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Scientology’s $20 million hole in the ground: The secret vault to nowhere

Over the years we’ve told you a lot of things about Scientology’s bizarre set of underground vaults, where it stores L. Ron Hubbard’s words and ideas for future generations in case of civilization collapse.

The vaults get some breathless tabloid coverage, which hyperventilates about the idea that these underground spaces are supposed to be bomb shelters for Scientologists to ride out an apocalyptic war, and that Tom Cruise and John Travolta have a place to run to when the bombs start landing.

Nah. These underground bunkers aren’t designed for people to live in them, they really are just storage spaces for Hubbard’s words which, when the idea was being developed in the 1980s, would need a lot of room for storing all of Hubbard’s lectures on gold laserdiscs.

They had no way of knowing that eventually, technology would advance to the point that Hubbard’s entire output would fit on a thumb drive.


Oh well. Too late to change plans now. So they’re stuck with the idea of building these vaults in secretive locations, with Hubbard’s words etched on stainless steel plates kept in titanium boxes and stacked neatly in a row…


As you can see, there’s no accommodation for Cruise or Travolta in there. Just Hubbard’s wisdom, stored to last for thousands of years.

Scientology’s super secretive subsidiary the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST) is tasked with building and maintaining these vault sites, three in California and one in New Mexico.

CST was founded with the Scientology corporate reorganization in the early 1980s, and one of the people who witnessed CST’s creation was Denise Brennan, who told us about it and provided the surprising ‘Battlefield Earth’ connection. (And gosh, do we miss Denise, especially at a rotten time like this.)

So anyway, we have long known that CST attempted and failed to build a fifth vault at a remote ranch in Wyoming. Mike Rinder has written about it, but it’s only lately that we’ve managed to dig into the court record about what happened, and in doing so we ran across a fun little detail we thought you’d want to know.

By the summer of 2008, CST’s vault work was farmed out to a New Mexico firm, International Ground Support Systems (IGSS), founded by a man named F. Edmund Valencia. According to court records and to someone who used to work for IGSS who asked not to be named, it was a very sweet gig that lasted decades. Valencia’s IGSS made millions building and retrofitting Scientology vault compounds, which had very particular needs and standards. And that year, it began working in secret at a vast property in Sweetwater County, Wyoming.

Scientology may have well thought that on such a remote, giant ranch, no one would mind that trucks were driving in and out of the place hauling earth. But the locals in fact were perplexed by what was clearly a major earth-moving operation taking place on a spread that was zoned agricultural, and the county was called.

On August 7, 2008, the county sent the couple that owned the property a cease and desist letter, telling them that they needed a permit before they made any further improvements. It gave them until August 21 to get the proper permits, and when that didn’t happen the county put in place a Stop Work Order on the property on September 23.

It wasn’t until October that the county learned that the property had actually changed hands and was now owned by IGSS. And it wasn’t until December that IGSS told the county it was actually working for the Church of Scientology and was putting in an underground vault to store the words of L. Ron Hubbard as well as a house for a caretaker. County officials also claimed they had been told that IGSS was planning to put in an airstrip as well.

IGSS owner Valencia, however, told the county that after the vault was built, the ground above it would be restored to agricultural use (for grazing cattle), and so no zoning change would be required.

The county didn’t think much about that idea. It kept the stop work order in place, and so IGSS decided to sue. The county, in its response to the lawsuit, argued that IGSS had skipped a step and had never gotten a formal ruling from the county about its plans. In 2010, US District Judge Jere Ryckman agreed with that argument and sent the matter back to the county, which then did nothing about it, essentially killing the vault project permanently.


What we also found in court papers was that Scientology’s CST contemplated suing IGSS over its inability to get the work finished, and had its damages added up to see what it might sue for. An accounting of those damages was summed up with the line, “a full $20,000,000 has been spent on utilities to nowhere.”

Oh, ouch.

In 2017, an anonymous drone pilot supplied us with an overflight of the site, where you can still see the abandoned vault, which was being built into a hillside…


We checked in with Dylan Gill, the only person who has come forward publicly after working for CST and who was very involved with the construction of the earlier vault sites. We asked him what he thought about Scientology wasting $20 million on a hole in the ground.

“Losing $20 million wouldn’t stop them,” he tells us, suggesting that CST might have given up on Sweetwater County, but it wouldn’t stop them from developing another vault site.

