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


Get a look inside Nathan Rich’s unique book about his Scientology upbringing

Nathan Rich really made an impression on us with his appearance on Leah Remini’s series discussing his time at the Mace-Kingsley Ranch. But then he really knocked our socks off with his book, which we wrote about last week. He’s generously given us an excerpt of his memoir, Scythe Tleppo: My Survival of a Cult, Abandonment, Addiction and Homelessness, and we think it gives a good window into the book.

Scientology had a big announcement to make. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone was chattering and guessing about what it was going to be. Word was this was a big one. My mom took me to the event at Flag to hear the news in person, and the second we arrived it was clear the announcement was a big one. I was eleven years old, still on my mother’s bad side from the shoplifting incident.

Crowds of Scientologists gathered outside the auditorium. Non-alcoholic champagne was being prepared by Sea Org members, dressed as waiters. People were connecting with each other with grins and excitement. There was an energy in the air.


We took our seats inside. The event started as they all do – a bunch of music and intensely positive claims about the great successes of Scientology. After a while, the big announcement finally came.

Scientology attained tax-exempt status as a religious entity from the IRS! Huge title cards ran across the screens: The War Is Over! The entire room erupted in a collective cheer, legs stomping, people clapping and whistling. The excitement was intense, for almost everyone in that auditorium.

I had a different reaction. I stood unimpressed, waiting for the good part – the big news – unaware I’d already heard it. When I realized the announcement was just about money, my curiosity withered.

I thought Scientology was a religion already.

Why did we need to apply for tax benefits?

I glanced at my mother in my peripheral. Her expression was that of extreme elation. Her universe was rocked. My mother was so starry-eyed and ecstatic, it was intense. I had never seen someone cheer so hard for so long. It must have been two full minutes of roaring and cheering. I didn’t really see what the big deal was.

All of this just for some money?

I thought they were going to announce the planet was finally Clear, or that Lafayette had come back to Earth or something.

My mother, while clapping her hands to pieces, let out occasional cheers of “It’s amazing!” “Oh my God this is amazing!” and “We did it!” When she slowly noticed I was less enthused than her, she seemed annoyed. I worried she would suspect I was out-ethics, somehow, so I acted as thrilled as I could. But there were other things on my mind. I was doubting Scientology.

To my mom, I was second to Scientology; it was obvious to me. My mother didn’t treat me like a child, nor like her son. She treated me like a friend. Like a Scientologist in a small body. After the event, we went home, away from all the activity, back to the quiet apartment.

I asked her about who she was to me, in the gentlest way I could that night.

“Mom, how come you’re not like… more… mom-like to me?” I inquired.

“I don’t really consider you my son. I’m more like your friend. I’m here to help you get up the Bridge.” She was just being honest.

She viewed us as friends. She was going to help me get through Scientology. That’s what her role was. I was related to her in this lifetime, but the future of mankind and our own spiritual salvation was the main concern, not the details of my childhood. Not wog ideas like family ties, not blood being thicker than water. Scientology.

So there I was, living in Florida. Life wasn’t going too well for me. I was trapped in the purgatory of Scientology. I was beginning to feel a change inside me. The music I picked up at the Ranch started coming back into my life as soon as I got away from my grandmother.

Nine Inch Nails had a special place in my soul. Trent Reznor’s deep style of lyrics hinted to me that there were thinkers in the world and things other than those in my life. There were deep issues out there. Other people got it, somehow.

The TV channel “The Box” started playing music videos on demand for a small fee. This was something I had never seen before. I never had the money to demand videos, but I watched for videos that didn’t get airplay on MTV.

My daily reading began shifting slowly from Zoobooks and Spider-Man to Heavy Metal Magazine. Video games placated me less and less. I started watching Public Access television – anything to bring me alternative information streams. I didn’t think clearly about it at the time, but I was changing.

