include those. So I was flipping through the “Master Mariner” issue one day [See the cover, above] looking for something else when I paused on “The World’s His Oyster” story. I looked at the date and realized Sara had to have been with him. So I went to the Google Newspaper Archive, and you can imagine my surprise when I found the original article and photos. If only I’d thought to look earlier! At this point Going Clear was well into publication so we weren’t able to get it in the book. You might recall in Going Clear that this was quite a dark period for Sara. Her father had recently died and Hubbard had begun beating her in Florida. Interestingly, she is referred to as his wife, Mrs. Hubbard, in the article, but they weren’t married until that August, only after Hubbard threatened to kill himself unless she complied.

What a great find. Now, let’s show you the images so you can see what Lauren is referring to. You can pull up the Miami Daily News issue of June 30, 1946 on Google and look at the original newspaper article for yourself. You’ll see that it includes numerous photos of Hubbard and Sara, including this great one of the two of them at the helm of their sailboat, the “Blue Water II.”


Now, if you happen to have a copy of the “Master Mariner” volume of the RON series of “biographical encyclopedias,” you will find on page 101 a slightly shortened version of the Miami Daily News story, with this image…


And now, here’s a side-by-side comparison, just so you can appreciate the Photoshop job done by the worker drones at the Church of Scientology…


Naturally, Sara is erased from the reprinted article as well. (Although she was hardly mentioned in the original.)

We thought you might like to see the text of the story (the Google archive is a little difficult to read). As you’ll see, Mr. Schindler’s gushing is really over the top.

We’ve put in italics all of the text that was removed for the version that was included in the “Master Mariner” volume of The RON Series…


Miami Daily News
Sunday, June 30, 1946


By Mike Schindler
(Miami Daily News Staff Writer)

To the world of factory and store, of time clocks and day-in-and-day-out sameness, LaFayette Ronald Hubbard is no doubt a strange fellow.

Maybe he is — but I suspect he is strange with that kind of strangeness which most of us would like to be “accused.”

For Hubbard, author, explorer, aviator, sailor, navy veteran of the North Atlantic and the South Pacific in the late holocaust, his everyday “workaday world” is the living realization of his boyhood dreams. (Why should we say his boyhood dreams? He is living the dreams of practically all boyhood — and not a few of the dreams of girlhood, too…)

And not only is he living those dreams — but he’s getting paid for doing it.

Schooner Points Seaward

A few days ago a trim little schooner over at Miami’s Howard Bond yacht basin let go her lines, used her engine to back away from the dock, swung gracefully into the stream and blew her siren for the open-bridge signal at MacArthur Causeway. Half an hour later she was well along in Government Cut, her trim little forefoot and her sturdy jibboom pointed eastward — seaward…

A little later her white wings began to flutter aloft, her sheets were trimmed in on the starboard tack and under all plain canvass the schooner Blue Water II began reaching her forefoot into the Gulf Stream, her questing nose adventure-bound among the storied West Indies…

At the wheel was Mrs. Hubbard, Skipper Ron Hubbard being forward, peaking his halyards, coiling lines’ ends, getting his little ship snugged down for a nightlong reach to the south and east. First stop, Havana…

Next stop? Quien sabe? Anywhere — everywhere, in quest of pirate lore.

Who is Ron Hubbard?

Who’s Who in America replies:

“Hubbard, LaFayette Ronald, author, explorer, officer U.S. Naval Reserve; Born, Tilden, Neb., March 13, 1911; …graduate Swavely Prep School, Manasas, Va.; B.S. in civil engineering, George Washington U., 1932; commander Caribbean motion picture expedition, 1933; commander, West Indies minerals survey expedition, 1934; writer of articles and fiction for magazines under his own name and six pen names; lieutenant U.S. Naval Reserve, 1941; served in Asiatic until spring, 1942; in command of escort vessels in North Atlantic ocean, summer and fall 1942; commander escorts in Pacific 1943; licensed commercial glider pilot; master of motor vessels, master of sailing vessels (any ocean); licensed radio operator; past president American Fiction Guild, member Author’s League of America, Explorers club, Theta Tau, Phi Theta Xi. Author: Buckskin Brigades (1936). Co-author: Through Hell and High Water, 1941. Contributor of articles and fiction to 72 magazines, mostly action books, adventure, sea stories and fantasy. Considers his greatest achievement is having scaled Mt. Pelee in Martinique at night. Home: Explorers club, New York, N.Y.”

‘Captain Stormalong’

Hearing that Hubbard was in Miami, unheralded, this writer grabbed a cameraman and laid a course for the Bond basin to beard him in his cockpit. We found him and Mrs. Hubbard busy making ready for sea.

