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The Underground Bunker’s 2020 Scientology year-in-review starts today!

Oh, this fucking year.

We’ve all been in this boat together, so we don’t need to remind you what a shitshow 2020 has been because of the coronavirus pandemic. And besides the many around the world who fell sick and the many who have died, all of us have had to deal with upheaval in our everyday lives.

And of course, Scientology watching was no different. Who would have predicted as the year began that in 2020 there would be no LRH Birthday event, no IAS gala, no HowdyCon!

But even if our lives were turned upside down, there was still plenty of news to cover, and from here in our underground bunker, we could keep on reporting without risking exposure to the deadly bug.


So we soldiered on, and had plenty to write about. There was litigation going on all year, pandemic or no pandemic, and criminal charges for Danny Masterson in June. And the year ended with a spectacular blowout by Tom Cruise as his on-set Covid rant became a very public matter of intense debate. And all against a backdrop of growing numbers of the sick and dying. What a bizarre trip around the sun 2020 has been.

But readership has remained strong here at the Bunker, in part we think thanks to Leah Remini’s series Scientology and the Aftermath moving to Netflix, and also because of great interest in her new podcast with Mike Rinder. Those two continue to do amazing work keeping Scientology’s controversies in the public eye.

We also added some additional daily features here at the Bunker 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.

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 2020.

We started out the month with a surprising tidbit: Graham Berry let us know that a member of the law firm defending the Church of Scientology in the lawsuits filed by Valerie Haney and the Danny Masterson accusers is a former prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Berry said that the former prosecutor, Richard Drooyan, had admitted to him that the Department of Justice “did not have the resources to take on the Church of Scientology.”

On January 6, the guys at Reckless Ben let us premiere the third video in the series they were making about infiltrating the Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles. Ben was a professional slackliner, and he and his friend Michael were getting hilarious results by going to the Scientology center with a camera hidden in a pair of glasses. We didn’t love all of the pranks they pulled, but some of the footage they got of Scientologists being, well, Scientologists, was some of the best ever.

The next day we reported on the death of Henning Heldt, a former Guardian’s Office spymaster who had played a crucial role in Scientology’s “Snow White Program” and had gone to prison for it. Chris Owen provided us some fascinating background on this quintessential figure of Scientology subterfuge.

Also in January, Skip Young and Phil Jones each wrote about the heartbreaking and unsuccessful attempts they had made to be reunited with their disconnected children, who continued to choose Scientology over their own families.

In 2018 one of our biggest stories was that we had finally found the famous Sonya Bianchi who had featured in an early L. Ron Hubbard demonstration of Dianetics at the Shrine Auditorium in August 1950. We talked with her son, Chris Hulswit, who helped us confirm that this was the same Sonya Bianchi that had for so long been part of Dianetics and Scientology lore. We hoped eventually to get a chance to meet her in person, but on January 10 she passed away. She was 92.

On January 14, we posted a contrary point of view by Dave Stokes, who said he chooses to accept being disconnected by his family after leaving Scientology, that he knew the rules going in and doesn’t want to cause them any problems.

One of the stranger details of the lawsuit filed by Danny Masterson is that a woman named Kathy Gold was cited as someone taking part in the harassment campaign against his accusers. She denies this, and we spoke to her about it, and we also sampled some material from her very bizarre website.

We learned in January that Brian Statler’s mother and father had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Inglewood and its police force. Inglewood police gunned down Statler, 30, who had turned up at the Scientology Ideal Org there supposedly wielding a “samurai sword.” His parents claimed in the lawsuit that he was doing nothing that called for him being shot to death.


Former Narconon Arrowhead president Lucas Catton put out a new self-published memoir, and we posted an excerpt from it, describing what it was like to be subpoenaed over deaths that had happened at the bogus Scientology rehab.

On January 21 we reported on a rare Diana Hubbard sighting. She was let out of Gold Base long enough to sign autographs at Saint Hill Manor in England. It was our first glimpse of her since she attended an IAS event in 2016.

