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The Underground Bunker’s 2019 Scientology year-in-review starts today!

[The Daily Beast captured the year’s biggest Scientology story with this clever illo]

[NOTE: Don’t miss last night’s breaking news about Scientology’s attempt to force Valerie Haney into ‘religious arbitration.’]

Once again, the world’s press was infected with a passion for Scientology stories this year. And that metastasized in May when news organizations went rabid over the discovery that an entire cruise ship was quarantined at the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia for a case of the measles, and the ship in question just happened to be Scientology’s bizarre floating cathedral for its wealthiest members, the Freewinds.

For a few weeks, Scientology’s maritime religious retreat became a worldwide laughingstock and almost a perfect symbol for our stupid conspiracy-obsessed, anti-vaccination era.

It turned out that only a single crew member had come down with the illness, but by the time that had been worked out the damage had been done. The ship will forevermore be remembered for its attempt to sail away from Curaçao while infected, and was busted by the island’s health officials, who alerted their counterparts in St. Lucia. What a day we had here at the Bunker on May 1 when we were among a handful of organizations that were scrambling to confirm that the quarantined ship was none other than Scientology’s waterborne holy sanctuary, the only place where high-paying penitents can achieve the ultimate auditing level, Operating Thetan Level Eight.

But there was so much more to inject into our veins this year besides that epidemic of laughs as L. Ron Hubbard’s movement lurched its way through A.D. 69. Sure, David Miscavige might be celebrating the end of Leah Remini’s Emmy-winning A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath, which aired its series finale in August, but this was also the year that a national legal team filed three major lawsuits against the church leader, with more promised, and we expect 2020 to be a roller coaster of litigation and major media attention.


And how was 2019 for the Underground Bunker? Another wild ride, with a stop in Los Angeles for HowdyCon this summer, and some new daily features at the website that turned out to be very popular. What hasn’t changed is the continuing support we get from our many great correspondents and tipsters and researchers. And of course, our amazing commenting community that really makes this place unique.

So, as in past years, we’ll be going through a daily look-back at the stories that rocked the Bunker this year, covering a different month each day until December 31, when we combine November and December’s highlights. And at that point, we’ll reveal our picks for our favorite 20 stories of the year. And then, at midnight on January 1, we’ll reveal Observer’s new poster for 2020’s HowdyCon as we plunge into another revolution around the sun here on Teegeeack.

Of course, we won’t stop reporting the news over the next ten days, but we hope you enjoy our look through the archives. So here we go. First up, the stories of January 2019.

The month started off with a new episode of Scientology and the Aftermath, and it was one of the very best, featuring interviews with Paul Burkhart and Bert Schippers, detailing the grift of Scientology’s “Ideal Orgs.” Scientology then proved that it mined the supposedly confidential folders of former members for smear fodder when it attacked Burkhart on a slimy website.

The month also kicked off with a frightening incident in Australia: A 16-year-old boy was taken into custody after he was accused of knifing two Scientology guards at its “Advanced Org” in a Sydney suburb, killing one of them. The boy had been distraught about his mother taking the Purification Rundown at the facility, and we suspect that she was there to join the Sea Org and essentially abandon her family.

We learned more about Tiponi Grey from her family, and the reason why she died so suddenly. It turned out she had a bad heart and knew her life might end prematurely. Still, she bravely took on Scientology and made a memorable appearance on Leah Remini’s series.

On January 7, we told the strange story of Kenny Thompson, an accused double-murderer in Arizona who had been raised a Scientologist and blamed that upbringing, and Scientology’s hatred for psychiatry, for the irrational way he acted when he killed his sister-in-law and her fiance.

Another episode of Aftermath featured people like Heather Ruggeri and Carol Nyburg, who spelled out Scientology’s extortionate treatment of its members. Heather also talked to us about the way the church predictably slimed her for taking part in the episode.

