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


David Mayo, 1940-2017: Scientology’s top technical wizard and target of ‘Fair Game’

We have just learned that on October 23, former Scientology figure David Mayo died in his native New Zealand after a short illness. He was 76.

In the early 1980s Mayo had risen to become Scientology’s Senior Case Supervisor International and founder L. Ron Hubbard’s personal auditor, and Hubbard appeared to be grooming him to become his successor. By 1983, however, Mayo had been purged in a Scientology reorganization and he started a rival movement, the Church of the New Civilization, with its Advanced Ability Center in Santa Barbara, California. The AAC was shut down three years later under fierce attacks — legal and otherwise — by the Church of Scientology. After years more harassment under Scientology’s notorious “Fair Game” doctrine, Mayo managed to work out a settlement with the church in 1996.

We had long telephone conversations with Mayo during our time at the Village Voice, and he told us that he was still traumatized over some of the things he’d experienced at the hands of Scientology’s private investigators — including at one point the gruesome deaths of his cats. We had hoped that he would speak on the record for a story, but he told us he enjoyed his quiet life in New Zealand, and didn’t want to disturb it.

Mayo was born on November 19, 1940 in Taumarunui, a small town on New Zealand’s North Island. His father was a nurseryman and outdoorsman, and Mayo inherited an abiding interest in nature from his parents. He had three sisters, two of them from his father’s previous marriage.


Mayo was a top student at Taumarunui High School, but it was there that one of his teachers introduced him to both theosophy and Dianetics, and by 1959 he was working for Scientology in Auckland and began corresponding with Hubbard.

“I thought this org was supposed to be about improving people and helping mankind and all of a sudden, my opening correspondence with the founder was about plots and Communists,” Mayo told author Russell Miller in a lengthy 1986 interview.

Mayo went to Scientology’s headquarters at Saint Hill Manor in England in 1962 to do the special Briefing Course, then after a short return to New Zealand and a stint in Scotland, he joined the “Sea Organization” as Hubbard left England to run Scientology from a small group of ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Mayo was part of that voyage from 1971 to 1975.

In 1973, while he was on the yacht Apollo, Mayo met a young Sea Org recruit from Michigan named Julia Gillespie. (She was no relation to the Gillespie family that Hubbard’s oldest daughter, Katie, had married into. Also, she was often referred to as “Julie” in written materials, but the family assures us her real name is “Julia.”) They quickly became close friends, and eventually, after they both had left Scientology and David’s marriage to his first wife, Merrill, ended, they were wed in 1993.

In 1978, Hubbard fell ill, and he credited Mayo’s auditing with saving his life. By then, the FBI had raided Scientology and Hubbard was more paranoid than ever. When Mayo went home to New Zealand for a week in February 1980, Hubbard vanished entirely, going into permanent seclusion with just a few trusted aides. While in hiding, Hubbard ordered the reorganization of Scientology as one of his young lieutenants, David Miscavige, began to exert greater control.

Amid that turmoil, Mayo was seized by Miscavige in 1982 and sent to Scientology’s notorious prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force, at a desert location in Southern California. Here’s how Mayo described his RPF experience in a sworn affidavit: “During that six-month period of captivity, I was forced to run around a tree in the desert in temperatures of up to 110 degrees for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. For 3 months I was under tremendous coercion and duress. I was refused medical and dental treatment — after escaping captivity I lost six teeth and required thousands of dollars of dental work to save the rest of my teeth. I was not permitted to make or receive phone calls and all letters I wrote were read by Scientology security guards.”

Mayo was “declared suppressive” and left the church in 1983, and then he endured heavy harassment as he tried to run his Advanced Ability Center in Santa Barbara. But even after Scientology managed to get it shut down, Mayo was the subject of intense surveillance and dirty tricks, culminating in his being arrested in Santo Domingo in 1994.

After a 1996 settlement, however, Mayo was able to enjoy a life of continued study, gardening, photography, and hiking. He and Julia moved back permanently to New Zealand in 2002.

Mayo’s family has set up a website dedicated to these other pursuits, and not his time in Scientology or with Hubbard.

“Like so many other Kiwis, he grew up inspired by the natural beauty that surrounded him,” the family’s website says. “Tramping on the nearby mountains, swimming in the river and bathing in natural hot pools were favourite activities. David loved learning new things throughout his life, innovation, adventure, and the ever so important overseas experiences. He was renowned for his resilience and resourcefulness but perhaps even better known for his dogged determination and courage in taking on difficult tasks.”

We’re glad we got a chance to have a few conversations with David Mayo several years ago. He certainly inhabited a unique position in Scientology’s history which we can only hint at in this brief article, and we look forward to hearing some memories of him from some of our longtime readers.


