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On this Labor Day, some insane stories of labor in Scientology’s ‘Sea Org’

It’s Labor Day here in the United States, when we celebrate the struggle by brave workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to bring us such things as the weekend.

But since the holiday happens to fall near the end of summer (which doesn’t actually end until September 22 with the autumnal equinox), it’s traditionally a time for families to take one last summer adventure. So the last thing anyone is thinking about while they’re at the beach or hiking in a national park is the sacrifices made by the labor movement.

We decided to take this opportunity to remind readers that there’s an organization that is still well back in the 19th century as far as working conditions and workers’ rights.

That’s Scientology and its “Sea Organization,” of course.


Sea Org workers sign billion-year contracts and work 365 days a year for pennies an hour, and that has included many children. When Scientology is challenged about this, such as in the case of Laura DeCrescenzo, who testified in her lawsuit that at 12 she was working 90 hours a week for little or no pay, the church points out that its workers like Laura are technically ministers, and so labor laws don’t apply to them.

We decided to ask some former Sea Org members to recount for us some of the most stressful, insane working conditions they labored under while they were serving Scientology for a billion years. We think you’ll find their stories interesting.


In terms of pure labor, it’s hard to decide which event during my Sea Org history stands out as the most insane, but for pure sleep deprivation and anxiety, I’ll have to choose the ASHO man-up in 1997, if I remember correctly. The large ASHO building was being renovated and, being a Sea Org org, we needed to man it up with something like 200 Sea Org members immediately. That meant not taking the time to go get 200 new recruits, but to transfer a bunch of existing Sea Org members into ASHO to “slam dunk” it.

We were at the continental management level but we were even given a list of higher-level org staff at the international level which we could also propose or draw from. Well, at least for one day that was an option before it was decided that was kind of nuts for us to be doing and that list was taken away. But what ended up happening is we (about 20 of us continental management staff) were put full time onto reviewing the personnel and ethics files of every single person in Big Blue who might possibly be able to be transferred. And by transferred, of course, I mean ripped off their current job and thrown onto another one in ASHO. The orders were clear that no one was securing until this massive evolution was completed.

So it was that I began the longest stretch of staying awake I’ve ever experienced: five straight days. I believe I had a total of about three or four hours of sleep during that time and those were cat naps sitting at my desk. There was no returning to my room except to shower and change, I think one time during those five days. To be honest (and I think for obvious reasons) my memory on the whole thing is a little vague. I do recall that this was the first time I ever tried espresso from the Public Canteen because I was desperate for a pick-me-up to stay awake. I mixed it with chocolate milk to try to make it palatable, since I kind of hate coffee. Anyway, we went through stacks and stacks of files and there was a lot of running around the base getting people to update their test scores or get interviewed or do various other personnel-related things to try to verify that Joe or Sally or Bill were qualified to go to ASHO.

After five days of this, with some of us getting vitamin B complex shots in our butts (administered by CMO) to help us stay awake, we were told that the whole evolution was cancelled and ASHO was going to be manned up “standardly” through usual recruitment actions. I think about ten or so of the people we had worked out to transfer over there ended up going but the rest of our efforts were so much wasted time.

— Chris Shelton


Insane working conditions in the Sea Org? Wow. I guess it pretty much started from Day 1 when “pay” was $2 a week. My baptism was walking into the renovations of Big Blue in 1978 and being the “purchasing agent” for the renovations. Everyone working on the renovations was on a 30-on, 3-off schedule. That’s 30 hours of work, then 3 hours sleep. There was another “purchasing agent” in the office until she went to the bathroom and never came back.


The woman running our office would fall asleep on her typewriter and the keys would be imprinted on her face and we would need to pick her up under each arm and walk her unconscious body until her legs started working. On the decks of AOLA people were sleeping in closets, bathrooms, elevators, etc., and there were posted guards at the doors to ensure no one left. It was bad. A few months later I went to the International base in Hemet, CA to do the renovations there. At the Int Base a 30-on, 3-off schedule would have been considered a holiday. No joke. At one point we went over four days straight with no sleep. That is hard labor out on the California desert. Finally after breakfast about 70 Sea Org members waited in the parking lot leaning up against each other to stay upright, waiting to find out if they were going secure or go back to work. Finally the In Charge walked out of the dining hall to announce the decision. He said “We talked it over and we decided to work you until you drop!” With that the whole group cheered as if it was good news, playing along with the dark humor.

