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Thorn in Scientology’s side, Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan, says ESMB will go still on Sep 30

[Michelle Ryan]

Yesterday morning, we rose to the surprising news that Michelle “Emma” Ryan had announced that she would be shutting down new posting on the Ex-Scientologist Message Board as of September 30.

ESMB, especially in its early years, was a hugely beneficial website that allowed people coming out of Scientology, or who had left years before, to come to grips with their experience in L. Ron Hubbard’s movement.

But running a forum is often a thankless task, and Michelle hinted that she’d been considering the move for some time. She was finally motivated to make her announcement when she learned that her daughter had gotten engaged and Michelle had a wedding to plan. So, on September 30, ESMB will no longer be accepting new posts, but Michelle indicated that the archives of the forum would remain online.

We reached out to Michelle last night to tell her how much her website had meant in the history of Scientology watching.

The Bunker: We’re sure it was a difficult decision. But you have so much to be proud of. ESMB has been such a great outlet for people trying to understand what they were a part of.


Michelle: Thank you. It was a hard decision. I joined Scientology in 1994 — 25 years ago. That is half my life either in Scientology, extracting myself from Scientology, or criticizing Scientology. It is time for me to move on. I’m proud that for well over a decade ESMB has been a central hub for ex-Scientologists and other interested parties. Before blogging was popular, before YouTube was well established, before Facebook groups, there was ESMB.

The Bunker: Can you tell us a little about the very start of ESMB? We’re sure you’ve told the story many times, but we’re unfamiliar with it.

Michelle: I was on OCMB [the forum at Operation Clambake,, Andreas Heldal-Lund’s formative site which was started in 1996]. The environment there was often toxic for newly out ex-Scientologists and people merely curious about Scientology. Some critics had made it impossible for actual exes to post something without ridicule. Anyone on the fence about Hubbard was hounded off the board with insults, called “OSA,” etc. I called it out, I was harassed badly too. So one day I decided to make my own forum, just for ex-Scientologists. I never thought it would take off, but it did.

The Bunker: When was that?

Michelle: I started planning it late in 2006 and launched it on January 7, 2007.

The Bunker: And then, in the early days, what were some milestones for you?

Michelle: There were some false starts. I tried many free versions of forum software. I spent my entire Christmas holidays that year messing around with it, but no free version was adequate. So I researched and found vBulletin. I paid for a license and some hosting and set it up. The early days (the first year or two) were amazing. A few folks I knew from a.r.s [the Usenet group alt.religion.scientology, which had initially been created in 1991] came over, like Dennis Erlich, Alan Walter, Pooks (Cerridwen), Chip Gallo, Chris Owen, Chuck Beatty, Lulubelle, Barbz, Mick Wenlock, Michael Pattinson, Denise Brennan, Zinj and many other less well-known names. When I announced the launch on OCMB many exes from there started arriving on ESMB as well, one by one. Then, the stories started. Stories that had never been told before. Heartbreaking, interesting stories that were raw and new. Stories from Bea Kiddo and other second-generation kids about growing up in Scientology, being in a Cadet Org, being schooled at the Ranch. Stories from Alan Walter and Dart Smohen about their time spent with Hubbard developing the tech and being with him in the very early days aboard the Apollo. So it was established quickly that amazing stories could be told that had never been told before because it was safe to do so. For me it has always been about the stories. It became a real community in under a year. It was new and exciting and for me was the best time to be on ESMB. Then the Tom Cruise video hit.

The Bunker: That was in January 2008, when a video Scientology had recorded in 2004, of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology was leaked to the Internet.

Michelle: I woke up to to find there had been more than 5,000 new people on the board. My cheap hosting crashed and I had no idea why. Anonymous had arrived. I don’t think people know that ESMB is where they all landed. It was ESMBers who gave them a lot of data that ended up on Wikileaks. We were exchanging messages back and forth by using go-betweens from their board to ours. This was way before or WWP. Then Mark Bunker did his Ghandi video and the protests were born. Anyway, that influx caused me to have to get a dedicated server, and then ESMB hit the big time. 2007 was all about the stories. 2008 was all about the protests. 2009 was all about Marty Rathbun and the Indie movement. 2010/2011 was about Nick Xenophon and the Australian senate inquiry, then my arrest. 2012 to present has mostly been watching and commenting on all the developments that have occurred from that time on. I don’t have to tell you that there have been many, many developments. 2019 is a vastly different landscape compared to 2007.

The Bunker: How about some of your favorite threads of all time?

Michelle: Most of the best threads of all time are captured on the “Featured Threads” tab on ESMB. If anyone wants to know why ESMB became successful, just follow that link and you’ll see why I love the stories.

The Bunker: Thank you, Michelle. And here at the Bunker, we’d love to hear from our commenters about their own favorite memories about ESMB and what it meant to them.

ADDED: We also reached out to a person whose familiar avatar always reminded us of ESMB, Paul Adams (Dulloldfart). Here’s what he told us he’ll be remembering most about the forum: “My three eBooks, of Bea Kiddo’s, Alan Walter’s and Dart Smohen’s posts (see … my underwater-metering videos in response to AnonOrange’s taunting … my Scn-based animations and other metering videos (see … the real-time bantering between the only people on Earth who could truly understand the exy reality. ESMB was never cathartic for me, more a source of fun and being able to help others. My favourite Scn video I made:”


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I accept that our pursuit is a spiritual one, but I would expect to see many more people make loads of money along the levels made by aberrated wogs. Something is not right and that is why I am not against new tech as long as the existing, standard tech is not just abandoned.”


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

[Alanna Masterson, Terry Jastrow, and Marisol Nichols]

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] By any means necessary: Scientology’s bizarre war against psychiatry
[TWO years ago] Supporting Leah Remini and her show — what’s the risk for viewers who expose Scientology?
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ policy gets sacrificed on the Burning Man altar
[FOUR years ago] David Miscavige: Scientology saved the universe from its ‘reverse point’ in 2006
[FIVE years ago] Longtime Scientologist Jim Jackson remembers Lyman Spurlock, 1945-2014
[SIX years ago] Scientology and Nation Of Islam Education Hucksters Marching on Sacramento!
[SEVEN years ago] Voice Readers Raise Thousands For Couple That Refused to Spy for Scientology
[EIGHT years ago] The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 10: Lisa McPherson


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,563 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,692 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,196 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,716 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 736 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 627 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,934 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,802 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,576 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,350 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,696 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,262 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,181 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,349 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,930 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,191 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,230 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,942 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,468 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 994 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,557 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,697 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,017 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,873 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,992 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,347 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,650 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,756 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,158 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,030 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,613 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,108 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,362 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,471 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 9, 2019 at 07:00

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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


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