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BEST OF THE DECADE: Scientology watching’s biggest 2010s hits at the Underground Bunker

[Leah Remini and Laura D]

Tomorrow we’re going to finish up our look back at the wild year that was 2019, but it’s not every day that you’re staring down the barrel of a new decade, and so we thought we ought to say something about the 2010s and what these years have meant for Scientology Watching.

When 2010 started, we were still reeling from the Anonymous movement and how it had made Scientology such a hot story again. We were scrambling to find great stories at the Village Voice, and we knew the church was in big trouble after a whole raft of former top executives had gone public with their defections and what things were really like inside the top echelons of the controversial church.

Since then, wow, what a lot of great stories we’ve had the privilege of covering both at the Voice and here at our own website, which started its existence in 2012. Looking back, these are the milestones that made this such a dynamite decade for keeping tabs on L. Ron Hubbard’s odd invention and its current caretaker, David Miscavige.

2010: Marty Rathbun starts spilling Scientology’s darkest secrets on his must-read blog



In 2009, Rathbun had started his blog at the same time that he was going public with his story in the Tampa Bay Times in its blockbuster series, “The Truth Rundown.” Then, in 2010, Rathbun started posting actual retaliation programs dreamed up by Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs that another executive had smuggled out to him. This was the best proof of Scientology’s ongoing dirty tricks that we’d seen for years, and proved that the church hadn’t changed its ways since the Snow White days. At the time, we said that Rathbun’s blog was the single biggest obstacle to David Miscavige’s tenure as leader of Scientology. Which makes it all the more perplexing and disappointing to see where Rathbun ended up.

2011: Scientology’s Cruise Ship as Prison: The Voice Interviews Valeska Paris


Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker story about Paul Haggis may have been the biggest Scientology story of the year, but we had a home run of our own with a lengthy interview with Valeska Paris about her ordeal on the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds. After her mother dared to criticize Scientology on French television, Valeska says she was transferred to the ship and kept as a virtual prisoner there for 11 years as a Sea Org indentured servant.

2012: Scientology’s master spies came in from the cold, but only for 24 hours



One of our very favorite stories of all time on this beat, we got to spend the day with two former Scientology super-spies who had shadowed Pat Broeker for 24 years. After our time with them, they spent a few hours with the guys at the Tampa Bay Times and then the church panicked and settled their lawsuit to ensure that they never gave any other interviews ever. But it wasn’t soon enough to keep us from writing our piece and publishing our photos. What a day.

2013: How Scientology coerced a child to have an abortion: The Laura DeCrescenzo files


This was the year that we broke the news that Leah Remini had defected from Scientology, and then a month later she filed a missing-person report about church leader David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly. But even so, our favorite story of the year was finally getting our hands on Laura DeCrescenzo’s files after she had to fight with Scientology all the way to the US Supreme Court to get them. And what material, proving how Scientology treats children like chattel and forced an abortion on Laura when she was only 17.

2014: A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world


This was the year that, with Jeffrey Augustine’s help, we showed that Scientology was forced to admit in tax records that it had amassed billions in wealth, something that became a key feature of the film ‘Going Clear.’ We also enjoyed going a long way, we thought, to proving that “Original OT 8,” the bizarre document by L. Ron Hubbard revealing that he was the antichrist, was a genuine document. But the strangest story we’ve done in a long time, and the kind of thing that you won’t ever see another news organization touch, was the story we managed to put together about the richest Scientologist in the world, Bob Duggan, and the bizarre “arrangement” he’d come to with a couple of South African families regarding adopted children and financing new Scientology building projects.


2015: Felony raps for Scientologists running L.A. rehab scam with corrupt educators


No doubt 2015 was a wild year: A private investigator went to prison after trying to hack Mike Rinder and your proprietor on behalf of Scientology, for example. The Jim Carrey-Cat White story exploded, and for weeks we were way out ahead of the rest of the world’s press on Cat’s background and her bizarre arranged Scientology marriage before her tragic suicide. It was also the year that we first got to hear the absolutely stunning audio recording of Sylvia DeWall being declared suppressive for admitting to watching Leah Remini on television. But for us, 2015’s biggest hit was the huge scoop that we still largely have to ourselves four years later — the story of felony charges for a family accused of defrauding Medi-Cal of nearly $4 million in an illegal scheme operating out of a Scientology Narconon clinic in Southern California. We are still amazed at how this scam operated, and that we’re pretty much the only website in the world covering this crazy case.

