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Returning to Clearwater with a Miscavige cutout and memories of the Lisa McPherson Trust

[Jeff brought a life-size cutout with him, that card]

Way back in 1999, we wrote a story for the Phoenix New Times about a local resident who was getting the full “Fair Game” treatment from the Church of Scientology. Jeff Jacobsen was a knowledgeable church critic who had alerted the world to the plight of a parishioner named Lisa McPherson who had died on the other side of the country. Jeff was also known for an excellent backgrounder on L. Ron Hubbard’s “technology,” and for being one of the members of the Lisa McPherson Trust in Clearwater, Florida. He made a trip back to Clearwater this week, and we asked him to send us his thoughts about it…

I took a quick trip to Florida for the first time since 2001, when the Lisa McPherson Trust closed down. While I worked there Clearwater was trying hard to figure out how to revitalize their downtown. The main problem, however, was that Scientology also had big plans for the downtown area, and had by then already purchased millions of dollars in properties, and their staff were heading to and fro everywhere in their uniforms. The place truly did seem occupied by some huge corporation, or maybe cult.

Clearwater still hasn’t figured out how to revitalize downtown. I spent a couple of hours on my own last week just walking around to see what differences 17 years might have brought. It is a bit tidier now. There seem to be more stores open, although it is still far from revitalized. Little shops like the Lucky Anchor Bar have tables and chairs out in front of their respective locations. This is good because the city has ONE bench in all of downtown that I could see. They even took benches out of the Gaslight Alley Park, which essentially defeats the purpose of the park as a quiet place to relax. If the city wants to attract people downtown, why not give them shade trees and places to sit? I even asked this question at the downtown development office. The woman there said yes, that’s a good point. I’ll pass that on. Sure.

The mass marches to the back of the Clearwater Bank Building don’t happen anymore. This is where the cafeteria was for staff, so bus after bus and wave after wave of Scientologists in uniform would crowd in there in shifts. I think I heard they moved the cafeteria to the Super Power building now, but I didn’t see any mass migration there so don’t know. One new thing is a cross walk on Ft. Harrison Avenue right in front of the Ft. Harrison Hotel. It has a button for the pedestrians to push that sets off flashing yellow lights so traffic has to stop for them. I saw these flashing lights going often, and in fact I had to wait myself for a slow string of staff members continually pressing that button. This seems a little strange to me because just above the heads of all those pedestrians is a walkway going over Ft. Harrison Avenue connecting the hotel to the Super Power building. Is this used at all? I couldn’t see inside so don’t know.

Staff in crisp black and white uniforms are still rushing from place to place (do they actually have identical sunglasses?), only the foot traffic seems more spread out now. I saw people walking from the Sandcastle to the Ft. Harrison, and every place in between. After walking past Super Power, I even walked past Ben Shaw! I thought about talking to him, but then wondered if he knew who I was as we smiled at each other. So I just walked on, marveling that he looked pretty good for a 100-year-old.



The Lisa McPherson Trust building is now occupied by the Way to Happiness. And in fact that whole block is now Scientology front groups, with no foot traffic to any of them. At least the buildings are kept up and look occupied, making the downtown appear more active than otherwise.

While passing the old LMT I saw a book in the curb. I picked it up and saw it was a Russian-to-English dictionary. There is discussion about how many staff are at Flag on Religious Worker visas from other countries, so that fits in.

The Lisa McPherson brick in the Gaslight Alley Park is now the front middle brick as you step into the park. Someone had scratched out the name from the brick, so we paid for a replacement and the city moved that brick front and center so if anyone else tried to deface it they would be noticed. Thank you, Clearwater.

When I worked at the LMT, a routine set in where Scientology’s private investigators would follow us to and from work and to other destinations. Ever-present security at Scientology buildings would constantly watch us and report in on their radios. On this trip, however, there seemed to be less security than I was used to, but yet… as I was walking around like a simple tourist, taking photos here and there, a young guy in a nice suit, with a big walkie-talkie or something on his belt, seemed to be paying attention to me. But I was never followed that I could tell on foot or by car. After meeting with some friends at the Lucky Anchor, however, I walked to my car parked in the public parking garage across from the LMT. Standing near my car was a tall thin young man who started a conversation with me by asking me what I was doing there. He seemed upset that I had been denigrating someone with my life-size cutout of David Miscavige. My friends and I and some other people took photos with the cutout here and there. As I was debating whethere to actually have a conversation, I asked “who are you? Are you a Scientologist?” He said yes and I said “oh, then I don’t have to talk to you” and went to my car. He took the required photos of me and my car as I left.