Extreme sleep deprivation prevailed through my 27 years in the Sea Org. How many times did I work around the clock with no sleep? Probably around a thousand times. It’s painful. It can feel a lot like having a bad flu. Burning eyes, nausea, headache, body achiness, inability to think, complete exhaustion, etc. I’ve gone a year with zero pay and not a penny to my name while in the Rehabilitation Project Force. I did my “laundry” in the shower each day. I’ve gone well over a year only sleeping on a piece of foam straight on the ground, either out on the dirt, in the parking garage or down in the tunnels below Big Blue (Old Cedars hospital complex in L.A.). I’ve woken up with a rat biting on my lip and not having the opportunity for medical treatment despite it getting infected. Insane working conditions in the Sea Org? Don’t even get me started about injuries caused to exhausted staff. Burns, hands through table saw blades, high falls, car accidents, etc. I could tell stories for days on this subject.

— Mat Pesch


One of the most stressful 48 hours I’ve ever had while on staff was in 1974 on the Apollo. I had been there for about 3 weeks. My job was as a musician. The country band I was thrown into, The Rangers, was disbanded because the locals in Portugal and Spain couldn’t stand our music. Of course we were corny and the music was not well executed. Hubbard did a survey of the locals and they wanted pop rock. And he wanted good port PR from his bands.

So Dez Popham (keyboards), Laurie Noonan (vocals), Norman Starkey (drums), Michael Maurer (bass), Robin Hubbard (vocals) and I (guitar and music director) were recruited to be a cover band. We were the Marineros. Understand that none of those performers had ever been professional.

We had set out to sea and we had two days to learn 18 pop songs to performance quality. And that was an LRH order! Also, the weather was stormy, so the ship was rocking and rolling.

Hubbard had done research on the latest pop songs and he gave us a list we would sing. I had to chart them all and teach everyone their parts. Robin was not a pop singer nor was Laurie and yet we had to sing songs like Elton John’s ‘Alligator Rock,’ James Taylor’s ‘Mockingbird,’ Paul McCartney’s ‘Jet,’ and songs in Spanish like ‘Bésame Mucho’ that all needed great vocals. So we were given the small mess hall under the poop deck to rehearse. Our only breaks were when the crew had their meals. We had to tie our amps to the support poles because they would slide across the room as the ship tossed and turned.

For me that was a torturous task. Trying to whip five amateurs into a semblance of a band while the ship was at sea in a storm in 48 hours. We were already booked for a performance at the next port. And Hubbard’s motto was ”S.O. members can do anything, any time.”

A few month later I ended up on the RPF and I was treated like an untouchable slave. For me it was a welcome relief from the musical hell of playing with amateur musicians. Also I have to mention the year before I was touring with Epic recording artist Jimmy Spheeris and we were opening to packed shows for Richie Havens. Any of you who love music can relate to the insane scenario I was in. All I can say is I chose to be there. When I left the ship I routed out of the Sea Org and never looked back.

— Geoff Levin



There are so many stories of long hours, hard labor and “making it go right” in the Sea Org days, it’s kind of hard to pick one. Is it spending a week straight with no sleep compiling the Cine Hat packs, only to have the Gold staff who received them groan themselves, because they hadn’t slept for weeks either, being on the road all the time? Or was it busting out the ceiling in the old CLO building that had been a sound room? Busting out two semi-trailer-sized dumpsters of wall pieces and sound buffing equipment while crouched above the ceiling to get to it? Or busting up concrete with a sledgehammer for a week straight when I was 15? Or could it be the digs and concrete pours we did in the RPF to build the transformer building for the HGB?

No, actually the one that comes to mind is the New Year’s Eve party at CC Int. After the first CC Gala it became somewhat of a personal challenge to the President’s Office at CC to do one better at each subsequent event. For the new year 1997, CC Int decided to have its own after-New Year’s event party, for public and Celebrities, each year. The entire exterior of CC Int would be transformed into a formal party venue.