2016: Spying, intimidation, and ruin: Two lives caught up in Scientology’s notorious ‘Fair Game’


Our big scoops this year included revealing the plans for a double-level penthouse that Tom Cruise was building right inside Scientology’s spiritual mecca, a Shelly Miscavige sighting, and an absolute mindblower about Lisa Marie Presley’s attempt to have a showdown with David Miscavige on her way out of Scientology. But while it wasn’t as big news, the story that meant the most to us this year was the deep dive we got to take into the lives of two men who had been on two very different sides of the Scientology story: Gregg Hagglund, a critic who may have single-handedly kept Scientology from obtaining tax exempt status in Canada, and Peter Ramsay, the Scientology spy assigned to ruining Gregg’s life. A life was ruined, all right, but not the one you might have expected.

2017: LAPD probing Scientology and Danny Masterson for multiple rapes, cover-up



There was no question about this one. The biggest story we got to break in 2017 got picked up by media all around the world, especially after the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed it later that day: Scientologist actor Danny Masterson was accused of rape by three women who were all former Scientologists, and the LAPD was taking it very seriously. Three years later, the LAPD is still working the case, but LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey has not announced whether she’s going to file charges. But the victims — who were joined by a fourth woman — aren’t waiting for Lacey and have filed a civil lawsuit against Masterson, the Church of Scientology, and its leader, David Miscavige.



For us, Scientology Watching in the 2010s was defined by two very different women. On the one hand, it’s undeniable what an effect Leah Remini had on just about every aspect of Scientology’s reputation in the media. Her defection became public in 2013, her book came out in 2015, and her Emmy-winning television series debuted in 2016 and had its final episode in August. What an incredible job she’s done bringing the Scientology saga to a whole new audience and in raising the public’s consciousness about Scientology’s abuses.

Leah Remini owned the 2010s, and Scientology watching will never be the same.

And yet, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s someone who got very little attention beyond the Underground Bunker, but we think she also defined this decade and what it’s like to fight Scientology.

Laura DeCrescenzo’s incredible story was not just about what she endured in Scientology as a child Sea Org worker and being forced to have an abortion at 17. It was also about what she had to endure as someone who sued Scientology in 2009 and rolled the dice again and again in dramatic hearings and countermeasures against Scientology’s habitual scorched-earth litigation strategy. And finally, with just weeks to go until a trial was finally supposed to happen, her brilliant attorney, John Blumberg, served notice on Scientology leader David Miscavige that he’d have to show up for the trial. Days later, Miscavige caved and wrote Laura a huge check to keep the trial from happening.

It was one of the biggest civil court victories over Scientology in history (won by a woman who happened to be going through a difficult pregnancy), and yet the Los Angeles Times, which had completely ignored her story for nine years, could only bring itself to run an AP story about the case settling. She deserved so much more. But at least in the Bunker, she was a hero and always will be.


As for 2019, we are continuing our look-back with the stories of October today, and tomorrow we’ll review November and December and then reveal our top 20 stories of the year.

If Leah Remini and Laura DeCrescenzo defined the 2010s, a new set of women who filed lawsuits in 2019 may represent what we’re in for in the 2020s. Some of our biggest stories this year were about Valerie Haney, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Bobette Riales, and the three Jane Does who have thrown caution to the wind and filed lawsuits against Scientology and David Miscavige with heinous allegations of everything from child sexual abuse to kidnapping to covering up multiple rapes.

Oh, it’s going to be the Roaring 20s all right.


Continuing our year in review: The stories of October 2019

October started with Valerie Haney dropping the “Jane Doe” moniker and submitting a brutal new amended complaint in her kidnapping and slander lawsuit against Scientology and leader David Miscavige.

That same day, we got the stunning news that Hanan Islam had been led away in handcuffs in a Los Angeles courtroom. She is being prosecuted, along with three of her children, for running a $4 million Medi-Cal insurance scam out of a Scientology Narconon drug rehab clinic in Compton, California. The judge in the case didn’t appreciate her “sovereign citizen” talkback. Jeffrey Augustine was on the scene and reported on the devastating evidence put on the record by state investigators. Hanan was also led away from the courtroom in handcuffs during the preliminary hearing’s second day as even more evidence went on the record.