[David and Julia Mayo]

[Mayo at the Advanced Ability Center in Santa Barbara]

Karen de la Carriere David Mayo was highly regarded for his innate decency, honor, and integrity. All the Class XIIs would attest he was man of honor. He genuinely wanted to help the person who was trying to use and believe in any self-help techniques by communicating and baring their soul to the counselor. My world fell apart when I looked at my in-basket at the Flag Land Base and found a mimeographed issue with world wide distribution called “The story of a Squirrel” and naming David Mayo as “the darling of the Psychs.” This was the man who saved Hubbard’s life while Hubbard lay comatose in 1978. The cult’s hatred and utter thrust to destroy someone who left the group was in full evidence. The cult had strong urges to DESTROY. To my shame I had engaged in an RTC mission to flip people back to the cult from David’s Advanced Ability Center and I was hung up in this betrayal for a long time. I had joined the evil group against a friend. When I reconnected with David Mayo on the phone, I profusely apologized. He absolutely forgave me and told me about an assassin attempt. I have come to believe the story. At the height of the litigation with the cult, A man showed up with a very visible gun. David talked him out of using it. David described the incident in great depth and was very shaken by it. He was 100 percent sure it was a hit man. One anecdote I will share will give you some insight into the mind of David Mayo. I was auditing a woman close to terminal on cancer. Her name was Grace Alpe. She had bounced from church to church getting refunds and was threatening suicide. For some bizarre and strange reason she had Quentin Hubbard moved in with her in her room at the Fort Harrison and then demanded Quentin Hubbard as her auditor. Grace was re-assigned from me to Quentin. It was Quentin’s end of the road. After some errors and mistakes, in the auditing of Grace Alpe, Quentin lost all his certification and was told he had to re-train from the bottom up. Quentin fled the Flag Land Base that night, and 2 weeks later was found in Las Vegas unconscious and he died a little later. Back to David. Mary Sue Hubbard had been informed of the Grace Alpe dying pc that Quentin was auditing daily and she ordered Grace Alpe be sent back to New Zealand with full refunds of all her monies. Grace was being escorted to Tampa Airport within 2 hours. Richard Kennedy the Sea org member along with a guard were to escort her off the base. David Mayo tracked me down at the Fort Harrison. It was lunch break, I was in my room. Room #688. David was carrying her pc folder. “Karen, Grace is in a state of great upset, she likely will not even live another week, can you please go back in session and do the Case supervised instructions to ease her pain.” I looked at David. I really loved this man. “Sorry David, I can’t” I had spent 5 hours a day with Grace Alpe for the prior 3 months. I couldn’t do it. I looked at David, one class XII to another, I saw his compassion and his need to HELP in what he fully believed was HELP. It was an emotionally charged moment. David felt he had failed Grace Alpe. He cared.

Victoria Pandora I remember showing up to course one day and being happy that I had a bunch of Mayo bulletins to “star rate” and word clear. Mayos bulletins were easy to stomach, well written, and not creepy like much of Hubbard’s stuff. However, on that particular day an extra piece of paperwork had been placed into my course folder. I was also to word clear and star rate David Mayos SUPPRESSIVE PERSON DECLARE. After discussing this with my course supervisor, turns out I was meant to star rate the very bulletins written by this newly created SP Mayo, while finishing up my day by getting checked out on his declare. Jesus, even *I* couldn’t be pushed this far. I almost felt sorry for the course sup, but I kept grilling him. I wanted it all to somehow make sense. Of course that was impossible. Finally he screamed at me, “It is what it is!!”
And since I had a major case of old fashioned wog PMS, I kicked the poor fellow in the shin, lol. Spent most of the rest of my $cientology career on the ethics couch. I say the couch, because during that particular time frame there were lines down the hall and out the door, all waiting to see the E.O. But this day, although I lingered much too long after, was the final straw. I did finally get to “meet” David on ESMB. I’ll always care about him because I know he tried to bring compassion to a very ugly organization. RIP David

Xenu’s son Remember seeing the goldenrod on David May”Story of a squirrel” on the bulletin board of ASHO. Felt very uncomfortable and puzzled. I bet on the wrong horse by seeing what I believed instead of believing what I saw.

