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Getting the stink out of Scientology’s Saint Hill Manor: A special remembrance

In recent weeks, conditions at Scientology’s UK headquarters, known as Saint Hill Manor, and its relations with local elected leaders, has become an issue thanks to the hard work of Alex Barnes-Ross. Alex asked for accounts of what life in Saint Hill is really like, and today we have a real treat. Karen Pressley answered that call by adapting and augmenting some of the material in her 2017 book, Escaping Scientology, for this extended look at life there in the 1990s.

The sole reason I stood in the driveway before the looming Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, Sussex, England in Spring 1993 was because I had been sent on a mission from Scientology’s Int Management base by the Chairman of the Board RTC, Captain David Miscavige.

My orders were to design, manufacture, and implement new Sea Org uniforms for the UK crew — within a few months. Why now, and why such a rush? Because Saint Hill was to host the International Association of Scientologists conference that coming October.

As part of this challenge, Dave had personally told me to “get the stink out of the staff.” He wanted all the crew to be transformed from their “smelly, slovenly state” to sparkling examples of what Scientology technology could do for them and for the world.


Saint Hill had always been the land of wonder in Scientology, still holding the magic of the 1960s era when founder L. Ron Hubbard lived there, wrote hundreds of policy letters and bulletins that comprise the “technology” of Scientology, and built what became a “Saint Hill-size” organization, the model for all Scientology organizations.

I was about to discover various truths about Saint Hill that would belie any humanitarian motives of Scientology and the Sea Org, and would discover more truths about Dave.

While working at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre in the 1980s, where personal and professional image was everything, and then working on the CC INT uniform project under Miscavige in the early ‘90s, I had observed that the most important thing in Scientology to Dave was not human beings, but image — along with the money that good image would bring in. The Hubbard policies about “the public knows us by our MEST” and “image is income” was Dave’s life blood. He wanted the crew to look as good as the building, so he could get an increased return on the millions of dollars Scientology had spent to build the Saint Hill castle.

Before I had I left for the mission, I’ll never forget the conversation with Miscavige and Marc Yager when Dave had personally told me to “get the stink out of the staff.” Yager had feigned a choking gag as he described the body odor of the crew here, as well as at AOSHEU in Copenhagen, the European headquarters. Looking back on that conversation, I pictured them as two aristocrats, like 18th century French bourgeoisie who held hankies to their nostrils as they walked among the smelly commoners. To them, the Scientology empire was an exemplar of progress, and as senior executives who ran the empire, they were privy to a higher standard of sophisticated living that included daily luxuries, such as $300 custom-made uniform shirts, their uniforms dry cleaned or laundered for them, three meals a day cooked by a five-star chef and served to them by stewards at white-tableclothed dining tables, and weekly bonuses and commissions. They were so disassociated from the realities of Sea Org life in the lower ranks of outer orgs that their aristocratic views lived only within their aristocratic bubbles. The idyllic Scientology life that they sold to paying customers was utterly offset by the harsher realities that the working class of Sea Org minions experienced.

While Dave and Marc officed in the luxurious quarters of the Saint Hill Manor, and stayed at a nearby five-star hotel, the Saint Hill crew living at Bullards barely had enough hot water to bathe and wash their clothes. Were Dave and Marc oblivious, or just uncaring, that the expansion of Scientology and the reputation of Saint Hill and the entirety of the Sea Org came at the cost of back-breaking, family-breaking, soul-breaking labor?

Upon arrival, I eyed with reverence the old stone mansion where Hubbard had lived and the sprawling grounds that led to the castle. In the years before I arrived there as a missionaire, “Saint Hill” had been an omnipresence in my world as a Scientologist. Like every other Scientologist, I learned about Saint Hill from the voluminous photos of Hubbard there that Scientology used in its promotional and training materials, in his taped lectures, policies, training films, and stories from old-time Scientologists who had trained on the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course to become an auditor.

My friend Ron Miscavige, Dave’s father, had told me stories about how he moved his family to Saint Hill when Dave was a teen suffering from asthma, and Ron believed that Dave would solve his own medical problems by learning Scientology and becoming an auditor. Saint Hill was the model for all orgs playing the annual Birthday Game, where staff and public strived all year up to Hubbard’s birthday on March 13 to build up their org to the size of Old Saint Hill and beyond. In Scientology’s typical pretentious style, we had been told that Hubbard had bought the place from the Maharajah of Jaipur who had built it in the 1700s, as if that added to the importance of Hubbard’s life and Scientology. In my mind, Saint Hill was to Scientology what the Vatican was to the Roman Catholic Church.

