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He helped launch Scientology’s cruise ship, and later was cast aside by the church

[Bill Straass]

Recently I got word that my good buddy Bill Straass had passed away.

I first met Bill in the summer of 1985 when I was the Dissemination Secretary on the Ship Project, the project to man-up and purchase a cruise ship on which to deliver “New OTVIII” and the newly released “OT Hatting” courses in the tranquil waters of the Caribbean. Bill was among the Flag Land Base Sea Org staff who had volunteered to become crew members on the ship at a Flag event announcing the Ship Project. He had been the FSO NOTS HGC Board IC (Flag Service Organization New Era Dianetics for OTs Hubbard Guidance Center In-Charge, now that’s a mouthful) up to the point at which we were able to replace him on that post and bring him onto the Ship Project.

Bill was legendary at Flag for having busted Pierre Ethier, the famed Class XII auditor and perennial FSO “Auditor of The Year,” for falsifying his auditing hours! Upon learning of Bill’s report, Pierre promptly threatened to kill Bill if he didn’t retract the Knowledge Report he’d written. Undaunted, Bill stood his ground and refused. An investigation got done and Pierre got an Ethics program. That was the thing about Bill, he was absolutely fearless when exposing any type of malfeasance or abuse of power.

Bill and I were both mechanics by nature, and up to the point at which we got to the ship and started working in the engine room, we were, although competent at our Ship Project posts, “fish out of water,” so to speak – we definitely weren’t admin types. Nevertheless, over the course of the next year, we actually did man-up and purchase a cruise ship which we would then re-christen, “Freewinds.” Once on board, Bill was posted as the Engine Room “Mechanic’s Chief” – in charge of the Machinery Unit and all of the mechanics in its various sub-units – consisting of a dozen people. It was a huge responsibility.

At that time I was his Main Engine Mechanic. Between late 1986 and up to the Freewinds Maiden Voyage in June 1988, we worked day and night to make the Freewinds ship-shape to be able to sail safely and accommodate passengers. Bill faced this awesome responsibility with unflinching confront and brilliant management of his personnel. We did indeed “pull off a miracle” – all while passing the stringent Det Norske Veritas Classification Society inspections for passenger vessels. To give you an idea of the scope of that responsibility, I will just say this: A cruise ship is like a small city. It has to provide not only water, sewer, electricity and all of the amenities of a fine resort hotel, it has to do that reliably and consistently while plying the Seven Seas. Not an easy task.


On a cruise ship, the sailing schedule is like the Bible; it is held inviolate. Not only is the ship’s itinerary planned months in advance, it’s also booked at least six weeks in advance at all times. Passengers are beginning or ending their cruise at nearly every port, so the ship cannot miss an arrival or departure time, as people are flying in or out from most of those ports. Like I said, Bill’s job was an awesome responsibility. He also maintained these standards long after my wife Karry and I left the Sea Org in late 1994. Bill and his wife Alison stayed in the S.O. until 2003.

Bill was in the Sea Org for a total of 23 years. He and I served together for 9 of those years. We had many adventures and I could tell many stories. But the story I want to tell today is that of a man who loved his fellow man enough to defy death many times in pursuit of an ideal. He loved to strive, overcome and accomplish… and then celebrate!

Bill was the most brilliant diagnostician I have ever known. He just plain understood how things work. No matter if it was the ship’s 28-foot-tall main engines or the sophisticated and computerized electronic radar equipment on the Bridge, when literally no one else could figure it out, Bill would come in, find the problem and fix it. His piercing intellect also gave Bill unique insight into the subject of “knowing how to know,” a/k/a, Scientology. Bill was like a human E-meter. When examining any problem or listening to any conversation. if something “read,” Bill would instantly recognize the outpoint or truth and (without discretion!) spit it out, often to the enlightenment, chagrin, or offense of the person in question. Bill didn’t care one way or another, he wanted truth and justice — not out of any desire for retribution or petty revenge, but for actual enlightenment and for Karmic equilibrium. In this regard, Bill was without peer.

Bill loved to have fun too. Whether it was enjoying a pizza and a couple of beers while on a weekend liberty, watching a movie in the crew lounge, or reveling at the annual Christmas “Bosun’s Party” – (with a bottle of Bacardi 151 rum in hand) Bill was all about having a good time and blowing off some steam after a hard day’s work, completing a major task or celebrating the close of another year. He had a wicked sense of humor and was always entertaining to be around. I have many fond memories of our times together, both good and bad. His “black humor” when all was lost, encouraged me to get through many times of despair.

Bill was also instrumental in my own survival during my harrowing ordeal on the ship. He literally saved my life by sneaking me untainted food and water as I lay dying on the deck in an aft compartment of the ship. I had not eaten or drunk anything for over a week, as they were putting drugs in my food and drink. This was after I had been subject to long-term sleep deprivation, Black Dianetics and other forms of psychological torture, which literally drove me into a psychotic break. Bill’s life-saving assistance at that time inspired me to survive the ensuing 15 months of imprisonment, drugging, systematic demoralization and prodding to commit suicide. He has my undying gratitude for this heroic act of defiance.

Bill was finally himself forced out of the Sea Org after events developed following a bleeding ulcer. Bill was a hemophiliac, genetically missing a crucial coagulant factor in his blood. Someone with this condition cannot stop bleeding if wounded. For him, a bleeding ulcer was a life and death situation. Upon this discovery, Bill was sent ashore to a hospital in Curaçao. It was there that he received an infusion of a couple of units of blood. Unknown to anyone at that time, the blood was tainted with HIV. (It was in 1989, before the blood supply was being screened correctly for HIV). I will spare you the agonizing and tragic details of what followed, those stories are well documented on the internet, but suffice to say that it cost him everything, his health, two marriages, his life’s ambition, his subsequent attempts at establishing careers… everything.

