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Scientology’s bizarre international base and its near-prison life: A Marc Headley classic

[A drone’s-eye view of Int Base]

It’s been nearly a decade since one of our favorite books about Scientology life was published: Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology, by former Sea Org worker Marc Headley.

We interviewed Marc when the book came out, and he’s been a big part of this website since it started. But we had to assume that some of our readers are not familiar with the book or it’s been a long time since they read it.

So we asked Marc to pull out one anecdote from his book in order to excerpt it here. And we’re sure glad we did, because he picked out a doozy. The story he chose tells us so much about the Orwellian world of Int Base, Scientology’s secretive international management compound near Hemet, California, and its extreme paranoia about controlling the lives of workers and cutting them off from the outside world. And it’s Marc Headley, so the absurdity of Scientology life comes through loud and clear. If you haven’t picked up a copy of this book, you really should.




It was Saturday night during the summer and it was hot out even for Gilman Hot Springs. It was close to 95 degrees outside and it was pitch black. The past few weeks had been extremely hot day after day and with temperatures over 100 degrees every day the air conditioners on the base had been running constantly.

The base got its electricity from Southern California Edison. When the temperatures got into the triple digits, it was guaranteed that the base would max out the feed coming in from Edison to the property and whenever that happened, the power would shut down completely.

There was some sort of safety mechanism installed that would blow the power out. It was like a giant circuit breaker for the entire property. We had been told earlier in the day that on Sunday it was supposed to be over 110 degrees. The power was sure to go out.

Whenever the power went out, anybody who had anything to do with the power drill would jump up from whatever they were doing, spread out all over the property, and turn off everything in their assigned building. That way, when the power was ready to come back on, we would not have such a huge load on the overall base power feed and the people assigned to each building could turn some things back on in each place and keep the power lines from overloading. All in all, this involved about 60 people.

With a Scientology event coming up in a few weeks, there were several areas of the base that were going to be up all night. One of these was Special Effects. They did all of the special video effects for all event videos. Flying through space, fancy graphics, fire, smoke, flyovers, you name it, they did it. There were about five people in Special Effects that did the work of about 25.

When it got close to an event, these staff could be counted on to be in their offices all day and all night.

A kid by the name of Power Coleman was one of two people in Special Effects who could crank out shots. Power was a mix between a surfer dude and a computer geek. He was very talented and smart when it came to computers, but had the apparent intellect of a waterlogged tree branch, and although he never did drugs you could swear he was high on something. He had an awkward glee about him that made you like him, but not take him seriously.

Power was sitting at his computer when he got a call from his girlfriend, Elsa. Elsa wanted to “talk to him,” which most likely meant that she wanted to break up with him. If you are not married in the Sea Organization, you cannot have any sort of sexual relations with anyone, and if you do you will be assigned to the Rehabilitation Project Force when it is found out about. If Elsa broke up with Power, there was a good chance he would not be getting laid for years. Elsa and Power had loosely planned to get married in the next few months. So, while Power was concerned about what the outcome of the meeting would be, if he wanted to salvage his relationship with her, it was a must. As he was going to be up all night, it would have to be in the morning when he went home to take a shower. Power lived at the Kirby Apartments in Hemet and Elsa lived about two miles away at the Vista apartments in San Jacinto. He decided he would walk over to Vista from Kirby in the morning after he got home. They would meet at Vista at 10:00 A.M.


Even though it was still very hot outside, the night went by quickly and Power managed to get on the 8:30 A.M. bus to the Kirby apartments where he lived. He hadn’t slept a wink all night and was really tired. He walked into his room where a few of his roommates were cleaning. It was Sunday morning, so most people were supposed to be cleaning from 8:30 A.M. to 11:45 A.M. even though most people slept in or did their laundry for the week. Power was going to take a shower and head over to meet Elsa. By the time he had taken a shower it was already 9:30 A.M. He had to hurry if he was going to make it to Vista by 10:00 A.M. It would take at least 30 minutes if he walked fast or even ran some of the way.

He made his way out of the Kirby apartments toward Menlo Street. He was starving. The last food he had was at midnight the night before. He stopped at the Kirby market on the corner and got himself a jug of orange juice. He chugged the whole thing right there. Not only was it 100 degrees outside, but he had to get to Vista in the next 15 minutes. He would have to run the whole way to make it on time. He started running. After only five minutes of running, he had made good progress and was almost at the halfway point. Then it happened. As Power was running along the sidewalk and just about to cross an intersection, he passed out.