This was my first experience as a First Class missionaire and leading a project of this magnitude. Here I was in another country, with no network of resources or familiar suppliers.

AOSH UK was supposed to finance the uniforms, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, and I had to push that through their weekly FPs (financial plannings and allocations). After seeing the poor condition of the execs and crew — from the admin and tech delivery areas to the many types of Estates workers and kitchen staff — I wondered what the hell Dave was thinking. How did he expect to hang beautiful new clothing on their bodies, when they barely showered or washed their hair or their uniforms once per week and only if there was enough hot water, and expect to have a transformed image? Where was the money supposed to come from out of an FP that wasn’t even covering repairs on the crumbling staff berthing buildings, better childcare conditions, and medical care for the crew who were clearly in need.

Evidently, Scientology had not been having the wondrous, sparkling effect in their lives as the marketing materials of Scientology promised, because they looked neglected and worn out. While I could be accused of having a “worker-oriented” attitude about this, I contend that when the Sea Org takes on members, who are told to be at cause over all aspects of life, they should also care for the well-being of the members and not just use them up until they finally drop and are discarded, as is the Sea Org way.

It would be easy to fail at this massive project that had so many moving parts. Deep down, I was incredulous that Dave and and his wife Shelly had entrusted me with this project, considering my recent history at the Int base that is a significant precursor to how I approached this opportunity to do the Saint Hill makeover:

Between 1990 and 1993, I had escaped from the Int Base in California twice, and returned twice. After first arriving at the Int Base in late ’89, I realized after it was too late that I had put myself on the wrong path, merging myself into an assemblage of 800 souls at a secret desert location surrounded by chain link fences topped with barbed wire. This group seemed more like a battleground of chaos in a pool of confusion than an elite group with the lofty quest to spearhead the clearing of the planet. For me, the quest became tortured, like avoiding land mines while having to climb steep, jagged mountain trails leading to treacherous cliffs where pitching myself over the edge would have been more pleasant than persisting through the prevailing madness.

My first escape in 1990 and my return two weeks later landed me in the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) at Happy Valley. I labored as an indentured slave with the rest of the RPFers for about six months, where I saw unthinkable acts of inhumanity, until the RPF was disbanded. I returned to my post in the Cine Art Department, where I had worked before my first escape, helping to create films to propagandize Scientology.

For the next 2.5 years, the Int Base was a war zone under siege from iron-fisted, heavy-handed leadership. I saw an epidemic of coerced abortions, and enforced divorces that broke up Sea Org marriages to prove loyalty to Dave. We endured the war that emerged after TIME magazine published Rick Behar’s 1991 cover story, “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power,” which drove Dave nearly psychotic when he stepped up his physical abuse of staff. Leadership enforced Sea Org regimented drills, military-style marching, and an old yacht Apollo practice of “over boarding” by throwing Sea Org members into the lake who were committing mistakes. Sleep deprivation and working slave hours of 16-18 hour days with no time off became a norm that we were expected to endure, along with blatant psychological and physical abuse. I had lost all confidence in Captain Dave and Scientology and our Int Base team. The Int base showed no signs of standard application of Scientology, and we showed no signs that we were on our way to clearing the planet.


By 1993, I desperately tried to get my husband Peter to leave with me so we could return to the real world, get our careers back in the entertainment business, and get the hell away from this madhouse. But he wouldn’t leave, so I had escaped alone. Why did I come back after my first and second escapes? Peter. We didn’t want our marriage to end, and he insisted that we remain at the base. I could barely confront what I had realized about him: he had become blinded to Sea Org atrocities, and had lost his willingness to defend his own personal values. The second time, after two weeks away, I couldn’t take the separation, broke down and came back again.

They didn’t send me to the RPF this time. Instead, I was left to decay at the Old Gilman House working in the greenhouse behind chain link fences topped with barbed wire, with plenty of time to think. There were no handcuffs on me, but I knew I couldn’t get out. After three months of confinement, I broke. I knew I didn’t want to leave Peter, and I was defiant against Miscavige winning by splitting us up as he had done to many other Sea Org couples.

I concluded that there was no way to win in Miscavige’s Sea Org, other than to play the games of Int Base politics which meant, suck up to leaders and support command intention to avoid discipline, while working my way up the ranks into positions of more responsibility and control, where I was no longer at the bottom of the base hierarchy. Shit rolls downhill, and I was tired of living that way. I did my liability formula, got enough signatures to rejoin the group, and returned to living with Peter.

