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Merry Christmas 2015: Here’s your Scientology present under the tree


While David Miscavige excitedly runs to his Christmas tree this morning to find what gifts his Sea Org workers bought him by scraping together money from their 40-cents-an-hour pay (yes, they actually do that), we have our own Christmas miracle for our readers.

Frequent Underground Bunker correspondent Chris Shelton has published his first book, which just became available at Amazon — and it carries a clever title we wish we’d thought of, Scientology: A to Xenu.

Chris spent 27 years in Scientology, much of it as a Sea Org worker and expert in the arcane world of Hubbard “technology.” And he begins his book with a really interesting review of that history. He was brought up by parents who were Scientologists, but his own involvement didn’t begin until he was in high school. Chris skillfully recounts his journey into the church and then out again so many years later.

But he’s interested in more than telling you his experiences in the Sea Org or its prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force. What Chris really wants to do is provide a guide to the ideas and policies and history of Scientology that will be useful to the outsider.


You can see that his “Q&A” video series has really paid off. Chris knows what it is that people are most curious about and what confuses them about Scientology, and so he has learned how to address those questions in an effective way. We particularly enjoyed the chapter about KSW — Keeping Scientology Working — a key, overarching policy that Tom Cruise referred to in his infamous 2008 leaked video. Chris breaks down what Hubbard is doing in the KSW policy to show the layers of indoctrination and control.

Chris knows that his reader is probably someone with a basic notion of Scientology who wants to get to a deeper level of understanding. And along the way, he’s going to dispel some myths…

Yes, Hubbard did say there is a guy named Xenu and he did horrible things so many millions of years ago, and this involved volcanoes. What most people who are relating this story get wrong is the significance of the story in Scientology. The Xenu fable is but one small part of a much larger cosmology and belief system, and the specifics of the DC-8s and the volcanoes are not even the most important or significant part of it. This whole story is not even the strangest thing Hubbard ever said, so why it gets such traction is actually kind of odd to me when I look at the bigger picture of Scientology and all the completely bizarre things Hubbard claimed occurred to us in the past.

Chris is an explainer, and you can sense how much he enjoys making the complex, arcane, and contradictory L. Ron Hubbard understandable to his reader. His step by step explanation of the OT levels was the highlight of the book for us. What Chris has done, really, is produced a reference work, logically structured and labeled, that any journalist, for example, should study and cite in order to understand Scientology concepts.

Chris also takes on the tax exempt status that Scientology enjoys with a lengthy chapter that recounts the history of the organization’s battles with the IRS. And later in the book, he offers a guide for Scientologists themselves to help them on their own journeys out of the Hubbard mind maze.

We can’t help thinking this is going to be a very useful handbook for the many people who are finding their way back into the outside world, just as Chris Shelton did just a few years ago.


Scientology’s 2015 in review: May’s flowers and Miss Lovely

We’re continuing our year-end review of the most significant stories we covered this year in the Underground Bunker, and this time we’re looking at Scientology news for May. Early in the month we put together another report on the wealthy donors who are keeping Scientology afloat.

They were listed in Scientology’s Impact magazine, which included photographs from the fall’s Patrons Ball in East Grinstead, England, where, every October, the church’s biggest donors receive their latest gaudy trophy for giving the church so much money. This time, we noted the sudden appearance of Venezuelan magnates among the trophy winners. And, as usual, the biggest award went to Bob and Trish Duggan, who are so far ahead of the rest as the biggest givers to Scientology.

Speaking of Bob Duggan, on May 6 we revealed that Bob had filed a complaint about our 2014 story about his bizarre arrangement with families in South Africa, who had taken a couple of his adopted sons off of his hands. In order to suppress our story in Google searches, Bob’s attorney made a complaint about the images we had used in the story, even though Duggan himself wasn’t the copyright holder for them. So, not waiting around for what Google planned to do about it, we came up with a fun way to take the images out of the story — by replacing them with illustrations by Oregon cartoonist Chad Essley. We thought the result was great!

Speaking of reveals, on May 11 we had our biggest announcement of the year. Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, was now on sale, and it was being featured on the front page of the Daily Beast. This was a great moment for us, and we really enjoyed seeing our commenters react to receiving their own copies of the book.

The next week, we began our lengthy book tour by traveling to California with Miss Lovely herself, Paulette Cooper. After a first stop in Santa Barbara, we had a truly remarkable day in Hollywood at the Steve Allen Theater in the Center for Inquiry. Not only was this a great venue, and packed to standing room only, but here was Paulette recounting her days of harassment just two blocks from Scientology’s administrative headquarters at Big Blue! What a moment it was.


The next night, Spanky Taylor threw us a party, and none other than Leah Remini stopped by to make the scene. We snapped a photograph of these two amazing troublemakers together, along with Paulette’s adorable husband Paul Noble.


A few days later, it was Jamie DeWolf throwing us a party, this time in San Francisco. The performance artist emceed a crazy stage show that came with its own Commodore…


Wow. And our travels were only beginning.

Near the end of the month, we paused to consider a prominent and longtime Scientology couple that rarely gets the attention they deserve: Fox News host Greta Van Susteren and her attorney husband, John Coale, who had recently been profiled by the Washington Post. Coale fascinates us, and we sent him a note hoping he’d help us understand something. Why, if he has learned how to put his unseen body thetans through drug rehabilitation, doesn’t he brag about that to the politicians he courts? Or to the general public? Why would he and Greta keep to themselves such amazing abilities?

Well, we didn’t get a reply, but it was fun thinking about this elusive couple. Perhaps some day they’ll speak out about the miracles of L. Ron Hubbard’s Space Age technology.

A LOOK BACK AT MAY 2014: Florida horse doctor Lee Shewmaker told us about what drove him away from Scientology. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked the IRS to review its policies on Scientology. We obtained the Clearwater Police report on the strange death of Russian Scientologist Evgeny Zharkin. And the National Association of Forensic Counselors files a massive lawsuit.

A LOOK BACK AT MAY 2013: Lori Hodgson makes a surprise visit to see her son in Austin, Ron Miscavige Sr. resurfaces by selling gym equipment, Wise Beard Man reports from Portland, and we review Marty Rathbun’s book Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior.

BEST OF 2015: Our personal picks for stories we’re most glad we got to write this year:

January: Being on the scene to write about the Going Clear Sundance premiere
February: A shocking tale of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill in Tennessee and Arkansas
March: Sylvia DeWall is declared and faces the loss of her family, and we get to hear it on audio
April: We dig up the true story of Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers
May: Paulette Cooper appears in Hollywood two blocks from Big Blue



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 December 25, 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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