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Nan McLean, 1923-2019: One of the bravest women who ever exposed Scientology’s abuses

[Nan with Jon Atack in Toronto in 2015]

Last night, we learned from Nan McLean’s granddaughter Phaedra Fairwell that Nan, a veteran of vicious Fair Game attacks after leaving Scientology and going public in the 1970s, died yesterday at Southlake Regional Hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. She was 96 years old.

We are fortunate that we got to meet Nan in Toronto at the “Getting Clear” conference in 2015. We had included her in our book about Paulette Cooper — they were tight friends in the 1970s and were among only a small handful of people speaking out about Scientology at that time.

Nan joined Scientology in 1969 and brought her husband and some of her children into the organization — her son John joined the Sea Org and served on the ship Apollo with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. But by 1972 Nan had become unhappy with the answers she was getting from Scientology staffers, pulled her family out, demanded refunds, and then went public with their criticisms of the church. Then, Scientology went after her and her family, as described in a 1978 press report…

In a little more than five years, the Church of Scientology has filed nearly a dozen lawsuits — most of them for libel — against various members of the family in the United States and Canada, instigated criminal charges alleging harassing phone calls from the McLeans, and conducted a mock funeral for the family down the main street of Sutton.

A judge dismissed the criminal charges after testimony that three of the calls actually were placed by Scientologists to the McLeans.


On April 25, 1974, a Canadian court ordered the church “not to carry on public demonstrations against” Mrs. McLean, distribute literature describing her as a “lost soul,” or otherwise refer to her previous association with Scientology.


[Nan, in a 1973 documentary.]

In 2015, when we wrote a story about a former Scientology spy coming forward (and in a self-aggrandizing way), Nan told us how disgusted she still was. This particular spy, she said, was an attorney who pretended that he was working to expose Scientology, so she trusted him with documents important to her lawsuits, which he then promptly made disappear.

Thirty years later, she was still steamed about it.

And that’s one of the reasons we loved speaking with Nan on the phone. Even into her 90s, she was fully invested in exposing Scientology’s abuses, and hadn’t let up one bit.

We asked University of Alberta professor Stephen Kent for his thoughts about Nan, and he sent us this great tribute.

Nan was a generous, kind, talented, ethical, and tough person who challenged Scientology’s abuses against herself, her family, Canadians, and citizens of the world. She helped launch my career, and in the process became a deep, personal, friend. I thought, and hoped, that she would live forever. In the history of opposition to Scientology’s war against human dignity, she will.

Throughout the late 1970s and into the 1990s she was involved in around 15 court cases, often writing her own legal statements and court filings. She suffered spies, a harassment campaign involving a funeral for dead souls in her town, legal harassment, and extraordinary financial and personal pressure to cease her outspoken public stance. She and Paulette are responsible for many of the Guardian Office documents that we have because she had the foresight to travel to Washington and photocopy hundreds of pages during the brief period that they were on public display. She provided background information to crown prosecutors in some of this country’s biggest court cases, and she never accepted money for her efforts to talk people out of Scientology. Countless journalists benefited from her material and her advice, and she was a major source for sociologist Roy Wallis, who wrote one of the classic studies, The Road to Total Freedom, published in 1977.

She was a terrific bridge player, but a terrible driver. For her, speed limits were barriers to surpass. She loved cats; she built computers; for years she smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and she was a public critic of Scientology’s abusive practices during pre-Internet years when many others were silenced within a deep underground of opposition.

“Nan was an extraordinary woman and a wonderful friend,” says Paulette Cooper. “She also had a terrific family who for a period of time became my family. Sadly, she lost one member of her family, her own 3-year old son in a horrible accident (she witnessed the truck hitting him), but she never lost her upbeat and optimistic attitude. On a personal note, I really think she kept me from suicide during the time I was under indictment for Scientology’s frame-up of me. We talked on the phone every night for about an hour and her support and positive attitude kept me going.”

“Nan McLean was one of the real heroes of the resistance to Scientology,” Jon Atack tells us. “She suffered a tremendous amount of harassment in the days when the Guardian’s Office was still in full swing, but nothing deterred her from her purpose: she was determined to expose the horrors perpetrated by Scientology. It was a tremendous privilege for me to meet and interview her at the Getting Clear conference in Toronto in 2015. Even in her nineties, she was a sparkling presence.”

“I know that her fearlessness, her integrity, and her tenacity impacted many people in her long fight against Scientology,” Phaedra wrote to us last night about her grandmother. “After the release of the W5 documentary I stumbled onto your site and read everything I could find about my Gran. In doing so I discovered something wonderful. Not only is my Gran famous in the fight against Scientology, she is a rock star. A bright light in my universe is gone.”

And in ours, Phaedra. We can only, like you, be grateful that we got to bask in that light she shone so brightly.



Sweden TV gets access to Narconon

We received a message from Stefan Malmström about what sounds like a pretty unique case of access to a Narconon drug rehab. We haven’t seen it (it’s not subtitled in English yet), but here’s what Stefan says about it…

The Swedish national broadcaster, SVT, yesterday put up a 25 minute long documentary called “Tempted by Scientology.” They follow a young drug addict who is on treatment at Narconon in Eslöv, a small town in the south of Sweden. The crew was allowed to film inside the rehab when the guy is doing Purification Rundown in the sauna, when he does different Scientology excersises and so forth. And they also interview some of the staff at Narconon. I haven’t seen such pictures before — it must be unique that Narconon let the crew inside.