Bill wound up on Public Assistance and living in public housing in the state of Maine. Despite all of this and his bitterness at the inhuman treatment he received from Church of Scientology officials, whenever we would call each other on the phone, he would fondly reminisce about our time and adventures together in the Sea Org, and what could have been.

Thank you Bill, for all you did for your fellows. Fair winds and following seas, my friend – until we meet again.

— Scott Campbell


Technology Cocktail/

“An auditor who cannot handle the Time Track smoothly can scarcely call himself an auditor as that’s all there is to audit besides postulates, no matter what process you are using, no matter what process you invent and even if you tried what is laughingly called a ‘biochemical approach’ to the mind. There’s only a Time Track for the bios to affect.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1963




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 [43] Tory Christman [44] Kate Bornstein [45] Christian Stolte [46] Mark Bunker [47] Jon Atack [48] Luke Y. Thompson [49] Mark Ebner [50] Bruce Hines [51] Spanky Taylor and Karen Pressley [51] Geoff and Robbie Levin [52] Sands Hall [53] Jonny Jacobsen [54] Sandy Holeman



Source Code

“Auditing itself depends to some degree on miracle healing. And the longer you sit back waiting for the process to do it, and the longer you sit back waiting for Ron to do it, the less it’s going to happen. You’re not going to make Clears waiting for something else to do it. You’re going to do it. If you don’t do it — look, who else is there! There’s the pc and he’s been an aberree for the last 15 trillion, squillion years, hasn’t he? He’s been spinning ever since they pulled his last temple down on his head or whatever happened. Well, if he could get out of the bank just at a whoooo, he wouldn’t be your pc, so he can’t do it. And when you’re in an auditing room all by yourself with just the pc, you know, and a couple of chairs or couch or something, you look around real carefully and find out who else in that room is going to do it! Nobody going to do it but you.” — L. Ron Hubbard, November 9, 1959


Avast, Ye Mateys

“THIS PORT: This is a very upstat area and our general relations with the shore are very good. We will be here for 15 days or more, at this or some other dock, as we are getting heat into the tween decks and holds and having some other repairs done. So if you have any extensive work or actions that need doing, now is the time to do them. As the World Health Organization is not all that good in restricting epidemics and although there is nothing particular wrong here, you are warned not to eat fresh fruits without peeling them and fresh uncooked foods ashore. Also do not drink any fresh water that has not been chlorinated.” — The Commodore, November 9, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Apparently and theres evidence for this in my researches, aliens or beings from outside this dimension abduct people and tinker with their DNA, giving them dna that makes them more prone to certain actions like enslaving others, then these aliens dont have to physically invade a planet, they just tinker with the locals DNA and these guys then go setting up a New World Order and they are Earthlings who are doing it to their own planet!…Hubbard seems to be talking about this sort of stuff in the OT8 Truth Revealed Briefing. He refers to beings exterior to time and how they work through others in order to take over certain areas of the mest universe. This is my best guess as to what he is trying to explain in that document.”


Past is Prologue

1998: The State of Florida this week charged Scientology with crimes in connection with the death of Lisa McPherson, who did in their care in 1995. From the Associated Press: “The Church of Scientology was charged Friday in the 1995 death of a member whose family claimed the church held her against her will for 17 days. Prosecutor Bernie McCabe charged the church with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license, both felonies.” From Reuters: “The indictment presented by McCabe charges the Church of Scientology with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and with practicing medicine without a license, but does not charge any individual church members. The indictment alleges that McPherson was psychotic. It says she was kept isolated, prevented from leaving the church building and given medicine without her consent.”



Random Howdy

“How long did it take for the Shakers to cease to exist? As far as I’m concerned that’s the basic scenario we’re looking at here. The feds aren’t going to do anything about Scientology ever and there’s not going to be any Jonestown event (thank gawd) so what does that leave except a fade out to non-existence?”


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. Sentenced to 30 years to life on Sep 7.
‘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 October 30.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, Scientology submitting anti-SLAPP response Oct 26.
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: Discovery phase.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Scientology moves for religious arbitration.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Ordered to mediation.



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] BIZARRE: Scientologist figure Tommy Davis accosts two Paul Haggis trial witnesses in Soho
[TWO years ago] Profs looking at tiny groups of American ‘indies’ miss Scientology’s big issues
[THREE years ago] How Scientology can prove us wrong about L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘sheep-dipped’ valor
[FOUR years ago] The Scientology-‘Ancient Aliens’ tie-in we just know you were waiting for
[FIVE years ago] Someone is faking Lawrence Wright emails — and this one is about the Underground Bunker
[SIX years ago] French-kissing Wilt Chamberlain: Adventures of a teenager in the skeezy world of Scientology
[SEVEN years ago] How a new independent ‘church’ is trying to wrestle away control over the word ‘Scientology’
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology on the high seas: When L. Ron Hubbard was still making tech ‘breakthroughs’
[NINE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Kirstie Alley is now Super Powered!
[TEN years ago] Luis Garcia Responds to Scientology’s Arbitration Scheme
[ELEVEN years ago] SHOCKER: Court Punishes Scientology For Acting Like…Scientology


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 3,208 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,723 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,273 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,263 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,144 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,448 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,319 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,424 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,871 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,213 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,779 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,698 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,865 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,447 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,708 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,744 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,460 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 3,024 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,339 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,514 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 7,065 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,196 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,534 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,389 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,508 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,864 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,167 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,273 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,671 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,547 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,112 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,625 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,879 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,988 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 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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