Someone tossed rat poison wrapped up in some ground beef over the fence into the yard at the home of Chrissie Carnell Bixler and her husband, rocker Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and their dog Biscuit took the bait. Cedric went public that he’d had to put the beloved dog down, and he had no doubt who was behind the intentional pet poisoning. The previous August, Chrissie and Cedric had joined three women who were suing Scientology and Danny Masterson over what they claim is an ongoing harassment campaign since the women came forward with rape allegations against the That ’70s Show actor.

On January 25, Clarissa Adams wrote a piece for us revealing that the auditor in the Reckless Ben videos, who had been surreptitiously recorded delivering Book One auditing to Ben, was in fact her mother, Irmin Huber. “I think it’s inevitable that she’ll be in trouble for all of this and I just hope that it’s uncomfortable enough that she feels the need to leave,” Clarissa said, admitting that it was mostly wishful thinking on her part.

Scientology claimed it was “partnering” with the Miami police department to provide anti-drug propaganda for the Super Bowl, but the police department later denied it.

Tom Cruise’s sister Cass Capazorio turned up on a list of Scientologists who had completed the ‘Super Power’ rundowns. Does that make her a more powerful thetan than her famous actor brother?

The month’s biggest, and most shocking, news came on its second to last day, when we learned that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Burdge had granted Scientology’s motion to deny Valerie Haney a right to trial and force her into Scientology’s brand of “religious arbitration.” Although Valerie was alleging that she’d been harassed and libeled by Scientology after leaving her position as a Sea Org worker, Burdge decided that she was still under the obligations of an agreement she signed as she left the church. She would spend the rest of 2020 trying to overturn Burdge’s decision.

And finally, January ended with the premiere of another Scientology Super Bowl ad, and once again it was a mystery sandwich.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2019: Leah Remini’s ‘Aftermath’ series featured episodes on Paul Burkhart and Bert Schippers, Heather Ruggieri and Carol Nyburg, and a two-parter on the city of Clearwater. Scientology tried to pin a frightening stabbing death at the Advanced Org in Sydney on Leah. A new Advanced Org opened in South Africa. And Chris Shelton interviewed a new defector, Bree Mood, who said that Sea Org women are still being forced to get abortions.

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 2020

January 7: Paulette Cooper
Not one of the major people in the operations against me ever opened up and told the truth about what they did to me. And with Heldt’s death there’s one less person to do so. Not that he would have. But it would sure be nice if ONE of those bastards came forward….

January 8: Phil Jones
Jeb, Please be merciful. These posts about the kids are not easy days. Yes, I know I was an idiot and belonged to an abusive cult. I live with the pain and guilt of that every day of having led my kids into it. I truly love my kids and sincerely thought that everything I did for them was good for them. Yes, I missed many warning signs that were put before me. Accuse me of stupidity, but please, not of wanting the best for my kids. If I saw them today they’d get only hugs and tears, and a welcome home from us.

January 14: theetie weetie
Monday: I wish my mom could see my kids growing up
Tuesday: It’s sad she is so busy “saving the world” she has no concept of her own family
Weds: Maybe I should send her a card, or a letter, and maybe put a photo of my kids in it
Thursday: I’ve sent a letter. They have never been returned, so maybe she gets them? Oh it’s Thursday, I’ll bet she busy till 2pm today. Counting up those stats.
Friday: Another week my kids have no idea who my mom is

Saturday: Fuck her
Sunday: It’s her choice to not be part of our lives, so she can piss off.
Monday: See above. [Dave Stoke’s statement of acceptance of disconnection.]

January 15: otviii2late
I’m so sick of Scientology repeatedly making the disingenuous defence that if a Catholic does something, it doesn’t mean Catholicism should be at fault. When I was a Scientologist, I was asked by OSA to call a local reporter and state that I was a concerned citizen, calling of my own volition, to stop a negative story about Scientology from running, which I did. OSA repeated the “shore story” they wanted me to tell the reporter a couple times, but they must’ve repeated at least 10 times that I was to say I was doing this completely of my own volition and it had nothing to do with Scientology. They do this all the time and then lie about it.