Scientology made progress on its Kansas City Ideal Org with a new sign added to the city’s skyline, and photos of David Miscavige’s “Advanced Org” grand opening in South Africa that took place on Jan 1 showed up online.

Predictably, Scientology tried to lay the blame for the fatal knifing attack in Australia on Leah Remini and her television series.

On January 15, we reported that A&E intended to air its long-delayed episode about Danny Masterson on February 18. But it was then delayed again, and the Masterson allegations weren’t aired until the series finale in August.

The next day, we told the story of another elderly victim of Scientology’s predatory financial scam. The 82-year-old woman had to sneak out of her Los Angeles hotel at 4 am in order to get to the airport and fly home to the Midwest, some $60,000 poorer. Eventually, this woman was helped out by attorney Graham Berry, and she also talked to law enforcement.

Scientology revealed that it was starting a documentary showcase on its DirecTV channel, and we interviewed one of the filmmakers who for some reason had decided to help the church out with its new network.

On January 19, Chris Shelton interviewed Bree Mood, a new Sea Org defector who said that Scientology is still forcing Sea Org women to have abortions.


Leah Remini began to wrap up her third season of Aftermath with two hard-hitting episodes about Scientology’s takeover of Clearwater, Florida. In the first one, we learned about Betsy Steg’s ordeal, and how she’s paid the price in a city manipulated by Scientology because she dared to show Mike Rinder a kindness. In the second episode, Leah and Mike joined Mark Bunker for a memorable encounter with Clearwater police, who rushed to the scene when the TV trio dared to take walk in a city park. The sudden appearance of multiple squad cars could not have illustrated more clearly Scientology’s special relationship with Chief Slaughter’s police force.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2018: Chris Owen delivered on the mysteries of L. Ron Hubbard and his parents. We printed revelations about Joy Villa from her ex-boyfriend and her ex-manager. We weighed in on Xenu or Xemu. Katrina Reyes finally got to tell her story of disconnection. Former Scientology spy Cierra Westerman came forward.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2017: Brandon Reisdorf was featured on Aftermath. The LAPD snubbed Leah Remini. Marc Headley revealed that he was “bedsheet Jesus.” Billionaire Scientologist Trish Duggan made the scene at Trump’s inaugural. And Bernie Headley inspired us to start our ‘disconnected’ list.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2016: A local police chief gets played by Scientology, but later thinks better of it. Researcher R.M. Seibert gets the lowdown on how Scientology is using ‘religious’ visas to bring in foreign workers. Karen de la Carriere gets a nasty letter from a Scientology attorney.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2015: Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and we were there. Scientology had taken out full-page ads in major newspapers attacking Gibney before the film debuted. And it made predictable attacks afterwards. And in a new release of old documents, John McMaster, the world’s first true “Clear,” revealed that L. Ron Hubbard expected to come back as his daughter Diana’s child.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2014: We posted the Tommy Davis deposition from the Monique Rathbun lawsuit. Scientology’s own attorney discussed David Miscavige’s “black heart” in open court. Barbara Cordova Oliver went missing. Jefferson Hawkins wrapped up his series on Scientology “ethics.”

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2013: Lawrence Wright’s epic book Going Clear debuted, as did John Sweeney’s book, Luis and Rocio Garcia filed their federal fraud lawsuit, and Atlantic magazine screwed up big time.

Five of our favorites from the most-upvoted comments of January 2019

January 1: jen
My name is Jen and I’m a lurker. There, I’ve said it. I could be grandma lurk a lot – or quietly crying in Minnesota, or I love my horses and they are my therapy….. It’s been a year since a friend told me to watch the Aftermath and I watched in horror and sadness. How I got here on the Bunker I’m not sure. It just happened. Then I started reading the comments of all of you and I felt I entered a sacred community and quietly closed the blog realizing I didn’t belong. Then I came back the next day, and then the next and now it is a year later and even though I still feel I don’t belong, I care so deeply and it’s become a part of my morning. I open up the blog and see how you are all doing. I never knew we had an Ideal Minnesota org until this year. That’s how not a big deal it is. So to all of you Happier New Year with all sorts of possibilities. I may never post again but I do like you and your postings. I enjoy all the bantering and more than that I see how this community is so important to all of you. You are family. I like that.

