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Scientology 50 & 21 years ago today: The strange deaths of Susan Meister & Stacy Moxon

[The Apollo]

They are two of Scientology’s more notorious deaths, and both of which have been the source of speculation and controversy over the years. And both of them happen to fall on the same date.

Fifty years ago today, on June 25, 1971, while Scientology’s “flagship” the Apollo was docked in Morocco, a 23-year-old crewmate named Susan Meister was found in one of the cabins, a .22 pistol in her hand and a bullet hole in her forehead.

Her death was ruled a suicide, but her father George, who was in the United States, questioned that conclusion.

And 21 years ago today, on June 25, 2000, at Scientology’s secretive “Int Base” near Hemet, California, a badly burned 20-year-old woman named Stacy Moxon was found in an electrical vault. Her contact with the equipment had briefly caused a power shortage at the base, and Scientology’s explanation for what she was doing there stretched credulity: That she was attempting to save a squirrel that had wandered into the chamber.

What happened in these two deaths? It turns out that there are actually solid reports on both, and so we decided to bring them to your attention on today, the anniversary of these unfortunate events.



Susan Meister, 1948-1971

L. Ron Hubbard ran Scientology from the Royal Scotman, which he renamed the Apollo, from 1967 to 1975. And many of the people who were on the ship with him are still talking about it, or have written books.

In fact, Janis Gillham Grady was one of Hubbard’s “Commodore’s Messengers” during these years, and she’s written a detailed account of it in two books. In her second volume, she explains what happened with Meister.

We got Janis’s permission to post the entire excerpt from her book about this incident, and then we have additional information that we gathered on our own:

Hubbard liked Safi because it was quiet, off the beaten path, the locals were friendly and seemed to enjoy our visits. However, another devastating event occurred when a crew member, Sue Meister, based upon all reports and police investigation, committed suicide on June 25, 1971. Sue was a new Scientologist and had not had a lot of auditing or training when she arrived on the Apollo. Nor did she have many female friends; she kept mostly to herself or had an occasional boyfriend.

While on the Apollo, she began a relationship with one of the ship’s officers, which included moving into his cabin behind the chartroom on the bridge deck. There were four cabins on the bridge deck. Directly below, on the prom deck, were the engineers’ quarters consisting of seven cabins. She was familiar with the engineers’ quarters, including where her snipe ex-boyfriend hid his guns and ammunition (which he kept in two different locations). Unbeknownst to anyone, Sue was suicidal.

Apparently, she would go sit on the rubbing strake by herself, which in itself is very strange and dangerous. She had submitted a petition to LRH asking to leave the ship because she was not happy. The answer to the letter, as proposed by Ken Urquhart, turned down her request to leave and suggested she give it more time. While her ex-boyfriend was at work in the engine room, Sue searched his cabin and stole his .22 long barrel pistol. She loaded it with six bullets and took it to the 3rd officer’s cabin where she was living. Using both hands she placed the gun to the center of her forehead and pulled the trigger. Because she only used a .22, there was no huge exit wound.

What sounded like a gun shot was heard by Joan Robertson who was in her cabin across the hall, but as the ship was tied up to the dock, the shot was assumed to have been fired somewhere on land, as the only time guns were shot on the ship was when we were at sea and some of the crew would practice skeet shooting off the stern of the ship.

When a ship’s officer went to his cabin, he found the cabin door locked and was not able to enter his quarters. He went below deck and got a spare key from the Berthing In-Charge. When he finally entered his cabin, he found Sue dead on the daybed with a bullet hole in her forehead and the gun where it had fallen in her lap. The officer immediately alerted the Third Mate, Bob Harvey, who in turn informed Captain Starkey and the Port Captain’s office. Meanwhile, pandemonium broke out when Captain Starkey notified Mary Sue, who flew out of her office. Nikki, her communicator, ran after her with Hana, Commodore’s Staff Aide 1, right behind. The Port Captain’s office immediately informed the local police. No one was allowed to enter the cabin until the police arrived. Mary Sue personally inspected the scene with the police and found a suicide note written on the back of an HCO Policy Letter (administrative policies written by LRH). The police did not understand English, so they did not recognize the concern this created, since it clearly demonstrated that we were Scientologists and blew our shore story if they understood the significance of an HCO Policy Letter.

