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Google helps Scientology huckster Per Wickstrom bury a rehab patient death


Once again, Google has gone to bat for someone we’ve written about here at the Underground Bunker, and once again, it’s for very sneaky reasons.

We told you previously about how billionaire Scientologist Bob Duggan used a complaint to Google about images he didn’t own in order to torpedo a not very flattering story we’d written about him. Thanks to your help, our story about that attempt to censor us quickly became one of the top Google results under Bob Duggan’s name. Whoops — Duggan probably didn’t see that coming.

Now, another huckster by the name of Per Wickstrom has convinced Google to bury a story we wrote about him involving a young woman who died at one of his Scientology-style rehab clinics in Michigan. And the reason this time is even more fatuous.

On July 31, 2013 we reported that a woman named Amber Bullins had died in 2012 at Tranquility Detox, part of a cluster of facilities in Michigan associated with Wickstrom. She had originally been sent to one of Wickstrom’s Scientology-style rehab clinics, Best Drug Rehabilitation in Manistee, Michigan. But like other patients, Amber was first diverted to Wickstrom’s medical detox to dry her out — Tranquillity Detox in Battle Creek.

Wickstrom was once an employee in Scientology’s rehab system, Narconon, before breaking away on his own. Some of his facilities still have formal ties with Narconon, others just use Narconon materials. We’ve written previously about how things have gone horribly wrong at Wickstrom’s facilities.

Two days after Amber Bullins arrived at Tranquillity Detox to dry out, she was found dead, apparently from an overdose of drugs. We’re told that attorneys for her parents filed notice that they were preparing to sue the facility, but then never did, suggesting that some kind of deal was worked out.

Here’s more about what we said about Wickstrom and his Michigan operation in that story…

Complaints are being raised about the Michigan centers that are similar to what we’ve seen in litigation about Narconon in other parts of the country — that Wickstrom, for example, operates numerous generic-looking websites that appear to offer impartial advice but actually are set up to drive people to his Narconon-based centers, and that the connection between the centers and Scientology is not mentioned until patients arrive and then are put through Scientology training rather than drug counseling.

Per Wickstrom, meanwhile, is no stranger to litigation — earlier this year, Best Drug Rehabilitation sued several people for daring to post anonymous criticisms of the rehab center at the Ripoff Report website. Five of those suits were recently settled, and their complaints were posted on a new website,, that is aiming to be a comprehensive destination for Narconon news around the country.

Wickstrom, in other words, has a history of trying to stifle information about the problems at his facilities.

In this case, Best Drug’s attorneys filed a complaint with Google not about the story we had written, but about a video that appeared in the story.

At the end of our story on Amber Bullins and Wickstrom, we had embedded a video that Wickstrom himself had produced and published at his own website showing him blowing smoke up the skirt of Cathy Rigby about his businesses. (Wickstrom is a constant self-promoter.)

The complaint to Google said that we had published, without Per’s permission, his video on our website.

That isn’t true. We simply embedded a video that Wickstrom himself had published to YouTube.

But Google, without contacting us, did Wickstrom’s bidding, and has now de-indexed that story we wrote about Wickstrom and Amber Bullins so that it takes some doing to find it.

So, as in the case of Bob Duggan’s attempt to bury our story, we’ve written this new piece about Per Wickstrom’s attempt to bury this news, and to be careful, we asked talented Portland cartoonist Chad Essley to do a fun illustration of Per, so that he can’t complain about a photo or video attached to this story.

We don’t think Per Wickstrom should be able to bury the news with the help of Google. We’d appreciate it if you shared, Tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, and otherwise publicized this story so that if you search for “Per Wickstrom” in Google, he is reminded that Amber Bullins went to him for help, and ended up dead.


[Amber Bullins, 1989-2012]



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 a complete index 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.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Hong Kong restaurant (1238 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge) 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus, Walter Cronkite Theater, 5:30 pm

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 25: Melbourne

Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4)


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

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com 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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  • endoftheQ

    “But Google, without contacting us, did Wickstrom’s bidding, and has now de-indexed that story…”

    Small factual correction. Google hasn’t de-indexed that story. The story has simply lost its ranking. If you make a donation via the PayPal button above, Tony will be able to afford to use Google AdWords to promote it to the first page, so get tipping!!

    • EnthralledObserver

      Are you still going on about it…?

      • endoftheQ

        Hell, yeah!!

        • EnthralledObserver

          Fair enough. 😉

          • endoftheQ

            I agree with 99.9% (just a rough guess!) of everything Tony publishes here. There are times I disagree. I don’t believe that “disagreeing” makes me a troll. However, you might think that from the way some people react by having carpet-gnawing conniptions about anyone who doesn’t agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Ortega or isn’t part of the never-in koffee-klatch tribe of arse-licking gangbangers that “disagreeing” is the equivalent of out ethics. I don’t.

            • EnthralledObserver

              Shit… I didn’t know I was part of a koffee-klatch tribe. It does include actual coffee, right? ‘Cause I’m missing my share if so.

            • endoftheQ

              If you won’t tell, I know where they’re keeping the caek !! 🙂

            • EnthralledObserver

              🙂 My lips are sealed.

            • pluvo

              “aren’t part of the disqus tribe of never-in koffee-klatch arse-licking wannabe $ciBanger”

              Q, is this an insult? I didn’t see you as a troll at all for having and voicing another opinion.
              Jeeze, in the cult one was subjected to interrogation by the thought police for thought crime for voicing something not aligned with ‘command intention’.

              I didn’t follow the brouhaha about the ‘troll-thing”, just skimmed the comments some hours ago. Now I’m back after many hours, looking forward to the new article and the brouhaha is still going on. Why the repeated insults? And not only insulting the once you are having the clash with but the whole ‘tribe’ – tsk,tsk,tsk.