In a surprising turn of fate, I was not reposted back in Gold, where I had escaped from twice. Mark Ingber, then CO CMO INT, said that since Gold had been unable to “put in my ethics” and I had escaped twice, they shouldn’t get me back. So, that was the mindset for why I got posted in a higher org. I was assigned to be a proofreader in LRH Book Compilations (RComps), a division of the Senior Executive Strata. In a few months, I learned proofreading skills and became quite good at it. All day, every day, I read original LRH policies, looking for typos and other inaccuracies (which we did find and report.)

One miraculous, life-changing day, an RTC Messenger had come to see me in RComps, to tell me that COB (the moniker Dave goes by, for “Chairman of the Board”) needed my clothing design skills for an important project: I was to design new uniforms for the Sea Org crew at Saint Hill. I felt like I had a received a golden ticket.

Miscavige must have remembered that I had done good work for the CC INT uniform project with Italian designer Claudio Lugli, so he was trusting me again with this work. COB Assistant Shelly Miscavige briefed me on what was needed and wanted, and entrusted me to propose a solution for how to get everything manufactured in the UK in a short time. Before I could leave, I had to complete the First Class Missionaire training while getting my design plan approved by COB.

When I told Peter about the project, he was not happy about me going and didn’t want me to do it. But he didn’t have a say in the plan because this was a COB order. Peter and I had been married for 14 years by that time. I despised our Sea Org lifestyle, because we hardly ever saw each other. We worked 16-plus hours per day, and often had to stay late on “all-hands” projects. Peter’s musician post kept him up on frequent all-nighters producing music for the next event videos. In other words, next to no time for a real marriage.

This project was run from the Action Bureau in Commodore’s Messenger Org International, who sent me to CMO UK, who would give me an office and assign me an assistant there to help me get the project done.

Yes, of course I would accept the project. The irony of the Sea Org is that they make you feel like they are doing you a favor by giving you opportunities to sacrifice your life and well-being to achieve its causes, while they put you in oftentimes absurd and even life-challenging circumstances that you have to overcome, to achieve your purpose and avoid discipline for failing.

My mission kept me busy, totally focused on doing what I loved. I buried myself in the tasks of researching clothing manufacturers in London and all around the UK, including Ireland and Scotland, before I selected Burlington Uniforms to be our primary supplier. We immediately got the ball rolling to get all the manufacturing done within a few months. Burlington’s used manufacturing facilities in northern England where fine wool suits had traditionally been made. We selected a shirt manufacturing company in Northern Ireland and a sweater manufacturer in Glasgow, Scotland. I designed a gold and silver button with a Sea Org symbol that Burlington’s produced for us in Italy. I designed an embroidered jacket emblem, called a “crest” or a patch in England, for the AOSH jackets. The first prototype was made by a team of artists who stitched accessories for the Queen of England, and Burlington’s took our prototype to Pakistan to oversee quality control and production of them, since these patches (hundreds) were individually hand-stitched.

CMO UK arranged an assistant to help me, a young woman named Lyndell, who I found out had been on waiting lines for months to get out of the Sea Org. The day I met her, my heart sank. She was dangerously thin, with pasty-looking skin and straggly hair. Her teeth needed cleaning and repair, and her Sea Org uniform looked like she had worn it daily for years. Lyndell’s quality of life became a personal mission that became just as important as the uniform project to me. My first order of business was to find out what had led to her wanting to leave. Getting to know Lyndell and her family opened my eyes wider to the fact that Sea Org members outside of the U.S. lived in far worse conditions than the ones I had observed in PAC, CC, and LA, which were already pathetic. She was unhappy about the horrid Sea Org living conditions, but especially the sub-standards conditions in which her children were being raised and “educated,” while she and her husband dedicated their lives working at Saint Hill at least twelve hours per day.

They lived at Bullard’s, which provided insufficient heat to the already drafty stone building. The children’s “day care” facilities were substandard in cleanliness and supervision, hardly an image for a facility taking care of the organization’s elite corps Sea Org members. Hot running water was a scarcity rather than a normal provision, so cleanliness for herself and her children was not something she could count on. These seemed like impossible challenges for me to change on top of accomplishing my mission project in a short time.

Knowing that I had to get this project done no matter what, I had to exert some control over Lyndell’s choices and actions, but I chose compassion over heavy handedness. She didn’t like working on a project from Int Management, because she didn’t think highly of management that sucked so much money from Saint Hill, leaving them on a measly FP budget to supply staff ’s needs.