A small “independent” or “FreeZone” community of Scientologists is centered in Reno, Nevada, and its leader advertised that for $100 interested fellow E-meter fans could hear him lecture on the secret to living to 150, which he said was contained in a 1957 L. Ron Hubbard lecture (which we provided for your listening pleasure).

Our man in Ireland, Pete Griffiths, found himself in a Catch-22 after his victory in court against a Scientologist, and the readers of the Bunker helped him out of a pickle.

As the preliminary hearing for the Islams continued, we posted proof of Hanan Islam’s deep Scientology involvement, and also pointed out that she could be an important witness in a very different case, the one involving allegations against Scientologist actor Danny Masterson.

Even more evidence from the state about the Islams was entered in court, including the bizarre detail that they hired “ghost writers” to fabricate treatment records for students in order to scam Medi-Cal.

The judge bound them over for trial, and the defendants again pleaded not guilty, and will now be facing additional charges.

Photos became available of Scientology rich donors with their fancy new trophies, and among them was voice actress Nancy Cartwright, now up to $17 million in giving!


David Miscavige did show up to the annual IAS gathering in Englad (we had had our doubts that he would), and we believe, based on several pieces of evidence, that Tom Cruise attended along with his children Isabella and Connor, which was a first.

We were finally able to recognize David Venemon publicly for being a key source of information he was able to take out of a Narconon clinic.

We were stunned to learn that the Duggans abandoned their 2015 plan to hold a million shares of Abbvie stock (makers of Humira, the most profitable drug in the world) and funnel revenue from it to the Church of Scientology. Instead, in 2016, records show, they just gave the stock directly to David Miscavige instead, where it will generate income for Scientology in perpetuity.

On October 22, we reported that David Miscavige had been served in the lawsuits filed against him by Valerie Haney and the Danny Masterson accusers. He would later squawk that the service was done improperly, but that’s just Dave being Dave.

Court records also indicate that Danny Masterson had been served the lawsuit — with a receptionist at a Scientology building — but we had our doubts that this would hold up in court. (And we were right.)

We let readers know that we had obtained a “Knowledge Report” written by Priscilla Presley around the year 2000, but for legal reasons we could only provide a minimal description of its contents.

We loved the way Scientology was skewered in an episode of the Netflix series ‘The Kominsky Method’ starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, with Haley Joel Osment playing a Scientology ‘registrar’ who had escaped to rejoin his family. We were very impressed by the attention to detail and how well the episode had Scientology lingo down cold. We later found out how the show pulled it off: Geoff Levin let us know that writer/producer Chuck Lorre had a secret past as a hardcore Scientologist!

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2018: Heather Ruggeri told us her story of forced abortion and escape from the Sea Org. The Underground Bunker gave statuses to its own whales. DC District Attorney Stanley Harris schooled Scientology in 1983. Detroit got its Ideal Org. Sylvia DeWall spoke truth to family that had abandoned her. Alec Nevala-Lee’s fine book ‘Astounding’ came out, and he gave us an amazing document he found in his research, when L. Ron Hubbard invented a friendly psychiatrist to rebut Dianetics. On Halloween we released our book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2017: We received reports that the RPF was a thing of the past. We marveled at the 1989 OT 8 graduation of Margie Zacks. David Miscavige’s new portrait in the belly of the Freewinds wowed us. Aftermath looked at Mace-Kingsley Ranch and talked to Mimi Faust. The vile secret in Dianetics got dissected.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2016: Karla Taylor’s lawsuit reminded us of the chances people take when the sue Scientology. We broke the news that Tom Cruise was building a double penthouse in Clearwater. And we ID’d one of the private eyes stalking Leah Remini in Denver.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2015: The month began with a lot of Cat White and Jim Carrey and Mark Burton coverage, including the young Hollywood Scientologists she hung out with, and the family in Ireland that had first pointed her toward the church. We went to the London premiere of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. And thanks to Bryan Seymour and Steve Cannane, our trip to Australia’s cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth was a great success. And our big bombshell: The “Knowledge Reports” about Leah Remini that informed her book.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2014: Scientology’s private threat letter to the S.F. Chronicle. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world. Tom Cruise and his medal in London. Marty Rathbun ambushed at LAX by raving Jenny Linson. L. Ron Hubbard’s amazing 1949 letter to Forrest Ackerman. Mark Ebner finds Gay Ribisi’s plaques.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2013: Live-blogging the Garcia mini-trial in Tampa, Scientology denied by the US Supreme Court, interpreting Leah Remini’s epic dance, and live-blogging a dramatic hearing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit in Los Angeles.