            • endoftheQ

              I don’t carry over to a new “day”, which in this case is about five minutes away, unless provoked. If you’ve been here a few years, you’ll know there’s many fine, friendly, helpful members following this blog. There are also the…. aw, hell, I won’t repeat my slurs. 😀

            • pluvo

              Yeah, it can be a rough turf, but I like the “the…. aw” ;). To a new day, endoftheQ!

              By the way, why “endoftheQ”? What’s the significance?

            • endoftheQ

              It’s end of the queue. 🙂

            • ann ashley

              I agree with your slurs. Thanks for voicing them.

            • Andrea ‘i-Betty’ Garner

              Um…except she didn’t.

              “I won’t repeat my slurs”

            • Robert Eckert

              “I don’t believe that “disagreeing” makes anyone a troll” No, it’s something else that makes you a troll.

            • endoftheQ

              Please, feel free to squeeze your tit, express yourself. I’m all… ears.

            • Robert Eckert

              endoftheQ an hour ago

              Please, feel free to squeeze your tit, express yourself. I’m all… ears.

              This, for exhibit A.

            • endoftheQ
            • Robert Eckert

              I don’t need Tony to tell me how strongly reminiscent you are of past trolls.

    • Eivol Ekdal
      • endoftheQ

        Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. 🙂

    • MM

      “Google hasn’t de-indexed any stories. The stories have simply lost their ranking.”

      endoftheQ, could you please check whether the actual URL of the 2nd search result in your screen shot above ends in ‘’, or just in ‘…in-the-world/’ ?

      • endoftheQ

        No probs. see below. I’m afraid Tony’s search engine optimisation (SEO) leaves a little bit to be desired. If he was asking, I’d recommend installing Yoast’s WordPress SEO.
        (refresh, svp)

        • MM

          Thanks. I see it’s the URL with ‘comment-page-1’ at the end. I’m afraid the reason one can’t find the original URL in Google’s search results is not because of the Bunker’s SEO, but rather it’s exactly because Google *did* de-index the original URL.
          Google is actually required to do that by law (U.S.C. 17 § 512(d) aka the ‘information location tools safe harbor provision’).
          The reason one can find the article under a different URL is that not the article itself is de-indexed, but the URL that was included in the DMCA complaint is, so when the Googlebot later happens to find the same content under a different URL it happily adds the new URL to Google’s index.
          You can verify that the original URL is in fact removed from the index by directly searching for it, verbatim and un-filtered:
          google . [your TLD] /search?q=bob+duggan+intitle:perplexing&tbs=li:1&start=0&filter=0

          • endoftheQ

            If you can search on Google, then click a link and get to the post, it isn’t de-indexed.

            • MM

              As I just tried to explain: it’s not ‘the post’ that gets removed from the index, it is the original URL.

              In fact, Google removes URLs from its index all the time because of DMCA complaints, to the tune of 1.5 million URLs *per day*, see .
              Notice how it says ‘URLs requested to be removed’, not ‘to be assigned a lower rank in the search resuts’.

    • TonyOrtega

      That’s quite a search term.

      And no, that’s not the original url that’s coming up in your results. You can’t bring up the original, because it’s de-indexed.

      And how are things in Corvallis, by the way?

      • endoftheQ

        Tony. Yes you can. The original has not been deindexed because it’s still there in the index. You misunderstand about the difference between de-indexed and loss of ranking. Oh, and you look like a total wuckfit in my eyes for adding the Corvallis slur. Do check your email. We can discuss that privately.

      • EnthralledObserver

        Hey, Tony – off topic from your comment – but do you have any clue yet if the Sydney event will be about 7pmish like the others? Trying to organise flights and would like assurance it’ll be a night thing so I can consider flights for the 23rd Oct. Cheers.

      • endoftheQ

        Oh, such a deafening silence Mr. Ortega. I cut my teeth at the feet of a real journalist. Miss Jean Rook of the Daily Express. The lady once told me if you’re wrong, put your fucking hand up and admit you’re wrong.

  • SP Wogsy

    3 hours ago we were at 368 now we are at 386. Nice job lurkers. Bunker Love 4 Eva! Nite all.

    • EnthralledObserver

      Nighty Wogsy 🙂

  • Pierrot

    *** RED X +–+ Reminder +–+ RED X *** Wednesday, 19 August 2015.

    Good morning Night Owls and Early Birds,

    Nashville leads SLC with San Antonio & Toronto trailing
    Check Salt Lake City, it is begging for a few complaints about spamming.

    Flag the lies, whack a few bait & switch ads :

    F5… Take ‘em down by Baby flickred by AegerPrimo:

  • PantalonesCalienteYDelicioso


  • chukicita

    A thousand blessings on our Bunker illustrator. That image followed me around all day.

  • xenu

    I remember a series of radio broadcasts a few years back about this guy. The details are fuzzy because of time passed, but there was a guy buying radio time and also putting the videos online. He probably called out Per Wickstrom a dozen times, but the sleazebag never answered. This all happened in Battle Creek, MI, and was about the death of another ‘patient.’ Eventually, Narconon settled with the family.

  • Verve

    You should go YouTube “Castle Browncoat scene.” It was a Halloween episode one year. Complete injoke about his Firefly days.

    • arcinva

      Best Castle episode.

  • Elspeth

    I just did a Google search on Per Wickstrom and this article came up first, directly under the paid entry.

  • MereCatWatcher

    Dare I check out castle? Anyway, Nathan is good for something.

  • Elspeth

    This morning, a search on Per Wickstrom does NOT bring up this story in the first two pages.