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Sharp new memoir digs into Scientology’s toxic cruelty experienced by those who grow up in it


Nathan Rich has led one fucked-up life. There’s no escaping that conclusion after you read his unique autobiography that comes out on Tuesday, with the unusual title of Scythe Tleppo.

To say that Nathan’s book is merely raw is to do it a disservice. Reading this book is going to leave you feeling like you’ve been up for five days straight on a hellish meth bender — and we’ve never done anything like that, so for this book to produce that feeling should give you some idea of how vivid it is.

It’s not just that Nathan Rich was put through hell and lived to tell about it, because he certainly was. The son of a dipshit Scientologist mother who didn’t give a crap about him, Nathan was raised the Scientology way, which is to say that childhood is sort of an illusion, and kids have to fend for themselves. In Nathan’s case, that meant being sadistically imprisoned multiple times in a house of horrors known as the Mace-Kingsley Ranch, where the mistreatment of children was unbelievably cruel and took place in remote locations in California and New Mexico where escape was impossible.


Nathan was not a high-level Scientology operative like other recent defectors, and he has no revelations about how Scientology is run. But his experience successfully captures the mental and emotional toll that being raised in the church subjects children to. He did join the Sea Organization for a short time, signing its billion-year contract and having the experience of being in the presence of church leader David Miscavige (he averted his eyes, as he was trained to do).

But more than the abuse he suffered at the hands of Scientology, Nathan also abused himself in countless ways as he struggled, he now realizes, simply to understand who he was. As his perception of himself changes over time, his chapter titles reflect the names others gave him and that he gave himself. Hence the weird book title, and we’ll let you discover for yourself how that particular moniker came about.

That changing perspective is one of the things that makes the book so remarkable. Nathan isn’t simply relating the screwed-up ways Scientology made the people around him act like such craven assholes, he stops to think about it in smart asides that bring the ironies and absurdities of his life into sharp focus.

There’s the time, for example, when his mother has no choice but to come to his graduation from the ranch — he’s turning eighteen, and they legally can’t hold him anymore. For years, after she had abandoned him, he had honed his own survival skills so that he could talk his way out of scrapes. But his mother was going to present a different challenge altogether as he knew they would be negotiating his post-release life.

These cultists created a cultural lore of people being able to read minds and use super mental powers. They supported this belief by living in their echo chambers. Really though, they were weak, desperate people, easily overcome by my basic psychological strategies. I developed them simply by ignoring Lafayette’s writings and just observing. All I needed to do then was rise above the pain and emotion, at least temporarily, and deliver the payload in words. Their robotic minds react in a predictable fashion.

My mother was a different story, potentially. She was very smart. She was an all-in, fully indoctrinated Scientologist, but extremely intelligent. I had to deal with her meticulously. Every word, pause or tiny reaction was critical.

Scythe Tleppo is a roller coaster ride between these moments of clarity and one shocking scene after another told in brutal detail about the ways Nathan was abused, the ways he abused himself, and his ever downward spiral to homelessness and near-suicidal drug use.

Through some lucky breaks and his vast facility for computer work, he managed to pull himself out of a nightmare of street life, but even then this is one memoir done right — rather than try to portray himself as the hero of his own tale, Nathan is constantly questioning his own decisions, reminding us of how his family’s continued involvement in Scientology was always a hurdle to overcome, and how much the people he met on the streets were still important to his definition of himself.

He sets aside some space at the end of his book to honor those former companions, and it takes up more space than the brief mention he makes about his appearance on Leah Remini’s television show. (An earlier draft we saw didn’t mention his TV spot at all, which should tell you about his priorities). After all he’s been through and all he’s survived, Nate Rich now has his head screwed on right, whatever he’s calling himself this week.

We recommend you pick up a copy next Tuesday.


Scientology’s celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs’ — our new project

[Chick Corea and the Denver Ideal Org]

We started a new project this week, building landing pages about two of David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, his celebrities and his ‘Ideal Orgs.’ For the next several weeks, we’ll post a couple of pages each day, and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about each of them, in order to build a record and maintain a watch as Scientology continues its inexorable decline.

Tuesday, we put up Anne Archer and Portland, Oregon. Wednesday it was Beck Hansen and Sydney, Australia. Yesterday it was Catherine Bell and San Diego, California.

Today it’s Chick Corea and Denver, Colorado!




Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,238 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,841 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 384 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 272 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,447 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,221 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,995 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,341 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,907 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,575 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,835 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,875 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,587 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,113 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,202 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,342 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,662 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,518 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,637 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 993 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,295 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,401 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,804 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,675 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,258 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,763 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,007 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,116 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 15, 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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