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When the FDA interviewed L. Ron Hubbard’s first family about Scientology

HubbardDeskOver the last few months, we’ve been publishing documents that a researcher has been able to pry out of the Food and Drug Administration regarding its 1960s investigation of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

Using the MuckRock website, researcher R.M. Seibert has tracked down some real gems for us, including the first glimpse of Hubbard’s high school grades. (They weren’t good.)

In the late 1950s, the FDA became suspicious about health claims being made about the Scientology E-meter. (Back then, the FDA actually took medical quacks more seriously. Now they get shows on TV.) So the agency infiltrated the DC Scientology church and then raided it in January 1963, seizing copies of the machines. The FDA then spent several years in litigation with the church until a 1971 settlement. During that time, the agency continued to investigate all aspects of Hubbard’s life and looked for witnesses they might call in court.

Today we have copies of some really interesting interviews FDA officials conducted in 1963 with Hubbard’s first wife, Polly Grubb, and their two children, L. Ron Hubbard Jr (“Nibs”) and Katherine. The interview of Polly has been online for some time — we think it was shared with the FBI and released with those records years ago. But we aren’t sure if the document about Nibs and Katy has been seen by many people. And it’s really fascinating.

Let’s start with Polly. Margaret Louise “Polly” Grubb was five years older than L. Ron Hubbard, but was charmed by his singing voice when they met in 1932 and were married in April, 1933. According to Nibs, as we reveal in our book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, they met on a field waiting to fly gliders. But in this 1963 interview with FDA agents, Polly — by now Mrs. John T. Ochs of Gap, Pennsylvania — said they met on a blind date. She also makes a curious allegation — that the same year she met Hubbard, he “had trouble with the Federal authorities in 1932 for taking some bonded whiskey.” Any of our stalwart historians heard that one before? Has anyone tracked down dox on it?

She also indicated that he’d had some “legal intanglements” with the Navy during the war, but that his father had helped keep his name clear. “All during this conversation, Mrs. Ochs repeated that Hubbard was really a genius with a misdirected mind,” the agent taking the interview notes.


Polly doesn’t have much to say about Scientology, but that makes sense. Hubbard wrote Dianetics and then created Scientology several years after he split with her. But the FDA report details how Hubbard married Sara Northrup in 1946, a year before he actually divorced Polly, and then he didn’t pay Polly a dime in child support that she was awarded.

She supplied information about where Hubbard was at the moment (Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, England), and gave leads for Hubbard’s father, as well as her own children, Katy and Nibs: “Mrs. Ochs described her son as a gentle man, very gullible, and an easy mark for his quick-talking father.”

The inspectors then interviewed Katy (Mrs. James P. Gillespie of Van Nuys, CA) and she admitted that she was “pro-Scientology.”

She expressed her dissatisfaction with FDA for its Washington action against the cult. We attempted to explain to her that the Government was not taking any action against any individual or group in the organization at this time as our seizure action involved inanimate objects only.

Katy said she had worked for the DC org from 1957 to 1959 as a file clerk and receptionist, and that she’d taken only one course and hadn’t finished it.

According to her, she knew of no type of claims that were made for the Meter during her association with the organization. She denied that any type of illnesses, either physical or mental, were treated or diagnosed using the Meter. She informed the Inspectors that the auditing sessions on the Meter had helped her considerably…Mrs. Gillespie informed us that Hubbard and his organization had done “considerable good in the world.” She described herself as a conservative Republican who had the opinion that the Government had no inherit [sic] right to decide what was right for the individual.

The FDA inspectors heard a very different story when they interviewed her brother, Nibs.

Nibs told the FDA inspectors he went to work for his father after graduating from high school in 1950. (In 1972, he told Paulette Cooper he joined his father in Phoenix in 1952, and hadn’t yet graduated from high school.) He became executive secretary of the Washington DC org and was an “ordained minister” of Scientology. But he left the organization in 1959.

He stated his primary reason for leaving the organization was financial. He explained that the most he ever earned in any given year with the organization was $2200. Some weekly pay checks were as low as $10…Ron Jr. indicated that his father was constantly in conflict with someone. Ron Jr. explained that the Washington situation had his own family in such turmoil that his wife threatened to leave him if he did not get out of the organization.

And now that he was out, Nibs was ready to tell the FDA that it was on to something about the use of meters.

According to Ron Jr., the E-Meter is used by the cult to treat all diseases, both physical and mental…He explained that the Meter simply did not produce the results that were claimed for it by the cult in all respects, including alleviating or curing diseases….He estimated that an auditor would spend from $3,000 to $5,000 taking training with the cult to become a qualified auditor. He thinks there are about 2,000 auditors in the United States at the present time.

Nibs said he was awarded three degrees without any training, and they’re attached to the interview: A Doctor of Divinity Degree (July 1954), a Hubbard Certified Auditor Degree (December 1952), and a Hubbard Dianetic Auditor Degree (January 1955)

The FDA inspectors asked Nibs to sign an affadavit based on what he’d told them, and he did. And the final document in the file indicates that he was being considered seriously as a witness for the trial against his father’s organization.

Let us know what else stands out to you in the documents from the FDA!


FDA 1963 interview of Margaret Louise “Polly” Grubb, first wife of L. Ron Hubbard
FDA 1963 interviews of Katherine and L. Ron Hubbard Jr


The Unbreakable Miss Lovely continues to get around

We have to say, we’ve been really humbled by all of the places people have photographed with their copies of our book about Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. Two more came in yesterday, and we wanted to make sure you saw them…


Bryan Seymour’s caption: “Tony Ortega’s book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely in the Seven Newsroom in Sydney. Thrilled to receive this today – an astonishing story about an extraordinary woman, one of the first journalists to take on Scientology. Besides being a must-read, page-turner this story is an inspiration for journalists everywhere and a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman.”

And we also enjoyed this shot, at a location that appears briefly in the book…


We can’t wait to see where Miss Lovely goes next!


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Our man in Perth, What’suppresive, sent us these photos of what, incredibly, will be the new Ideal Org in that city. Here’s what he told us: “Thought you might like some photos of the crappy building that is to be the new Perth Org. About 6kms as the crow flies from the current Org in the CBD but separated by the mighty Swan River. Light industrial and high density, low cost dwellings. On the wrong side of the tracks with zero foot traffic. Big concrete tilt up truck depot. What a shithole.”




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together an index for The Unbreakable Miss Lovely and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper) 5:30 to 7 pm. Private book party. If you’ve contacted us already, you’ll get venue information soon.

June 20: Chicago (with Christian Stolte) The Annoyance Theater, 5pm: This event is SOLD OUT.

June 22: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 7:30 pm, sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry-Canada

June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver

July 20: Dallas

July 22: Houston

July 24: San Antonio

July 25: Austin

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 9, 2015 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 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 mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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