Now, most of the time when you see someone pass out in a movie or on TV, they are either standing or sitting. Not very often do you see someone pass out while running full speed. That was exactly what Power did. Hitting the ground at that speed did a fair bit of damage. If he would have landed on the concrete sidewalk, it would not have been that bad, but the normally grassy area next to the sidewalk was gravel. Hemet is big on its gravel and small pebble sized rock lawns. These rocks were not friendly to his face as he came crashing down. Power laid there unconscious and bleeding for a few minutes, before an elderly couple on their morning walk spotted him. They called 911 and an ambulance was dispatched to pick him up.


Once he was loaded into the ambulance, they were able to bring him around. He appeared to be delirious, but otherwise not seriously injured. He was on his way to the hospital. Meanwhile, at the Vista Apartments, 10:00 A.M. had come and gone. Elsa waited for Power until 11:00 A.M., and then left to get ready and catch the 11:45 A.M. bus to the Base.

As Power was rolled into the Emergency Room, the nurses had already found his wallet in his pants pocket. He had no identification and no money. The only thing in his wallet was a Blockbuster Video card. It was not even Power’s card. He had borrowed it from another staff member weeks before. Even though renting videos was not a regular occurrence, some staff managed to sneak off during the night and get a video here and there. Power was one of these people. But as he did not have any ID or a bank account or credit card, he had borrowed someone else’s Blockbuster card. The card belonged to a Peter Cook and there was a phone number listed. Although probably a common name, Peter Cook was a guy that worked in marketing.

“OK, Peter, what seems to be the problem today?” The nurse asked Power as they took vital signs and got him cleaned up.

“My name is not Peter. It’s Power,” Power told the nurse.

“OK, honey. So what happened to you?” the nurse repeated.

“I don’t know. I was running and the next thing I know I was in the ambulance,” Power told her, truly not knowing that he had face planted while running full speed down the street.

“Well, honey, you got pretty banged up, but we are going to get you some help and the doctor will be here in just a few minutes,” the nurse gave him a smile and walked off.

Power laid there in the gurney and wondered what had happened and how he ended up in this mess. Back at the base, the buses were pulling up and dropping people off near the dining hall. Elsa got off the Vista bus and spotted one of Power’s roommates.

“Hey, did Power come home?”

“Yeah, he left to meet up with you this morning! We haven’t seen him since and he was not on our bus.”

“When did you last see him?” Elsa asked, worried.

“He left around 9:30 A.M.,” Power’s roommate said as he walked off toward the dining hall. Elsa knew what had happened. He had blown. He never showed up at her place and he was not on the bus. It was not like him not to show up and he would have had no means of transportation to the base if he missed the bus. Elsa had to let someone in HCO know right away. She found Gerald Duncan, the Director of Inspections & Reports. She told him about the whole break up talk and Power not showing up for their meeting. Gerald could not take any chances. A text message was sent out on the pagers and phones to initiate the Blow Drill.

It was about 12:15 P.M. by this time and most people were inside the dining hall getting some lunch. Then, as sure as the sweat dripping down our foreheads, it happened – the power went out. You could immediately see who was on the first string of the power drill; they popped out of their seats in the dining hall tables and dashed out through the exits. They were going to turn off the power in their buildings.

The rest of us finished lunch and got ready for lunch muster. Muster was held right outside the dining hall. All the staff would line up and hopefully the muster would be quick with the heat being what it was. It was not unusual for musters to go on for 30 minutes. In the heat of summer, a 30-minute muster would mean that people would get heat stroke. Just in the past few weeks there had been several faintings during lunch muster. People would literally pass out from the heat. It was a combination of the intense heat, lack of food, sleep and overall exhaustion. Either way, most of us were hoping for a very short muster.


After everyone was noted as present or accounted for, the Commanding Officer Gold, Lisa Schroer (Allen) made an announcement.

“OK, anyone involved in the Power Drill, stay behind.”

Now, on any other day, this would have been a clear statement. It had probably even been said before on different days and had not been misunderstood. Today, this statement was confusing.

After the crew were dismissed to go back to post, it was like muster was still happening. A few people left, but most of the staff remained there.

“Let’s go people, back to post,” the Commanding Officer barked.

“But we are here for the Power drill, Sir,” a girl from the qualifications division answered back.

“You guys can still work with or without the power coming back on,” the Commanding Officer told her.

Gerald Duncan leaned over and whispered into the Commanding Officer’s ear. Apparently Lisa was not aware that two drills had been called. Yes, there were people waiting to be told which bus station they would be driving out to and people who were wondering if the electricity was going to be coming back on in the next hour or so.

“OK, if you are here for the electricity outage go over there. If you are here for the Power Drill come over to this side,” the Commanding Officer said while motioning to the two groups to move into different spots. If people were confused before they were certainly very confused now. After a few minutes of people still standing with the wrong group of people, eventually everyone made it into their respective mob.

