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My family followed Scientology from the start, and here’s how I managed to escape

[L. Ron Hubbard and his flagship]

Recently we heard from Pamela Williams, who told us she was working on a book about her life, titled “Clearly, Lies Are True.” She says that a part of her story involved Scientology, and she sent us the prologue. We told her we thought she had put together an interesting snapshot of the organization in its early history. She graciously agreed to allow us to share her chapter with our readers.

I have often and seriously wondered, what came first? Insanity or Scientology?

Were my parents destined to suffer from mental health issues and abusive tendencies, or was Scientology the catalyst that activated these behaviors? Trying to explain, or at least learn which came first, and how their beliefs evolved, has guided my writing, and my search for the truth, in as much as it can be found.

L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950. My father, who was an avid science fiction reader, had read many of Hubbard’s stories in the science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction. He immediately bought the book, read it from cover to cover, and began attending lectures at the Wichita foundation. He was hooked! In his early 20s, the book “spoke to him” in a way that nothing else had.


However, the Wichita foundation suffered financial issues and mismanagement, leading to its closure, just a year after opening. By the time it closed its doors, my father had met my mother, and L. Ron Hubbard had moved to Washington D.C. and in 1955 opened the Founding Church of Scientology. (Hubbard had created the first “Church of Scientology” corporation in 1953, and the first “church” opened in 1954, but he still called the DC location the “Founding Church” or “FCDC”.) In 1957, my parents married quickly, after a brief romance, and moved to D.C.

My mother worked at the Founding Church and both of my parents were active members, participants, and leaders in the Hubbard Association of Scientologists (HAS) from 1957 to 1958. With a small, but devoted following, Scientology was growing. Franchises were developing in other cities and membership was expanding, and so was Hubbard’s bank account. Tax evasion charges, an FDA raid in D.C., and fraudulent claims were all real, constant, and looming threats against his burgeoning empire.

So in 1959, L. Ron Hubbard, along with his wife Mary Sue Whipp Hubbard and their four young children — Diana, Suzette, Quentin, and Arthur — packed up and moved to Sussex, England. Hubbard bought Saint Hill, a mansion just outside East Grinstead in the idyllic English countryside. Saint Hill became the center of the Scientology universe in the 1960s. Members flocked there to receive “new” training and to hear Hubbard speak. While living and working at Saint Hill, he gave many lectures that were recorded and are still used today by the Church of Scientology.

He was an incredibly charismatic leader who attracted an almost all white, privileged following from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and a few other European countries. His “new age” beliefs, along with his philosophy of man and his many troubles, with Scientology as the answer, created a “counter culture” to the turmoil, rebellion, and political and social unrest of the 1960s.

In 1960, my parents, who were postwar middle class white adults, moved from D.C., after Hubbard’s departure, to a suburb of Colorado. A Scientologist couple they knew from D.C. had started a franchise there and they followed them. Suburban life in Colorado, and an opportunity to continue dabbling in Scientology, lasted a few years until we moved to a small town outside of New Orleans due to a job offer for my father. The South was an adjustment for all of us. It was a very different form of suburbia. Scientology was also harder to access there. By 1966, or probably sooner, my parents’ marriage had begun to unravel.

Of course, the solution to all problems was based in Scientology. In the summer of 1967, my mother, my little brother and I flew to England. Our destination was a small town, Tunbridge Wells, just outside of East Grinstead and within driving distance to Saint Hill. Like many other Scientologists, my mother paid thousands of dollars to enroll in Scientology training courses at Saint Hill. While my mother shuttled back and forth to Saint Hill every day from the Harewood Hotel in Tunbridge Wells, where we lived for about two months, my little brother and I were cared for by a young nanny, and we attended a small English Episcopal school for a short time.

While Hubbard lived and worked at Saint Hill, in addition to expanding his base and number of followers, he was getting richer and richer, and tax collectors were getting closer and closer. Unfortunately, his new address did not afford him complete tax exemption from the U.S. But L. Ron Hubbard was above all else, a survivor, and an artful creator of plots and schemes based in both fantasy and fiction.