Mat Pesch The dispatch that I saw, which was apparently from Hubbard, was to have David (and a couple others that were also in trouble) run around a tree until he wore the path so deep that only his head could be seen. I saw them running around that tree, day after day until they couldn’t even walk. Their bodies broke down. It was obvious to me that the intention of the dispatch was to punish and harm David and the others. By 1983 the RPF was doing the “Running Program Pilot”. It got cut back to 5 hours a day, vitamins, a supervision person, a pole instead of a tree, etc. I remember seeing RPFers at the Big Blue Complex coming back from the park where they had been doing the “pilot” and other RPFers were literally carrying them up the stairs to the floor where the RPF were living. RPFers can’t use an elevator and their bodies were too broken down to walk up stairs. The whole rundown was fluffed up a bit and is now sold to the public for $5,000. It is called the Cause Resurgence Rundown and it is delivered on a big running track on the top floor of the Super Power Building. I suspect that some day the upper floor of the Super Power building will be converted to an indoor, air conditioned doggie park and a drain will be installed around the center pole.

Monica Pignotti Sad news. I knew him quite well years ago. He was always one of the good guys and got out of the cult in 1982 and although he was harassed, spent many decades in freedom. Even though he held a very senior position in Scientology, he was always kind and stood up to Hubbard on more than one occasion. His ex-wife Merrill told me that one time when Hubbard ordered him to go to the RPF (a Scientology gulag) he actually refused! He was both strong and kind-hearted. A rare combination. He will be missed.

Robin Scott I had the privilege off working closely with David Mayo in the Independent Scientology movement of the early 1980s. Possibly the very finest Scientologist ever, certainly a man with incredible moral courage and personal integrity. He led the movement to save the best parts of Scientology for posterity, and I am as proud as hell to have been associated with him. So glad to hear that he returned to his native New Zealand.

Janis Gillham Grady Hana, Thanks for the great memories on David. You just reminded me of that fun mission David, you and I did to the Fort Harrison with LRH as our Mission Ops to work out the original space planning for the FH and CB before everyone moved from Daytona – the purchases were still in escrow! Your statements about David are so correct – he did what he had to to help people. On the Apollo when Mary Sue was mad at her husband, she too used to go to David to vent about Hubbard as David was someone she felt safe talking to – we all felt safe with him.

Valerie Ross I had to take a deep breath and recover from the gut punch from reading the headline before I could continue reading the article about him and then wait even longer before I could comment. I also had to go somewhere other than my office where I could type this because I know I will be sobbing uncontrollably by the time I finish. David truly cared about people. It had nothing to do with his status or his closeness to Hubbard, it had to do with his soul. By the time Mayo’s entire mess happened, I had been disappeared from the Sea Org and had escaped GO and was in the final gasps of extricating myself completely from scientology. Even at that far remove, I heard of what was done to Mayo. I was able to get my hands on a copy of his SP declare and not only did I not believe a word of it, it made me very happy that I was no longer a part of a group that would destroy people in that manner. Even though I had no desire to be connected to anything even slightly similar to scientology, I reached out to David at AAC and we had a few good conversations. I have no doubt his cats were destroyed by order of someone connected to scientology, I long worried that my pets and those I love would be attacked should I speak out. I worried because that’s just how the GO did it. OSA claims to be different from the GO. I honestly believe that. They are worse. Although I would have read his story had he agreed to go on the record, I am truly thrilled that he chose the peaceful life and his quiet pursuits in New Zealand over reminiscing on the record about his past in scientology. I hope he was totally at peace when he died, he deserved that.

Claudio Lugli Way back approximately in 1980 he came to Italy as Senior C/S International for a Flag World Tour lecture and me and Renata had the pleasure of spending a few days with him since we were in the Sea Org at the time working as Flag Service Consultants for Italy. One anecdote I can share that I think summarises his character is this: together with the then FWT I/C Fred Harris and David we went to meet a very wealthy whale at the time Giuseppe Mazzorato. Giuseppe was complaining no results from the Flag auditing he had received and was generally dissatisfied. Fred Harris talking with David was trying to establish the “tactic” to extract money from the whale…… David berated him strongly and told him he had to put his efforts in solving the troubles Giuseppe was going through and NOT thinking about the money. This was a sign of high integrity I very rarely saw in my years in Scientology. Fly high David! You have been a great man.