She didn’t want to help the organization that had led to the decline of her family; she only wanted out. I hoped working on her personal wellness would help change her mind about leaving the Sea Org. I felt somewhat guilty about that, considering I had escaped the Sea Org as well. I wanted to help salvage her as an individual who had gone into a personal spiral of decline. I never once told her that I had escaped the Sea Org myself, and couldn’t help but think of my own past personal issues and the desperate measures I had taken to resolve them. Even though I was a Sea Org member from the most senior org in the Scientology world, I honestly didn’t blame Lyndell for feeling the way she did.


I addressed her as a woman buried under a mass of conflicts and circumstances that she felt unable to control, with her dynamics wildly out of alignment (like many Sea Org members). I pushed through some expense money to buy her some new daily clothing (Uniform K, plain clothes) to wear when we traveled to London to do some of the project tasks. I also required AOSH to purchase some new Sea Org uniform parts, starting with new shoes and a Class A uniform that she could wear with pride. I also cut and styled her hair, and arranged for her to go to the dentist. Most importantly, I made sure she left on time at the end of the day, so that she could pick up her children on time, and get a decent night’s sleep. That’s something I also afforded myself while I was on this project. There was no need to work 16 to 18 hours daily and sabotage my personal wellness, as was the routine at the Int base.

During our project, Lyndell and her husband were able to move to better, more respectable living quarters. However, nothing changed with the sub-standard child care situation. This remained an ongoing, troublesome issue for her and the other Sea Org members at Saint Hill. But I’m certain that my empathy toward undesirable Sea Org conditions and my lack of judging her for her doubt in the Sea Org helped her to open up to me, and become more willing to help me.

I took it upon myself to do a personal makeover on nearly all the men and women at Saint Hill. This included hairstyling and cuts, and makeup and grooming instructions on more than one hundred staff. The most significant challenge to good hygiene had been less about personal negligence and more about lack of hot water due to bad plumbing in Bullards. I went to CMO UK execs and said that the plumbing problems in Bullards and the other berthing building had to be fixed immediately as part of this mission. We also had all the staff restudy the Sea Org issues about grooming and cleanliness, not from the perspective of reprimand, but to put an emphasis on wellness and the self-care that they deserved. The better solution would have been to move out of Bullard’s into modern living quarters, which didn’t happen at that time, but I know that did happen a few years later.

Lack of cleanliness was rampant at Saint Hill. I had been given a bunk in a dorm room of CMO girls who lived at the Stables. I’ll never forget when two of the girls in my room had head lice. It gave me the creeps knowing that the people sleeping above me and near to me had head lice. I could understand why this might have happened, since it was so difficult and inconvenient for them to shower frequently. When you have to walk down the hall and then wait in line, after working 16-hour days, and the water is not hot, sometimes it’s easier to just skip the shower. Plus, Sea Org members probably didn’t afford much shampoo and soap.

Since my project required so much research and finding sources to buy many other uniform accessories, we traveled all over London and parts of England to do this job. We’d take the train from East Grinstead to Victoria Station, where we’d get on the Tube or jump on the red double-decker buses. Burlington’s was just a few streets away from Savile Row, the historic center of hand-tailored suits in London. I’d frequent the shops on Savile Row, studying the tailoring details of fine clothiers, learning a set of standards that I gradually applied to my own design projects.

In seven months, I learned my way around London, and sometimes justified ways to combine my research with a little sightseeing, which contributed to my personal wellness. In Greenwich, I saw the lines of demarcation that have marked international time zones since the 1500s. Sights of Roman walls, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Oxford University, all became part of my research trips. I studied coats of arms that I saw throughout England, which influenced my design for Saint Hill’s uniform emblem and the overall sense of style for this project.

We took a few excursions out of London to do quality control. We went to Edinburgh, Scotland and did a little sightseeing around the Edinburgh Castle before we picked up the train to Glasgow, where we’d go to inspect the production of our uniform sweaters. There, I caught a grievous error of our Sea Org buttons sewn onto the cardigan sweaters upside down. Doing quality control of my products proved to be the best investment of my time that guaranteed excellent results in the end.

On another excursion, we went to the northern tip of Ireland, overlooking the North Sea, where our uniform shirts were being made. The journey had been a great part of our adventure; we took the speed train up to Manchester and then took a flight to Belfast. There we got picked up by an Irish cabbie who drove us to the coast between Coleraine and Bushmills. I ate homemade shortbread hot out of the ovens of a tiny village bakery in Ayr. We had lunch in an inn overlooking the North Sea, where I devoured fresh caught whitefish and chips served with malt vinegar. We went out to Giant’s Causeway for a walk along Ireland’s legendary coast, which I believed should be added as an eighth wonder of the world.

