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Jon Atack takes issue with new theory about Charles Manson that ignores Scientology

[Charles Manson’s involvement in Scientology is well documented. So Jon Atack looked into a new theory of the Manson murders that is gaining a lot of traction and that for some reason completely ignores Manson’s interest in L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas.]

Charles Manson and his ‘Family’ will always stir up fascination, because of the horrifying brutality of the slayings in Los Angeles in 1969, and the mythology that has been so dexterously spun around them.

Manson was the pied piper who brainwashed runaway girls in his orgiastic, drug-crazed sex cult and then loosed them on a rampage of murder in the attempt to begin a race war in the US. A war named for The Beatles’ song Helter-Skelter, which would also be the title of the book that made prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi rich.

That narrative took a beating when Tom O’Neill’s book CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties came out in 2019. The prestigious Times Literary Supplement dubbed it a ‘masterpiece’ and the book sold like hot cakes.

I eagerly checked the book’s index for ‘Scientology,’ to see what O’Neill had added to the secret internal Scientology files in my collection. I knew Manson had been deeply involved with the famous mind control training. Finding not a single mention of Scientology, I looked then for a reference to Manson’s autobiography, Without Conscience. There were only two paragraphs, and they related to a pair of spectacles left at the Sharon Tate crime scene. O’Neill ignored the autobiography’s numerous references to Scientology. In his 200-page account, Manson himself said that he had been ‘heavily into dianetics and scientology.’ At that point I put O’Neill’s book aside without reading any further.


After a recent video chat, YouTuber Eric Hunley, referring to O’Neill’s book, asked if I knew that my late friend Jolly West had programmed the Manson Family. I was aghast. In my experience, Jolly was a friendly, compassionate, and helpful man. Not the sort of person who would systematically create mayhem and murder.

When we first met in 1988 Professor Louis Jolyon ‘Jolly’ West, MD, was the head of the department of neuroscience and biobehavior at UCLA Medical School. We were not close, but we met four times over the next few years, and spent hours talking each time. On our second meeting, his assistant told me he kept two books on his desk – the Bible and my Piece of Blue Sky. She said he would read a few paragraphs whenever he took a break. It cheered him to see that the history of this group which had caused him so much trouble had finally been printed.

Jolly had been an out-spoken critic of Scientology for almost forty years by this time. He had fought off several suits filed against him by Scientology. In a speech to the American Psychiatric Association, he once said, ‘I would like to advise my colleagues that I consider Scientology a cult and L. Ron Hubbard a quack and a fake. I wasn’t about to let them intimidate me.’ He threw down the gauntlet. After sixteen unrelenting years of my own harassment by Scientologists, I can assure you that this was a brave stance.

Jolly was an important speaker at Cult Awareness Network and American Family Foundation conferences. I have a recording of an excellent history of hypnotism from one CAN conference. Unlike most in his profession, Jolly recognised the value of hypnotism, a practice that has seen a resurgence in the decades since his death in 1999. Jolly determinedly shared sound information about hypnotism and the potential dangers of hypnotic states at a time when academia smirked at the subject (by the 1970s, only six out of ninety US university courses on psychology included any mention of it). By demonstrating hypnotism, he helped many, many people to avoid control through exploitative persuasion or ‘mind control.’ Hardly the psychopath portrayed by O’Neill, because by definition, psychopaths have no desire to help others.

Jolly was a polymath and one of the most intelligent and well-informed people I’ve ever met. Our last meeting was in London. He was en route to a celebration of the work of Patrick O’Brian, author of the Master and Commander novels. Jolly was invited to speak about the accuracy of O’Brian’s descriptions of surgery during the Napoleonic Wars. One of many subjects on which he was expert.

Jolly’s research into drugs was well known, especially through the death of the elephant Tusko during the crazy period when LSD was used in experiments on both human and animal subjects by hundreds of researchers around the world (I long ago interviewed an English psychiatrist who had given LSD to an eight-year-old child. It was a time of innocence and stupidity, when hallucinogens were handed out like candy).