In 1967, he purchased an older ship that had been used to carry cattle. Docked at Southampton, England, he had it somewhat renovated to include nicely furnished living quarters for both himself and his family. The Royal Scotman set sail in November of 1967 for its maiden voyage into the Mediterranean Sea. Hubbard could not be taxed at sea. He could continue to lead and operate the Church of Scientology from this new, exotic, remote, and safe location.

Maybe due to my parents’ former connection with Hubbard, or maybe because it was exciting and on the “cutting edge” of Scientology’s new path, my mother, my little brother and I all boarded the Royal Scotsman late at night. Her maiden voyage was rough, as there was a storm at sea, and the mostly young, untrained crew, made up of only Scientologists, blindly sailed into the night. Thankfully, the ship and all those aboard survived, and the next chapter of Scientology began in the Mediterranean Sea.

We lived on the ship for about a month, along with the crew and other Scientologists who were receiving auditing (kind of like therapy – more about that later), just like my mother. We saw my mother very little during that time as she was only allowed to visit us briefly, and not very often. We were tutored along with the two younger Hubbard children, Suzette and Arthur, and watched over by a nanny, who also somewhat supervised other children who had boarded the ship with their parents.

In January 1968 the Scientology Sea Organization evolved and all “civilian Scientologists” were literally shipped off the Royal Scotsman, soon to be renamed the Apollo. My mother flew back to Louisiana with both me and my little brother in tow. Not surprisingly, my parents’ marriage was in no better shape than when we left. My father had stayed in the U.S. to work so he could continue to make money to pay for our trip as well as my mother’s training and auditing bills. Financial troubles only exacerbated their issues. Again, my parents, probably mostly my father, truly believed that the answer to all problems could be found in the philosophy and teachings of L. Ron Hubbard.

After a brief stay back home in Louisiana, my mother left, alone this time, for Los Angeles. Scientology was booming in L.A. with the opening of the American Saint Hill Organization (ASHO) and the American Organization in Los Angeles (AOLA). More training and auditing would “fix” my mother, or so they believed, and L.A. was the place to go. By the summer of 1968, my father had sold our home, or possibly foreclosed on it, sold all of our furniture and worldly possessions, and drove with me and my little brother in the backseat (no seat belts back then!) to Los Angeles. The three-day trip, with only my father behind the wheel, and me as his navigator, was a bit surreal.

From 1968 to 1970, we lived in an apartment complex not far from the Scientology organizations near downtown Los Angeles. The orgs, as they were called, were housed in cheap properties that were in older, poor neighborhoods. Shortly after we arrived in L.A., my mother suffered a psychotic breakdown or “episode.” She was removed by Scientologists from our apartment and housed in a room at one of the orgs. Scientology auditing had stirred up old traumas and troubling life events, in addition to alleged events that had occurred in past lives.

However, trying to cure or “fix” herself through Scientology was a bit like drinking poison, but thinking she was drinking a remedy that would help get rid of something harmful. The more auditing my mother had, or the more poison she drank, the sicker she became. Fortunately, she recovered fairly quickly from the psychotic breakdown and returned home after several weeks.


After moving to L.A., my father found a job in Palmdale, California, where he worked as a technical writer at Lockheed. He commuted about two hours a day, each way, from our apartment to work and back. He left early in the morning, probably around 6am and returned at night by 8pm. While my mother was gone, and my father was at work, my brother and I mostly fended for ourselves. We got up, ate breakfast and walked back and forth to school together every day. We also ran around the apartment complex mostly unsupervised, except by the manager, who lived right next door.

When my mother returned home, after being sequestered due to her psychotic breakdown, she began to suffer from debilitating agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic or feel trapped. This fear was so intense for my mother that she was unable to leave our apartment. She would venture out to the pool area, or a fellow Scientologist’s apartment, who lived in the same complex. But going to the store caused her so much anxiety that she would send my brother or me to the local liquor store to purchase her cigarettes, snacks, milk, bread, and other necessities.

My own journey and exposure to Scientology began in Los Angeles. Until then I had never really engaged in Scientology training or auditing, aside from a children’s Communication Course that I had taken at Saint Hill, which I do not remember, but I do have the certificate to prove my participation. In the summer of 1970 I was twelve years old, soon to turn thirteen in November. My parents, mostly my father, urged me to become active in Scientology. In actuality, I believe that since neither one of my parents were actively taking courses or receiving auditing at that time, or in other words paying good money to the Church, that I became the target.