Lyndall and I accomplished the incredible feat of getting all the uniform parts manufactured and delivered as planned and on time. She did an excellent job setting up the Saint Hill Chapel as the showroom and distribution center for the initial uniform release. Rows of tables held the many types of shoes and boots, socks and stockings, ties for men and women, sweaters, Sea Org insignia, and racks of suit jackets, skirts, pants and shirts, coats, gloves, scarves — everything a Sea Org member needed for the harsh English weather. Eager faces of staff waiting to get in beamed through the Chapel Door windows for an hour before the release. When we opened the Chapel doors, staff rushed in to fulfill their list of parts they were entitled to receive.

Everyone rushed through the aisles filling their arms as if on a frenetic shopping spree, like kids in a magical candy store. I recall the joy on Lyndell’s face, watching them receive all these wondrous things that transformed at least their outer image. For these Sea Org members who, before this, only had one pair of pants and one shirt that they washed every once in a while, this was beyond anything like the best Christmas they could imagine.

The Saint Hill staff transformation was ultimately gratifying. I walked around the Saint Hill base, observing our result on the crew doing their jobs. From the auditors and supervisors in the technical division, to the servers in the mess hall, the executive staff, and the estates crew, their faces beamed. I couldn’t help but notice that some staff even carried themselves differently. I was humbled when they sometimes gushed with appreciation, saying “Thank you sir.” I wondered if this project would have had the same results if it had only been a uniform manufacturing mission. And I couldn’t help but think that caring about the well being of Sea Org members had been such missing element in Sea Org life.

Before we completed the project, Lyndell decided to remain in the Sea Org. She was posted as the Uniform In-Charge for the Saint Hill base. My work would be finished when I had documented the lines for taking care of the uniform parts, and knew that Lyndell would maintain the uniforms, organize the storage of parts, maintain good relationships with our vendors, and handle the orders for replenishment through the supply lines we had established in the UK. We had overcome every challenge to finish our project in time for the IAS event that October. Gold crew who came over to Saint Hill to produce the event raved about how great the staff looked.

One day, David Miscavige and Marc Yager also showed up, telling me they came to Saint Hill to preview the setups for the upcoming IAS event. They were (and I’m not exaggerating) spilling over with compliments describing the improvement in crew appearance, not something I had ever seen them do.

One day in LRH’s Manor, Miscavige and Yager told me that I was doing an incredible job. They just couldn’t get over the fact that there was no more “staff stink.” They had no idea that I had envisioned them as bourgeoisie aristocrats with hankies covering their nostrils. I realized that this achievement put a notch in my belt for a job well done, inspected personally by COB. This had to be worth an upgrade in my rank, and hopefully my post. Would I go back to being a proofreader after this when I got back?


Sure enough, Miscavige told me, “I have plans for a new post for you when you get back, Karen.” My imagination ran wild, hoping that he would create a post for me to take care of Sea Org staff image. “You’ll work in the events unit in the Int Management PR office, as Cindy Rainer’s art and design assistant. And you’ll get to see Peter for Christmas.”

Great about seeing Peter, but damn about the post. How did my successful mission at Saint Hill translate into working for the events unit? Another “doesn’t make sense” plan from management. Incidents like this further confused me about Miscavige’s mindset, and even his humanity, making him even more of an enigma. Over the years, I had grown from fearing him to despising the way he treated staff when he was unhappy, to appreciating him for bothering to see some of my good qualities, to thanking him for utilizing my skills and enabling me to do something I loved. I had to feign enthusiasm while my heart sank about the post news and privately revolted against the idea of working in the IMPR events unit.

Seeing Peter for Christmas would be great, but being back at the Int base for Christmas meant working over that holiday and, at best, having maybe one-half day off together with little time to actually have a Christmas with Peter. At Saint Hill, I didn’t like the idea of being alone or celebrating my favorite holiday without Peter, but at least I could go into London to enjoy a few hours of holiday celebration and have a white Christmas. After all this, I had come to the conclusion that the Sea Org would say I had other fish to fry, when in my world, I felt I deserved to enjoy certain pleasures in life.

I could have kicked myself for what came out of my mouth next to Miscavige. “Oh, but Sir, I can’t go home yet because I’m not done with this project.” Oops. That was backflash! How stupid could I be?