He points out that the “New Production Building” at the Twin Peaks vault site, which contained a “clean room,” cost $14 to 17 million to build, and that when he was developing projects, cost was never an issue.

“They don’t ever give up, they just change their trajectory,” he says, and points out that the number of people making these plans is tiny — all of CST was never more than 20 people. “They don’t mind throwing millions at these projects,” he adds.

So if the Wyoming site was a bust, where might CST build next?

According to the former IGSS employee, he was present when a survey of a potential vault site was made in Utah in 2007, but by the time he left the company the next year, his boss Valencia (who died in 2013) had given up on the idea of locating any additional vaults in the US.

The former employee says that at that time, in 2007, IGSS was planning to build “nine or ten” vault sites around the world, and was actively looking for places in Asia and Latin America, and was avoiding Europe or Africa.

Curiously, he says there were also still plans to build obelisk monuments in various places as well, and specifically in Florida.


This was a very strange detail that came up in Scientology’s 1990s application to the IRS for tax exempt status. According to a 1993 AP story that examined those documents…

This division [CST] also plans to place large, indestructible obelisks around the world covered with pictographs explaining Scientology ″so that even a wandering savage will be able to understand and apply these principles,″ the documents said.

The former IGSS employee is the first person to tell us that CST still intended to go through with the obelisk project as recently as 2007.

Because the idea for the work that CST does came from L. Ron Hubbard himself, we suspect that the secretive subsidiary will never give up on the idea of building new vaults or erecting those strange obelisks.

But it’s been an awfully quiet decade since the Wyoming site was permanently shut down. Is CST still surveying sites? If anyone has heard anything, we’d love to know.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Get those OT 7s and OT 8s ready for invisible particles!


Auditing at Flag: Still open for business!




Source Code

“All I’m trying to do here is show you that the most hidden factors of the mind were, of course, the things that aberrated the mind, because nobody has ever freed a mind before. So therefore, they must have been the most concealed or they would have gotten as-ised. Just as simple as that, see? Almost anybody could have come along and as-ised them if they hadn’t been very hidden. ” — L. Ron Hubbard, May 12, 1961


Overheard in the FreeZone

“When media wanted me to adjust to the rules of a radical feminist society, with alcoholism and political correctness and gay propaganda — a free field for psychiatry and antidepressants — I chose to stay home and become a Scientologist.”


Random Howdy

“I wouldn’t sweat it. I’ve been doing this since 2008 and I’ve given vaLLarrr and other Scientologists more than enough clues as to who my sister is that if they wanted to dox me and come after me they could have long ago. All they got left is squirrel cams, fat sleazy P.I’s and slime sites that no one reads except other Scientologists.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Jay Spina: Sentencing was set for April 3 in White Plains
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members: Trial set for October 7 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Waiting for an appellate decision from the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Hearing on motion for reconsideration set for August 11
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: July 8 (plaintiff attorneys pro hac vice), August 31-Sept 1 (CSI/RTC demurrer against Riales, Masterson demurrer), Oct 7-19 (motions to compel arbitration)
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe’s attorneys have asked for discovery, depositions (Warren McShane, Lynn Farny), amended complaint filed
Matt and Kathy Feschbach bankruptcy appeal: Oral arguments were heard on March 11 in Jacksonville
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Amended complaint filed.


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] Scientology finds the dream solution to its recruiting woes — the QR Code!
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s toxic policy of ‘disconnection’ — we check in with the people who endure it
[THREE years ago] One of Scientology’s most secretive temples is offering a rare look inside on Monday
[FOUR years ago] Monique Rathbun formally ends her lawsuit in Texas; Ken Dandar wins again in Florida
[FIVE years ago] AUDIO LEAK: Scientology leader David Miscavige ‘makes L. Ron Hubbard out to be an imbecile’
[SIX years ago] Scientology is determined to conquer this Internet thing
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Portland Is Now Cleared, On to the Rest of Earth!
[NINE years ago] Paulette Cooper’s Statement on Tom Cruise Winning a Humanitarian Award


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 1,935 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,439 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,959 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 979 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 870 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,177 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,045 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,819 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,593 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,939 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,505 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,424 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,592 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,173 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,434 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,472 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,185 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,710 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,240 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,800 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,940 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,260 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,115 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,235 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,590 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,893 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,999 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,401 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,273 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,856 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,351 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,605 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,714 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 12, 2020 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), 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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