When I was invited to apply for a doctoral degree for A Piece of Blue Sky by Aarhus University, Jolly was quick to write a fulsome letter of support. He not only stood up to Scientology and other authoritarian sects, but was also active with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Another potentially dangerous pursuit. I was surprised when Tom O’Neill said a former colleague had labelled Jolly ‘the only benevolent psychopath I ever met.’ Psychopaths are not likely to take up good causes. Jolly had put himself in the firing line with both cults and the at times murderous enemies of civil rights. O’Neill also tells us that for forty years Jolly was ‘vehemently against capital punishment,’ an unlikely position for a true psychopath.

In CHAOS, O’Neill argues that for twenty years Jolly West was a principal investigator for the CIA’s deplorable MKULTRA mind control programs. As O’Neill says, there were 149 separate ‘experiments’ carried out under the aegis of MKULTRA during that period. He goes on to say that ‘Surviving records name eighty institutions, including forty-four universities and colleges, and 185 researchers…’

O’Neill cites a 1977 New York Times article, which tells us that MKULTRA was ‘a secret twenty-five year, twenty-five million dollar effort by the CIA to learn how to control the human mind.’ Most accounts agree that the program flopped (Naomi Klein takes an interesting contrary position that is highly relevant; but not to our discussion).

In an interview with Eric Hunley, Tom O’Neill says that Jolly West was ‘the MKULTRA psychiatrist who I’ve uncovered documents showing that he was a pivotal part of the MKULTRA program for twenty years, and he practically wrote the blueprint for it with Sydney Gottlieb…’ This is a monumental claim based upon a handful of circumstantial evidence.

O’Neill does admit his personal disdain for Jolly during their only conversation, where he says Jolly ‘droned on for so long I cut the interview short.’ I never knew Jolly to ‘drone on.’ He was one of the most fascinating conversationalists I’ve ever met. O’Neill tells us that ‘West became my white whale.’ It’s a telling remark, because this makes O’Neill the fervently obsessed Captain Ahab of Melville’s great novel (‘a grand, ungodly, god-like man’). Ahab goes to his death to destroy the white whale in revenge for it taking his leg off. Of course, in the novel – spoiler alert – Captain Ahab goes down lassoed to the whale. I hope the same will not be true for Tom O’Neill. He has done remarkable research, so a follow-up book on the Scientology connection might well save him.

O’Neill’s obsession with Jolly is compounded by several statements, peppered throughout his 400-page book. He wants us to believe that Jolly West programmed Manson, but says, ‘I could never prove that he’d [West] examined Manson himself – or that they’d ever met.’

He makes this overblown statement: ‘As a self-styled brainwashing expert, he’d [West] been present whenever mind control reared its ugly head in American culture. Murders, assassinations, kidnappings, cults, prisoners of war – his fingerprints were on all of them.’ All of them? Thousands of people were subjected to Bluebird, MKULTRA, MKNAOMI. West could not possibly have ‘been present’ in every case, and O’Neill gives us no shred of evidence of involvement in any vicious act on Jolly’s part, let alone ‘murders’ or ‘assassination’.

Further, O’Neill tells us, ‘I didn’t have a smoking gun … I worried I never would … I could poke a thousand holes in the story [of the killings], but I couldn’t say what really happened. In fact, the major arms of my research were often in contradiction with one another. … to imagine state, local and federal law enforcement cooperating in perfect harmony, with the courts backing them up – it made no sense. What I’d uncovered was something closer to an improvised, shambolic effort to contain the sequence of events without tripping on something. I was a lousy conspiracy theorist … because I wanted nothing left to the realm of the theoretical.’


In the end, however, almost everything is left in ‘the realm of the theoretical.’ And ‘an improvised, shambolic effort to contain the sequence of events without tripping on something’ comes very close to Manson’s own account.