Miscavige’s fading smile and furrowed eyebrows showed me that was the wrong thing to say. Yager raised his eyebrows with a crooked smile. But then I think COB took my comment as coming from a person very dedicated to my work here. That was, in fact, true but certainly not the total story. I recovered quickly.

“Sir, what I mean is, I want to make sure that my assistant who is taking over the uniform project here is set up to be successful. I have to document everything and make sure she can run the program without me. But otherwise, I can’t wait to get back. Thank you so much.”

“Well done, Karen.”

I had lived in England for seven months at Saint Hill, and never got a single phone call or letter from my husband. I phoned Peter from time to time, defying policy set by the Int base: Phone calls from lower organizations (AOSH) were not allowed to be made to higher organizations (Int base). Red tape also said that higher organizations could not call into lower organizations. We didn’t have cell phones, so the only way he could have called me would have been to drive to a pay phone in Hemet after post late at night, and we were about 6 or 8 hours in different time zones. Either way, I violated Hubbard’s policy by calling Peter from time to time, and that was our only communication for seven months.

The “Saint Hill makeover of 1993” had become far more than a successful image transformation of a Sea Org base. I enjoyed musing over the fact that while I was away at Saint Hill for seven months on a Sea Org mission, I had been able to accomplish and exceed the mission purpose and complete all the targets, while I also slept eight hours every night, took some time off now ago maintain my own wellness and enjoy London, its culture and history. I knew I had helped improve the quality of life for many crew, and to help at least one human being restore control over her life, and I had done it on my own terms, not as a requirement of Sea Org orders.

This experience had also helped me to come to terms with my life, what I had been tolerating as a Sea Org member, and who I really am. I had learned that in order to survive at the Int base within conditions of abuse, violence, and chaos, I would find a way to survive within the omnipresence of their control over my personal world. I could create a version of myself that complied with Sea Org rigors, while in my mind, I would be imaginative and do creative work that represented the best version of myself, without requiring orders. I’d find a way to walk between the molecules without getting blown up by seniors and flaps. A sort of hunger-games circumstance.

After completing this project at Saint Hill, I melded back into the pool of 800 souls at the Int base, and accepted my new role as the Assistant Art Director for Events in the Int Management PR Office. Interestingly, COB and COB Assistant continued to tap me for uniform projects around the Scientology world. I was sent to AOSH EU in Copenhagen to “get the stink out of the staff” and do the same thing there that I had done at Saint Hill. Then, spent about six months at the Flag Land Base designing and implementing new uniforms as part of the public relations handling following the tragic death of Lisa McPherson, to help improve public opinion and acceptance of Scientology in Clearwater by eliminating Flag’s militaristic Sea Org image that had been so objectionable there for years.

And on it went for the next five years. I received a promotion to officer rank, and was finally posted as the International Uniform In-Charge for Sea Org image in the Int Landlord’s office of the International Finance Network. I kept to myself, and lived in my own world of designing and manufacturing clothing for the IAS, the Freewinds, RTC, Gold, and more.

It wasn’t until after I finally escaped in 1998, that I realized why I couldn’t continue to do this work for Scientology, even though I loved the design work. I had been propagandizing Scientology, making it look good around the world, whether while working in Cine to make training propaganda films, while working in the Events Unit to design grandiose staging with huge sets and banners for the senior execs where they would lie about Scientology’s accomplishments, or making Sea Org members look beautiful. There were too many similarities between these actions, and how the infamous Nazi propagandist, Leni Riefenstahl, whom L. Ron Hubbard deeply admired and befriended in London, had used her design and cinematography talents to propagandize the Nazi rallies for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. We had adapted some of her techniques, and Hubbard’s admiration for it, without even being aware of it.

In July 1998, I would compromise my personal values no more, left Peter, and made my third and final escape.


— Karen Pressley


Continuing our year in review: The stories of February 2023

After Valerie Haney had nominated Elisabeth Moss and Tom Cruise to be arbitrators, Judge Gail Killefer said she was giving Valerie one more chance to submit names or risk having her lawsuit thrown out.

Brent and Aimee Jones filed bankruptcy after their Real Water fiasco had been shut down by the FDA and they were facing dozens of ruinous lawsuits.

How embarrassing: A Scientology South African org gets its water shut off for not paying its bill. What’s up with that, Dave?

Scientology unveils another Super Bowl ad, this one titled “Live Again.”

This month’s big story was that a federal court in Tampa determined that David Miscavige was purposely evading service in the trafficking lawsuit there, and named him an official defendant against his objections.

Another unique item this month was the transcript of a recorded conversation that a young Underground Bunker reader had with a veteran OT Scientologist, who was trying to sell them on Dianetics and Scientology. Very revealing!

