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‘Scientology is dying’: John Brousseau on the decline of Int Base and fate of Shelly Miscavige

On Wednesday, Erin Hodges Plumb wrote up her visit to the San Jacinto City Council, which briefly considered the notion of closing Gilman Springs Road before approving a motion never to bring the subject up again.

Closing the road has long been a dream of the Church of Scientology, whose secretive 500-acre “Int Base” management compound is split in two by the highway. But we were surprised that Scientology might still be trying to make that happen for one simple reason: Int Base is becoming an afterthought.

Once, the Southern California base housed some 800 Sea Org workers, and was the primary home of Scientology leader David Miscavige. It was also the location of Miscavige’s notorious prison for his top lieutenants, known as “The Hole.” But after the conditions in The Hole were made public in 2009, Miscavige has lessened the compound’s importance. The population at the base has fallen to around 250, a new set of studios was opened in Hollywood so the base’s “Golden Era” studios have less reason to exist, and recent defectors claim that Miscavige himself hasn’t been at the base in four years.

After Wednesday’s story ran, we heard from John Brousseau, who told us he had come to what he called a “melancholy realization.”


“Int Base is atrophying. It’s a dead zone,” he says.

Brousseau is one of the most interesting former Scientologists we’ve ever interviewed. (See our Village Voice two part series: Part 1, Part 2.) Brousseau once served as L. Ron Hubbard’s personal driver. He was also David Miscavige’s brother-in-law for 16 years. And he helped Tom Cruise refurbish his home and an airplane hangar, and even upgraded his vehicles. He also renovated the Freewinds, Scientology’s private cruise ship. But his chief duty, for many years, was to oversee the development and maintenance of Int Base, which he ultimately escaped from in 2010.

And he told us he had thoughts about Int Base deteriorating.

“You have to look back at the life cycle of that base and the Sea Org and Scientology over a long term. That base had a lot of projects going. Bonnie View. Upgrading the property. DM’s private berthing,” he says, referring to lavish building projects, none of which were more involved than the construction of “Building 50,” the Religious Technology Center headquarters which today sits empty.


[A drone view of Building 50]

“Now, Miscavige refuses to set foot there. He’s extracted any operations and put them in LA at the studios there. And what’s left is a bunch of people who are a very high security risk, because they were there during the ‘Miscavige Unplugged’ days,” he says, a reference to 2004, when Miscavige first ordered his top execs into The Hole and had JB put bars on the windows and doors.

“The Hole still exists, even though it’s more externally compliant,” he adds. “The people in The Hole are still ostracized.”

So although Miscavige is staying away from the base, and he’s moved people he needs to other locations, what’s left at the base are aging Sea Org members he can’t afford to let out for fear that they might escape and go public with what they know.

“It’s tuck ’em away and make sure they don’t blow, and then wait until they die. And do everything you can so they won’t blow. That’s why they need the highway shut down. It’s what they need to be thoroughly isolated,” he says.

Brousseau says he has debriefed new defectors from the base.

“It’s surprising how things have not changed since I left,” he says. “The same people doing the same shit. Empty buildings. People not given job titles but used as go-fers and for useless make-work. The most exciting thing now is when someone is plucked out to be put on a video because someone they know went on Leah Remini’s show. You’re king shit when they do that to you.”

As former Scientologists have come forward to speak on Remini’s A&E series, Scientology and the Aftermath, the church has responded by making videos featuring Scientologists attacking those show guests.

Brousseau says it’s a big deal to be selected for the video smear attacks.

“No one will touch you because you’re in Dave’s good books. That’s the biggest activity that generates any excitement at Int Base now,” he says with a laugh.

He also let us know that he agrees with our recent story revealing that Miscavige spent several years dismantling the Sea Org’s internal prison program, the Rehabilitation Project Force.

“People still get in trouble, but there’s no more RPF because it generates so much bad press,” he says. And the negative attention from the press is having a major effect now, he adds.

“The Church of Scientology is shutting down and slowly dying.”

We pointed out that while Int Base is deteriorating, PAC Base in Los Angeles was also showing signs that it’s struggling, and despite Miscavige’s show of opening “Ideal Orgs” around the world, it seemed to us that he was concentrating more resources on the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida.

“They are circling the wagons in Clearwater. I think Miscavige spends time there. He has private rooms on an entire floor, the seventh floor, of the Super Power Building — I walked through it in 2009,” he says.

We asked him how Miscavige might react when Tom Cruise actually moves into his double penthouse on the 9th and 10th floors of the Skyview Building on Cleveland Street. Will Miscavige’s 7th floor hideaway in the Flag Building (Scientology’s official name for the Super Power Building) be luxe enough?