O’Neill continues in the same vein, ‘My theory that Manson and West were linked was tenuous, circumstantial, lying solely in the fact that they’d walked the same corridors of the same clinic. Wouldn’t it be more effective to argue that the entire prosecution of Manson was a sham, with Helter Skelter as a cover-up? … Maybe Jolly West didn’t even belong in the book.’

O’Neill then goes with what he himself calls the ‘most “far out” theory,’ which is ‘that Manson was tied to an MKULTRA effort to create assassins who would kill on command.’ I’m dissatisfied that sufficient evidence is provided to draw this conclusion. Or indeed, any evidence. It doesn’t reach the ‘realm of the theoretical’ because it is actually hypothetical rather than theoretical. It remains an untested, unproven hypothesis, a ‘theory’ requires evidence.

O’Neill believes that Jolly had ‘claimed to have achieved the impossible’ that ‘he knew how to replace “true memories” with “false ones” in human beings without their knowledge.’ Yet, bringing people to manufacture false memories is an everyday experience. Most people who have undergone ‘past life regression’ (a favourite technique in Scientology) have readily created memories that they will believe to be real, although they can provide no evidence (such memories would include the language spoken by them at the time. No medieval French has been recovered from supposed reincarnated survivors of Agincourt nor any other instance, despite myriad hours of Scientology ‘processing’). One formerly very high-ranking, long-term Scientologist told me she’d seen about two hundred believers reporting that they had been Jesus. At least 199 were mistaken. UK mentalist Derren Brown has induced false memories (and beliefs) during his TV shows within minutes. Elizabeth Loftus spent a career studying the induction of false memories. It is far from ‘impossible.’ In his 1961 study of returnees from Chinese Thought Reform Camps, Robert Jay Lifton calls the change of memory ‘ideology over experience’ or ‘doctrine over person’ where the individual replaces a memory with the group’s description of events.

O’Neill does show that Jolly West had contact with the head of the dreadful MKULTRA program, Sydney Gottlieb. The two corresponded in the 1950s, but Gottlieb used an assumed name (Sherman Grifford). O’Neill does not prove that West was aware that the correspondent was Gottlieb.

As O’Neill says, CHAOS, another CIA program, was so secret that when William Colby was appointed director of the CIA, he wasn’t told of its existence. This secrecy extended to the funding of the 149 projects in MKULTRA. A host of front groups were created through which monies could be channelled. These included ‘Chemrophyl Associates’ – the letterhead for ‘Sherman Grifford’ in his correspondence to Jolly West. It is possible and indeed highly likely that Jolly West did indeed receive funding indirectly from the CIA, however, we need to put the CIA’s research projects into context.

The CIA represented the US government. While its activities were deplorable, immoral, and illegal — and its members deserved to be incarcerated in mental asylums or prisons — it nonetheless represented a legitimate government and was considered to be ‘making the world safe for democracy’ until the early 1970s, when Victor Marchetti pierced the veil of silence.

In his study, Science of Coercion, Communication Research & Psychological Warfare 1945-1960, Professor Christopher Simpson found that over 90 percent of psychological research in the US in the two decades after the war was sponsored by the military: “Military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies such as the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency helped to bankroll substantially all of the post-World War II generation’s research into techniques of persuasion, opinion measurement, interrogation, political and military mobilization, propagation of ideology, and related questions. The persuasion studies, in particular, provided much of the scientific underpinning for modern advertising and motivational techniques. This government-financed communication research went well beyond what would have been possible with private sector money alone and often exploited military recruits, who comprised a unique pool of test subjects.” Which is not to say that the research was morally proper. The various foundations created as fronts were to prevent researchers from knowing the source of their funds.

The only possible connection that O’Neill can make is that Jolly West used a ‘crash pad’ in Haight Ashbury in 1967 to monitor the effects of LSD on hippies who were invited to trip there. Some of those hippies were referred by the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic which Manson attended. End of connection. That’s everything O’Neill has about the relationship between Jolly West and Charles Manson.