The local police, accompanied by Mary Sue and a translator from the Port Captain’s office, began the investigation by questioning the officer, the ex-boyfriend and anyone who had been in the area. The police concluded it was a suicide. All other crew were kept away from the scene and were not informed of what had occurred until rumors started to spread that Sue had been playing with a gun and it went off.

Eventually a notice was posted at the top of the stairs to CIC (Hold Three) briefing the crew on what had happened. Arrangements were made to remove the body from the ship, and a funeral service was arranged, which only about four crew members knew about and attended. Local authorities contacted Sue’s family in America. When George Meister, Sue’s father, arrived in Safi to collect her body, he had not been informed that she had already been buried per Moroccan custom. On December 16, 1971, her body was exhumed and shipped back to Colorado in the US where the family held a burial service for her. Because he was unable to see his daughter’s body, George Meister requested the investigation be reopened because he did not believe she had committed suicide.

Because we did not have a Guardian’s Office aboard the Apollo at this time, Mary Sue was personally handling the functions that the GO normally would have done if this had occurred in another Scientology location. She kept LRH fully briefed as the investigation unfolded.

When Mr. Meister was allowed aboard the Apollo, for security purposes he was not shown his daughter’s suicide note on the back of an HCO Policy Letter. However, the father was not stupid and knew she was a Scientologist on a Scientology ship. Mr. Meister asked to meet Mr. Hubbard to discuss his daughter, but LRH refused to see him. Instead, two female “friends” of Sue’s (Sue did not have any close female friends, only acquaintances who had chatted with her briefly during her time on the ship) spent some time with him to answer any questions they could.


According to a story told by Norman Chouinard who had been an LRH Communicator at one time on the ship, he dressed in a trench coat and top hat (trying to look like a CIA agent) so when Mr. Meister was leaving the ship Norman told Mr. Meister that he (Norman) was from a major US government agency and that Mr. Meister had better NOT cause a scene or this would affect US/Moroccan relations and that Norman was there to make sure that that did NOT happen! Then as instructed by LRH, Norman whacked Mr. Meister on the upper left arm with the intent to hurt him where he had just received his cholera shot.

With no support from the Apollo, Mr. Meister had a difficult time dealing with a foreign country to return her body to America. The local police retained the gun, though at the end of the investigation, they did offer to return it to its rightful owner, but the offer was declined by Peter Warren who worked in the Port Captain’s office, though he was not entitled to make that decision.

Mr. Meister continued to demand an investigation into his daughter’s death. The ship did not cooperate and just wanted him to go away. He wasn’t shown the location where she had shot herself, despite his request. Through Mary Sue, LRH instructed the US Guardian’s Office to begin harassing him to force him to back off.

LRH somehow came to the conclusion that Sue was an ex-druggie and should never have been on the ship in the first place. He felt that the residual effects of drugs can last for years, which is how he justified her suicide.

After this incident, Urq started including warning notes in draft answers to letters to LRH if the letter concerned the crew member wanting to leave, so LRH would know before signing and either signed or checked into the problem the person was trying to solve by leaving.

Janis referred to an officer who found the door to his cabin locked, and after he retrieved the key, he found Sue Meister inside.

We spoke to that officer, whose account matches what Janis wrote in her book. He assured us that he, as well as the rest of the crew, was questioned multiple times by officials from multiple agencies, and the accounts were all the same. He assured us that this was an unfortunate suicide, and he understood that people who weren’t there will speculate about it. But those who were there, he said, know that Meister was an unhappy person who ended her life. And it was something, he told us, that George, Sue’s father, later came to accept, according to a later conversation he had with him.


[A drone’s view of Bonnie View at Int Base]

Stacy Moxon, 1979-2000

We’ve spoken to multiple people who were at Int Base on the day that Stacy Moxon died, and the person who has given us the most full account was Claire Headley, someone readers are fully acquainted with here at the Underground Bunker. Claire not only helped us with our “Up the Bridge” feature, but she was also one of the most memorable guests on Leah Remini’s series, Scientology and the Aftermath.