“Miscavige can’t have something that isn’t as good or better than Tom. I actually heard him say things like that: ‘I don’t want him to have the same thing as me,’ he would say.”

How will Miscavige one-up Tom? We’ll have to find out.

As for the sad state of Int Base, Brousseau says that Miscavige is probably tempted to close it altogether, if he could find someplace to put the last of the people there.

“What is he going to do with those 250 people? He can’t move them all up to CST, there are too many,” he says, referring to the headquarters compound of the Church of Spiritual Technology, the small mountain complex near Lake Arrowhead where another famous Int Base resident, David Miscavige’s wife Shelly, was sent in late summer 2005.

JB was there at Int Base when that happened, and this is how he described what he saw to Leah Remini on the September 12 episode of Aftermath, his first ever television interview…

I saw her get in trouble. And she would disappear during portions of the day, and I sort of surmised that she was being security checked, you know. I could see the terror in her eyes. I think she said something and Miscavige found out and suddenly he had this person who was his wife who — holding the electrodes of the E-meter in her hand — voiced it, and that was it. The axe fell. And then she just sort of disappeared very shortly thereafter. He’ll do everything he can to keep her wherever she is until she dies.

Multiple lines of evidence convince us that Shelly has been at the CST Headquarters compound for the past 12 years. She was only let out for a single day in the summer of 2007 in order to attend her father’s funeral, and was accompanied by a Scientology “handler.” Since then, Shelly hasn’t been seen at any Scientology events or anywhere else in public. However, we reported that a woman who lives in nearby Crestline believes that she may have seen Shelly in town a couple of times looking “frail,” and we’re taking her report seriously.

So given all that, we asked JB, is Shelly a prisoner?

“Yes. From an external point of view, and from Dave’s point of view, yes. There are all manner of things in place to make sure she doesn’t leave. All kinds of cameras, and security guards who know her whereabouts at every moment. She’s probably been given a dog, because who’s going to leave if they can’t take their dogs with them? Miscavige did that with Annie Tidman,” he says, referring to one of the last people who saw L. Ron Hubbard alive.

“But in Shelly’s mind, she’s not a prisoner. She’s there on her own volition,” he adds. And that explains why she may not have attempted to escape or call for help.

In January, we reported that some non-Scientology relatives of Shelly tried to get the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office interested in checking on Shelly’s welfare, but they didn’t get anywhere. Similarly, we got a formulaic response when we made our own inquiry.

“I remember Shelly when she was 19. She was kind of a sweet girl. Then she latched on with Miscavige, and then she had no choice but to emulate the guy. It’s do that or be destroyed,” Brousseau says. “The same thing happened to Laurisse. Delightful girl before she went to work for him. And now there’s another. Did you know about this? Her name is Evie Terpstra.”

JB says Miscavige’s inner circle now consists of four five people: his “personal communicator” Laurisse “Lou” Henley-Smith, Evie Terpstra in some sort of secretarial position, his steward Georgiana “George” Irons, his personal chef Thierry, and his personal driver Yvonne Gonzalves.


(Evie Terpstra is standing next to Tommy Davis in this still from the 2007 New Year’s Eve celebration. Next to Tommy is Dan Sherman, David Miscavige’s speechwriter, and on Evie’s right is Gunhild Jacobs, who emcees the Writers of the Future gala each spring.)

And is that inner circle watching Miscavige freak out right now, with all that’s going on?

“I don’t think he feels as desperate as we perceive,” he says. Brousseau was around Miscavige during heated crises in the past, and Miscavige will try to find a way to turn it into just more material to fire up the remaining members.

“Miscavige never gives up. He’ll just become furious and come up with new tactics,” he says. And then laughs, “He’ll never succumb to the SPs.”


Professor Kent takes on Narconon

There is none better in academia than University of Alberta professor Stephen Kent, and we’re happy to see that he’s written a new article on Narconon which is now online.

Here are a few lines from its abstract…

“I argue that Scientology initially wavered about acknowledging its program to be part of its ‘religion,’ but eventually dropped this claim as it attempted to get Narconon programs and teachings established in communities. I show, however, the intimate association between Scientology and Narconon courses, and present some of the evidence that the program lacks scientific validity – especially its Purification Rundown.”


Bonus items from our tipsters

Oh, hey, look. Some 12-year-old is going through your confessionals so they can open another Ideal Org.


Scientology, always making friends.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,930 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 76 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,139 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,913 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,687 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,033 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,527 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,567 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,279 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 805 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,894 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,034 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,354 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,329 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 685 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,987 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,093 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,496 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,369 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 950 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,455 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,699 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,808 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 11, 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


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