O’Neill would have us believe that Jolly West manipulated Manson for two years. He cannot show that they communicated in any way. He does not track any coincidence in their movements during that two years either.

The methods of manipulation are also given scant attention. O’Neill tells us that ‘Manson … had used LSD to collect and reprogram his followers.’ But he also reports Jolly West’s conclusion that ‘Acid … made people more difficult to hypnotize: it was better to pair hypnosis with long bouts of isolation and sleep deprivation.’ He adds to this Dr Eugene Schofield’s assertion that ‘LSD produced disorganized behavior, not violent behavior.’ This is supported by the literature. LSD would not be useful in creating programmed murderers – Manchurian candidates – because it has unpredictable effects. The CIA’s attempt to program students and soldiers with LSD failed. It disorientated rather than increasing obedience. They could find no effective way to distribute it to enemy soldiers and, after thousands of tests, LSD was abandoned as a chemical weapon.

If O’Neill had paid attention to Manson’s Without Conscience, he would have found references to the drug most likely to have caused the psychotic behaviour of the Manson gang. O’Neill makes no mention of that drug.

Tex Watson participated in both the Tate and the LaBianca murders. He and Manson both refer to a drug they call ‘talatche tea.’ By strange happenstance, at a meeting between us and Jolly West, my friend and colleague Steven Hassan asked Jolly what drug he thought had influenced the Manson Family. Extremely knowledgeable about drugs, without hesitation, Jolly said, ‘jimson weed.’

In Without Conscience, Manson says one ‘Indian Joe’ brought Family member Brenda ‘belladonna’ plants. The roots were boiled to make ‘talatche tea’ by her. Tex ‘picked up a large root and started scarfing it like he was eating an apple. Before the full effect hit him, Tex caught a ride into town. I wasn’t in the kitchen, nor did I know what was going on … I think it was the last time before the trials I saw Tex in what might be called his right mind.’ Manson says that Tex Watson took both ‘talatche’ and LSD before setting off on the Tate murders.


After reviewing O’Neill’s and Manson’s books, I contacted an ethnobotanist, who very kindly explained that Manson and Watson had misspelled toloache, which is indeed jimson weed or datura. Here is his report:

‘Datura is common wild to the southwestern US and the Sonoran desert. It is sometimes called thorn apple, which refers to the thorny seed pods. It is also known as devil’s weed or hell’s bells. Once you know what to look for you can spot them all over. Manson and crew would have had ready access to datura around Spahn Ranch and the Simi Hills. It’s pretty easy to get into mischief with datura. It’s free and broadly distributed and will get you loaded, though at a potentially horrific cost. Datura has alluring trumpet-shaped blossoms. In the US West you will find abundant datura, also known as jimson weed or locoweed. All parts of the plant contain the highly toxic tropane alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. The plant is easily located along roads, and is a source of poisoning for both people and animals. The tropane alkaloids are potent medicines in broad pharmaceutical use today. The effects of toloache’ vary greatly according to how you take it. If you make a tea, then it is a very risky business.

‘A mild datura tea may produce somewhat pleasant and dreamy effects, but a stronger tea will be a whole other bad thing. Visions on datura tend to be dark, crazy, evil, gravely disturbing. Most people become distraught and will not take a strong dose twice. It’s the definition of a bad trip. And if the tea is too strong, then you ride a gurney into that big hotel for dead souls. Thousands have died consuming datura in various forms. The seeds of datura may be ground finely and used as a poison or to intoxicate others such that they become open to suggestion. This is currently a known practice among robbers in Colombia. Finely ground seeds are blown into people’s faces, they inhale the powder, and become malleable and empty their ATM’s to robbers. The powdered seeds are also put into drinks, rendering the unsuspecting incapacitated and easy to rob. The Thuggee cult of India, from which we derive the word thug, used datura preparations regularly to kill and rob. It’s a very powerful poison, fast acting, associated with the goddess Kali.’

