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Scientology’s 2015 in review: In September, Erika Christensen was out of this universe

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We love these last few days of the year. Winter is finally setting in here, and it’s nice having two four-day weekends in a row. Also, it means were still looking back at the most significant stories we covered this year at the Underground Bunker. In this post we’re remembering the stories of September.

We adore Scientology’s testimonials videos. David Miscavige puts out one every year or so, and they always feature a pounding, manic soundtrack as dozens of Scientologists tell you how much a course or level has changed their lives. It’s frenetic fun, punctuated with some truly astounding statements (“I’m me for the first time in trillions of years!”), and in September we were sent a testimonials video from 2006 that had not previously been made public. Imagine our surprise when we noticed that one of the gushing Scientologists was none other than actress Erika Christensen. Oh, you have to think she never thought this would get to the outside world.

That testimonials video was actually part of a longer presentation — the 2006 Maiden Voyage opening night celebration. It’s pretty rare to see the Maiden Voyage events outside of a Scientology org. We found a lot of great nuggets in this one, including scenes of Scientologists doing wacky exercises that they are more careful about showing these days.

On September 7, we noted a grim anniversary. It’s now been a full ten years since Shelly Miscavige, wife to leader David Miscavige, vanished from the International Base near Hemet, California and has only been seen in public since then once — for a couple of days in the summer of 2007 for the funeral of her father. We think we know where she’s been held all these years, but it’s still amazing to think that the leader of a billion-dollar, worldwide organization like Scientology could make his wife disappear without any repercussions.

A week later, we celebrated with Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright as their documentary Going Clear won three Emmy awards. We got reactions from Paul Haggis and from Wright about the big win.

Speaking of documentaries, a Danish film featured some wild footage of Marc Headley at the Int Base. He had told us about the event and showed us his smartphone footage some time before, but now it was fascinating to see the full encounter as filmed by the Danish crew.

On September 20, we showed another portion of the 2006 Maiden Voyage event, featuring official L. Ron Hubbard biographer Dan Sherman. Dan really spins a tall tale about Hubbard’s 1966 adventure in Rhodesia, making Hubbard out as a would-be prime minister of the country, if the locals only had had some sense. Hoo-boy. What a yarn. With the help of Russell Miller’s book, we do a little fact-checking of Sherman’s fantasy.

September also took us to one of our best legs of our book tour. It started in Cleveland, where the local Bunkerites really put on a great event. Minneapolis surprised us with a great venue that was jam packed with eager folks. And then we traipsed through the Pacific Northwest, with stops in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. But we still managed to keep the stories coming.

At one point, we scrambled to post a story about the announcement of Leah Remini’s book Troublemaker during the few minutes we had between flights at Chicago-O’Hare.

We were also interested in something happening at the opposite end of the country — Alex “Darth Xander” Hageli let us know that he’d filed a legal motion asking for the anti-protesting injunction involving the old Lisa McPherson Trust to be dissolved. His request was denied, but at least the city attorney put out an instruction to the city’s police that the injunction doesn’t apply to Hageli, who can protest Scientology facilities all he wants.

And then came the month’s big moment. We can still remember where we were, driving from our Seattle appearance to the Canadian border for our Vancouver event, when we noticed that we’d received a text message from one of our sources. Did we know, the person asked, that the woman in the news, the girlfriend of Jim Carrey’s who had killed herself, was a Scientologist? Wow. We scrambled that afternoon before our Vancouver appearance to make phone calls and get the story of Cathriona White’s involvement with Scientology nailed down. We scheduled our story to pop up in the morning, and then headed for the Seattle airport to fly home.

We had no idea the story would blow up the way it did. Also, because our sources on the story were so key but talking only to us, other news organizations had to credit us, and many of them called us, asking for assistance — which we were happy to give. And this story was only beginning.

 
A LOOK BACK AT SEPTEMBER 2014: Nancy Cartwright makes perhaps the creepiest Scientology ad ever. Jim Jackson remembers Lyman Spurlock. And Scientology crows about getting money from Google.

A LOOK BACK AT SEPTEMBER 2013: Scientology’s private dancer, live-blogging at the Monique Rathbun temporary restraining order hearing, and day two’s live-blog which set a then-record number of comments for a single blog post at the Bunker (3,442).

 
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
June: Scientology illegally hacks Mike Rinder and your proprietor with a PI who takes the fall
July: Scientology’s little day care of horrors
August: Why Steve Fishman — of the notorious Fishman papers — is today serving 21 years in prison
September: Jim Carrey’s girlfriend, Cathriona White, was a Scientologist on the SRD when she killed herself

 
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Bonus photos from our tipsters

Scientology usually celebrates New Year’s Eve early so the video of its party can be shown at the orgs around the world. We’re starting to get some images of what took place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday night. It appears that there was also something going on at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre that night.

Denice Duff said in her caption that she had received a “humanitarian award” at the Shrine. Jim Mathers made the scene. And the Russian-speakers were going all out.

 
NYE16aNYE16bNYE16d

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

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)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 29, 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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