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DRONE FLYOVER: First images of Scientology’s Gold Rush mine in California


Another Wednesday brings us more unique footage from an anonymous drone pilot who has flown over some of Scientology’s most secretive sites.

Three weeks ago, he gave us a view of Scientology’s secretive international management base (“Int Base”) that we’d never seen before. Two weeks ago he flew us over the even more secret “CST” headquarters compound in the mountains above Los Angeles, where we believe Scientology leader David Miscavige stashed away his wife Shelly eleven years ago. And last week, we got an unprecedented look at the ranch in San Luis Obispo County where Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986.

This week, we’re getting a look at another secretive “CST” underground vault site owned by the church, one which is located in California’s gold country, near the town of Tuolumne.

The Lady Washington Mine was a Gold Rush-era quartz mine that was associated with several claims in the area, including the New Albany and Dead Horse mines. A vintage photo shows the mill operated by the United Mines group just outside Tuolumne itself.



The church took possession of the Lady Washington Mine in 1988, and then turned one of its tunnels into an underground vault with construction in 1997, according to a local newspaper:

A branch of the Church of Scientology is turning a Gold rush era mine in Tuolumne into a vault. The Church of Spiritual Technology has been blasting at the Lady Washington Mine, 18749 First Avenue, for several weeks and recently finished gunniting about 108 feet of tunnel. Plans filed with the Tuolumne County Building Department show a 15-foot-wide, 250-foot-long-tunnel. The first 98 feet from the entrance are improved, with a 10.5-foot domed ceiling. At the end of the 98 feet is a 10-foot-long storage room. The plans show the rest of the tunnel to be unimproved. The value of the finished project, according to the building permit, is $210,000. The church has also applied for a permit to build a generator building, but that permit has not yet been approved. The Lady Washington Mine and two houses on 26.23 acres were purchased in 1988 by William and Donna Daniels. They bought six parcels in all. Part of the land was sold by William Trimmer, and the rest by Drew Reeves. In 1988, the Daniels gave the property to Norman Starkey, trustee of “Author’s Family Trust.” Starkey gave the property to the Church of Spiritual Technology in 1993.

The Church of Spiritual Technology is Scientology’s odd and very secretive entity whose mission is to construct underground vaults for the storing and preservation of L. Ron Hubbard’s works in case of civilization collapse. CST operates separately from the church, and most Scientologists never learn about it. Even high-level Scientology executives are kept in the dark about the location of the vaults and how they operate. (See our overview of CST and the vault sites, with maps.)

Unlike the other CST properties, this one isn’t very remote — it’s just outside the town of Tuolumne itself, and is easy to find on maps. But all you can see from outside it is a locked gate.


Now, you’re going to get a bird’s eye look at the Lady Washington property with unprecedented detail. Make sure to watch these videos on full screen to soak up the incredible detail of the 4K camera that was mounted a DJI Phantom 4 drone…


The drone pilot supplied some of his own notes this time.

The video starts at the eastern edge of the town of Tuolumne flying east between Crocker and Baker Avenues. The drone flies to the top of the ridge and then turns south to a large meadow containing two crosses we see later in the video close up. The drone then turns around and flies back north along the ridge line at a lower altitude showing all of the buildings on the base. At the north end of the base the drone turns around once more and heads south along the ridge at the lower altitude. When it reaches the buildings it does an orbit around them.

At 3:20 you see the only visible resident of the base in the center of the frame: A large black cat.

At 5:00 you can see one of the mysteries of the base. There is what appears to be a motorhome under a dark brown covering well hidden beneath the trees. It has a really odd shape though and I would love to know what it is. It could just be in storage but it is so well hidden from view it makes me wonder. It is visible later in the video at several times.

At 6:00 the drone is looking north and below the main house you can see what appears to be a gate covering an entrance into the hillside, one of the older mine entrances.

Part 2 of the video begins with a close investigation of the mine entrance that was improved in 1997, and that probably contains the vault with Hubbard’s materials.

At 5:00 the drone begins a very low and slow precision approach to the very well watered and cared for grass area in the middle of the base.

At 5:20 you get the best look at the motorhome or whatever is hidden under the brown covering.

At 6:22 the drone has turned around to face east and pitched the camera to look down. The drone then flies south along the ridge while continuing to look east. When the drone reaches the meadow past the southern entrance to the base, it makes a close examination of the two crosses there.


[The mine site below the houses, improved in 1997 and containing the vault (we think).]


[A good look at the south house (left) and north house (right).]


[The crosses on “Mt. Havilah,” visible from town.]

Speaking of those crosses, we had previously learned a fun bit of trivia about the Lady Washington Mine that we hadn’t found an opportunity to mention before.

Each Easter, a local Christian congregation gets permission from the Scientologists at the mine to go on to the property to hold a sunrise service on that hilltop. So, if you’ve ever wanted to walk onto a CST property, you might, this spring, join the Soulsbyville United Methodist Church when it makes the trek up the hill.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Jens Tingleff last night reported in our comments section that in Copenhagen, Narconon ads are being removed from city buses after a local newspaper made an inquiry about the ads violating a rule about promoting a religious viewpoint. For once, local authorities were not snowed by Scientology’s obfuscations that its drug rehab clinics are not really a part of Scientology. The local newspaper pointed out that the Narconon building had been purchased by Social Betterment Properties International, which is a subsidiary of the church itself. And that proved to the bus company that the tie was real. Nice going, “Information!” Here’s a translation of their story.

Meanwhile, back in Southern California, Kerri Kasem promoted another Scientology “human rights” front.



Your proprietor on Reddit tomorrow — with Paulette Cooper!

To mark the occasion of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely being released in audiobook form, tomorrow we’ll be subjecting ourselves to an AMA at Reddit’s Scientology board, and we’ll be joined by Miss Lovely herself, Paulette Cooper!

You’ll have a chance to “Ask Me Anything” from noon to 2 pm, Eastern time.


The Underground Bunker is 4 years old today

Another year already? Well, we couldn’t have done it without our great readers and commenters.

The cats have pulled out the hooch for later, and we’ll be celebrating by scrambling for another story for tomorrow, just like every other day.

But here’s a toast to Scientology Watching, and on into our fifth year!


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 28, 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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