Datura belongs in a stronger class of drugs than LSD. It is a ‘deleriant’: due to its primary effect of causing delirium, as opposed to the more lucid and less disturbed states produced by other hallucinogens.

Manson said, ‘I still don’t believe any of the violence would have erupted if we had controlled the drugs instead of letting them control us.’ It isn’t possible to control datura. It turns the whole world into a hallucination, a living nightmare.

We come – at last – to Manson’s involvement with Scientology. In his interview with Eric Hunley – but nowhere in his book – is O’Neill’s single statement about the influence Scientology might have had on Manson: ‘The official narrative is that he audited or was audited for about a hundred hours and absorbed a lot of the techniques, a lot of the language of this ‘religion’ and then walked away from it, but a lot of it stayed, you know, stuff about ego and … all this word play. The question is, was there more to that? … Scientology had been infiltrated by federal agents too, who were using it to accomplish things. And there’s an interesting character who was the one who taught Manson Scientology, who later represented Squeaky Fromm after the assassination attempt of Gerald Ford … in ’75 … Lanier Ramer … Bruce Davis … was suspected in a couple of other murders, including two Scientology teenagers in LA in November of ’69’.

I’d love to see information about this use by federal agents of Scientology. The only time I’ve heard it before was back in 1983 from Hubbard’s ‘Second Deputy Commodore’ Captain Bill Robertson, who assured me that Scientology had been taken over by the FBI as part of the alien invasion of Earth which was already underway with two hundred thousand Marcabians in Switzerland under the cover of Transcendental Meditation and the Freemasons. The occasional infiltrator from the intelligence community perhaps, but agents working to ‘accomplish’ something using Scientology? That’s new to me.

While I was working on this piece, Steven Hassan, PhD, wrote a column for Psychology Today about the parole request for Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten. To our surprise, Psychology Today pulled the reference to Manson’s Scientology experience. You can see Steve’s response and my email to the timorous magazine here. The expurgated Psychology Today article is here.

Scientology relied on a 1971 Guardian newspaper article where the allegation of Manson’s involvement was withdrawn after litigation. This disingenuous tactic conceals Scientology’s certain knowledge that Manson received about 150 hours of dianetic and scientology ‘processing’ from his cell mate Lanier Ramer over a fourteen-month period at McNeil Island penitentiary beginning in 1962. Files seized by the FBI show that Scientology tried to suppress any mention of this involvement. I brought it up in the original edition of Let’s Sell These People a Piece of Blue Sky back in 1990. Scientology made no attempt to sue me over the claim, despite launching suits against the book in both New York and London.

One of the seized internal Scientology Guardian’s Office documents is headed ‘Re: Our disinformation action on the Process re Manson.’ The Process was a Scientology splinter group that caused Scientology a headache when it was alleged that Manson had been involved with it. Deliberate ‘disinformation’ has been a usual tactic for Scientology for decades, to ‘find or manufacture enough threat … to cause them to sue for peace … Don’t ever defend. Always attack,’ in Ron Hubbard’s words. The key word is ‘manufacture.’

In 1979, Mary Sue Hubbard, Hubbard’s wife and Controller of the Guardian’s Office, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for a long list of crimes including kidnapping, false imprisonment, theft, bugging and burglary. She oversaw the Manson cover-up, which was part of ‘Operation Rawhide.’

Manson was apprehended for the Tate-LaBianca killings in October 1969. On 22 June 1970, a full month before his trial began, a ‘compliance report’ concerning Manson and Family member Bruce Davis was sent to Mary Sue Hubbard. It detailed Manson’s ‘approximately 150 hours of auditing’ and his practice of Training Routine 0 (TR-0) with cell mate Lanier Ramer (a drill that is done for ‘some hours’ according to Hubbard’s instructional bulletin).