In 1971, we moved into a different apartment complex which was closer to one of the orgs. that offered the latest and the greatest in Scientology training. It was also in a better neighborhood, which might have been a motivation for my parents. In November, I turned thirteen and my father was diagnosed with full blown MS – Multiple Sclerosis.

In six short months, he went from walking to being fully confined in a wheelchair. He continued to work for a few more months, commuting to Palmdale in his car that was outfitted with hand controls, since his feet could not feel the pedals. But his disease progressed rapidly, and my mother moved him into a local convalescent hospital by my fourteenth birthday.

In the meantime, I became active in Scientology. I volunteered at the newly opened Celebrity Centre, an org. that was established with the intention of recruiting celebrities into Scientology, along with all of their money. I fondly remember Yvonne Gillham Jentzsch greeting me each day with her lovely Australian accent in her sunny, friendly manner.

In the summer of 1971, I began taking courses and receiving auditing. Ray Mithoff, who later became a top official in the church, was one of my earlier auditors. By the time I was fourteen, I had progressed to being an auditor myself. Although I was very young, I was treated just like the other auditors. The expectations and amount of work were the same for everyone. Scientologists believe that children are just thetans, similar to souls, who are in young bodies. However, I was not paid as an auditor, and I had not joined the Sea Org, like the other auditors that worked there. I’m not quite sure how the arrangement was set up, but I felt very grown-up and loved hanging out with the older, twenty- and thirty-year-old Scientologists. I idolized them!

After my father became ill, and could no longer work, my mother found a secretarial job and went back to work. Again, my brother and I fended for ourselves. We lived in a safer neighborhood though and my mother worked close by. We were typical “latch key” kids growing up in the 1970’s. Most of my school friends had parents that worked while they went to school. It was the norm.

With my father disabled and my mother working full-time, Scientology had pretty much stopped targeting them. They still received newsletters and written communication such as postcards and flyers from the Church on a weekly basis, but they were no longer being hounded to buy more training or auditing.

Without my parents pushing me to stay active in Scientology, I started to tire of it. When I turned fifteen, I became active in a local youth group that my girlfriends had joined. The girls’ youth group frequently attended sporting events, dances, and other events with the boys’ youth group. As a teenager, being with my peers, particularly boys, became much more interesting than spending time with unavailable and self-absorbed male Scientologists.

Also, I believe I was becoming more and more disenchanted with Scientology. It just started to seem weird. My world, and my parents’ world no longer revolved around Scientology. My mother never paid for any further auditing or training, and sadly, my father was moved into the Veteran’s Hospital in Long Beach. By 1975, we had all left the Church of Scientology.

My last Scientology memory is of an incident that took place when I was sixteen. My boyfriend was at our apartment and there was a knock at the door. My mother wasn’t home. I opened the door and two Sea Org Scientologists stood in the hallway. They wondered why I hadn’t been at the org lately. I think I told them that I was busy with school. My boyfriend, now husband, stood behind me. He towered over them at six feet five inches tall. We chatted a little more and they left.

However, my husband remembers the incident a little differently. He felt that if he had not been there, they might have pushed their way into the apartment and tried to coerce me to go back to the org. They were the same Scientologists who had almost succeeded in getting me to join the Sea Org, sign a billion-year contract, and leave home a few months earlier. Thankfully, I didn’t join.

I’ve always wondered what came first, my parents’ neuroses, or Scientology. Maybe, the truth, as it most often does, lies in between. Their propensity towards certain thoughts, beliefs and behaviors may have been exacerbated and fueled by their personal experiences in Scientology. Whatever the case, they were not alone in being recruited, milked, and duped of their money, and then left abandoned when they were no longer useful resources for the organization.


My hope is that after reading this you are able to understand a little more about Scientology’s history, and more clearly see it as the cult that it was and continues to be. A cult set up to profit only its leader, while prophesizing about saving the planet. Like most cults, my hope is that it will eventually extinguish itself, freeing its followers to live more sane, productive, and fulfilling lives.