Joe Howard This was a sad read for me, though not unexpected. Somehow, someway after I blew, David and.I got in contact again, after more than 20 years. We had about five hours of phone conversations over the course of several calls before David even uttered the word Scientology. Not that we had not discussed our time together at Int but he told me numerous times that the agreement he had no choice but to agree to led me to believe that he was not even able to utter the word Scientology, much less tell his long and interesting story about his time in Scientology. I tried unsuccessfully to convince him to write his side of the story, the full story, though I know that some of this has been written up and exists on the Internet. David had a deep interest in astrophysics and I connected him with Geir Isene in Norway who is tech savvy and could have arranged a way for David to be able to share his story. But this was not to be. David told me several times that he did not dare share his story while he was alive because of the repercussions of his agreement. I only hope that he did manage to write down his story and now that he has passed on that it will surface. In April 1982, only months before LRH removed Mayo, he sent him several long (more than 20 pages) about how the reorganization of the church and how David’s unit would fit in. LRH left it up to David as to how he wanted it to be structured but he thought that possibly that David should head up a part of Scientology that was entirely separate from the church itself, which was usually embroiled in the day to day insanity of getting the stats up. That sounded pretty good to David who never really got along all that well with management or even the CMO for that matter. He told me at one point that he had selected me to become part of this unit. One of these memos was the somewhat well-known one where LRH said that in a few years he would be off the lines for 15 or 20 years but not to worry because the tech was all but wrapped up and certainly in good enough shape for David to take over and direct until LRH’s return. Hah! What a joker that LRH turned out to be! Back in happier days, LRH cast David in the original EM 9A tech film, “E-Meter Reads” playing a Humphrey Bogart type character as the Snr C/S Int. I’m sorry that most people have not seen that film because David was really good in it. After he was removed, we had to reshoot the film, naturally. How different would Scientology have been had the right David taken over. He was someone who could actually help people improve the conditions of their lives, which always was the entire point of Scientology. Instead, we have David Miscavige whose only mission is to destroy the subject utterly. Sorry if I’m coming across as an independent Scner. I’m not, really. But David Mayo was someone who made one think that something good could be achieved with it.

TheHoleDoesNotExist David Mayo saved my life. He saved several thousand others in the Sea Org of Scientology and I don’t even know how many public members. How many can give testimony to such a legacy? It was his ideas and works that made many of us trapped inside a bubble of deceit realize it was possible to be happy, that our friends and family could be happy. He did this in an environment of extreme control of information, of hope crushed under an abusive regime, of a time when questions and thinking was a punishable rebel act. Those of us who stubbornly clung to compassion and empathy eventually woke up in a dirty daze inside prison camps called the RPF. I was so delirious running around a pole as part of a punishment device, I didn’t even notice the pain after awhile. The damage would be permanent. What saved me was remembering David had shown me the way out, his Happiness Rundown. The higher ups at the time thought I was a plant for his new group. I wasn’t. But it made it possible for an escape much easier than most had it. I know now I would have had a stroke if I’d endured their torture for even a few more weeks. I’m so sorry for what he had to endure, but so thrilled to hear he recovered and enjoyed a good life. David Mayo taught me the only “tech” that really works, the only way to be happy, is to treat others with kindness, compassion and empathy. The original Scientology trap was set for radical rebels who just wanted to try something different to make a difference. Well, nothing was more radical than love in their machine. You were either spit out or spun out if you insisted on Being Human. His SP Declare woke us up like we’d stuck a wet finger in an electrical socket. We fled. He’s since inspired many to hero in his wake. RIP friend.. You Did make a difference after all.

Tory Christman My experiences with David Mayo started when Debbie Mace asked me: “When are you going to go Clear?” I told her due to Epilepsy…Probably next lifetime. She said “Oh B.S: Write to David Mayo, he’s the Snr C/S at Flag..and he’ll help you.” I wrote to him, explaining I had Epilepsy and needed help getting Clear. He wrote back, “Sounds like you need a PTS Rundown”. Best, David Mayo, Snr C/S. I wrote him back and said basically: “That’s IT? You are SNR C/S on the Planet and the best you can say is the same crap these morons in LA say, over and over?” (I was pissed off, as he was my last hope). He wrote me back a hand written letter, 6 pages, which I still have….explaining in detail what I did need to do, and didn’t and “If you cannot get any help, come to Flag…I’ll help you”, Which he did. Roll forward a few years ago….”David Mayo” arrives on the exscn chat board. Many of us are asking each other: “Is that REALLY David Mayo, or someone using his name? I decided to ask via Private message. I reminded him of my situation, thanked him for helping me, if this is the real David Mayo, could he please call me?” The next day the phone rang. I picked it up saying, “Hello?” I heard: “Hello Tory….this is David Mayo” in his classic accent.” It was so great to hear from him and chat. He wanted a copy of his letter…so I scanned it to him. As we talked, he basically told me he wasn’t well, and was working on healing. I’m so sorry to his family that he’s passed. He may have moved on…but he’s helped THOUSANDS who shall never, ever Forget him. Blessings and love. Fly high, my friend and thank you!


Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,013 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,616 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 159 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,222 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,996 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,770 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,116 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,610 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,650 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,362 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 888 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,977 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,117 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,437 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,412 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 768 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,070 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,176 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,579 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,451 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,033 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,538 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,782 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,891 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 2, 2018 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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email