The report adds that ‘for a time,’ Manson would ‘talk about nothing but Scientology to the extent that people avoided his company.’ Later, he was ‘screaming to get away from his auditor.’ (In the opinion of the report’s author, Manson had been run for too long – or ‘over-run’ – on a ‘process’). This report also says that Leslie Van Houten was ‘interested’ in Scientology. Elsewhere, there is mention of Sandra Good, another Family member, also having an interest in Scientology. Four of the key players in the Manson story had an involvement in a sophisticated system of thought reform.

As part of Mary Sue Hubbard’s ‘disinformation’ campaign, the Guardian’s Office had Lanier Ramer sign an affidavit to the effect that he was not a Scientology ‘minister,’ saying ‘I have at no time held nor claimed any licensed, certified, official, or employee position within any Church of Scientology.’ He seems to have been a very dedicated Scientologist, however. A Scientology timeline of Ramer says that he ‘supposedly told Riverside PD that he robbed the bank in order to get money for Scn. courses.’ (‘Scn’ here means ‘Scientology.’)


There is no secret that Scientology is an indoctrination in control techniques. Hubbard called this ‘infinite control’ or ‘8C’ (Hubbard often used the number 8 in place of the infinity symbol: ∞). There are many Scientology drills and processes that are supposed to lead to ‘8C’ or ‘Tone 40’ control. The manipulation of others’ emotions is part of the basic drilling of all Scientologists.

Manson describes his time in the Gibault Catholic Boys Home from the age of twelve, saying ‘being under five feet tall and weighing less than sixty-five pounds … I was easy pickings for the bullies.’ He spent most of the next fifteen years in institutions being picked on by the bullies. Then he was initiated into the control methods of Scientology – including the famous thousand-mile ‘TR-0’ stare that he and other Scientologists are commonly associated with.

We do not know the extent to which Scientology training was a part of Manson’s authority over the Family, but it should surely find a place in any analysis of his behaviour. It is likely that he passed on other elements of Scientology belief to his followers – as may the other three Scientologists in the Family. He certainly shared Scientology’s core belief in reincarnation. Perhaps he taught Training Routines to members of the gang too. As these constitute the first step of Scientology indoctrination, it is likely that Bruce Davis, Leslie Van Houten and Sandra Good were already acquainted with what cult expert Steven Hassan has called ‘the most overt use of hypnosis by any cult group.’

Manson himself said that in 1962 in prison, where he had just learned to read: ‘I studied hypnotism and psychiatry. I found whatever books I could find (and understand) that dealt with mind development. A cell partner turned me on to scientology. With him and another guy I got pretty heavily into dianetics and scientology. Through this and my other studies, I came out of my state of depression. I was understanding myself better, had a positive outlook on life, and knew how to direct my energies to each day and each task. I had more confidence in myself and went the way I chose to go, whereas previously, I had always been content to listen and follow.’ If only Scientology hadn’t bolstered Manson’s confidence.

Scientology is the most elaborate and perhaps the most successful system of behaviour modification ever devised. Fervent Scientologists have included NASA scientists, theoretical physicists, high-power trial attorneys, politicians, sociologists, medical doctors – even one psychiatrist – and, of course, many famous actors, composers and musicians. Hubbard rarely told the truth, but when he said of Scientology, ‘We have ways of making slaves here’ and ‘We can brainwash faster than the Russians,’ he was offering his honest opinion. If Manson made slaves, if Manson brainwashed his followers, we must look to his time in Scientology and carefully consider its significance.

O’Neill spent twenty years researching CHAOS. He added a great deal of information to the record but as he tells us about one potential interview, ‘I was overthinking everything, and then overthinking my overthinking.’ The book is drenched in speculation. While O’Neill does put to rest the corrupt prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s myth of ‘Helter Skelter,’ he replaces it with a far more elaborate and fanciful idea: that the Manson gang’s murders were the consequence of ‘programming’ by Jolly West. He tells us nothing about this programming process.

I’ve spent a lifetime investigating the methods of brainwashing, mind control, thought reform, coercive control – call it what you will – and it is vital to have details of any such program; the often incremental steps. The frightening documentary Manson: The Lost Tapes was not available to O’Neill. It shows remaining ‘Family’ members only days after Manson’s arrest and the later testimony of the girls then filmed is a keen insight into the madness of the Family. None of them mention Jolly West.

