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First time in full: 1997 interview of Barbara Klowden, L. Ron Hubbard’s PR agent and lover

Here’s the second leak of raw footage from the excellent 1997 Channel 4 documentary, Secret Lives — L. Ron Hubbard. The film was made up of numerous interviews from people who had known Hubbard personally. But only a few minutes of each made it into the final documentary.

Jon Atack hooked us up with a source who is now making the full, uncut interviews from Secret Lives available. Last time, we got to see Hubbard’s literary agent, Forrest Ackerman, reminisce about the man. And this time, another rare treat: A 28-minute interview with Barbara Klowden, who worked as Hubbard’s PR assistant but was also his lover. (In Russell Miller’s 1987 biography of Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, Barbara is given the pseudonym “Barbara Kaye.”)

In 1950, with the success of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard interviewed Barbara and hired her to work public relations for the newly opened Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Los Angeles. As she explains in the clip, it was her job to fire off responses to columnists who said negative things about Hubbard or his book. She was 23 and had been a college psychology major (not, apparently, only 20 years old as previous accounts have it). Hubbard was 39, and his marriage to his second wife, Sara Northrup, was strained. Hubbard and Sara were already living apart.

Meanwhile, Hubbard had taken a liking to his young PR assistant, and they began sleeping together and then Hubbard wanted them to move in together. But that became dicey when Sara, baby Alexis in tow, showed up on the scene again.

The interviewer asks Barbara what attracted her to Hubbard, and she acknowledges that the founder of Scientology was not a physical specimen. “It’s the mind of the man that is most sexy,” she explains. “I felt so much under his spell.”


She says that at the time, she didn’t know about Hubbard’s first marriage and the two children he’d had with Polly Grubb. And because Hubbard was separated from Sara, Barbara didn’t think it was unusual that he asked her to move in with him — at the Chateau Marmont. But Sara soon arrived, and Barbara found the things she’d put in the apartment back on her desk at the Foundation.

Amazingly, Hubbard asked her to join him and Sara at dinner that night, and he told her later that Sara had made a suicide attempt. Barbara says she then received a telegram from Hubbard firing her.

Some other highlights from the interview: Hubbard told her that before he wrote Dianetics, he’d taken just one book out of the library to learn about psychology.

— “He talked about smashing his way into history, and starting a religion,” she says. “I saw him as a very unstable individual.”

— When she saw him in Palm Springs in 1951, he was depressed and suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. She told him to write how he was feeling, and Hubbard wrote a single word: “apathy.” That seemed to inspire him, and he used “apathy” as a condition on what became the Tone Scale and then developed into his book Science of Survival.

— Hubbard discovered that while he was having an affair with Barbara, his wife Sara was sleeping with Miles Hollister (who she later married), and the two of them, Hubbard said, were plotting to have him committed to a mental institution. It was at that point that Hubbard absconded with Alexis and spent some time hiding out in Havana while Sara told the press about how unstable her famous husband was. Eventually she got Alexis back as she and Hubbard hammered out a divorce.

— After that mess, Barbara met Hubbard again in Wichita, where she says he was in another depressive state, with hair down to his shoulders and “fingernails like talons.”

— In Wichita, Hubbard was living with Don Purcell, a wealthy oil man, who was keeping Dianetics afloat. Hubbard proposed to Barbara, and paid cash for an engagement ring. But Barbara didn’t marry him. “I saw that I had a man there who had no prospects. He had psychiatric difficulties,” she says.

And how would she sum him up? Aware of the controversies that later swirled around the man and his organization, she says, “He was not a demon and he wasn’t a deity. He was a man with some psychiatric problems which led him to try to find some kind of way of dealing with his problems without going to a psychiatrist. And because of his quest to help himself, he was able to help many people.”


After her adventures with Hubbard, Barbara Jane Klowden (born January 23, 1927 and originally from Chicago) married Robert M. Snader, who was Hubbard’s age and had been born in 1911. In 1960 the Snaders had a daughter, Amy Beth, who went on to get a degree in computer science at UC Santa Cruz in 1983. Eight years later, in 1991, Amy Beth Snader accidentally fell to her death from a cliff in Kauai while on a biology field trip with a group from Cabrillo College. Her parents established a scholarship fund in her name at UCSC, and after Barbara died of cancer on November 25, 2002, her estate donated $1 million to the Amy Beth Snader scholarship fund, which goes to women in engineering at UCSC.

There’s one other detail about Barbara’s life that’s a little fascinating — just weeks after her death, a story in the Los Angeles Times called her a “former paramour” of the popular astrologer Sydney Omarr. (At some point Barbara and Robert Snader had divorced, according to an online record. Omarr dedicated a chapter to Barbara in a 1992 astrology book.) One thing’s for certain, Barbara Jane Klowden Snader lived a fascinating life, tinged with tragedy, and left behind a legacy that continues to benefit women in engineering today. She, at least, made a lasting contribution to science. (And yes, that’s a swipe at a certain science fiction hack.)


L. Ron Hubbard, Still Surfing the Galaxy

Twenty-nine years ago today, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard decided to leave behind his hale and healthy 74-year-old body in order to pursue indescribably advanced research into the “whole track” of existence, and has been surfing the galaxy ever since.

It then fell to Scientology naval space cadets David Miscavige and Pat Broeker, and attorney Earle Cooley to try and convince a crowd of Scientologists at the Hollywood Palladium three days later that Ron didn’t die, he’d gone full Operating Thetan.

We never get tired of watching this.


Wherever you are, L. Ron, we thank you at least for putting David Miscavige in the position to make that speech.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

One of our readers went to the USA Today website yesterday, and found that its home page was taken over entirely by Scientology’s new ad, about its social betterment front groups. Now that’s gotta cost a pretty penny. We still think this is the ad Scientology will show in some markets during the Super Bowl, but if you spot something new at the church’s YouTube channel, let us know!


A little J&D between auditing sessions in the Italian town of Cervia, under the watchful eyes of Aslan! Oh wait, that’s another feline deity altogether.


This is not the first time this has been brought to our attention — that there’s a room at George Washington University dedicated to L. Ron Hubbard, an “alumnus” who dropped out his sophomore year after failing a class in “molecular and atomic physics” (which didn’t prevent him from claiming to be one of the country’s first “nuclear physicists”). Maybe someone at GWU could look into how much cold cash the Church of Scientology had to pay for this little geegaw.


The poster! We gotta snag one of these while we’re here in Park City…


“I just spent about $180,000 to get to the state of Clear, and it makes this pastry at the Fort Harrison Hotel so worth it!”


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


1 day 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 24, 2015 at 06:00

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 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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