We need to give a little CC background information here to understand this better: Dave Petit, the Commanding Officer of CC Int, had specific guidelines of how the org would be run, especially in regards to the finances. First, the staff would be paid every week, no matter what; second, that CC Int would not go into debt; third, that CC would pay its own debts; fourth, that CC would never need a bailout or help from management on financial matters. And so, the President’s Office, and Karen Hollander, put on an extravagant New Year’s party every year. When she would present it to the crew, we would all silently groan. It was a lot of work, plus expensive. I seem to remember the price tag being around $150,000 to $200,000 for the party.

Starting in late November or early December lots of regging would be going on to make sure we had enough money to pay for this party without any management help. So we were all involved in making sure that the funds were made. Then, as the date got closer, not only did we have our own jobs to do, plus getting in extra money whether it’s your job or not, then setting up the event. In the month of December we had to triple our speed to get these three huge tasks done.

Setting up the event was a big one. The first step was getting the parking lot cleared of cars. Notices were always placed on the cars to move them by a certain date and time, but there were always some stragglers that we had to deal with. For those, we either bounced the cars to move them, or got enough staff to pick them up and move them. I have no idea why we never thought to tow them. Then we cleaned the entire parking garage, top level, and laid out the black AstroTurf. Our task and challenge was to have all of it laid out by the time the sun came up so when Karen woke up in the morning and looked out her window (she lived at the Manor Hotel back then), she could see the parking lot fully set up with the flooring. It was exhausting work.

Then we all had time to get a shower, eat a breakfast and go back to post. Every day we were responsible to make sure that our regular post duties were completed, while at night setting up the event. This consisted of setting up the various staging areas, tents, decor, tables, chairs, etc., all over the property. After everything was set up, our post stats somehow were up, then we readied ourselves for the Int event, held at the Shrine or other venue. Once it was over, we all raced back to CC to ready ourselves for the party. My job was bartending in the Celebrity Courtyard, a secluded space inaccessible to public. Meanwhile the Celebrities and public partied until the morning.

Around 3 AM we would have to break down and clean up the entire event. Everything had to be put away before we were allowed to leave. Thankfully, for this part most staff were involved so it only took a few hours. Exhausted and ready for bed, we would see the sun coming up. Thankfully on this particular year, New Years Day was my day off, so I walked the three miles home to the Wilcox in my event dress, shoes in hand.

On Hollywood Blvd that morning, some firefighters were doing some practice exercises. As I walked by them, I said “Oh, you all are doing some drilling?” They said “Yeah, you know the lingo?”

Yeah, we know the lingo. Sigh.

— Sunny Pereira

OK, it’s your turn. Please tell us about your endless days slaving away in the name of L. Ron Hubbard.



Bonus items from our tipsters

Will you look at that. The Freewinds stuck in Aruba at least through December.

This barge is going nowhwere.



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Source Code


“Back about 1605, something like that, I was set up, I won’t go into the story in any great degree. But it took a warship and a company of marines and a broadside to kill one girl. She was protected by four redcoats and me. And of course, we caught it in the first three seconds of play. Don’t you see, that was the end of us. But it was such a terrific ferocity against this girl, who by the way, was blind. And her face was so disfigured through a bomb assassination attempt, when she was a child at seven, that she had to wear a mask. A whole man-of-war and a company of marines landing in boats and a full broadside to kill this one girl. She was the last of the family of Charles V. She was the granddaughter aspirant of the old Holy Roman Empire, and one of the innumerable French that lived down here about sixty miles had decided she was a great menace to the throne. Well, I was being audited one day. I found myself sitting around with a picture of a girl on a rock, apparently about 1870. Didn’t compare with any track I had. Nice exterior view. It just didn’t make sense. Here was a girl, sitting on a rock in exactly the same location, in exactly the same place, and I knew what happened to the girl and I knew all about it and so forth, but I hadn’t ever known the girl. Fascinating. Apparently I’d kept a spot of attention on this person as a thetan for the next couple of hundred years. It was very intriguing. Funny part of it is that this girl, picking up another body after that, had gone along for a very long time and had then happened accidentally to be taken by her parents to exactly the same rock that she was killed on in 1605. And she became very ill and she sickened and she died! Just keyed her in complete. You possibly know the place. It’s right across from Gibraltar, and the Hotel Reina Christina is on the Spanish coast side. And it’s one of those rocks right close to the Reina Christina Hotel. And of course, it’s a tourist resort and her parents had taken her back there. What a dirty trick. That must have been some vacation, man!” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 6, 1961