Jolly is indeed O’Neill’s white whale. Chaos is not the only place where he heaps blame upon Jolly. In an interview with Eric Hunley, O’Neill says West ‘snapped’ Ruby into insanity in a single session. No corroborating evidence is offered and no explanation of the method used.

In an article in The Intercept, O’Neill asserts ‘Louis Jolyon West seems to have used chemicals and hypnosis liberally in his medical practice, possibly leading to the death of a child and the execution of an innocent man.’ If West could do this in 1954 – when these dreadful events took place – the whole MKULTRA program would have been redundant: if O’Neill’s speculation is accepted, a programmed killer had been made and the CIA’s quest was complete. The program continued for another twenty years without, as far as we know, achieving this objective.

While I’ve met many people who were exploited into allowing others to interpret their reality, I’ve yet to find any case among the thousands I’ve looked into where anyone was turned into a compliant robot (my own Opening Our Minds explores the many ways in which obedience, groupthink and deliberate thought reform work). Yes, it is possible to make people act against their own best interests and even their own morality, even to sacrifice their lives for the good of a bogus cause, but to maintain murderous conviction requires rather more than a few positive suggestions and a few tabs of LSD.

In fact, the first stage of mind control is the creation of feelings of knowing, a spurious ‘certainty.’ This ‘certainty’ is based upon belief rather than evidence. Mind control is undone when the individual discards the feelings of knowing, the sense of certainty, by accepting hard evidence that they are just feelings. O’Neill has successfully convinced many people of his own certainty. As yet, as he admits, he has only circumstantial evidence to support that certainty. It remains an unproven hypothesis; a speculation, worth further investigation, but not yet worth believing.

In O’Neill’s account, West has become a magician with supernatural abilities beyond description or explanation. But O’Neill is not Captain Ahab. He worked not for revenge but in the hope of understanding an awful series of events. That is a noble endeavour. He amassed a mountain of research, and his work was meticulous. I do not question his integrity, just his conclusions.

— Jon Atack



Technology Cocktail

“Any confusion about the state of clear is a confusion of these three terms: Mest Clear, Theta Clear and OT. An uninformed public thinks a Mest Clear should act like an OT with magical attributes. It is not enough that the general auditor can now approximate a Book One Clear. The public, striving for unattainable attributes, wants an OT who eats buildings..” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1959



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

“In Dianetics, if you don’t think you could produce ‘therapies’ which would produce convulsions, break people out in rashes, make them walk on the ceiling and have their ears rot off, you are foolish. You definitely could. You are working here with the basic tools; you are working with what is wrong. And when you are working with what is really wrong with the human psyche, you can of course just specialize in making it more wrong. For instance, you can take a preclear down the time track and turn on a fever that won’t turn off for two or three days. That is spectacular! You can actually send him down the time track and get him into a fever engram and take his temperature or see that his skin is very hot to the touch, and he will have a fever.” — L. Ron Hubbard, June 28, 1951