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

October 1: Graham
“Ms. Haney worked in close proximity to Defendant Miscavige” How many years have we waited, and through how many disappointments and setbacks, to hear Slappy Dave the Punching Pontiff described in legal documents as ‘Defendant Miscavige’. How sweet that sounds.

October 1: J. Swift
If you are ever caught up in a major news story in LA and the LA Times is after you, the safest place to hide is in an LA court room where a Scientology-related matter is being tried. The LA Times will never show up there.

October 4: Sunny
So Hubbard has the secret to live to 150 and didn’t make it half way there himself? Sounds legit.

October 10: TexasBroad
$30,000,000.00. I can’t even wrap my head around it. If I had $30 million to completely waste (or even a mere $17.5 million) I would waste it so much better.

October 16: Observer
That Cruise family portrait is the very definition of conditional love. The kid who doesn’t meet the conditions is nowhere to be seen.


Leaked document of the day

From the Valley Ideal Org documents release comes this item.

One of the lies Scientology tells is that it is opening new “Ideal Orgs” because of expansion, and that the new orgs will cause a rush of new people in the doors. In fact, the Ideal Org program is purely an exercise in public relations, and they are being built even though there is no local expansion or need for a new facility. The proof of this is that Scientology then has to bring in outsiders, sometimes from foreign countries, to staff the new facility, because they have almost no one locally interested in working for them. But bringing in foreigners can be tricky. Thankfully, there are Scientologists willing to be fleeced so operations to bring in foreign workers can happen, as this commendation demonstrates.



Source Code

“Now, I realize you’re very happy with the game you are playing. Cheerful game, whatever the game is. Keeps you occupied so you won’t think of other things. Games such as ‘all garbage cans must be emptied.’ You know, high-level game. Something with nobility and future. And you get so you think there’s no other game, you know. ‘Got to keep those garbage cans emptied, man. If we empty them good enough and long enough, why then we’ll get to empty more garbage cans. And maybe someday we’ll work up to only emptying garbage cans and we won’t have to do anything else. Won’t have to think of anything else. And there we are, emptying garbage cans.’ If it weren’t for Scientology, 200 trillion years in the future, there you would be emptying those garbage cans. Well, maybe you like to empty garbage cans, so Scientology isn’t for you. It’s true there have got to be hewers of wood and drawers of water and emptiers of garbage cans. That’s a stable datum for this universe.” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 30, 1961


Overheard in the FreeZone

“There’s a story that’s been going around forever. Heber Jentzsch was taking part in some sort of interview thing with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, wanting to portray Heber as a faker, told Heber to exteriorize so everyone could see it happen. Heber, being the clever bloke he was, waited a moment or two, and then deadpanned, ‘Want me to do it again?’ The psychiatrist was, needless to say, left speechless.”


Random Howdy

“When I hear Blubbard speak I can totally hear him trying to copy those old time comedians and storytellers like Will Rogers.”


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] Scientology’s building projects & front groups under the microscope in 2018
[TWO years ago] While Scientology struggled, David Miscavige upped his game in 2017
[THREE years ago] Garcias file new motion asking judge to reject Scientology’s sham arbitration
[FOUR years ago] What Scientology’s ‘social betterment’ front groups are really all about
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s 2014 in review: Our October surprise was all about the Duggans
[SIX years ago] Scientology’s 2013 in review: Courtroom antics reported live and on the spot!
[SEVEN years ago] Final Sunday Funnies of 2012: Scientology Targets the Rose Parade!
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology in the Village Voice: 2011 in Review
[TEN years ago] Ex-Scientology Official Scrambles As His Blog Gets Hacked


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,802 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,306 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,826 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 846 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 737 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,044 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,912 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,686 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,460 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,806 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,372 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,291 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,459 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,040 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,301 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,339 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,052 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,577 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,104 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,667 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,807 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,127 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,983 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,102 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,457 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,760 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,866 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,268 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,140 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,723 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,218 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,472 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,581 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 30, 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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