We marked the passing of Richard Belzer, who had been our friend when we edited the Village Voice, and who got us into a wild roast of Matt Lauer at the Friar’s Club back in the day.

We will also miss Simi Valley, a longtime Underground Bunker reader and former Scientologist, who had passed away late in 2022.

Angry about being named a defendant in the labor trafficking case, David Miscavige asked for more time to respond to the court about it, insisting that he was not properly served.

Valerie Haney submits a new list of 15 names for arbitrator, which includes Jenna Elfman and Giovanni Ribisi, but also some less-well-known figures, one of which Scientology will end up accepting.


A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2022: Louise Shekter began sending us well-written pieces about her time in Scientology. At a February 8 hearing in Danny’s criminal case, one of Scientology’s attorneys showed up, carping about Judge Olmedo. We noted the passing of Ned McCrink. Scientology’s Super Bowl ad was titled “We Are Giants.” Bruce Hines moved us with a piece about the death of his sister. And we noted the passing of former Narconon International president and longtime Scientology figure Clark Carr at 75.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2021: Investigative proof that Balance of Nature has a tight relationship with Scientology. New York investor and Scientologist David Gentile charged for running $1.8 billion Ponzi scheme. Scientology’s Narconon drug rehab network down to only 5 clinics in the US. The world lost jazz great and Scientology celeb Chick Corea. Exposing a Scientology dirty tricks operator, Russ Andrews. And another OT suicide.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2020: Forced to arbitration, Valerie Haney considered her options. An OT dentist in Maryland was unmasked as a sadistic medical disaster. Bobette Riales blamed Scientology for the near-fatal poisoning of her dog Jet. Scientology’s celebrity Narconon in Ojai got the drone treatment. An L. Ron Hubbard racist lecture in South Africa was unearthed. Last Ideal Org opened before the pandemic in Ventura, and we got the drone flyover.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2019: NFL great Marshall Faulk used another Super Bowl to shill for Scientology’s anti-drug front group. Chief Slaughter denied that Clearwater PD genuflects to David Miscavige. USC revealed that a letter from a prominent faculty member endorsing Scientology was a fake. The National Enquirer falsely claimed that Shelly Miscavige had been spotted on a cruise ship.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2018: David Mayo died, and we revealed that we’d been talking to him over the years. Scientology’s new Super Bowl ad, ‘Curious?’ was a hoot. Chris Owen dived into the notorious ‘brainwashing’ manual. And Sands Hall published her delightful memoir, ‘Flunk. Start.’

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2017: The new Super Bowl ad was another mystery sandwich. Phil and Willie Jones put up another ‘Call Me’ billboard, this time right on Sunset Boulevard. Clay Irwin toured Tom Cruise’s penthouse. We profiled the ‘celebrity whisperer,’ Quailynn McDaniel.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2016: News broke that Monique Rathbun had fired her entire legal team. Ross and Carrie began their trip inside the church. Defector Paul Burkhart estimated fewer than 20,000 active members left in the church worldwide. And a 1940 L. Ron Hubbard short story turned out to have a lot of precursor ideas for Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2015: The horrifying story of a mentally ill woman held in an Arkansas basement by a Scientologist, Mark Ebner found that Narconon International ditched its offices, we fact-checked Danny Masterson, and R.M. Seibert dug up L. Ron Hubbard’s high school record.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2014: The Master actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died in New York, we wrote an essay complaining about the way the media talks about Scientology and celebrities, and we provided some context to the first official Scientology wedding in England.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2013: Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir, Beyond Belief, was published. Harlan Ellison helped us document a Hubbard legend. And former Narconon executive Eric Tenorio cam forward.


Technology Cocktail

“‘Coffee Shop Auditing’ isn’t really an assist as it is usually done over coffee too casually to be dignified by the name of auditing. The pc is never informed at all of the existence of a session. The pc, in an assist, is however informed of the fact and the assist is begun by ‘Start of Assist’ and ‘End of Assist,’ so an assist, like a session, has a beginning and an end. The Auditor’s Code is observed in giving an assist and the Auditing Comm Cycle is used. As an Auditor one sets out in an assist to accomplish a specific thing for the pc like relieve the snivels or make the ache in the leg better. So an Assist also has a very finite purpose.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1964




