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Checking in on a Scientology ‘ideal’ Christmas as we continue our year in review

 
Before we continue our year in review today, we have a holiday treat for you from reader Graham, who makes a return trip to the Birmingham Ideal Org after he so sneakily brought us a report from its grand opening last year. We’re always curious to see how little activity there is at these facilities after the confetti is swept away.

 
Seasons greetings from Birmingham

It’s been a couple of months since I last walked past the Birmingham Ideal Org. As it was a Sunday I wondered if the car-park might be packed with attendees at a Sunday service. Unlikely, as Scientology’s Sunday services are often advertised (in order to fake being some vaguely Christian-like religion) but rarely delivered. Checking their website beforehand I could find no reference to a Sunday service so presumably this is a bit of fakery they’ve abandoned; for now at least.

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There were 12 cars peppered round the huge car-park as I walked past last Sunday morning. One had a ladder on the roof, so presumably at least one vehicle belonged to a maintenance worker rather than a ‘parishioner.’ And of course the Sad Lonely Yellow Van, like a character from Thomas the Tank Engine, standing forlornly in the same place as over two months ago. Not exactly a hive of activity consistent with a vast 3,750 square metre former insurance HQ. Even discounting the absent Sunday service, surely weekends and evenings must be prime time for those on course to be working here?

 

 
Then, a surprise when walking past the main driveway entrance. The small sign inviting people in to see a FREE! exhibition was no longer almost invisible by the front door but standing outside on the pavement. Had they been reading the Bunker, I wondered, and taken my advice? However, looking at the sign there was no reference to free exhibitions, personality tests or any other ‘body routing’ guff. Just an advert for the ‘Scientology Network App.’ So now even the slightest pretense at body routing has gone, replaced by a small sign just outside the property boundary telling anyone ‘curious’ to go away and download an app. And incidentally, propped up against a tree and thus completely invisible to west-bound traffic.

 

 
As for their rather feeble attempt to get down with the locals by attempting some Christmas decorations, the least said the better; a giant inflatable drunken Santa, a couple of inflatable snow-persons and a feeble herd of ghostly mini-reindeer on the front lawn.

— Graham

 

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Thank you for that dispatch! And now, on to the stories of February…

February began with the stunning news that the NBC affiliate in Tampa had announced that Scientology would be sponsoring its Winter Olympics broadcast. Locals were outraged, and so were our readers.

The next day, we brought the news that former top Scientology technical wizard David Mayo had died. Finally, we could reveal that we had been talking to him for years, going back to our Village Voice days. But he was still too concerned with Scientology harassment to talk publicly for an article while he was alive. Mayo was still remembered fondly by just about everyone who had come in contact with him. Jon Atack gave us a special piece with his own memories of the man.

Early February means that it’s Super Bowl time, and once again Scientology freaked out the sports watching public with another creepy ad, this time asking if people were curious. The social media backlash was as hilarious as usual.

Another gem from Chris Owen brought us the story of a mostly forgotten Scientology whistleblower, Robert Dardano, a former Scientology spy we had also featured in our book about Paulette Cooper.

It was also in February that the signs were building that David Miscavige really was going to start up ‘Scientology TV,’ as nutty as that sounded. On February 7, we reported that Scientologists were being called in to Florida to get briefed on the coming TV channel.

The next day, we remembered a determined Canadian Scientology critic, David Palter, who had taken part in early pickets in Toronto and then marveled at the arrival of the Anonymous movement.

Meanwhile, tabloid media once again tried to convince readers that Tom Cruise had left Scientology — but a close reading showed how the magazine itself didn’t even support its own cover headline. Sheesh.

On February 13 we were pretty excited to find, finally, documentary evidence of how Scientology manages to track down former members no matter how many times they move. As we suspected the church makes use of credit tracking services to stalk former members endlessly.

The next day, we had a bombshell. We confirmed with our sources that the Special Circumstances Committee, made up of the managers at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, had approved the filing of charges against Scientologist actor Danny Masterson under a harsh penal code that could have him facing 25 years to life in prison. Ten months later, the DA herself, Jackie Lacey, has still not announced whether she’s going to file those charges or not.

A few days later we had another treat from Chris Owen. In a two part series, he took apart L. Ron Hubbard’s notorious hoax, the “brainwashing” manual he wrote and then tried to pass off as the product of a Russian psychiatrist. In the second part, Chris showed how the hoax took on a life of its own and became an obsession for the political far right.

On February 26, we had a lot of fun when we asked an actual embryologist take a look at L. Ron Hubbard’s theories about life in the womb that are at the very center of ‘Dianetics’ and that Scientology itself was built on. As you can imagine, Hubbard came in for quite a drubbing.

The next day, we posted our review of a really unique new book about Scientology, Flunk. Start., the memoir of Sands Hall, a talented writer and musician who has done maybe the best job ever conveying how a bright and curious person can get caught up in Scientology, and then struggle to get out of it.

