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Former London staffer tells his story: ‘Abuse is fundamental to Scientology’s very nature’

You can’t leave the room until you’ve written down everything you’ve done wrong. “Have you ever masturbated?” I was asked. “Write down every instance you’ve done this in as much detail as you can: when, where, how many times. Did you watch porn? What type? How long for?”. These were my last few moments in Scientology, and the last time I’d set foot in a Church as a Scientologist in ‘good standing’.

At the age of 19, I was declared a ‘Potential Trouble Source’ and dismissed from my post as Director of Public Booksales at the Church of Scientology in London. Escorted to my desk, and then the door, I was heartbroken: everything I believed in and everyone I’d spent countless hours with, day in, day out, over the preceding months – gone. I was as dedicated as they come: ready to ‘Clear the planet’ and spend my life making the world a better place. And now, as I head to the door one final time, I can’t help but think ‘this just isn’t right.’

I wasn’t born or raised in Scientology. In fact, my parents are far from religious – sending me to a Christian school only because it was local and had the best results in the area. But from my earliest memory, I’ve been a hard worker with an inquisitive mind. As a child, adults would complain I ask “why?” too much; family friends encouraged me to work hard and dream big. ‘You’ll be Prime Minister one day’, they would say.


Perhaps my ambition came from this can-do attitude, or maybe it’s an inflated ego – being told by everyone I met that I’d be good at anything I put my mind to. At school, I excelled in both academic subjects and the arts; I sat exams a year early and left school with 17 GCSEs (for context, the average was 9), 15 of which were A*-B grades. However, I always had a sense that there was more to life. Something bigger than me. Than ‘us’.

When I first saw the BBC Panorama documentary ‘The Secrets of Scientology’ in 2010, I was mystified. Mike Rinder’s sunken eyes and gaunt face reminded me of Christopher Walken; these people clearly had conviction and passion. They were dedicated, and didn’t look at their faith as a laughing matter. I was 15 years old and I was yet to learn Mike’s malnourished appearance was a result of his time in Scientology’s labour camp known as ‘The Hole’.

In one scene, Rinder stands in the door of Scientology’s London ‘Test Centre’ on Tottenham Court Road, defending the Church and denying countless allegations of abuse, alien prophecies and disconnection.. something only a short time later I would be doing myself.

On its continued harassment of critics, Sweeney asks at one point, “Is this how this church goes about its business? An organisation that says it is entitled to be treated as a religion?” – his goal was clearly to present Scientology as a dangerous cult. How could something take such a grip on people’s lives? Create such fanaticism, its members defending their faith with tenacity.. and yet at the same time abuse its followers and rip families apart? As a rebellious teenager, this was not something I was going to walk away from: I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why.

Not wanting to take everything in the media at face value, I wanted to hear the Church’s side of the story. Well-equipped with my own research, and well aware of the manipulative tactics exposed in Panorama, I took myself along to the Church of Scientology on Queen Victoria Street in London. I did a personality test, and gave them a hard time: “what about disconnection?”, I asked.

Something to understand about Scientology’s recruitment tactics is that they have an answer to every single question you may have. I was told ‘it’s a whole misunderstanding. Imagine you were being bullied in school; you wouldn’t want to hang around with those people, would you? So you would naturally decide not to spend time with them. Disconnection in Scientology is just a formal way of doing this, but people have misinterpreted this to mean we break families apart.’

‘The best way to learn about Scientology is to read the scripture. So why don’t you do this course? It’s £39, and there’s no strings attached. You commit to coming to the Org to study for a couple of hours once a week after school, you read the book, you try applying some of the techniques and see if it works for yourself. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. There’s no obligation, and certainly no £-million bills for training like you hear of in the media. What’s the harm?’

Little did I know, this was the start of my indoctrination into Scientology. Despite going in with a critical mind and on the look out for signs of manipulation, over time, it worked. As a teenager I faced all the usual life questions: Who am I? Why am I here, what’s my purpose in life?

Scientology offered hope. Despite the bad press it was a chance: these were nice people that clearly wanted to help me find myself. I had the power to remove myself from the group at any point if I felt I was being manipulated in any way. The problem is, I didn’t realise I was being manipulated.

I was recruited on to staff and by the Summer of 2011 I was working in the Church’s Division 6 selling books and getting new people to join. I was primed for the picking: ‘I’ve heard the ‘black PR’. I was skeptical, and yet I’ve not seen anyone being manipulated or forced to do things they don’t want to do’, I would say.

By 2013, at age 18, I was posted as the Director of Public Book Sales and worked closely with Charlie Wakley as the public face of Scientology in London. Every week, we’d set up Stress Test booths and sell books on Edgware Road. I didn’t know it at the time, but Charlie’s father Nick was one of only a handful of British people who had been abused by David Miscavige himself.

When I was finally kicked out of the Church in 2014, I was declared a Potential Trouble Source (Type D) for complaining about Scientology not working. I was locked in a room and ordered to write up my Overts & Withholds (transgressions) against the Church. Crying, I tried to leave. The Ethics Officer – Charlie’s brother Jason, who now works in Los Angeles as part of the elite ‘Sea Organisation’ – put his hand on the door handle and made it clear that I was not allowed to leave.

I remember pleading with them: all I wanted was for Scientology to work on me, but right now it wasn’t and it was making me upset. It’s astonishing to think how only a few years earlier, I was skeptical and sharp to any signs of coercion – and here I was, begging to stay. The transformation was complete: I was a Scientologist.

It’s taken me almost a decade to process what I went through, a journey of recovery I will likely be on for the rest of my life. However, now I am the one in control. This is my narrative and my life. I now share my stories and give others a platform to do the same on YouTube under the name ‘Apostate Alex’.


