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Paul Morantz is remembered for Synanon rattler, but he also faced Scientology’s fangs

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times had a very good piece about attorney Paul Morantz, who died in Santa Monica last Sunday at 77.

The article of course describes the incident that Morantz is most well known for, when he reached into his Pacific Palisades mailbox one morning in October 1978 only to find a 4-and-a-half foot rattlesnake inside that immediately struck his arm. Its venom nearly caused his death.

He had just won a $300,000 court judgment against the drug rehab cult Synanon, and so it was assumed the rattlesnake attack was payback from the group, run by a man named Charles Dederich. Work by Morantz and others led to Synanon’s demise, but he would later say he didn’t feel entirely safe until Dederich died in 1997.

As the Times piece also mentioned, Morantz tangled with many more groups than Synanon, including the Church of Scientology.


In 2011 Morantz sent us a copy of a book he had written specifically about his court battles with Scientology on behalf of people like Bent Corydon, author of L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?

In the book, he recounts how, after the 1978 rattlesnake attack made him famous for his efforts against cults, a man named Michael Meisner reached out to him, wanting to tell him what he knew about Scientology. Morantz said he always regretted not following up on that offer by Meisner. He didn’t realize that it was Meisner who, the year before, had been the whistleblower who had cooperated with the FBI, leading to a 1977 raid and then prosecutions that eventually put 11 top Scientologists in prison.

But Morantz had plenty of other opportunities to litigate cases against Scientology, and to tangle in particular with two of its attorneys, Tim Bowles and Kendrick Moxon.

Each was a knowledgeable and capable attorney, but like most member in-house cult lawyers, their “true believers” attitude, in my opinion, could be demonstrative to juries of the contended nature of Scientology. Bowles was pretty straightforward. Moxon was extreme in my view. Eventually one day in the courthouse he hollered at me in the hallway that some decision that had gone against a kidnapper-deprogrammer, referring to me being a part of it. Since I am actually against kidnapping/deprogramming, despite the fact that some believe it save their lives, (it is taking the law into one’s own hands and can be executed improperly) I sort of lost it and went face-to-face with Moxon, demanding he give me proof of my involvement and that I did not care for his assumptions. I never wanted to punch somebody like I did at that moment. Nose to nose I imagined the first act would be to push him back, and then if he came at me defend myself, but I assumed this would be exactly what they wanted, i.e. a lawsuit against me for battery. To their credit, it was their bodyguards that acted with cool minds and separated us. Around a week later, I was told another attorney was not able to exercise such will power and decked Moxon. To Moxon’s credit, I was told, he didn’t sue and laughed it off.

In a conversation with Morantz, he told us that one thing he hadn’t included in the book but that he was still interested in developing further, was that he believed one of the reasons Synanon had become so dangerous and lethal, developing a hard core security force that resorted to violence, was that they had learned from Scientology’s legendary spy corps, the Guardian’s Office.

Morantz told us that he believed there had actually been contact between the GO and Synanon, and that Scientology operatives had shared their ideas and tactics with Synanon. We regret that we never got to develop this idea further with Paul, and we are saddened to hear of his passing.

We wanted to quote one other passage from his book, which not only involves Scientology, but does a good job capturing Morantz as an attorney and as a man who believed so passionately in fairness and human rights. We regret that we did not get to spend more time talking to this singular person.

Perhaps my biggest moment with Scientology was an actual small event in my home town, Pacific Palisades, homes surrounded a commercial town of only a couple of blocks snuggled near the beach between Santa Monica and Malibu.

It was l995 and on a Sunday this spring there was a health fair in the Palisades community central square where various health providers and nutritionist, traditional and new age, had booths promoting their services and products. The highlight was a demonstration by our local Karate school.

As I was walking about when a man approached and asked me if I would like to be interviewed in his group’s booth about the subject of psychology. Suspicious, I asked what kind of questions he was going to ask? He showed me a sheet of paper with the questions. After I read them, seeing it was critical of psychotherapy, I said, “You’re Scientology.”

He denied it, saying they were a group of actors providing information on psychotherapy abuses. I said, “No, you are Scientology.” Thinking about it, he should have wondered how I would know that from their questions and backed off, but instead he continued his denial that they were Scientology and kept trying to lure me on stage. Finally, he confessed they were Scientologists but stated they were not there on behalf of Scientology.

I walked over to the Pacific Palisades chambers of commerce table, and spoke to the president, Arnie Wishnick, asking him if he knew who the occupants of that booth was. He repeated the same name of some Actor Association. I said that it was really Scientology. Arnie got mad that they had concealed their identity and said he was going to go over and ask them to leave. I told him not to. They will claim, I warned, their calling themselves by some subgroup name immaterial and then sue Palisades for religious discrimination, bankrupting the city through legal defense cost. “Arnie,” I said. “You are not equipped for this. Let me handle it. This is what I do.”

I wandered over to their booth. There was a considerable gathering of my town mates as the Scientologists were on stage doing a skit based on long ago actress Francis Farmer’s early 1940’s treatment with electro-convulsive shock treatment, the history of which has long been controversial and debated, but was performed here as appearing as sadistic.

At a pause, I addressed the very interested crowd.


“Listen up. The people speaking here have the right to do so. They also have an interest in denouncing professional mental health. They have that right. You have the right as to whether or not you want to listen to them or not. In exercising that decision and in evaluating what you are hearing you should have the right to know who is speaking. So I am telling you this is from Scientology. You can walk away or continue to listen, but at least now you will be clear as to the source.”