“Just got out of the navy,” said he, “and after a bit of loafing around I decided to carry on with my character old Captain Stormalong. He stormed along in the Caribbean, and so that’s where I intend to go looking for his ghost. Going to make Miami my base for an indefinite period.”

Captain Stormalong, by the way, is Hubbard’s latest book, based on 17th century Caribbean legends, ballads and folklore he picked up on previous sashays into the Romantic Isles.

“And do you know,” said he, “research has now proven that Stormalong is more than a legend. He was a fact. Actually lived and stormed his way through the West Indies.”

Hubbard had just bought the Blue Water II here and was in the throes of getting a “new” ship ready for sea — and for an extended, indefinite voyage, at that — which is no small task. So while he and Mrs. Hubbard were working, Hubbard and I talked and the photographer photographed. (A few of the myriad chores that are musts on the eve of a voyage you’ll find illustrated on this page.)

Hubbard is also the author of “Dive Bomber,” printed in a national magazine and later filmed by Warner Brothers.

“Who played in it?” we wanted to know.

“I don’t know,” said he. “Never saw it.”

West Indian Legends

And while the little schooner and its questing skipper are nosing through the warm blue waters of channels in and out of the Indies looking for more data on old Stormalong, there are other legends and facts that will be gathered and catalogued for future use.

“For instance,” said Hubbard. “I’m going to try to locate Henry Morgan’s grave. Henry was the boy, you’ll remember, who ploughed his bloody way through these seas, and then decided to try for a pardon. He was successful, and the king, thinking perhaps the best way to catch pirates was with a pirate, made him Sir Henry, and the governor of Jamaica. Then the old buzzard turned out to be as thorough a disciplinarian on the righteous side as he had been on maintaining his bloody rule over the buccaneers. He got rich in a few years by using the death penalty, tricing the pirates up in chains, selling slaves to the plantations and seizing pirate craft right and left. He is supposed to have died in Jamaica, but no one knows for certain, and certainly no one knows where he’s buried.

“Surely a man who cut such a mark on the history of his day would not have been buried in an unmarked spot.”

The Buccaneers

Hubbard wants more information of the buccaneers L’Ollinaise, Ringrose, Teach, Vane, Hornigold, Burgess, Rennes, Fife, Martell and the pirate who became a Church of England clergyman, Sam Speed.

“There was a fellow for you,” said Hubbard. “Old Samuel Speed. He was the rascal who quit buccaneering at the right time, went home to England, joined the church and became a well known pastor, and later, during the war with the Dutch, he became famous as a chaplain aboard one of the men-o’-war…but his fame didn’t stem from his preaching to the sailors. When his ship laid alongside a big many-gunned Dutchman and the going was tough, this rascal Sam Speed tossed his Bible and his churchly garb over the side, grabbed a cutlass from a dead man, and yelling and cursing fierce enough to scare the poor Dutchmen to death, he led the crew of his ship in boarding the Hollander and slashed his way through the enemy with such piratical skill and abandon that the day was won for the British ship. Yes, I’d like to know about that fellow, all right.”

And that, in a nutshell, may be said about everything in the Caribbean insofar as it touches Ron Hubbard:

He wants to know more about it.

And that’s where he is now — booming down the old trail, the trail that is ever new…the trail of adventure and romance…romance of the Then and Now.

Just a couple of notes on the claims made in this story — and we’re sure our astute readers will find many more. Hubbard did not, in fact, take a degree from George Washington University, having dropped out in his sophomore year after failing atomic physics (which didn’t stop him from later claiming to be a ‘nuclear physicist’). Also, the claim about the 1941 Warners Bros film Dive Bomber having anything to do with Hubbard is really problematic and interesting. Looking into that connection, in fact, was the initial problem that made Gerry Amstrong realize that there was something wrong with Scientology’s official biography of Hubbard. The pulp magazine story Hubbard published in 1937 apparently has nothing in common with the film, and he wasn’t credited anywhere on the movie. However, the Errol Flynn archives apparently contain a reference to Hubbard being paid a small amount simply for the use of the title. We’re going to look into that further when we get the chance.

Our thanks to Lauren Wolf for pointing out this creative editing by Scientology to erase Sarah Northrup from the record.

Lauren also worked as an assistant for Lawrence Wright on his new book Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David. She also has several writing projects of her own underway.

Tomorrow: While we were working with Lauren on this story, we noticed another instance of Scientology photoshopping which is not only blatant, but is also somewhat disturbing. We hope you find the photographic evidence interesting.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 12, 2014 at 07:00

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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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

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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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

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