Like standing in the doors of the Test Centre on Tottenham Court Road defending the faith, I find myself once again following in Mike Rinder’s footsteps: speaking out and sharing the truth.

Scientology has the power to convince even the most critical of thinkers, it lies to its members and it tears families apart. Scientology is not just a ‘crazy American cult’. it is everywhere and abuse is fundamental to its very nature.

— Alexander Barnes-Ross


Technology Cocktail

“A thetan very often carries with him a theta body, which he mocked up on the past track and which is a number of facsimiles of old bodies he has misowned and is carrying along with him as control mechanisms which he uses to control the body he is using. He eventually develops quite a heavy, thick, automatic-control theta body. They are quite interesting. Many have electronic claws and all sorts of things. Usually the theta body structure has an electronic beam that goes down each of the fingers and he opens and closes his hand with beams. This is going off into structure, but he sometimes pulls out this theta body complete and simply takes it along.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1958



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 Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.



THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[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

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney


Source Code

“The US in a Masterpiece has officially stated it has no responsibility for its money. They can say that twice. The scoop is that genius Nixon’s Federal Reserve Board lowered bank rates in the US, causing US investment money to flee to Europe. Nazi bankers caught the ball so deftly tossed to them by their US agents and began a smash attack on the dollar. Exchange is still 3.8 francs to a dollar in Switzerland. It should be 4.3. Costing us our shirts. We don’t dare deposit and lose. Somebody in the US Federal Reserve is working very hard for his Iron Cross First Class.” — L. Ron Hubbard, May 9, 1971


Avast, Ye Mateys

“ALL CREW: Please submit to me knowledge reports on any injustices that you may know about. Injustices must be righted. Thank you.” — Lt. Cmdr. Diana Hubbard, May 9, 1969



Overheard in the FreeZone

“LRH got to the point where he was able to perceive what is actually happening here and in the local (galactic) area and so I would not dismiss any concerns about SPs taking over here. I like to look at it from the viewpoint that sowing a seed on one planet would not be sufficient. What if it did not grow and was thwarted before it could turn into a tree? Not every acorn becomes a mighty oak. I would go out and do what every oak tree does. Sow thousands of acorns. And LRH is a lot smarter than I. And as for being welcome in other areas, Well, when you get to OT I think that is a different matter. You can go where you bloody well like. ESPECIALLY if you have training and experience in your repertoire. This planet may or may not be fucked (to coin a phrase) but the Galaxy isn’t.”


Past is Prologue

1996: Lance Buckley posted a report on the lightning picket held several weeks ago outside the London Org on Tottenham Court Road. “As we descended on the org, we couldn’t help but notice that they knew we were coming. In fact they had probably been set up quite a while. I remember wondering at the time if they were getting bored waiting for us to turn up. We had our own pair of police officers to make sure the three of us didn’t start a riot or something. It’s nice to know someone cares. We said our hellos to anyone who was interested, hoisted our signs high and had at the leaflet distribution with a will. As usual we were the centre of attention for 3 or more people with cameras. Why can’t they issue decent cameras to these people? All they ever use are the ‘point’n’shoot’ models. Since we like Jaques so much, we decided to tell him that one of the signs the droidz was carrying had a slight typo. I can’t remember the context right now, but they had misspelled ‘L Ron Hubbard’. This stunning testament to the much vaunted study tech had written on her sign: ‘P. Ron Hubbard blah blah’! ‘P’? How the hell can you misspell a single letter? Shit, ‘L’ doesn’t even -sound- like ‘P’. We decided it had to be due to those seafood engrams again. ‘P Ron’ sounds like ‘Prawn’ so for the rest of our stay our favourite conman was referred to as ‘Prawn Hubbard’. I don’t think they appreciated the joke.”


Random Howdy

“David Miscavige is a South Philly street punk: rude, lewd, and crude. He wants to be Vito Genovese but he’s John Gotti instead. All flash and bravado with no real depth or vision.”


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


Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Retrial scheduled, jury selection begins March 29. Next pretrial hearing: Feb 16.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Next pretrial hearing Feb 13.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next status conference Feb 13.

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 November 17 to argue the arbitration motions, awaiting ruling.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: March 15, 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 February 7.
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] How Scientology’s ardent followers prove their loyalty with blind (or near-sighted) obedience
[TWO years ago] The Scientologist and the superstar hacker: A stock market fable for our times
[THREE years ago] Dianetics at 70: Scientology’s bible, endorsing child molestation since May 9, 1950
[FOUR years ago] Death in the Timor Sea: The darkest war secret of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard
[FIVE years ago] Early witness Don Rogers on Hubbard and ‘prior lives’: ‘Nothing but a parlor hypnosis trick’
[SIX years ago] Danny Masterson hires Michael Jackson criminal defense attorney Tom Mesereau in rape probe
[SEVEN years ago] 66 years ago, L. Ron Hubbard transubstantiated from pulp writer to god among men
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology answers Garcia motion: We are definitely a bona fide worldwide religion!
[NINE years ago] Ryan Hamilton adds Colorado in new lawsuits against Scientology’s rehab network
[TEN years ago] Lori Hodgson Defies Scientology’s “Disconnection,” Surprises Her Son in Texas


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 3,024 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,529 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,079 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,069 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,960 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,264 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,135 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,240 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,687 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,029 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,595 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,514 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,682 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,263 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,524 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,560 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,276 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,840 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,155 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,330 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,881 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,012 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,350 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,205 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,324 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,680 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,983 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,089 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,487 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,363 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,946 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,441 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,695 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,804 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 9, 2023 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, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), 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


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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