The documentary also reveals that several cities in Sweden hire Narconon and send people with drug problem to them. It also reveals that Narconon shows a movie for their clients in which they invite them to find out more about Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. In the end of the documentary the young guy tells the journalist that he is interested in Scientology and will take some steps into finding out more. The documentary is in Swedish, I’m afraid, and no English text. Mariette Lindstein is interviewed in it and does a great job. SVT is the biggest TV channel in Sweden and broadcasts to all the population (10 million).

— Stefan Malmström


Leaked document of the day

From the FBI release we told you about yesterday comes this gem.

If you’ve read our book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, you’ll remember that Scientology hired Washington DC dirty tricks private investigator Richard Bast to try and throw a monkey wrench into the prosecution of Mary Sue Hubbard and the other Guardian’s Office operatives on trial for infiltrating the US government in the Snow White Program. (And along the way, Bast also fooled Paulette Cooper into unwittingly helping the church as well.)

Bast was paid $321,000 (plus $84,000 in expenses) by the church to dig up dirt on Judge Charles R. Richey, who had overseen Mary Sue’s trial and was handling the trial of the final two of 11 defendants. Bast claimed that one of the US Marshals protecting Richey on trips to Los Angeles for trial had observed him on July 9, 1979 paying a prostitute when he stayed at the Brentwood Holiday Inn. Bast also claimed that he’d confirmed this with a prostitute, Joyce Byington, who Bast claimed passed a lie detector test. (He also paid her $300 a day for her time). Although Richey denied the allegations, he recused himself from the case of the final two defendants. (It didn’t, however, save them; they were also convicted and went to prison like the other nine defendants anyway.)

What we learned in the new FBI documents is that Bast himself was investigated by the FBI on obstruction of justice charges, and an FBI team was sent to the Brentwood Holiday Inn to check out his story, and that it turned out to be a lot of hot air. The manager there said there was no record of Richey even staying there, that Byington had been kicked out of the hotel for getting in a fight, and that the staff never saw her in the presence of the judge.


Investigation at Brentwood Holiday Inn determined no record of Judge Richey having resided at that hotel in 1979. Holiday Inn manager [redacted] indicated on August 26, 1980, that he was contacted by Los Angeles [redacted] approximately eight to ten weeks ago. He advised that these two individuals indicated they were attempting to verify reports of immoral conduct on the part of Judge Richey in furtherence of divorce action initiated by Judge’s wife. Many hotel employees interviewed by [redacted] who was accompanied on one occasion by a Black man, not introduced. No evidence would substantiate any immoral conduct by Judge Richey determined.

[Redacted] advised that [redacted] in residence at the Holiday Inn from May 18, 1979, to July 18, 1979. [Redacted] advised [redacted] departed after physical altercations with [redacted] in hotel. [Redacted] never observed in company of Judge Richey.


Source Code

“I handled a preclear not too long ago who was in the valence of a horse. He had been in the valence of a horse for a long time. He had gotten so mad at a horse that he had wished everything off on this horse imaginable and then the horse won. And the preclear went into the horse’s valence. Fact. You have probably processed people in the valences of dogs and so forth. As a matter of fact, if I were raising a little child, I would certainly hang all the pets out the window and let them run away rather than have them around a child, because the pet is liable to give the child trouble.” — L. Ron Hubbard, November 19, 1951


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Who is the person who invented the AI interface, where and when and for what purpose? Who, if anyone is behind them? Outside this planet, solar system, galaxy, universe etc… Who is both accountable and responsible. When one finally clears it down to ME, one arrives at a PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING which may then be tested out and applied out through the relationships and dynamics.”


Random Howdy

“A Scientology divorce is simply postulating and as-ising that wife #2 never existed.”


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

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

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] Disaster relief? Scientology’s own documents spell out the real mission of ‘Volunteer Ministers’
[TWO years ago] Most remote large city in the world won’t be overlooked by Scientology’s zeal to be ‘ideal’
[THREE years ago] EXCLUSIVE: See the letter Scientology sent to scare A&E out of airing Leah Remini’s series
[FOUR years ago] ‘Babywatch,’ day one: Lisa McPherson raves out by Scientology’s holiest swimming pool
[FIVE years ago] L. Ron Hubbard, deadbeat dad ALSO: Former members of Scientology show off their stuff
[SIX years ago] The Oiliness Table, For Real! A Look Inside Scientology’s Super Power Building
[SEVEN years ago] LA’s Sheriff Lee Baca and Simpsons Actress Nancy Cartwright Shill for Scientology
[EIGHT years ago] White House Rejects Scientology Petition: Why That’s Not All Bad News


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,633 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,762 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,266 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,786 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 806 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 697 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,004 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,872 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,646 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,420 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,766 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,332 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,251 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,419 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,000 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,261 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,300 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,012 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,538 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,064 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,627 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,767 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,087 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,943 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,062 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,417 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,720 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,826 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,228 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,100 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,683 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,178 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,432 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,541 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 19, 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, 14 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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