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Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s caretaker and friend, Steve ‘Sarge’ Pfauth, 1945-2016


Sinar Parman, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s former personal chef, revealed on Facebook last night that Steve ‘Sarge’ Pfauth died yesterday in Michigan of heart and kidney ailments. Pfauth was 70.

Pfauth was a loyal friend to Hubbard and served him as a caretaker and ranch hand in his final years. From 1983 to 1986, Pfauth worked at the Creston, California ranch where Hubbard spent his final days. As Pfauth later pointed out, he worked so closely with Hubbard his signature appears on both Hubbard’s death certificate and his last will.

And it was Pfauth who had such a bombshell of information about Hubbard’s final days author Lawrence Wright chose to use it as the ending for his 2013 history, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. In that anecdote, Pfauth revealed that late in 1985, Hubbard asked Pfauth to construct a lethal version of an E-Meter so he could end his life. Pfauth instead built one with low voltage that made a lot of sparks, and Hubbard didn’t harm himself. But Hubbard died several weeks later of a stroke, on January 24, 1986.

It was a powerful ending to an epic book. We asked Wright for his thoughts on the news of Pfauth’s passing.


“A journalist never knows when he’s treading on the edges of history. I’m always grateful to have had the opportunity to talk to people and get their stories before they pass on, and often regret not getting there in time. Steve Pfauth – Sarge – was one who had a unique piece of history that might have gone with him to the grave if he had not agreed to talk to me. Thanks to his courage and generosity, we know the truth about L. Ron Hubbard’s final days. I hope Sarge’s final days were comfortable and fulfilling.”

In Going Clear, Wright explained that it was at a 2011 independent Scientology gathering in Texas organized by Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder that he ran into Pfauth. He interviewed Pfauth, and had the foresight to video the interview, and scenes from that video ended up being used in Alex Gibney’s film, also named Going Clear.

Pfauth also gave a more extensive interview to Marty Rathbun, and a transcript of that conversation makes up the last chapters of Rathbun’s 2013 book, Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior. Pfauth also told his story at Steve Hall’s website, and on Rathbun’s website.

Pfauth was born on November 12, 1945, and by his own account was enjoying a life without hardships in Michigan when he ran into a magazine ad for a Scientology book by L. Ron Hubbard in 1975. He found it so compelling, before long he’d ditched his life in Michigan for the full time pursuit of Scientology at its Washington DC org. One of his chief aims was to meet Hubbard, and when he was told Hubbard needed help renovating a hotel in Clearwater, Florida, Pfauth signed the Sea Organization’s billion-year contract. He eventually got close to Hubbard himself, and became a trusted bodyguard, adopting the code name “Sarge.” (Parman says that it referred to Pfauth’s service in Vietnam as a sergeant in the Air Force.)

In February 1980, with Scientology going through federal prosecutions over its Snow White Program, Hubbard, who had been a semi-recluse for years, went into permanent hiding. For the next three years, he hid out in Newport Beach and other Southern California locations with a young couple, Pat and Annie Broeker, before they finally settled at the Creston Ranch in 1983, and Pfauth joined them there.

In Rathbun’s book, Pfauth talked about Hubbard becoming increasingly erratic in his last months. Hubbard would walk around the ranch in his nightrobe, looking for “body thetans” that he said he could see. At one point, Hubbard looked up at the stars and told Pfauth that the aliens inhabiting them were all just “cowboys.”

Here’s how Wright describes his conversation with Pfauth about Hubbard’s final weeks:

Six weeks before the leader died, Pfauth hesitantly related, Hubbard called him into the bus. He was sitting in his little breakfast nook. “He told me he was dropping his body. He named a specific star he was going to circle. That rehabs a being. He told me he’d failed, he’s leaving,” Pfauth said. “He said he’s not coming back here to Earth. He didn’t know where he’d wind up.”

“How’d you react?” I asked.

“I got good and pissy-ass drunk,” Pfauth said. “Annie found me at five in the morning in my old truck, Kris Kringle, and I had beer cans all around me. I did not take it well.”

I mentioned the legend in Scientology that Hubbard will return.

“That’s bull crap,” Pfauth said. “He wanted to drop the body and leave. And he told me basically that he’d failed. All the work and everything, he’d failed.”

I had heard a story that Pfauth had built some kind of electroshock mechanism for Hubbard in the last month of his life. I didn’t know what to make of it, given Hubbard’s horror of electroshock therapy. Pfauth’s eyes searched the ceiling as if he were looking for divine help. He explained that Hubbard was having trouble getting rid of a body thetan. “He wanted me to build a machine that would up the voltage and basically blow the thetan away. You can’t kill a thetan but just get him out of there. And also kill the body.”

“So it was a suicide machine?”


Pfauth was staggered by Hubbard’s request, but the challenge interested him. “I figured that building a Tesla coil was the best way to go.” The Tesla coil is a transformer that increases the voltage without upping the current. Pfauth powered it with a 12-volt automobile battery, and then hooked the entire apparatus to an E-Meter. “So, if you’re on the cans, you can flip a button and it does its thing,” Pfauth explained. “I didn’t want to kill him, just to scare him.”

“Did he try it?”

“He blew up my E-meter. Annie brought it back to me, all burnt up.”

This was just before Christmas, 1985. Hubbard died a few weeks later of an unrelated stroke.

The believers are still waiting for his return.

Pfauth’s story, which was consistent in each of the places it appeared, provides a much clearer picture of Hubbard’s final days, which had been the subject of much speculation. Hubbard was only 74 years old, but he had been in failing health for years. Pfauth told Rathbun that Hubbard was in no shape to sign his last will, which was executed two days before his death. The will gave little to Hubbard’s family, and instead bequeathed more than half a billion dollars to Scientology itself, and its controlling “Church of Spiritual Technology” entity.

Debate will go on about Hubbard’s state of mind when his final will was signed, but we’re grateful to Steve Pfauth that he gave such a clear picture of Hubbard’s final years on this planet.


Steve Cannane’s book out in September


The rest of the world is now getting to see what attendees at HowdyCon in Cleveland got a sneak peek of last month: The cover for journalist Steve Cannane’s forthcoming book about Scientology in Australia, Fair Game.

We’ve read several of the chapters of this book, and we can tell you it’s top-notch journalism and a cracking read. And we hope Steve goes on a book tour. Maybe he’ll even let us interview him on stage the way he did for us in Sydney and Melbourne.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Hey, girl. Let me pick up you in my ambulance for a touch assist and tea at the Fort Harrison.


Coolest religion in Venezuela.



3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 11, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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