My latest Scientology school kicked me out as well. Backflash again was my crime. I talked back. I didn’t do what the course supervisors told me to do. I was tired of learning about how to learn. I was tired of learning how to communicate. I wanted to learn about the world. You know, the actual world.

I wanted a class clown and a bully at school. I wanted the normal life I had seen on television. I asked too many questions and did not go smoothly down the path.

A teacher grabbed my arm and I scratched her with my nails. I was not having it anymore.


My aunt Sharon and her new husband Jake Lefkowitz took my cousin Juliet and me across the country a few times in my young life. I had visited most of the states in America by the time I was eleven or twelve, though mostly only tourist spots and the road. I enjoyed these long trips.

At one point, Sharon invited my cousin and me to travel Europe with her. The trip was educational and fun. I’m still grateful for it. We went to England, Scotland, and France. I enjoyed places like the London Dungeon and the Eiffel Tower. I found Parisians rude and arrogant, even at my young age. I wondered why they hated Americans so much. Overall, though, the trip was wonderful and I appreciated it greatly.

I wondered why my mother never enjoyed doing anything like this. All she did was sit at home and talk about Scientology. At least Sharon pretended to be normal sometimes. Maybe my mother didn’t need to. She didn’t have anyone to pretend to, I suppose.

Sharon runs a fan club for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, called simply “Mac/Eddy.” At the gatherings, attended by aging homemakers, Sharon plays host to her guests, selling books and records. Her patrons are enamored with the Hollywood couple and their secret romance. Despite her constant interaction with the fan club members, they never knew anything about her or Scientology; they didn’t know who she was.

As the first family member to join Scientology, Sharon had long since mastered the art of passive deception. Over time, she instructed me on the proper way to interact with “wogs.” Scientologists call non-Scientologists, especially those who aren’t able to accept Lafayette’s doctrines, “wogs.”

“Wogs can’t handle the truth yet. It’s ‘out-reality’ for them. They are too degraded,” she said to me. This is just a standard piece of Scientology culture. I’d been learning by osmosis from the adults for years, but now I was learning it from the best, directly.

Sharon presents herself to wogs as a quiet, conservative, non-threatening homemaker but underneath her acting is a devout Scientologist. There are really only three kinds of people, to a Scientologist: potential Scientologists, potential or actual enemies of Scientology, and devout Scientologists. Wogs are potential Scientologists who aren’t ready to be indoctrinated yet.

Desperate to hide her pseudo-scientific outlook on life, she usually managed to appear normal. Why would anyone doubt her words?

This was her routine. Fleeting code words and coined terms could have revealed more to those with a background in Scientology, but these were wogs, unable to detect them. She thought of these people as hapless sheep with money. They were just sources of income, with faces. Admittedly, it took some reflection for me to see her behaviors for what they were. At the time, I saw those “wogs” as she did.

This idea about wogs stayed with me for years to come.

Back in Florida, with the local Scientology schools exhausted, I entered a new school in the nearby city, Dunedin. This time it was a non-Scientology private school, the first I’d ever been to. What I found there was something more precious than a baseball rookie card: a father. Well, not quite a father, but a father figure.

— Nathan Rich


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

[John Travolta and the Rome Ideal Org]

We’ve started a new project, 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.

Previously, we posted pages for celebrities Anne Archer, Beck Hansen, Catherine Bell, Chick Corea, Elisabeth Moss, Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, Giovanni Ribisi, Greta Van Susteren, and Jenna Elfman. And for the Ideal Orgs of Portland, Oregon; Sydney, Australia; San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Nashville, Tennessee; Perth, Australia; Tokyo, Japan; Sacramento, California, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Silicon Valley, California.

Today it’s John Travolta and Rome, Italy!




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 5,245 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,848 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 391 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 279 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,454 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,228 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,002 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,348 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,914 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,582 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,842 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,882 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,594 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,120 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,209 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,349 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,669 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,525 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,644 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,000 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,302 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,408 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,811 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,682 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,265 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,770 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,014 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,123 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 22, 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email