Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Tonight on ‘Aftermath’: Suicide in Scientology, where sympathy and compassion are outlawed

Tonight’s episode of Scientology and the Aftermath packed quite a punch for us, even though we were already pretty familiar with both stories that Leah Remini and Mike Rinder tell in this, the second installment of the second season.

The episode begins with Marie Bilheimer talking to Mike and Leah about the 2004 suicide of her husband Aaron Poulin at the Hollywood Inn, a very familiar Scientology building on Hollywood Boulevard.

As we pointed out in our story last year about Marie and her family, it was really quite remarkable that the Church of Scientology managed to keep quiet that a 21-year-old Sea Org member had hanged himself in a Scientology facility in the middle of Hollywood. Not only had the death not been reported in the Los Angeles Times, Mike Rinder told us that he hadn’t heard anything about it at the time even though he was a high official in the church.

Marie explains how confusing and devastating it was not only to lose her young husband (she was only 21 at the time herself), and then be told by the church never to say what had happened to him. For years, she would be asked about her husband by other Scientologists who had no idea that he’d died.



[Marie Bilheimer]

As in our story last year, Marie wrestles with the reasons that her husband had sunk so far into despair that he would end his life. His career in the Sea Org hadn’t been going as well as hers, and he was facing some legal problems that she only really learned about completely several years later. But what comes through so clearly in this episode is that Aaron Poulin was a young man who needed help, and Scientology’s Sea Org is not a place where he was going to get it.

Marie’s account is heart-rending. But her family went through so much more than the death of Aaron Poulin. We encourage you to read the rest of the story, which involves not only another suicide in the family, but also one of the worst disconnection stories that we’ve ever reported.


[Marie, second from right, and Aaron, center, in a photo that still hits us hard. Read why here.]

In the second half of the episode, the story of 27-year-old Tayler Tweed’s suicide is told, and by someone we didn’t expect: Director Paul Haggis’s daughter Lauren Haggis.

We broke the news of Tayler’s death in 2014. (Like the death of Aaron Poulin, Tayler’s is another Scientology suicide in Southern California that has never been mentioned by the Los Angeles Times.) Tayler had used a revolver to take her life, and we spoke briefly with her mother, Cathy Tweed, nine days after Tayler’s death. Cathy said she didn’t think Scientology was involved in her daughter’s suicide, a view we were sympathetic to at the time. But two years later, friends of Tayler’s reached out to us with files of Tayler’s missing Facebook posts that she had put up in the months before her death.

Those posts told a different story, one that was definitely about a young Scientologist struggling with how to get help in an organization that denies that depression exists.

Now, Leah and Mike reveal that Lauren Haggis had gone to school with Tayler at Delphi, a Scientology school in Oregon, and had kept in touch with her. She too watched Tayler’s increasingly distressing Facebook posts about what it was like to try and get emotional support in a church that demonizes the mental health industry.


[Lauren Haggis]

And Lauren has a surprise: She had obtained text messages that Tayler made with a good friend in her final weeks, helping to further explain the turmoil that she was going through, and how Scientology had made things so much worse.

“Scientology does not recognize depression as a mental illness,” Mike Rinder says, explaining that Scientologists, like Tayler, are told to “handle” their mental upsets with just more Scientology auditing and with taking vitamins.

Like Marie Bilheimer, Lauren Haggis is still clearly struggling with what happened, and she admits that as she watched Tayler’s online postings become more erratic, she was held back by her fears as a Scientologist — if she reached out publicly, she could find herself in ethics trouble.

“I let that fear control me. I wish I hadn’t,” she says, and later adds, “I’ve known five people in my life who have killed themselves. Four of them were Scientologists.”

A professional artist, Lauren has memorialized her friend Tayler in several paintings, and we get to see one of them during the episode.


In one of the more emotional responses we’ve seen from Leah herself, she tells Lauren that Tayler Tweed was someone she wished she had known.

“She would have been someone I would have liked to help,” she says.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,850 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,833 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,607 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,953 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,447 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,487 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,199 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 725 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,814 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,954 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,274 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,249 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 605 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,907 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,014 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,416 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,289 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 870 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,375 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,619 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,728 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 22, 2017 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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email