The crowd basically disbursed. About 15 minutes later several police officers approached me and said that the Scientologists had called them to file a complaint that I was interfering with their First Amendment rights.

I told the officers that was not true. I told them that all I did was exercise my own. They went off and did some further investigation and then one came back and said to me, “Go get them, Paul.”

I sat alone on a curb eating a hotdog when two of the Scientologists approached.

“We know its you, Paul,” said the woman as if she was confronting a legendary devil.


Technology Cocktail

“Language itself is not so aberrative as has been previously validated; the aberrative factor is the MEST action underlying it. True enough, language has some aberrative elements (as is evidenced in the sentence, ‘He rowed the horse’), and the reactive mind has a glorious time with it. But these words are only symbols of reality. In the warning, ‘The tiger is biting you,’ the danger is not the words, but the fact of the tiger’s biting you — not the language but the MEST action involved. Symbols, compared to the actual MEST actions, are unimportant in MEST processing.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1951



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 as trial begins and Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.



THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

— The Underground Bunker Podcast

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— SPECIAL: Your Proprietor’s updates on the Danny Masterson trial

[1] Sep 21 [2] Sep 28 [3] Oct 4 [4] Oct 10 [5] Oct 11: Day One [6] Oct 12: Day Two [7] Oct 13: Day Three [8] Oct 17: Day Four [9] Oct 18: Day Five [10] Oct 19: Day Six [11] Special interview with Chris Shelton, Oct 19 [12] Oct 20: Day Seven [13] Oct 21: Day Eight [14] First week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [15] Oct 24: Day Nine [16] Oct 25: Day Ten [17] Oct 27: Day Eleven [18] Oct 28: Day Twelve [19] Second week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine

— The Underground Bunker Podcast on YouTube

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker


Jon Atack and Jeffrey Augustine




Source Code

“The Fifth Invader Force came in to use this area, and the name of this solar system is Space Station 33. They started to use this area without suspecting that the Fourth Invader Force had been there for God knows how many skillion years, had been sitting down, and they have their installations up on Mars, and they have a tremendous, screened operation…Now, as I say, this sounds science-fictiony. Well, don’t let it sound science-fictiony to you, because the truth be told, it’s not science fiction. In the first place, it’s not fiction, and it really isn’t very closely resembling what you read and call science fiction. Science fiction is just a very chimerical sort of a picture of it. Space is wild. There aren’t any writers down here and there’s no audience down here that could take real stuff about space. It’s wild!” — L. Ron Hubbard, October 30, 1952


Avast, Ye Mateys

“The ship lately has been lying too much in the harbor, has not been at sea enough. This is usually very bad for a crew. A ship, by definition, is something that goes to sea. After a day or so, people who tend to get queasy get over it and on short jumps do not get a chance to do so. You will also notice that the first few days at sea, a crew tends to stand around and not work. But after it has been at sea for three or four days, they get their sea legs and work and routine go on as usual.” — The Commodore, October 30, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I think that a Seck Check for all returnees (LRH or not LRH) must be a mandatory action.”



Past is Prologue

2000: The Standard published an article this week on the efforts of Scientology to forbid auctions of E-meters on the Ebay auction site. “The auction of primitive electronic devices used by the Church of Scientology to measure the spiritual health of its members has been blocked by eBay, to the dismay of critics of the church and supporters of the Internet auction system. Several of these were being auctioned off on eBay before lawyers representing the Church of Scientology complained, saying that only licensed Scientology ministers were allowed to own e-meters. EBay discontinued the auctions of the devices. Helen Kobrin, a lawyer for the church, said that e-meters are protected under US federal law, which states they may only be owned by authorised members of the Church of Scientology. But she couldn’t recall what case or federal ruling established this legal protection.”


Random Howdy

“When people say they got some good out of Scientology, I think to myself, ‘Yeah, telling your problems, fantasies or opinions to anybody, including hookers and homeless people, makes everybody feel better…derp!’ This blog is my ‘auditing’.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial began October 11 in Los Angeles.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Arraigned on August 29.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff scheduled to be sentenced on Oct 28.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2. Hearing scheduled November 17 to argue the arbitration motions.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through December 13.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Case settled ahead of scheduled Dec 6 trial.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



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] What you aren’t going to hear at this week’s appeal of Scientology ‘religious arbitration’
[TWO years ago] Riley Keough to outdo Elisabeth Moss for most hypocritical Scientologist?
[FOUR years ago] Scientology hails study vindicating its rehab program — so we take a closer look
[FIVE years ago] Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard as a cop in Los Angeles: What’s the real truth?
[SIX years ago] Scientology will go after your kids with its quack ideas on drugs — even at a Christian school
[SEVEN years ago] At the end of our journey, we offer thanks to this website’s supporters
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology outside the official church: ‘I’m quite happy with the world the way it is’
[NINE years ago] Clearwater Tent Showdown: Scientology Reportedly Getting Ready for Events Next Week
[TEN years ago] Another Scientology Victory: Photos of Marc Headley’s Roof Being Repaired!


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 2,833 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,338 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,888 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,878 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,769 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,074 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,944 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,049 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,522 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,838 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,404 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,323 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,491 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,071 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,333 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,369 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,084 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,649 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 964 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,139 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,690 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,821 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,159 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,014 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,133 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,489 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,792 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,898 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,296 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,172 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,755 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,250 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,504 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,613 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on October 30, 2022 at 09:00

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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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