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Countdown to Room 174: Remembering, in real time, Scientology’s grimmest scandal


Right around this day twenty years ago, Dallas resident Fannie McPherson, who was then 70 years old, had her last telephone conversation with her 36-year-old daughter Lisa.

Two years earlier, Lisa had moved from Dallas to Clearwater, Florida when the company she worked for, AMC Publishing, moved there with all of its employees. AMC catered to the insurance industry and was a WISE company — owned by Scientologists and run on Scientology principles — and the move brought the company to Scientology’s spiritual “mecca” on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Lisa had been a Scientologist since 1982 and had done very well with AMC, making $136,000 in 1993. But after the move to Florida, she began to struggle, not only at her job, but also in her attempts to move up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.”

By the middle of 1995 Lisa was so frustrated she began telling friends that she was through with Scientology. But then she gamely made another attempt to make progress on her case. As the holidays neared, she again talked to a friend in a way that made it sound like she was leaving Scientology. She said she was planning to be back in Dallas in time for Thanksgiving.

And then, around November 12, she called her mother, sounding distraught. Through tears, Lisa told her mother that she had been having difficulty making sales.


“Mother, I’ve let my group down,” she said.

That was the last time Fannie heard from her daughter, who died three weeks later, on December 5.

The strange circumstances of the death of Lisa McPherson became one of the biggest nightmares for Scientology in the organization’s history, leading to years of criminal and civil litigation, and a new level of public scrutiny that has never really subsided.

Through December 5, the 20th anniversary of Lisa’s death, we’re going to be remembering the many interesting and distressing parts of her story with the help of Jeff Jacobsen and his excellent website on Lisa, with Janet Reitman’s masterful account of Lisa’s life in her 2011 book Inside Scientology, and by talking with the people who knew Lisa and lived through the complex aftermath of her death.

We hope, if you have memories of Lisa McPherson and Scientology’s reaction to her death, that you’ll drop us a line — particularly if you have never gone public with your information before.

Tomorrow: When Lisa went Clear.



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.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: 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), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 12, 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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