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


Media and authorities should focus on the real horrors of Scientology’s Freewinds

[Valeska Paris, on a ship going nowhere]

In 2011, we first told the story of Valeska Paris, who was sent to Scientology’s Freewinds cruise ship in 1996 at 18 in order to keep her away from her mother, who had criticized Scientology on French television. She served on the ship for 11 years without any choice in the matter, and she characterizes herself as a prisoner.

Her story is getting a lot more attention now because the Freewinds itself is in the news as it’s been quarantined, first in St. Lucia and now in Curacao, because a crew member was determined to have a confirmed case of the measles. On Thursday, Valeska told us about a previous infection on the ship, when a crew member with chickenpox was sent ashore to a hotel and the ship’s officers never notified local authorities.

But Valeska says the media is missing the point if they focus only on measles or other infectious diseases when it comes to the Freewinds. She isn’t the only former worker who was held on the ship against her will, and she witnessed a lot worse. In fact, she has given us a remarkable rundown of the things she saw while she was on the ship, and we publish it here hoping the rest of the media pays more attention to the Freewinds as a floating ship of horrors and not merely a symbol of the anti-vaccination ignorance in the U.S. Here’s her piece…


In 2004 an engineer from Mexico named Jorge Arroyo went insane.


He needed professional mental help. Instead of getting this he was put under a Hubbard policy, “Type 3 watch” as they call it. He was locked in a small room all day with a camera in front of his door. There was a security guard watching him full time.

This is the same “watch” that Lisa McPherson had to endure and which resulted in her 1995 death.

No one was allowed to talk to Jorge as per Hubbard policy. He went to take a shower and sneaked sheets in the shower with him. He hanged himself in the shower.

When his body was found, Freewinds Sea Org members Lurie Belotte, Sue Price, and Captain Mike Napier decided to sail the ship to Curaçao, because the Freewinds had better public relations there.

Jorge’s body was removed in a black bag so that no one saw. An autopsy was done in Curaçao. A Freewinds Sea Org member was forced to go testify that he committed suicide because he was obsessed with her — this was a lie.

Jorge’s brother, who was also an engineer on the ship, was lied to and told he had a heart attack. Jorge’s family in Mexico was told the same lie.

I had been Jorge’s auditor (Scientology counselor) previously, and I had written a long note in his folder to his superiors in the Religious Technology Center (Scientology leader David Miscavige’s organization) stating he needed real help and not auditing. My note was ignored.

After his death, I was instructed by RTC Rep Lurie Belotte to go through his counseling folder with a black marker and black out anything that mentioned the Religious Technology Center and the Commodore’s Messenger Organization after his suicide. I did this.

After I found out he died I was crying. Belotte told me not to cry because Jorge was just an SP (a Suppressive Person). She was angry; she had wanted to put him in a hotel ashore as soon as he went crazy, and if he’d killed himself there it wouldn’t have had the potential for bad PR. She said he wasn’t getting a funeral as he didn’t deserve it and that I was never to speak of it to anyone.

My own departure from the Sea Org on the ship took about a year of interrogations on the E-meter. I wasn’t the only one. I witnessed so many people who wanted to leave and ended up giving up and staying.

In 2004, Ramana Dienes-Browning wanted to leave the Sea Org. She was forced to spend a year in the engine room and on decks (doing hard labor) as punishment for wanting to leave. She got to a point where she carried a pocket knife in her shorts and eventually put the blade to her wrist. The only thing that stopped her was that she didn’t want to hurt her mom.

She also married at 16 to a Freewinds 26-year-old Sea Org member. She was later publicly shamed for his masturbating, which he admitted to in a typically brutal Scientology interrogation (Scientology is always questioning its members about their sex lives). Ramana was told that it was her fault for not having enough sex with him and not satisfying him.

Legally, for the ship to sail an Engineer needs to have either 7 or 8 hours of sleep straight. There’s a log that they are supposed to sign to prove this before the ship sails. This would be falsified if they had all nighters or slept less than the legal amount — which is pretty much the standard on the Freewinds and all Sea Org organizations around the world

The International Association of Scientologists (IAS) and its administration, the IASA, is the organization that brings in donations for Scientology. The IASA is located on the ship. It was involved in severe financial irregularities. Under the protection of being tax exempt, the staff would raise a lot more money than they should have as a nonprofit, and this was covered up with false bonuses. The higher up in the organization, the more extravagant. Crew would, for example, sign that they were getting $200 bonuses each; but they would never receive these bonuses and the money would be used to buy extravagant gifts for the IASA president. They purposely didn’t update their computers so that they could mess with financial reports.