— Pamela Nickel Williams


Source Code

“When you take bodies which have been mocked up and thetans who have been indoctrinated in very definite lines — to fight, to do this, to have certain types of societies; to do this, to do that, to do the other thing — and then they get scooped up from this galaxy and that system and this star and here and there and the other place and are dumped in on one system as unwanted merchandise, you have these tremendous impulses which are at work, one against another. And it works up a lot of heat of friction. You have such a society here at this particular time. This society belongs nominally to the Espinol United Stars. This is Sun 12, and it is one little tiny pinpoint. Their whole title is Espinol United Stars, pardon me, Espinol United Moons, Planets and Asteroids, this part of the Universe is ours, Hup!” — L. Ron Hubbard, July 9, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“A very warm welcome aboard to Jane Kember The Guardian WW, on behalf of The Commodore, myself, Aides Council, The Captain and all officers and crew of the ‘Apollo’. All who have kept up-to-date with the news and events posted on my board in CIC will know what a great task the Guardian’s Office has performed for Scientology, Scientology Orgs and Scientologists throughout the world. It is an honor and a privilege to have you with us, Jane, and may your stay be most enjoyable.” — With love, Capt Mary Sue Hubbard, July 9, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone

“The field is almost dead. It is well possible that the Scientology third dynamic dies by the next generation. It could be saved, but there’s no reason to believe it might occur. I’ve written and wondered about what’s needed to prevent this from happening. It’s gotten old. People have gotten tired. Too many disappointments. Many survivors have huge egos that prevent them from agreeing with others. It’s low-toned. Funnily, this is the best possible time for the Scientology third-dynamic to thrive. There’s Internet and it’s cheap. The Church has ceased to exist as a threat. There’s a friendly and interested world that is willing to see what we have to offer. But it’s arrived too late. There’s too much unhealed pain. Too much shouting that hasn’t been fully listened to. Expectations of major spiritual breakthroughs that never occurred. Bankruptcy. I’ve made proposals — Magick rituals, PR campaigns — But what I deem is really-really-really important is more simple. And it’s been overlooked: Diagnosis. Simply diagnosis. A simply thorough looking of the area to see what is really going on. How are we doing. How do we feel. Maybe we can at least die as saints?”



Past is Prologue

1998: The Jacksonville Times-Union reported that Scientologist John Travolta was confronted by actor Woody Harrelson concerning Scientology. “Travolta and co-star Woody Harrelson verbally jousted about Scientology while making their upcoming movie, Thin Red Line, insiders claim. ‘Woody has a problem with Scientology and he went up and told John what he thought,’ says a source close to the production. ‘John and he got into some heated arguments. They never came to blows, but it got pretty tense on the set.'”


Random Howdy

“Scientology….the Renaissance Faire meets the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.”


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 responded on June 25.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: California Supreme Court granted review on May 26 and asked the 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: Third 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] Internal LAPD emails show the department’s cozy relationship with Scientology
[TWO years ago] To be fair, we went by a Scientology ‘Ideal Org’ on its biggest day of the week
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s blatant social media fraud fuels attacks on Leah Remini and Mike Rinder
[FOUR years ago] Scientology trying to salvage its derelict Narconon flagship as new training center
[FIVE years ago] Atack: Which of Scientology’s thought-stopping clichés has stayed with you the longest?
[SIX years ago] How Scientology’s 1970s infiltration scandal led to the creation of its IAS slush fund
[SEVEN years ago] Jon Atack: The abandoned ideas that L. Ron Hubbard turned into Dianetics
[EIGHT years ago] Claire Headley Shows Us That in Scientology, You Just Can’t Shout at Ashtrays Enough
[NINE years ago] 10,000 Scientologists Got This E-Mail Today About ‘Disconnection,’ their Church President, and a Mysterious Death
[TEN years ago] Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology’s Retaliation is ‘Scary and Pathetic’


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 2,356 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,861 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,381 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,401 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,292 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,599 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,467 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,241 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,571 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,045 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,361 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,927 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,846 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,014 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,595 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,856 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,894 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,607 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,132 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 487 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,662 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,213 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,362 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,682 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,537 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,656 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,012 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,315 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,421 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,823 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,695 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,278 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,773 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,027 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,136 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 9, 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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