January 2: Mat Pesch
Without a doubt, within minutes of the [knifing] incident, OSA would have been involved to cover and protect Scientology’s interests. OSA would have been on the phone with the local Scientology officials, while trusted OSA staff were flown there. An appropriate “shore story”, also known in Scientology as “an acceptable” truth, would have been created for both internal and external use. No one will ever know what really happened unless it is leaked at some point in the future. Scientology has cameras, hidden microphones, folders and files that would likely be of interest to police, but it is doubtful it will be made available.


January 8: otviii2late
“It was your duty to invade people’s privacy” was a standard expression. Another one was “Caring enough about the person” to make sure they bought the service. Caring = forcing. Classic ‘doublethink.’ There was an art to surviving this intense, relentless regging and you always needed a plan going in. If your reg was Carol, who also stayed real and human, your strategy was very different than Charmaine Rodgers who I avoided like the plague. I picked Gene Juss as my accomos counsellor because I felt I had figured out what strategy worked best on him. I planned ahead my story, my price point, my dialogue. I also prayed it was not close to Thursday at 2 which turned up the volume. There is a whole other story there on how we public strategized to deal with regging and routing forms.

January 16: Phil Jones
Scientology is a predatory organization. They will bleed the elderly of all their money. They will take young children and put them into slave labor (indentured servitude). They have no limits on who they will go after if there is money or free labor they can get their greedy hands on. When I was a young teenager still in school Scientology conned me into the cult on the promise of better eyesight. In a short time they had taken me for all of my college money and my grandparents inheritance money and left me with nothing. They’ve gone after the disabled as well. If Scientology smells money they are like sharks after blood.

January 19: Sunny
Oh this is sad news. Thank you Bree for speaking out about it. It sucks that this is the case, but the only way to keep Scientology at bay (ethics in) is to constantly shine the light into its dark corners like this. It was a very different time in Scn watching when we did those SP Times interviews (10 years ago, about forced abortions, linked above in article). I had just finally gotten the PI’s off my back, and I was pregnant when I was asked to be interviewed. After a very short time of contemplation, I agreed. I had hoped it would help others be able to get out and have children someday. I know that records were kept of Sea Org members who left (after the SP Times article) and were allowed to have their children, and I do know those numbers were quite good. It was nice to see some long time friends getting out and having kids, even if they were still to-the-core Scientologists and of course disconnected from me. I could see they were happy raising their children. But sadly, as always in Scientology, these bad habits creep back in, and abortions are again happening. Thank you Bree, Shelton and Tony for continuing to shine the light in these dark corners. They must be constantly held in check because they are completely incapable of doing it themselves.


Chris Shelton talks with Jon Atack!

Says Chris: “This week I am joined once again by Jon Atack, author and historian, to discuss the topic of brainwashing. We dive deep into the various ways academics and cult leaders have tried to ‘debunk’ that brainwashing or mind control are even legitimate topics of discussion and we discuss how brainwashing has been used effectively by many governments and cult groups to control their members. And while this topic alone is fascinating, we also spend a good chunk of the middle of the podcast talking Scientology specifically and Jon sets me straight on some very interesting Church history and the role L. Ron Hubbard’s wife and son played in the church’s development. I think you’ll enjoy every part of this podcast.”




Leaked document of the day

From the Valley Ideal Org documents release comes this item.

Documents like this are so valuable because they demonstrate beyond question that Scientology today is operating exactly the way all of the former members have been saying for decades. Apologist academics still pretend that ex-members aren’t reliable sources of information, but leaked documents like this prove that in fact those ex-members are more reliable and insightful than the vast majority of bleating university religious studies types.