“When Stacy first came to the base around 1997 or 1998, it was just a few months after she’d gotten married to Derek Meyer. She was just a newly married teenager who had suddenly been sent to Int,” Claire says.

So by June 2000, Stacy was 20 years old and had been living away from her husband for more than two years.

“She was in RTC training. That’s when I knew her the best, because I ran the RTC trainees. But then she was removed from the trainee pool because she was Kendrick Moxon’s daughter,” Claire says. She explained that Shelly Miscavige had announced that there was a new rule, that the children of important figures in the church couldn’t be posted in a sensitive group like RTC, that it was considered an “external influence.”


So because her father was a fairly prominent attorney for the church, Stacy was removed from the RTC trainees and was moved to the “CMO Gold” division, and its “Household Unit.”

In other words, she became a groundskeeper, and for Bonnie View, the house that had been renovated at the base for L. Ron Hubbard to live in. Hubbard had died in 1986, but the Household Unit was still keeping the house up as a museum to Hubbard, and the grounds had to be immaculate.

“So getting rid of squirrels was her job, not saving them,” Claire points out. “She loathed squirrels. And she was extremely smart. She was not stupid.”

Claire says that Stacy understood the dangers of the electrical vault and the idea that she had gone in there not knowing that it could be lethal was just not possible.

According to an OSHA report about the incident, on June 25, 2000 Stacy Moxon used an electrical wire to lift a heavy manhole cover enough to slide it back, then put a ladder down into the vault. Once she went down, she made contact with a 7,200-volt wire and was killed instantly. The base experienced a brief power shortage.

“When there’s a power shortage of that significance the electric company automatically responds. And so do the police, and fire — everybody showed up,” Claire remembers. “That’s when the drill began to create this ‘shore story’ of what happened.”

Claire was put on interrogating people about what actually happened as the church gave out the story that Stacy had gone into the vault to rescue a squirrel, not realizing the danger.

Meanwhile, Claire was gathering the real story.

Roanne Horwich, Diana Hubbard’s daughter and granddaughter to L. Ron Hubbard, told Claire that Stacy had been upset about not being able to see her husband.

“Her exact statement to me was, ‘I was worried she was going to do something like this.’ And then, both Bitty Miscavige [David Miscavige’s sister-in-law] and Marion Pouw made reference to a note Stacy had left behind that was destroyed,” Claire says.

And Claire also interrogated Warren McShane, who had witnessed the scene, and was horrified by what he had seen. Claire says that Warren made it plain that this was no accident, that Stacy had “faceplanted” on the equipment in the vault.

“She worked on the electrical team. She knew better than I did the dangers of that vault,” Claire says.

“The night before she died, Stacy had written a CSW [a kind of permission request] hoping to go down to Los Angeles that night to see her husband and her dad. It was disapproved.”

It was obvious to them what had happened, Claire says, but the suicide of a depressed Sea Org worker who was being kept a virtual prisoner at its Int Base was not a story that Scientology wanted to get out.


So, officially, Stacy was trying to save a squirrel and died accidentally.

“There was a super creepy service for her at the Base,” Claire adds. “Like a week later, Ken Hoden did it. It was all just general and vague.”

Did Moxon come out for it?

“No, he wasn’t there.”


Source Code

“How would you like to go into the archives of some space opera society, all of which is delivered to your hand. And these, by the way, are quite interesting as archives. Operated one about 612 million years ago, something like that, which was quite interesting. Card-file systems were all stored in a basement. And I think the basement of that computer room was about the size of Chicago. And the machines which read that occupied an area — just the machines which read it — that’s, you know, the final results appeared on and so forth, looked like seven or eight Grand Central Stations. You know, just the banks of machines. And the reanalysis machines on that were all composed in a little hut that was about a thousand feet long by about four hundred feet wide. And everything was all done on automatic card shuttles, and pneumatic tubes and comparisons. And these IBM machines down here look something like a child’s hurdy-gurdy or something, compared to one of these other machines. These machines could get the finest, tiniest difference between a umph and a umph. And then they could get all things that had the tiniest association with umph and umph. You talk about your smallest and your largest magnitude of comparison — tremendous, see.” — L. Ron Hubbard, June 25, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“SOUTH AFRICANS: Ever since SA refused me a visa South Africans aren’t allowed to enter this country and many others. This of course is pure coincidence? Anyway, we’re routing them now to EULO which has orders to start an OEC. Why doesn’t somebody tell people we’re trying to better SA? That country needs friends, man. And so does its populace. Did you know that only in those countries where Nazis infiltrated have we had any trouble. Yes. You read that right.” — The Commodore June 25, 1971