Once a year, three outside accountants would come on board, always the same three people, and they were treated like royalty. They were taken out to fancy restaurants, given excursions on the islands, and in the restaurant we were told to give them the absolute best service possible.

When I married my now ex-husband who was on IASA staff, his first Christmas present was $4,000 Mr. Lim tailor-made suits. Parishioner donations were being used for IASA staff. It was also a racist organisation. You were not qualified to be IASA staff if you were Latin American, Eastern European or other such origins. IASA Staff were also not permitted to marry anyone from these countries. One staff member was paid less bonuses than other staff because he was Eastern European.

I was one of the four auditors who counseled one of the IASA staff when David Miscavige took the entire organisation down. Every session we did was videotaped and all reports were sent through the RTC Rep directly to Miscavige.

On the Freewinds and in the Sea Org there were many times when we would work all night, sometimes for months on end. Children and elderly Sea Org members in their 60s, 70s, and even a few in their 80s were subjected to slave labor, sleep deprivation, and were held against their will.

In 2006, IASA president Janet Light was sent to the “Hole” at Scientology’s international management base near Hemet, California as punishment. Her husband Colm McLaughlin, meanwhile, was sent to the ship.

He and other former IASA officials were subjected to brutal interrogations — some of which I performed myself.

Colm didn’t want to be there and made it very clear. He wanted to be with his wife. He was ordered and pressured to divorce her heavily but he refused. As punishment for not wanting to divorce his wife, and wanting to leave, he was then posted in the engine room as a wiper, dirty and hazardous work in a mind-numbing noise and heat.

In 2008 when the ship was in dry dock I was told that Colm had tried to escape the ship. He had run down the gangway and literally had to be forced onto another Scientology ship, the Diana, which was docked right behind the Freewinds. He was put under 24-hour watch.

The non-Scientology dry dock workers were disturbed by this. They asked about it and were lied to and told that he was drunk. He wasn’t. He didn’t get off the ship until years later and that’s only because I wrote his story and published it on Marty Rathbun’s website. His stepson saw the story and he threatened to cause very bad PR for Scientology until they sent Colm from the ship to Los Angeles.

Around 2009 a young Sea Org worker wanted to leave the ship and they were not letting him go. When the Freewinds was sailing to Curaçao one time, he was so desperate that he literally jumped overboard in the middle of the ocean. He was rescued, although half dead. He got medical treatment and was then kicked out because he was a liability.

There was also a period of time when the captain was refusing to marry Sea Org couples. I personally know about seven couples who took years to get married because the captain refused to approve them. When a crew member objected, writing an internal report, he was taken off post and put full time in the engine room. I was ordered to audit him to find his evil purposes on the captain.

He was in the engine room and washing pots for six months. His sessions had to be recorded and watched daily by the captain and the RTC Rep. I fought for him because I thought it was a complete injustice. This got me in trouble for being “reasonable.” Reasonable in Scientology means “being too soft.” Having empathy is not the right Sea Org attitude.

David Miscavige would go diving daily when he came to Maiden Voyage, the annual week-long celebration of the anniversary of the ship in June. This occurred between 1996 and 2004 when I personally saw it. In 2003 and 2004 when Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz came to the ship they would go diving daily and ride dirt bikes, eat the best possible food, etc. The yacht for diving was $2,000 a day to hire. This was money that was donated to the IASA by parishioners. A lot of them would be broke from their donations, but David Miscavige and Tom Cruise were diving daily for a couple of months and spending a lot of money to do so.

Around 1999 A guy named Gawain Baxter came to the Freewinds. He was 15 years old. He had been in the Cadet Org at Flag since he was 2 weeks old. He did not want to be on the ship and made it very clear. He was on decks, engine room, and in trouble for about three years for not wanting to be there.


At Tom Cruise’s birthday party on the Freewinds in 2004 three girls were sent to the Engine Room for being “interesting” in front of him. They were then locked in a room to write all of their overts, (their bad deeds). They were not allowed out. One of them urinated in the garbage can because they wouldn’t let her out. They were then on decks and engine room and in trouble for a year getting their evil intentions pulled on the meter. I was assigned to audit one of them.

