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When rabid Scientologists got into a fistfight with US marshals to protect L. Ron Hubbard

[Lancaster Dodd’s Philly arrest in ‘The Master’]

After we got a fun new look at the early days of Dianetics through the never-before-published letters of Don Rogers recently, it motivated us to dive back into some similar documents that our fearless researcher, R.M. Seibert, located for us.

If you remember, Seibert scored a treasure trove of documents from the Food and Drug Adminstration stemming from its early 1960s investigation of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. That’s how we got our hands on Hubbard’s high school grades for the first time, for example, and evidence that Hubbard used the threat of the ‘R2-45 method’ to intimidate early followers.

Looking through other documents that Seibert sent us, we realized that there was an interesting description of a fairly notorious incident in early Scientology history — famous enough that Paul Thomas Anderson riffed on it for his film The Master.

If you remember the movie, Anderson was dramatizing the period around 1952 when Hubbard was trying to regroup after his Dianetics movement had fizzled into bankruptcy, promoting his new effort he called Scientology with the help of a few wealthy followers. In the movie, Laura Dern plays a wealthy Philadelphia woman who is helping Hubbard get past his legal problems, but she has misgivings that the “science” of Dianetics was moving into the “past lives” science fiction nuttiness of Scientology.

In real life, it was Helen O’Brien who was the eager Philadelphia adherent, and who convinced Hubbard to leave London long enough to hold his “Philadelphia Doctorate Course” (PDC) in December 1952 at a house owned by O’Brien’s husband, John Neugebauer.


As Jon Atack has told us many times, this was at a time when Hubbard’s movement was precariously small. Only about 35 people signed up for the PDC in Philly at about $500 each. And on the afternoon of December 16, 1952, there were only about 20 students present as Hubbard was giving an afternoon lecture.

We know what he was lecturing about that afternoon, and we even have a short segment in the name of Fair Use to share with you. In the first afternoon lecture that day, Hubbard was explaining that we’ve all been conditioned — in part through art — to believe that we are merely our bodies and nothing more. In Scientology, we are immortal beings called thetans that live countless times, and if you can get past the idea that you’re just a body, Hubbard explains, you can not only become a disembodied spirit, but you can regain godlike powers.

In this short excerpt (one among many), Hubbard is encouraging his believers that he can help them attain godhood, if they would only throw off their conditioning…


Hubbard gave two hour-long lectures that afternoon. At some point during that time, a couple of U.S. marshals showed up to serve Hubbard with a warrant regarding one of his bankruptcies back in Kansas.

Here’s what the FDA investigation in 1963 found about that 1952 incident…

On the afternoon of December 16, 1952, two Deputy U.S. Marshals, Mr. John J. Gericke and Mr. Levi P. Gordon, were given a warrant, issued at the direction of Judge Alan K. Grim, for the production of Mr. L. Ron Hubbard in order that he might be examined in connection with a bankruptcy matter (Bankruptcy Case #23747 – Hubbard Dianetic Foundation).

The two Deputy Marshals went to the address given for the Hubbard Foundation at 122 N. Mole St., Phila. to serve this warrant. After reaching this address and receiving no response to their ringing of the doorbell, they noticed a card on the door stating “Hubbard Foundation, 237 N. 16th St.” and proceeded to that address. The two Deputy Marshals noticed a woman enter this same property and followed her into a room on the first floor. They asked this lady (later identified as Mrs. Alice Thomason) if Mr. L. Ron Hubbard was present and she indicated that he was on the second floor of the building giving a lecture at that time.

As the Marshals started up the steps to the lecture room, another woman appeared on the steps leading to the second floor (later identified as Mrs. Helen O’Brien [Mrs. Neugebauer]) and asked what their business was. The Marshals indicated that they had a warrant for Mr. Hubbard’s arrest and Helen O’Brien requested identification from the gentlemen and to see the warrant. During the ensuing conversation, several people left the lecture and came to Helen O’Brien’s assistance, namely Mr. Neugebauer and Mr. Ernest Leo Kish. Further conversation brought Mr. Kish down the steps, he apparently struck Gordon and grabbed him by the lapel of the coat and the shirt and forced him back down the steps. At the same time, Mr. John Neugebauer apparently struck Deputy Marshal Gericke. After this struggle, one of the Marshals backed off and pulled out his revolver and told the crowd not to come any closer while the other U.S. Marshal went to secure the assistance of a passing Philadelphia policeman. With the assistance of the policeman, the warrant was served on Mr. L. Ron Hubbard, and Mr. Kish and Mr. & Mrs. Neugebauer were arrested by the Marshals. These three people were taken to the Court House at 9th and Chestnut Sts. and taken before the U.S. Commissioner, Henry P. Carr, who held Mr. Kish on $2500 bail, Mr. John Neugebauer on $1500 bail, and Mrs. Helen O’Brien on $1000 bail. The names of the three defendants were checked with the Philadelphia Police records section, however, there was no police record for these three people.

It appears in all these records that Mr. L. Ron Hubbard was not involved in any contact with the Marshals, and is therefore not involved in this criminal case in any way.

On 2/18/53, Federal Grand Jury returned a true bill against the three defendants involved and trial was held 6/15/53. Sentence was passed on 11/2/53 by Judge Welsh granting the acquittal of Mrs. Helen O’Brien but fined Mr. Kish and Mr. Neugebauer $200 each.

…Note that Mr. and Mrs. Neugebauer had purchased the property at 237 N. 16th St. especially for this series of lectures which were given by Mr. L. Ron Hubbard. They indicated in the defendant’s brief…that Mr. Hubbard had come from London especially for these lectures which were given for a period of 3 week to approx. 35 people each of whom paid $500 for the course.

The incident also made the local newspaper…


However, this is all Helen O’Brien herself said about the incident in her 1966 book, Dianetics in Limbo… “And when Hubbard was nearing the end of a lecture series which he came to Philadelphia to deliver in December of that year, a pair of U.S. marshals showed up with a civil warrant for him, inspired by Purcell in connection with disputed assets in the bankruptcy.”

Nothing about her husband decking a cop and her getting hauled to jail. You’d think she’d remember that part.

Anyway, Helen went on to another special place in Scientology history. In 1953, she received a letter from Hubbard saying that things were so bad, perhaps it was time to try “the religion angle.” Later that year, Hubbard did create the first “Church of Scientology” corporation in Camden, New Jersey, but by that time Helen herself had become disillusioned and had left the movement.

As for Hubbard, he seems to have been relatively unfazed by the incident when his followers got into fisticuffs with US Marshals. After being served with a warrant, he went on to give two more lectures that evening. We even know what he sketched on a chart while he was giving the second lecture of the night, for example…


How’s that for shaking off a federal raid?


Chris Shelton on whether Scientology “works”

Says Chris: “This week, I thought I’d had enough of Scientologists (indie’s and church goers) challenging me about how “Scientology works” and how I’m such a rotten person for criticizing it. This video is a review of some of Hubbard’s claims about what Dianetics and Scientology can do (including the superpowers you’re supposed to get from them) and my challenge to them to shut me down. Let me know what you think. I feel pretty safe that, like James Randi’s million dollar psychic challenge, no one is going to come close to taking me up on this.”



Make your plans now!


Hey, we’re only a month away from 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 Chalker 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 5,124 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,727 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 270 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 158 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,333 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,107 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,881 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,227 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,793 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,461 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,721 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,761 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,473 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 999 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,088 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,228 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,548 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,523 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 879 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,181 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,287 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,690 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,562 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,144 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,649 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,893 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,002 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 24, 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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