Back at the hospital, the doctor had arrived to deal with Power and was asking him a few questions.

“So, what is your name?” the doctor asked, knowing that there had been some discrepancy with the nurses on this subject already.


“That’s it. Just Power?”

“Well, Power Coleman.”


“But, your first name really is Power?”

“Well, it is actually my middle name, but that’s what people call me. I go by Power.”

“What is your actual first name?”

“My first name is actually Pure.”

The doctor let out a small chuckle. “Your full name is Pure Power Coleman?”


“OK, Pure Power, where do you live?”


“You live on Kirby Street?”

“Well, no I live at an apartment on Kirby.”

“Do you know the address of your apartment on Kirby?”


“You don’t know your own address?”


“OK, what about a phone number? Do you have a phone number?”

“Um, oh, yeah, I have a phone number! It is 1-800-I WANT HELP.” Power was excited; finally, he had an answer to a question that he knew. This was the phone number that Gold staff were told to use if they were ever in a situation where they were out in the world and needed to call someone. The 1-800 I WANT HELP number rang directly into the main security booth.

“You don’t have any ID, no driver’s license, you don’t know where you live, but your phone number is 1-800-I WANT HELP and your name is Pure Power Coleman?”

“Yeah,” Power answered matter-of-factly.

The doctor got up and walked over to the nurse. “Let’s get a tox screen done on Peter over here and find out what he is on.”

Back at the base, teams had been sent out to check the bus stations and to drive around town. Power had no known identification or credit cards so he was not going to get far if he was on his way anywhere. His mom worked at the base. His younger sister worked in the Sea organization in Florida and other than that he did not have anywhere to go to. He might have had a grandfather somewhere.

The only reason we even knew that was from a story that went around about how, when Power was little and was just about to get on an airplane, his grandfather took him to the little boys’ room. Both he and his grandfather used the urinals in the airport bathroom. After being seated on the plane with his mom and grandfather, at the exact moment when everyone is quietly waiting for the plane to take off, Power yelled out in the little kid voice that reaches any and all ears on the entire plane at once: “Hey, mom, when I get older, is my wee-wee going to be as huge as granddad’s?”

While Power’s mom was thoroughly embarrassed and said nothing, the whole plane burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter. And just as the laughter started to die down, and Power’s mom had still failed to answer the question, Power asked, “Well is it? I want to know!”

So maybe Power was on his way to his well-endowed granddad’s place, nobody knew.

As if the day had not started out odd enough, in the middle of the power drill and looking for Power, the receptionist received a strange call. Someone was calling from the hospital in Hemet; supposedly Peter Cook had been admitted to the Emergency Room. Gerald Duncan was notified and immediately the marketing secretary was questioned as to why she reported Peter as present at lunch muster if the hospital had just reported he was injured. Someone was sent up to marketing to check into it further.

When the Hubbard Communications Office staff got up to marketing, there was Peter Cook sitting at his desk, clearly not at the hospital.

Just then the electricity came back on.

Two people already driving around town looking for Power were told to head over to the hospital and check out the Peter Cook impostor. When the guys from Gold showed up, and saw that it was Power, they claimed him and talked to the doctor to find out what had happened. The doctor said that it looked like he had either gotten into a fight or fallen off a bike, and was high on something they had yet to determine. The doctor referenced the unfamiliarity with his surroundings and the strange names and phone numbers he had told them about. The doctor was told that all of these things were actually true and that Power’s real name was in fact Pure and his phone number really was 1-800-I WANT HELP and that he lived on Kirby street in Hemet.

After Power got some sleep, they let him leave the hospital. Subsequently, Power was required to get an ID card with his full name listed. He was made to learn his address and the local phone number to the base. Elsa was so impressed by his devotion, that she decided not to break up with him and they got married a few months later. Too bad that he eventually was accused of cheating on her with another married girl at the base and both Power and his mistress ended up on the Rehabilitation Project Force for having sex.

Years later, Power Coleman was spotted in Clearwater, Florida on the Rehabilitation Project Force. Not sure if he knows his new address or telephone number.

— Marc Headley


[Marc and Claire Headley, in the first season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath]


Bonus items from our tipsters

Rod Keller shows us that indeed, the opening in Orlando has been moved up. Party tonight!



Make your plans now!


Wow, we’re now less 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 5,111 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,714 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 257 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 145 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,320 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,094 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,868 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,214 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,448 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,708 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,748 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,460 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 986 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,075 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,215 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,535 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,510 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 866 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,168 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,274 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,677 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,549 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,131 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,636 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,880 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,989 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 11, 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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