In late 1996 Don Jason, who had previously been the Chief Officer Flag Service Org in Florida (a high Executive) was sent to the ship as punishment. This was all arranged by Miscavige. Don made it very clear that he didn’t want to be there. He was under 24-hour watch and we were all told that we were not to talk to him. He knew me and said hello to me in the hall way and I said hello back. I also didn’t want to be there. I got in trouble for saying hello to him.

Then one day the Security Chief and a Security guard were punished. The reason? Don Jason had kept his drivers license or some such document hidden when he got on the ship. He had then made this genius device which looked kind of like a rolling pin using wood and cloth, and he went off the side of the ship sliding down the cables that were used to keep the ship docked. Sea Org security rushed ashore to try physically bring him back, but Don got into a taxi and was yelling at the driver to take him to the airport and that he was being held against his will. He slammed the door on the security guys and the taxi took him to the airport.

On the Freewinds and in fact everywhere in the Sea Org there is major lack of medical attention. There just aren’t enough funds, and Hubbard also frowns on the medical profession. There were deaths on the ship that could have been prevented. I actually wrote a report on this when I was in the Sea Org to David Miscavige from Australia. All that happened is that I was investigated and ultimately supposed to be sent back to the RPF (the prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force) in LA for being “disaffected.” Rold Kallanich was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in 2005. This was after years of complaining of stomach pain and discomfort. The handling would be to give him anti-reflex pills or some other kind of pain relief. He was never properly examined; blood tests were not done as well as ultra sounds and whatever else is standard procedure. In 2005 the pain was so unbearable that funds were approved for him to get a proper check. It was too late. He had stage 4 stomach cancer that had spread to his lungs. His lungs were so filled with water that they had to be drained. He was sent to LA to City of Hope to get chemo as they don’t want bad PR. In 2006 I was sent to audit him. I slept in his room at City of Hope on a fold-out bed. I’d audit him and take him for his chemo appointments. When he went out of remission and the cancer had spread to his bones and come back with vengeance there was nothing that could be done. He died at the age of 42.

Peter Hill, the cashier of the ship, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. The only reason it was diagnosed is that he was losing his memory and not making sense in his speech. He was sent to City of Hope too and died. He was in his 50s.

When I was on the RPF in Australia I found out that the Deputy Captain Paul McEleveen died. He was in his 40s and his organs just started shutting down. He was sent to LA and died in hospital there. It may have been from TB.

Ray Fennech was late for work one day. He was responsible for the Crew dining room. Security went to find him about an hour after he was supposed to show up. He was collapsed on the floor in his room and had had a stroke. He wasn’t dead and was taken to hospital. This was in Bonaire. The hospital was too small, and he went in a helicopter to Aruba but he died as his organs shut down one by one.

In the three above cases one of us Auditors were sent to be with these individuals. Ines Hernandez was sent with Ray and in the Helicopter with him when he died. Jodi Zagury was sent to LA to City of Hope to be with Peter Hill. She was there for a couple of months. We were supposed to use Scientology auditing to help make these people better. It was actually not fair to us, as it did nothing. I’d have to sit and audit Rolf to find why he got the cancer, trying to find the reason in his past lives with the help of the E-meter. He’d be screaming in pain in the session from either his lungs being too full of water or his stomach being in pain. I had to sleep next to Rolf at the end when he would get up and throw up and squirm and scream in pain. I was not medically trained and I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was not qualified and a nurse should have been hired for him. One time near the end he completely zoned out and wasn’t responding to me when I was talking to him but just blankly staring. I thought he was dead but then he moved. But per Hubbard, Scientology is better than anything else, so an auditor with no medical training is better than a nurse. I know it was traumatizing for me and I audited Ines and Jodi so I know it was traumatizing for them too.

These deaths could have been prevented. They occurred because of the lack of medical care in Scientology.

In 2006 Jose Navarro, the Cold Galley Chef in the Public Restaurant, wanted to date another crew member named Karleen. She was a former IASA Exec and now positioned as a Cabin Cleaner after she had been taken out with all of IASA that had been dismantled. Karleen was one of two children who were Sea Org members stationed in Curaçao as cadets with other Sea Org children. They would see their parents whenever the ship was docked in Curaçao, which was once a week when the ship was in the area, and when it sailed elsewhere, they’d go for months without seeing their parents.