26 September 2016

Ethics Section ASHO
Chief Public MAA ASHO

[Name redacted]

A3) Do you have a PTS situation?

Her daughter, [redacted] has MS, which enturbulates [redacted]. However, she is now getting her in session in the HGC, which will handles this (she hopes). Otherwise, [redacted] now feels at cause over the situation.

A4) Are you connected to any Declared SPs, ex-Scientologist or disaffected Scientologist?

Her son, [redacted] was Comm Ev’d in 2014 for having posted something anti-Scientology. He was stoned and drinking to excess. He was friends with [redacted] (declared SP) as well as other “Scientologists” that were involved in these activities. In PT, [redacted] is no longer connected to [redacted] and is not critical. He has not completed his Comm Ev Recs.


I varied the question to check into anything negative from [redacted], and nothing came up. She plans on getting him back onlines. Per CF, [redacted] is in good standing.

She noticed a negative post from someone by the name of [redacted] (not in CF) in 2014. She hasn’t deleted her from Facebook. She didn’t because she was part of the same group that [redacted] had been that got their heads on straight.

I checked into any other Facebook or otherwise connections, nothing came up.

13) Have you ever watched, read or seen any entheta about Scientology?

She has looked at 4 articles in the last year since her handling at LA Org with [redacted] for looking at BPR. I varied the question to check into any more. Nothing else came up.

This is true,
Brianna Bloch
Chief Public MAA ASHO


Source Code

“Once in a while you’ll send a preclear up to the moon, and Earth and sun, you know, doing a Grand Tour, and you get a fascinating reaction from him if he is really on the ball. There’s a space station on the back of the moon — that’s space station 33 — and it has corridors and observatory domes and a lot of other things, a lot of odds and ends. But these corridors are on different levels. So that we have a hallway, you see, a corridor, and then we have one which is maybe 12 or 15 feet above the level. You see, the next level. So we’d go down this corridor, and then we’d have to go up 12 or 15 feet to go down to the next corridor. And they’ll take a look at this and they will see that there is nothing but sheer wall face between this lower corridor and the upper corridor floor — 15 foot sheer drop between these two corridors. And they will say, ‘Something is wrong here. There are no stairs. I don’t know what I’m doing here, or what’s going on, but this place is kind of funny. There are no stairs here.’ Why should there be any stairs where gravity is so slight?” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 21, 1954


Overheard in the FreeZone

“The Universe is a ‘natural’ Matrix — planet Earth is stuck in a distortion of this field as an artificial matrix — mass black magick rituals (wars, etc.) and faked realities and information fuel this matrix and produce peculiar inversions to shield these evil beings from discovery and the consequences of Natural Law (spiritual karma) — military and police are used as their ‘human shields’ — group agreement makes this a ‘hell on Earth.’ The tilting of planet Earth caused mankind to forage for meat to avoid starvation and set in motion the cycle of violence that we are still stuck in.”


Random Howdy

“Chinese food, Mexican food, good fish’n’chips and the occasional great hamburger and potatoes are all I need to live.”


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!

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



[ONE year ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2018 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[TWO years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2017 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[THREE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2016 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FOUR years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2015 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FIVE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2014 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[SIX years ago] Jon Atack: For Scientologists, thinking outside the church can feel like breaking a taboo
[SEVEN years ago] VIDEO: Tiziano Lugli’s “Shit Scientologists Say,” Featuring Prominent Ex-Church Members
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Scuffle Over Xenu: When a Protester is Attacked!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,665 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,794 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,298 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,818 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 838 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 729 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,036 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,904 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,678 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,452 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,798 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,364 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,283 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,451 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,032 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,293 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,331 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,044 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,569 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,096 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,659 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,799 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,119 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,975 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,094 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,449 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,752 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,858 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,260 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,132 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,715 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,210 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,464 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,573 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 21, 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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