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

“Why do you think it is that simply looking at something will make it vanish as far as a thetan is concerned? We know that this will take place. All right, that’s because he goes into communication with it and it is a mismanaged communication. To be an it, to be a something, we must have had a mismanaged communication of one kind or another. That’s why we say ‘God built this universe.’ Now that is a mismanaged communication, per se, it is right there. God did not build this universe. And so that is mismanaged so there is the wrong point of origin, see, some point of origin is mocked-up, and so on.” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 22, 1954


Avast, Ye Mateys

“Peter Church, FEBC student and Sharon West were married at sea by Captain W.B. Robertson at 2151 hours 21 Dec 1970. The marriage will be recorded at the nearest consul under Maritime Law and the Laws of Panama. The entry has been duly recorded in the ship’s log. Peter Church is from Delta Meters, Los Angeles. They will have a brief honeymoon in the nextport. They have the good wishes of the officers and crew of the Apollo and my own.” — The Commodore, December 22, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I think there is different levels of beingness and as you advance up you always look at the people below you and think that they are insane, but you think you’re sane, then you progress and then you think about how you used to be and you think you were insane, so it’s all a gradient scale, and earthlings on average are not advanced so therefore we are all insane.”


Past is Prologue


1999: The St. Petersburg Times reported that two organizations are forming in Clearwater under the name of Lisa McPherson, who died in Scientology’s care in 1995. “Vowing to speak out against ‘the propaganda of hate,’ a new organization of local Scientologists is gearing up to counter the efforts of Robert S. Minton, the New England millionaire who is setting up shop in downtown Clearwater to oppose the Church of Scientology. The new organization is called the Lisa McPherson Foundation, named for the veteran Scientologist whose 1995 death while in the care of church members has saddled Scientology with a lawsuit, a criminal prosecution and increased pressure from its critics. And, in an added twist that local Scientologists find appalling, the case has resulted in McPherson’s name being used against the church they say she loved. Although McPherson had been a practicing Scientologist for 13 years, the church’s critics consider her a martyr for their cause. The name of Minton’s group, for example, is the Lisa McPherson Trust, which plans to present a dark picture of Scientology to locals and provide ‘exit counseling’ for those who want to leave the church. In contrast, the Lisa McPherson Foundation seeks to pull McPherson’s name back into the Scientology camp by opposing Minton at every turn and by ‘standing up for religious tolerance,’ said Bennetta Slaughter, the foundation’s leader. Slaughter, a prominent Scientologist in Clearwater, was McPherson’s longtime friend and employer at AMC Publishing Co. ‘I will, in fact, counter any hate that will come from them and I will handle that,’ Slaughter said of Minton and his group in an interview last week. ‘They are not going to poison this town.’ The foundation has about 300 members, Slaughter said. Minton responded, saying he primarily is opposed to Scientology’s strict
‘ethics’ system, which he called harmful. He cited records that came to light after McPherson’s death indicating she was struggling under a Scientology ethics program being administered at Slaughter’s company. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McPherson’s family and financed by Minton, that ethics program is alleged to have caused the severe mental breakdown that played a key role in her death. ‘Bennetta Slaughter is herself part and parcel of the Scientology abuse process,’ Minton said.”


Random Howdy

“Dude, we don’t get ‘in comm’ with people around here, we talk to them.”


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 January 29, 2024.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, motion to strike/anti-SLAPP motions by Scientology to be heard January 9, 2024.
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] Judge sets Jan 20 hearing for motion to serve Scientology leader in trafficking case
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s 2021 was a leaky one, including new data about its dirty tricks
[THREE years ago] ‘Tears of joy’: Scientology boasts that leader David Miscavige attended Clearwater event
[FOUR years ago] Scientology Santa: The church built on Jesus as a hoax once again co-opts Christmas
[FIVE years ago] Checking in on a Scientology ‘ideal’ Christmas as we continue our year in review
[SIX years ago] Scientology donor Joy Villa aiming for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami congressional district
[SEVEN years ago] February made us shiver, but it was another Astounding month here in the Bunker
[EIGHT years ago] The Scientologist who sold a hot dinosaur skull to Nicolas Cage
[NINE years ago] Scientology’s 2014 in review: In chilly February, Hambo began his onslaught
[TEN years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology sends us a letter!
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology’s 2012 In Review: Debbie Cook Starts January Off With a BANG!


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 3,251 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,766 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,316 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,306 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,187 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,491 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,362 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,914 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,256 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,822 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,741 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,909 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,490 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,751 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,787 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,503 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 3,067 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,382 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,557 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 7,108 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,239 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,577 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,432 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,551 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,907 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,210 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,316 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,714 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,590 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,155 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,668 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,922 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 15,031 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 22, 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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