Overheard in the FreeZone

“The original definition of the word ‘Free Zone’ was given by Capt. Bill Robertson (CBR) in the mid 1980s. It is based on two decrees received by CBR and said to be originated by LRH, after he (LRH) had discarded his body and assumed the identity of Galactic Patrol commander Lron Lray. Many people freak out on the idea of LRH assuming the identity of a Galactic Patrol commander and communicating telepathically with CBR. But LRH himself describes how many people on Earth have in fact other identities or ‘selves’ in other parts of the universe. And those alternate identities can be contacted by a process on the e-meter.”


Past is Prologue

1998: From Deana Holmes, on the first picket of the Salt Lake City org: “I parked on a side street, prepared my sign, and went over and began to picket. I really didn’t talk to anyone, as there’s not a whole lot of foot traffic, but I handed out several Lisa flyers. One of the flyers went to an older gentleman parked in a car in front of the org. It turned out he was waiting for his wife, who was inside taking services. There were a couple elementary school age children playing in the org’s foyer. They stayed there for awhile, then they were hustled off upstairs. I saw one little kid peering through the blinds from one of the upstairs windows. One of the guys from one of the businesses came down and talked to me, and I gave him a Lisa pamphlet. What got his attention, he said, was my Lisa sign, which says: ‘Young. Pretty. DEAD.’ A public Scn came out of the building. She knew the standard line about Lisa McPherson, which was that she’d died of a pulmonary embolism. I told her that Scn had told more than one story, and mentioned the ‘fast acting staph infection’. I told her I didn’t like the RPF, I thought the Purif was a danger to one’s health, and that Scn’s stand on mental health was wrongheaded. At the end of it, we shook hands, and I told her that I’d probably be back to picket. I have to confess, that was probably the most open and non-confrontational conversation I’ve had with a Scn since I first got into this.”


Random Howdy

“I understand where you’re coming from, but the bottom line is that Scientology is a con, and conning people is illegal regardless of whether the victims are dupes and suckers.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:

Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for August 9. Trial tentatively scheduled for early November.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference August 21 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: June 18 pretrial conference delayed until July 9.

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 to US Supreme Court submitted on May 26. Scientology has until June 25 to respond.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: California Supreme Court grants review on May 26, asks Second Appellate Division to direct Judge Steven Kleifield to show cause why he granted Scientology’s motion for arbitration.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Dec 17: Feshbachs sign court judgment obliging them to pay entire $3.674 million tax debt, plus interest from Nov 19.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Second amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Case appealed on Dec 24.

Concluded litigation:
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.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


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 BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. 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] Danny Masterson finds himself in a changed era, but his victims came forward before #MeToo
[TWO years ago] Scientology is desperate to get its clutches on your children. Here’s proof.
[THREE years ago] Did a little sunlight send Scientologists scattering for cover? An international update.
[FOUR years ago] Claire Headley on growing up in Scientology, and other HowdyCon highlights
[FIVE years ago] Megan Shields, the physician Scientology used to vouch for its drug rehabs, dies of cancer
[SEVEN years ago] Mike Rinder takes on Scientology’s uneven ‘Disconnection’ rules
[TEN years ago] Scientology Implosion: Commenters of the Week!


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 2,342 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,847 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,367 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,387 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,278 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,585 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,453 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,227 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,557 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,031 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,347 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,913 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,832 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,000 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,581 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,842 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,880 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,593 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,118 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 473 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,648 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,199 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,348 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,668 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,523 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,642 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,998 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,301 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,407 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,809 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,681 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,264 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,759 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,013 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,122 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 25, 2021 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, 1995-2020 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2020), 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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