So what’s new in Clearwater after 17 years? Unfortunately, not much. Small attempts are being made to make change, but that 400-pound gorilla is still there, and apparently still in control.

— Jeff Jacobsen


LD Sledge posts his Flag graduation

LD Sledge is a longtime Scientologist we’ve noted from time to time. He is a die hard who joined the church in 1970s, a charismatic guy who offers his services as a ghostwriter. He went through a bout with cancer not too long ago, and we quietly rooted for him to come through it. And now he’s graduated on some Basics course — after already achieving the highest level on the Bridge to Total Freedom, OT 8, which is one of David Miscavige’s odd innovations. It’s like a PhD has redone the 4th grade and is being celebrated by what appear to be several hundred enthusiastic Scientologists at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.

Sledge posted this graduation video himself to Facebook, so we’re going to share it with you to get a glimpse of Flag today. So many people who started during LD’s time have fallen away. What keeps him in?


It’s interesting to hear him recount his Scientology origin story. Glancing at an article in a 1975 copy of Celebrity magazine gripped his mind late one night. What he had read was an excerpt from a Philadelphia Doctorate Course lecture from 1952 which is fairly well known — it’s called “Boots in the Sky,” and here’s the transcript of it, with L. Ron Hubbard talking about how he had stepped into the biggest shoes in the universe.

Cast yourself back to 1975. Would reading this have utterly changed your life?

What is the essential difference between what I’m doing in Scientology and other people? Is it because I’m brighter? No, no. Uh-uh. Is it because I know more? Naw. No there’s really only one thing, is I recognize that it’s my job, I recognize anybody has this job. You see, anybody has this job. And there was this great big pair of boots and they were sitting right in the middle of this universe, and they were awfully big boots, and you could get down amongst them with telescopes. You could look the length and breadth of them and find absolutely nothing inhabiting ’em.

And it says in these boots, it just simply said, “These are the boots which go down a road which leads out of this joint.” And other people had been diving spaceships through them and playing hopscotch in them and so on, when they ever did see them, and so on. They were sitting right there. They sat on the doorstep of every door that has ever been covered with crepe. They sat on the doorstep of every bank that ever reneged on a pledged agreement or refused a loan to somebody who was desperate. They sat on the doorstep of every church which itself was pretending to take vast responsibility. They fell across every single boulevard and progress that Man ever thought he could make. He could go ahead and take responsibility for destroying culture, but not for helping a single individual in it. Ho!

Fascinating! Why, those boots – well, you look at these boots, and they weren’t even big boots. They were little boots – little kids’ boots. Wasn’t anything to them. And what’d you do? You just threw some space out that big, that’s all. I mean, you narrowed the space down to the universe of one man and you found out he was a highly representative man, and then you took a look. The boots were very wearable. And they’re very, very simply boots. But what do you know? These boots have a catch to them. They aren’t just one man’s boots. They were every man’s boots. And because I assayed to take a few steps in them and square them around and find out where the road was and what leather they were made out of, didn’t absolve a single individual who cared to benefit from those boots from wearing them. And that is the grimmest joke of all.

A person has to come up the scale so that he can take responsibility for himself and all of his fellows and the whole cock-eyed condemned universe before he can walk down that road out. Isn’t that fascinating?



We’re just a little more than two months out, and Chee Chalker is working hard to make sure things are going to run smoothly at this year’s HowdyCon in Chicago, June 21-23. As in past years, we’re looking forward to meeting readers of the Bunker, culminating in Saturday night’s main event.

The biggest difference this year is that our Saturday night event is separate from that evening’s dinner. Chee is setting up an inexpensive pizza dinner that you don’t need to pay for ahead of time, after which we’ll walk over to the theater where our event, hosted by Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte, will take place.

Because it’s a separate event, we’re asking that you pay $10 each to get into the Saturday night event, which will help us recoup what the Bunker paid for the venue. (We have never made a penny on our HowdyCon meetups, we only try to break even.)

Please email your proprietor (tonyo94 AT gmail) in order to reserve your spot for Saturday night’s main event. Seating is limited, and we’re going to have some really interesting people on stage and they may make a few announcements that you don’t want to miss.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,083 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,686 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 229 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,292 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,066 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,840 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,186 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,680 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,720 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,432 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 958 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,047 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,187 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,507 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,482 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 838 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,140 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,246 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,649 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,521 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,103 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,608 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,852 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,961 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on April 13, 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

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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