January 17: Tony Ortega
Just going to say it here in the comments. It seems to me that Valerie’s document has some very strong arguments to counter Scientology’s motion to compel arbitration. But what the fuck with all of the grammatical errors? Is no one proofreading this shit? Where is this hot shot Philly legal team, and why are they submitting this embarrassing shit from a Burlingame attorney who can’t apparently be bothered to spell shit correctly? One hopes that judges don’t care too much about sentences like this in the INTRO paragraph of perhaps the most important document this team will submit for a long time: “There purported agreements Plaintiff to give up all rights she has against it, both past and future, whether or not Plaintiff is aware of.”
What. The. Fuck.


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



Avast, Ye Mateys

“CHRISTMAS: I trust you like the place chosen for Christmas. Sure looks like a Christmas tree. It began by the pilots Out-PROing us. Remember that the pilots are not the rest of the harbour people and have their own set up. They sent us a lovely card, welcoming ‘the world’s largest yacht and its fantastic crew.’ Visit to port authorities went great. Plan to keep it very cool.” — The Commodore, December 21, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I see the possibility of a renaissance of Scientology. It can be big again. A second opportunity. An opportunity to make it go right. To learn from past mistakes and not commit it again. However currently the group is going through a process of dying and in my opinion the process must be carried through its end. The place looks like a ghost town. It’s hard to see it, but to deny won’t help it. We must make an honest review, see what went wrong and do it again. The death of the Scientology group must probably be completed and at the same time we can try again. What were the worst mistakes of us? Give your opinion. Mine is: promising states that were never achievable. Pretension of having attained such states.”


Past is Prologue

2000: The case of Raul Lopez against Scientology for defrauding him of the money he received in a head injury settlement was the subject of an article in New Times Los Angeles. “Without exception, doctors advised him to adapt to his limitations and move on with his life. But that was before Lopez, 34, stumbled upon a Scientology booth at a Ventura County flea market. The Scientologists, he concluded, had what he wanted. ‘They were going to make me whole again,’ he recalls once believing. According to attorneys Dan Leipold and Ford Greene, Lopez also had something the Scientologists wanted: $1.7 million that was their client’s share of the court settlement stemming from the accident. As part of a potentially explosive case wending its way toward trial in Los Angeles superior court Lopez’s attorneys contend that the church and individuals associated with it swindled their brain-damaged client out of up to $1.3 million.”


Random Howdy

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



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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Masterson’s demurrer denied Oct 19, arraignment delayed to Jan 6.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay’s sentencing delayed for ‘Fatico’ hearing on Jan 19.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Jan 12 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Petition for writ of mandate denied Oct 22 by Cal 2nd Appellate District. Petition for review by state supreme court denied Dec 11.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Dec 18, re-hearing on motions to compel arbitration, awaiting a ruling; Jan 29, Masterson’s request to stay discovery pending the criminal case
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Nov 18: Feshbachs indicated they will enter into consent judgment to pay the debt.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Second amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.

Concluded litigation:
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs.
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29. Bond revoked Sep 14. Nobbe dead, Sep 14.
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.


SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks

The Australian Seven News network cancelled a 10-part investigation of Scientology and its history of dirty tricks. Read the transcripts of the episodes and judge for yourself why Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis might not have wanted viewers to see this hard-hitting series by journalist Bryan Seymour.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2019 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[TWO years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2018 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[THREE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2017 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FOUR years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2016 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FIVE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2015 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[SIX years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2014 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[SEVEN years ago] Jon Atack: For Scientologists, thinking outside the church can feel like breaking a taboo
[EIGHT years ago] VIDEO: Tiziano Lugli’s “Shit Scientologists Say,” Featuring Prominent Ex-Church Members
[NINE years ago] Scientology Scuffle Over Xenu: When a Protester is Attacked!


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 2,157 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,661 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,181 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,201 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,092 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,399 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,267 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,041 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,845 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,161 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,727 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,646 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,814 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,395 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,656 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,694 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,407 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,932 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 287 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,462 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,013 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,162 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,482 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,337 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,456 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,812 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,115 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,221 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,623 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,495 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,078 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,573 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,827 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,936 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 21, 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, 15 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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