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MOST-READ STORIES OF FEBRUARY 2018:

1. PROSECUTORS PREPARE CHARGES CARRYING LIFE SENTENCE FOR DANNY MASTERSON
2. Are you Sci-Curious? Here’s Scientology’s 2018 Super Bowl ad
3. Viewers react to Tampa NBC affiliate saying Scientology is sponsoring Winter Olympics
4. David Mayo, 1940-2017: Scientology’s top technical wizard and target of ‘Fair Game’
5. Come on, people. Even Star mag’s own article doesn’t claim Tom Cruise has left Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2017: The new Super Bowl ad was another mystery sandwich. Phil and Willie Jones put up another ‘Call Me’ billboard, this time right on Sunset Boulevard. Clay Irwin toured Tom Cruise’s penthouse. We profiled the ‘celebrity whisperer,’ Quailyn McDaniel.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2016: News breaks that Monique Rathbun has fired her entire legal team. Ross and Carrie begin their trip inside the church. Defector Paul Burkhart estimates fewer than 20,000 active members left in the church worldwide. And a 1940 L. Ron Hubbard short story turns out to have a lot of precursor ideas for Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2015: The horrifying story of a mentally ill woman held in an Arkansas basement by a Scientologist, Mark Ebner finds that Narconon International ditched its offices, we fact-checked Danny Masterson, and R.M. Seibert dug up L. Ron Hubbard’s high school record.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2014: The Master actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died in New York, we wrote an essay complaining about the way the media talks about Scientology and celebrities, and we provided some context to the first official Scientology wedding in England.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2013: Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir, Beyond Belief, is published. Harlan Ellison helps us document a Hubbard legend. And former Narconon executive Eric Tenorio comes forward.

 
Five of our favorites from the most-upvoted comments of February 2018

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February 2: Hana Eltringham Whitfield
I have long wondered what happened to my friend, David Mayo. David was one of the kindest and genuinely compassionate people I knew at Saint Hill and later on in the Sea Organization. And the best person technically. Yes, I heard him swear and damn technical errors but he maintained a calm that few did in the rush, confusion, and panic that Hubbard often originated, and which then echoed up and down the Apollo on all decks and even into the bowels of the engine room. Each time I heard David swear at and damn auditors and case supervisors on the Apollo I knew his outrage was justified. Technically David deserved every bit of praise he received. It’s true that Hubbard was at one time grooming David to take over “the tech,” and had that occurred and had DM not grabbed Hubbard’s position, it’s likely that Scientology would have gone a different route than the abyss into which it has plunged.

February 3: chuk1c1ta
Tony, thank you for listening to Hubbard’s voice and writing out the quotes so I don’t have to actually listen to Hubbard’s voice. That is a public service. I cannot stomach that man’s voice – it is like a cheese grater on my soul.

February 10: Observer
Tom Cruise is a bulb of the dimmest magnitude who thinks that, as Big Being #3, he is superior to everyone alive/who has ever lived except Hubs and Miscavige. He benefits from free Sea Org slave labor. He is thought of and treated as a deity by many fellow Scientologists. He gets to live in a bubble filled with yes-thetans who scramble to fulfill his merest whim. Why would he give any of that up for Suri, a living reminder of his greatest public humiliation? We’ve seen how Scientology warps and destroys familial bonds, how it convinces parents that their children are obstacles that must be warehoused and ignored, or disconnected from if they don’t toe the Scientology line (Derek Bloch. Sunny Pereira. Any second-gen Scientologist who was on the last season of Aftermath). The parents who do this aren’t treated remotely as well by Scientology as Tom Cruise. That he has chosen Scientology over Suri should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with that “beautiful ‘religion.”

February 13: OOkpik
It was not at all uncommon to get angry calls at the org from people demanding to be taken off the mailing lists. Some were from non-Scientologists who had moved into a residence where a Scientologist had been years earlier and now they were being bombarded with unwanted mail. The calls that broke my heart were the ones from family members of deceased loved ones who at one time had some dealings with Scientology. They did not want to be constantly reminded of the loss of their loved ones. Central files retained their info, regardless, and the mail kept flowing.

February 21: Silence of the Clams
I love how “Humanitarian” is defined by selling books and writing big checks back to the franchise. You NEVER ever hear them talk about being out in the public sphere volunteering at a soup kitchen, helping an old lady across the street, picking up trash, visiting sick kids in the hospital….anything. I know many people get hooked in with kind hearts and good intentions, but it’s amazing how quickly their definition of ‘humanitarianism’ goes from actually helping other humans to selling books and turning their funds over to the cult.

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

 
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Now on sale: Twice the Miss Lovely!

 
Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. What a pleasure it is for us to work with her on this after we wrote about her ordeal as a victim of Scientology’s “Fair Game” campaigns in our 2015 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, which is also on sale in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions.

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Scientology donor Joy Villa aiming for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami congressional district
[TWO years ago] February made us shiver, but it was another Astounding month here in the Bunker
[THREE years ago] The Scientologist who sold a hot dinosaur skull to Nicolas Cage
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s 2014 in review: In chilly February, Hambo began his onslaught
[FIVE years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology sends us a letter!
[SIX years ago] Scientology’s 2012 In Review: Debbie Cook Starts January Off With a BANG!

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,306 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,437 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,939 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,419 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 482 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 370 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,677 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,545 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,319 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,093 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,439 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,005 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,925 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,092 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,673 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,933 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,973 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,685 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,211 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,300 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,440 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,760 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,616 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,735 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,091 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,393 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,499 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,902 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,773 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,356 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,851 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,105 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,214 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 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 Underground 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates

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

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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