Avast, Ye Mateys

“THE ENEMY: Nelson Rockefeller finances and pushes forward the Totalitarian idea of Population Control by Psychiatry and his foundations try to shove us around. In the news he and his family interests are under heavy attack in South America. Rhodesia’s anti-Ron government just gets in deeper and deeper. I wrote Smith a Constitution permitting black representation while maintaining white interests that Britain and the Rhodesian white both would have bought. The govt answer was refusal to extend my visa. That the people of Rhodesia remained on our side is attested by three orgs there now. That Smith is on the side of psychiatry is attested by a new big psychiatric clinic next door to the jail. The enemy is having a very hard time. He is going counter to a world where comm is pushing freedom into being. We are going with the flood tide of world opinion. The enemy is floundering against it. We only have to expand and endure to win.” — The Commodore, June 28, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“We have evil people (SPs) and they can be created by a cancer growing in their head or something and it made them evil, or at work they got stabbed in the head with metal, and then after that turned evil, so their whole track hasn’t changed, it’s the same person. And when they got stabbed in the head at work there was no person around talking commands. So in these situations engrams were not really involved, it’s simply more a physical reason for them being evil, not some whole track engram theory. I think our bodies are like cars, and when they are not functioning right whether it by being evil or gay, it’s due to simple physical reasons like them living in a house with a mold problem for years and this infects their body and attacks it and they end up being retarded from it or something. It’s nothing to do with memories of the past. I’ve just looked into this topic heaps and I’m telling you there’s all these physical reasons for people’s aberrations, and Hubbard’s engram or body thetan theories most of the time don’t prove to be correct. But I do agree that sometimes they are right. I think he’s done a massive exaggeration with his theory, he exaggerates a lot. I think for some people’s problems they really are caused by memories and it ain’t a physical thing, there’s evidence for this.”



Past is Prologue

1997: The St. Petersburg Times reported this week that Scientology has finalized plans for the new Super Power building, to be built across from the Ft. Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. “The mammoth building would be part of a complex featuring an 800-space parking garage and a 2,500-seat auditorium. A church official said Tuesday that construction is expected to begin this year. With an estimated 340,000 square feet of space, the office building alone would dwarf many of the larger office buildings in downtown Clearwater. It would have roughly the same square footage as the Barnett Tower in downtown St. Petersburg. Under the new plans, the office building would be six stories tall, with a 12-story tower on the southwest corner that would be skinnier than the rest of the building. It would be built across the street from Scientology’s signature building in Clearwater, the Fort Harrison Hotel. A covered walkway over S Fort Harrison Avenue would join the two buildings. Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said the church was leaning toward a design for the office building that would echo the 1920s-era Mediterranean Revival-style architecture of the Fort Harrison Hotel. Previous plans for a building with a dramatic space-age design are now ‘not as likely,’ Anderson said. Some say that Scientology expansion is not what Clearwater needs. ‘It concerns me that churches are taking over downtown rather than businesses,’ said Roger Woodruff, head of the Downtown Development Board. ‘I would like to see a private business there that would be on the tax rolls.’


Random Howdy

“Two eggs over easy, hash browns, and either two Italian sausage or four bangers and dark rye toast. Thanks. Oh, and a double tequila sunrise in a pint glass.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody. Sentencing on Aug 4.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Trial scheduled for August 15.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs allowed interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
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 sentencing of Masterson on Aug 4.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Next hearing August 1.
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] Odd coincidence: For now, Paul Haggis and Danny Masterson both have trial dates of Oct 11
[TWO years ago] Ron Miscavige, Scientology whistleblower and father of the church leader, 1936-2021
[THREE years ago] Scientology will see you now! Orgs are reopening in safe and not so safe places
[FOUR years ago] Your brain on Scientology: ‘I am the hurricane’
[FIVE years ago] Scientology rock ‘n’ roller goes back to his days with L. Ron Hubbard at sea
[SIX years ago] Federal judge tells Scientology to cool its jets, says arbitration is ‘imminent’
[SEVEN years ago] How Google is getting gamed in the fight both for and against the Church of Scientology
[EIGHT years ago] Project Normandy, 2015: Paulette Cooper has landed in Clearwater — Scientology’s ‘Mecca’
[NINE years ago] Scientology’s secret plan to take over the world — here it is!
[TEN years ago] Blogging Scientology’s Bible: Vance, We’ve Reached the Finish Line!


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 3,074 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,589 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,139 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,129 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,010 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,314 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,185 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,290 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,737 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,079 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,645 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,564 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,731 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,313 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,574 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,610 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,326 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,890 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,205 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,380 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,931 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,062 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,400 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,255 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,374 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,730 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,033 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,139 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,537 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,413 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,996 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,491 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,745 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,854 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 28, 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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