Jose was not allowed to date Karleen. She was considered to be a suppressive who they couldn’t kick out. (Her mother was Cathy Fraser, the woman you see arguing with Louis Theroux in My Scientology Movie about whether a road is public or not.) Jose was shown Karleen’s ethics files to persuade him not to date her, but he didn’t care. The two of them were put under separation order so they couldn’t talk or even see each other. They protested and had sex in the elevator in the public galley on numerous occasions. This was found out and Karleen was put in the engine room full time and Jose on decks. (I have to say I think it’s really bullshit that in my case and hers the women are put in the engine room and the guys on decks.) Karleen became pregnant. Jose was not to know that she was pregnant, and Karleen was forced to have an abortion. They actually also had her working in the engine room while pregnant. Her choice was excommunication or abortion. Her entire family was in Scientology and she was born in Scientology. It’s all she knew. She had an abortion and was completely devastated. Jose wasn’t even told that she was pregnant.

She was then assigned to the RPF on the Ship with a woman named Julie. They worked in the engine room full time and did five hours of confessionals on each other. They were under 24-hour watch and living together in a cabin with a camera in front of the door. Karleen and I were in the Engine Room at the same time and I worked with her and Julie for a couple days until it was stopped, as I had to work alone.

Jose was sent to the RPF in Australia. They lied to him and told him that he would be able to come back to the ship when he was done and be with Karleen. The truth is that he was never going back to the ship. I ended up on the RPF in Australia with Jose and he was a broken man.

Jose was on the RPF from 2007 to 2010, when he blew. He took off and just ran away down the roads in Sydney. His “twin” RPF prisoner chased him to come back. Jose actually beat him up because he wouldn’t leave him alone. They had his passport as they confiscate that on the RPF. He asked for it back and they refused to give it to him. He was from Venezuela. In his mind dying was better than going back. He had nowhere to go, so at night he would roam the streets of Sydney. He had no money and no food so would eat out of garbage cans and eat grass. In the day time he would sleep on a park bench. He’d always be moving so he wasn’t found. After weeks of this he was walking in Sydney and Ramana Dienes-Browning, who lives in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, was down in Sydney. She saw Jose and took him in. He was scared that she was sent to get him at first, but she saved his life. (Steve Cannane featured Jose’s story in his excellent book about Scientology in Australia, Fair Game.)


He contacted me by email. I was in America at the time. He told me that he had left and that he didn’t want to live. He did the same with Ramana. We both spent time talking to him and convincing him that suicide was not the answer. I got him in contact with Liz Anderson, a former Scientologist in Australia. She got him in contact with the Federal Police Australia who did a whole investigation on his situation and it was found that he had been human trafficked by the Church of Scientology. This resulted in him getting an Australian Visa for being a victim of human trafficking. Scientology was forced to give him back his passport and belongings. They tried to get him to sign gag documents, which he refused to.

— Valeska Paris

And more about the Freewinds, from Karen de la Carriere…




Scientology’s sneaky front groups Down Under

Your proprietor was quoted in a story about Scientology’s school infiltrator, Applied Scholastics, which the ABC network in Australia put together. We don’t hear much about Applied Scholastics in this country, but this piece makes us wonder if we shouldn’t be taking a closer look.


HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

THURSDAY NIGHT OPPORTUNITY: This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. But we also want to point out that Cathy Schenkelberg’s “Squeeze My Cans” will be running at the Hollywood Fringe, and we encourage HowdyCon attendees to see her show on Thursday night, June 20. Tickets and more dates available here.

Friday night June 21 we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22. Note: You need to ask for the “family reunion” special rate.



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

[Catherine Bell, Chick Corea, and Nancy Cartwright]

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!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] In the US and Australia, new Ideal Orgs are increasingly isolated and uninviting. What gives?
[TWO years ago] Families of rescued patients are sharply divided on Scientologist-run Tennessee hellhole
[THREE years ago] How Ron Miscavige’s Scientology memoir reads to a former Scientologist
[FOUR years ago] Neil Gaiman’s sister shows up in Scientology response video to Gibney film ‘Going Clear’
[FIVE years ago] Scientology archiving magazines online? Are they nuts?
[SIX years ago] Cinco De Funnies: Getting Drunk on the Wisdom of Ron!
[EIGHT years ago] Howard Stern Questions A Former Scientology Private Eye


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,437 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,566 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,070 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,550 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 610 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 501 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,808 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,676 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,450 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,224 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,570 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,136 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,056 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,223 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,804 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,065 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,104 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,816 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,342 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,431 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,571 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,891 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,747 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,866 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,222 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,524 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,630 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,032 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,904 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,487 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,982 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,236 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,345 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 5, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 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. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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, or 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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email