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L. Ron Hubbard fisticuffs! Scientology secrets unearthed in a new government disclosure

Mary_Sue_Hubbard_LRHA friend of the Underground Bunker who is also a researcher at hit a small jackpot this week when a Freedom of Information Act request she made through the MuckRock website yielded fascinating new disclosures about Scientology in its early decades.

In the early 1960s, the Food and Drug Administration was concerned enough about the health claims being made by Scientology with its “e-meters,” that it raided the “Founding Church” in Washington DC after several years of investigations.

Our researcher’s request yielded documents in the FDA’s files that its inspectors had been gathering for those investigations, both before and after the raid occurred on January 4, 1963.

The raid is well known and has been covered at length in books like Russell Miller’s 1987 history, Bare-Faced Messiah, as well as numerous websites that collect Scientology’s early history. But these documents are raw research that contain interviews done by investigators which have never been put online or appear in Miller’s book. (And we searched, believe us.)

We have a couple of documents for you today that contain some strange and wonderful tales about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, and we’d love to hear from oldtimers who might be able to help us fill out the information in these records even more.

So we’ll start with our first document, which was produced at the FDA’s Division of Regulatory Management (DRM) in Baltimore. DRM inspector John C. Bullard, in February 1963, was following up on a tip that the local Pinkerton Agency had done an investigation of L. Ron Hubbard and his e-meters several years earlier, in 1957. The document contains the notes of Bullard’s interview with Pinkerton private eye C.E. McElwee.


McElwee said that indeed, he had been hired by the Hubbards, who were alarmed that a strange story about Scientology was spreading in the press, and they wanted to know who was behind the smear. According to Bullard’s notes…

Apparently the whole thing started with a member of the Founding Church of Scientology who was assigned as a guardian of a Mongolian idiot. According to the investigation this Scientologist was accompanying the Mongolian idiot along the streets of Washington when the idiot suddenly to run down the street, away from the guardian, taking off his clothes in the meantime. According to McElwee, the Washington newspapers picked up this incident and promoted it to a more than ordinary degree.

We’re going to assume that “Mongolian idiot” was ignorant 1960s language for a person with Down Syndrome or something. The point was, someone was apparently spreading a story about a mentally challenged person running naked through the streets of the nation’s capital, and it was tarring Scientology in some way. Hubbard wanted information about who was promoting it to the press.

McElwee told Bullard that he got the information the Hubbards wanted, but he didn’t like the fact that they tried to get him to become a Scientologist himself.

“During the investigation, he stated that his discussions with Hubbard and his wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, led him to believe that they were a bunch of quacks.”

McElwee was so turned off, he figured out a way to turn down any more work from the wacky couple. Whether this information was useful to the FDA, it’s difficult to tell.

Here’s the document…


FDA DRM/Baltimore L. Ron Hubbard Feb. 6, 1963

In our second excerpt, another Baltimore FDA inspector, George D. Tilroe, tells a rather wild tale about L. Ron Hubbard getting into a scuffle.

An attorney told Tilroe that in 1958, Hubbard had become a partner with a man named Joseph Ettelmann, who had a jewelry manufacturing plant. According to what Tilroe was told, Hubbard entered into a partnership with Ettelmann for the production of “pendants containing signs of the Zodiac for Mr. Hubbard’s use in the related firms of the Founding Church of Scientology.”

Say what? Zodiac stuff? And Scientology?

“These pendants were to be given to the auditors depending upon their progress and status in the organization. The various Zodiac symbols would indicate their status,” Tilroe continues.

Well, now that does sound more familiar. “Honey, I reached Aquarius Meritorious today down at the Hubbard College” — yeah, we can see that. Anyway.

But the partnership went sour. Ettelmann apparently had some IRS trouble, so Ron had him sell the plant to him, and he leased it back to Ettelmann to throw off the taxman. But then Hubbard didn’t actually make the payments he promised beyond his downpayment, and Ettelmann ended up suing him over it. (That L. Ron, legendary for not paying his bills.)

In classic Scientology style, a staffer with the Founding Church in DC, Marilynn Routsong, then filed suit against Ettelmann and it ended up getting Ettelmann thrown in jail, three times!

At trial, however, he was found not guilty, so then Ettelmann hired an attorney, Malcolm Houston, to file a case of false arrest against Hubbard. Houston then set out to serve papers on Hubbard, and found it a difficult prospect.

Hubbard, he learned, was staying under the name “James Olsen” at the Shoreham Hotel. With a process server, Cynthia Harrison, Houston set out to find Hubbard at the hotel. Here’s what happened next…

Upon confronting Mr. Hubbard with the papers Mrs. Harrison’s hands were slapped and the papers were strewn to the floor, on five separate occasions. A fight then developed amongst Mr. Houston, Mrs. Harrison, Ron Hubbard, Mary Sue Hubbard, Marilyn[n] Routsong and a few other individuals who were in accompaniment with Mr. Hubbard. Attorney Houston states that Marilyn Routsong pounced upon him, scratched and kicked like a wild cat. Eventually the fight broke up and the papers were given to Mr. Hubbard as he entered an elevator. He again knocked them to the floor but was informed that the papers had been served.

Houston further indicated that he didn’t want to press assault charges against Hubbard because of the publicity it would cause. As for Ettelmann’s suit, it was still pending when Tilroe submitted his report on January 30, 1963.

Here’s the document…

FDA 1963 Memo on L. Ron Hubbard

Hey, aren’t these fun? We enjoyed how much they echoed down through the years to later events. A mentally ill Scientologist stripping off his or her clothes and running down the street? That sure sounds familiar. And Scientology’s top officials slapping down the papers being handed to them by a process server? Still standard operating procedure, apparently.

We’ll have more documents for you as we continue to sift through our researcher’s nice collection of newly released documents. It’s always fun to have something new about Scientology’s early history.


8 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 17, 2015 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA 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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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