Avast, Ye Mateys

“ATTENTION, ATTENTION: For this afternoon at 1500 when the Newsreel cameraman will come board to film the ship, please be sure to not war the clear bracelet, otherwise it could be noticed in the film. Thank you!” — Love, Jone, PRO I/T, September 6, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“There isn’t any more real tech outside the church than within. The Freezone and ‘Independent Field’ uses post-1972 altered tech just like the church. The only difference is the flavor of alteration. So the subject of Scientology is not alone. It’s in the best company. Today, it’s a state-religion, the ‘Scientology Religion,’ totally acceptable by the deep state, a money machine for the CIA slush fund, and more importantly: a trap for the most intelligent and able people on earth. And that is why they keep Scientology going: it is no threat to the status quo as long as there are no actual Clears and OTs created anymore. For that, you need the original, fully workable tech, from 1972 and before.”


Past is Prologue

2001: A motion filed by Ken Dandar, the lawyer for the Lisa McPherson estate, was posted to a.r.s this week, asking for sanctions against Scientology. “Defendant, SCIENTOLOGY, and its in-house counsel, Kendrick Moxon have repeatedly poisoned this action with baseless accusations of unethical and criminal conduct against Plaintiff and her counsel, which is contained in the counterclaim filed by Scientology and who now demands that these scandalous accusations be made a finding of fact by the current motion against LMT, Sob Minton, and Stacy Brooks. These outrageous and baseless accusations include the following: ‘Liebreich and Bandar have also misused process by purchasing testimony of fact witnesses, effectively money laundering, engaged in activities calculated to infect the jury pool, to harass and intimidate witnesses, forced defendants to relinquish their rights, encumber valuable properties (of SCIENTOLOGY).’ All of the above is absolutely false. Discovery on these baseless allegations has shown it to be absolutely false, yet Moxon and SCIENTOLOGY continue to assert them and now demand that they be made a finding of fact by court order.”



Random Howdy

“The church that never forgives and never forgets. The Scientologists always pay their debts.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for November 10. Trial tentatively scheduled for February.
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 October 7 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Sept 9.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30, 2020 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. Oral arguments scheduled for Oct 5.
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 23. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27.

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] New letter about Scientology by J. Edgar Hoover shows up in FBI records search
[TWO years ago] Elisabeth Moss snows another reporter about Scientology, but this one really hurts
[THREE years ago] Finally, Captain David Miscavige’s faux-military Scientology ribbons, described and decoded!
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s ultimate prize: For the first time online, the current ‘OT 8’ materials laid bare
[FIVE years ago] As Louis Theroux’s Scientology movie hits theaters, its main subject accuses it of deception
[SIX years ago] VIDEO LEAK: Rare look at Captain David Miscavige giving shipboard Scientology briefing
[SEVEN years ago] Deputy ambassador of a small African nation? Scientology wants to buy you lunch!
[EIGHT years ago] VIDEO: Scientology Leader David Miscavige’s Weird Explanation for the IRS Victory
[NINE years ago] Scientology to Marc and Claire Headley: Spy For Us and We’ll Forget the $43K You Owe


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 2,415 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,920 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,440 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,460 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,351 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,658 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,526 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,300 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,630 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,104 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,420 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,986 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,905 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,073 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,654 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,915 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,953 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,666 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,191 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 546 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,721 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,272 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,421 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,741 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,596 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,715 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,071 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,374 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,480 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,878 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,754 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,337 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,832 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,086 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,195 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 6, 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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