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About The Underground Bunker

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He has written about Scientology since 1995, and his book about Scientology’s most infamous campaign of terror — to destroy author Paulette Cooper — came out in May 2015. He continues to monitor breaking developments around the world from an undisclosed location in an underground bunker he shares with four cats and one of them wrinkly Shar Pei dogs. Despite his super-secret security protections, you can still reach him pretty easily by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.) Or check in at his Facebook author page. Or follow him at Twitter: @TonyOrtega94



Here are some of the questions we tend to get from readers…

Why is this site called “The Underground Bunker?”


When we wrote about Scientology at The Village Voice, we jokingly began referring to writing from an underground bunker. It proved to be a popular running gag, so when we left the Voice and started an independent site, we thought it would be a familiar name for our regular readers.

Why do you use “we” to refer to yourself?

It’s a columnist’s conceit we use out of habit and for no good reason except that it amuses us.

Why do you write about Scientology?

Because it interests us. We started writing about Scientology with our first cover story for the Phoenix New Times in November 1995, and that experience only whetted our appetite for more. Some people cover Congress, other people cover the mafia, we cover Scientology. It’s a fascinating story that is only getting more interesting with time, and we enjoy having a seat on the front row as this adventure unfolds.

Were you ever involved with Scientology?


Does Scientology hassle you?

The church, through its private investigators, has tried to make reporting on it difficult for many journalists. It’s an occupational hazard.

You’re very critical of Scientology. Why?

We don’t like bullies.

Is Scientology a cult?

We find “cult” to be a completely meaningless word. At other websites, discussions about Scientology end up devolving into endless argument about words like “cult” or “religion.” At the Bunker, we call Scientology a church because that’s what Scientologists call it and because we’re more interested in what Scientology does than what it says about itself. Here’s how we answered this question in March 2015 when it was asked by Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on HuffPost Live…


Was the 2005 South Park episode about Xenu really what Scientologists believe?

Yes and no. An important point to keep in mind is that Scientology is a system of increasingly expensive courses, and only a minority of church members reach the highest levels of advancement. A church spokeswoman once told us that only about 10 percent of Scientologists reach the “OT” levels, which include the story of Xenu the galactic overlord (in “OT III”) that South Park had fun with. And even for those Scientologists who do reach OT III and higher, they spend only a very short time considering the Xenu material, and for the most part it has almost nothing to do with their overall experience in the church. (The Xenu story leads to church members then exorcising “body thetans” — disembodied alien souls which are attached to each one of us — and spend years and huge amounts of money to do so. Body Thetans are much more a part of the upper-level Scientology experience than Xenu, which is dealt with only briefly.) So while the Xenu material is undoubtedly a striking part of Scientology’s esoteric system, and one that rightly does cast doubt on everything else L. Ron Hubbard came up with, when Scientologists tell you that Xenu has nothing to do with their experience in the church, they’re probably telling the truth.

When did Scientology, as a church, first begin?

L. Ron Hubbard created the first Church of Scientology corporation in Camden, New Jersey in December, 1953. A few months later, in February 1954, he had followers create a Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. Most newspapers refer to 1954 as the church’s founding, but 1953 is more accurate, so that’s what we use.

How many wives and children did L. Ron Hubbard have?

L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) was married three times and had seven children, four of whom are alive today. Hubbard married Margaret “Polly” Grubb (1907-1963) in 1933 and they were divorced in 1947. They had a son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. or “Nibs,” (1934-1991), and a daughter, Katherine, known as Katie or Kay (1936-2010). Hubbard married Sara Elizabeth Northrup (1924-1997) in 1946 (while still married to Polly Grubb) and they were divorced in 1951. They had a daughter, Alexis, born 1950. Hubbard married Mary Sue Whipp (1931-2002) in 1952. They had two sons and two daughters — Diana, b. 1952, Quentin (1954-1976), Suzette, b. 1955, and Arthur, b. 1958.

Did L. Ron Hubbard really say before he started Scientology that the only way to get rich is to start a religion?

Yes, and here’s our story about it.

Did the FBI really investigate Scientology for human trafficking and nearly raid Scientology’s International Base in 2010?

Yes, it did. We talked to numerous informants who worked with the FBI, and who said they were asked if they would ride along with agents on the raid to help them identify locations and people. (And now here’s the actual file from the FBI investigation.)

Why did the FBI give up on that idea and drop the investigation?

We have a theory about that.

After the FBI dropped its investigation, is it true that Homeland Security then began an investigation?

Yes, we broke that story, but all indications are that it has also dropped its investigation.

Did you really break the story that Leah Remini left Scientology?

Yes, we printed our story about that on Monday, July 8, 2013, and the rest of the media caught up to the news when the New York Post put Leah on its front page on Thursday, July 11.

Have you actually read Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book that started his movement?

Cover to cover. We blogged that experience with former Scientologist and author Vance Woodward.

What are your books about?

We’ve written a book about Paulette Cooper and titled it The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. In 1971, Paulette wrote The Scandal of Scientology, the first really popular book about the organization’s secrets, and Scientology in turn subjected her to years of the worst retaliation campaign in its history. At one point, she was facing 15 years in prison for a crime Scientology framed her for, and she seriously contemplated suicide. Despite numerous covert operations run against her over several decades, she survived everything the church’s spies threw at her, and she’s thriving today. In 2018, we teamed up with Paulette to write a second book, Battlefield Scientology, that combines some of our best reporting from the Bunker with introductory essays by Paulette herself.

Do people in the Church of Scientology read your website?

Yes they do. And we hear from some of them. But others are very good at shielding themselves from anything negative about Scientology.

We saw you in Alex Gibney’s documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Were you paid for that appearance? And when were you interviewed?

We were very fortunate that Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright included us in their great film about Scientology. Alex interviewed us in March 2014, and the movie debuted on January 25, 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. We were not paid for our appearance in the film, and we paid our own way to the premiere in Utah.

Are you involved in Louis Theroux’s BBC film, My Scientology Movie?

We’ve been in touch with Theroux’s producers for several years, and we helped them out a little when they needed assistance reaching certain sources. We were not paid for that help.

Do you think these documentaries are really doing harm to Scientology?

We do. However, as we pointed out to Don Lemon on CNN, we think Scientology’s biggest threat is internal…


What is your policy on donations? Do you take money to do specific stories?

We do take donations, but we do not allow those donations to affect our choice of stories. In 2013, we announced our donations policy. Here’s the relevant part, from our attorney, Scott Pilutik:

SCOTT PILUTIK: I’m the Bunker’s attorney and its webmaster. At Tony’s request, I’ve created a Paypal account that will receive all donations. For each donation, you’ll receive a confirmation and a thank you from me. Before that money is released to Tony, I will make sure that any identifying information is removed. In other words, Tony will not know the identities of anyone who donates to the Underground Bunker. We think that will help protect his journalistic integrity, but also help him grow the site. I’ll point out that PayPal deducts a small percentage if you pay without a PayPal account of your own. Please contact me for more information about how to make a direct transfer to avoid deductions from Paypal — I’ve established the e-mail address, which is associated with the Paypal account, and where I can answer any questions, including our plan to keep donors anonymous.

We don’t know whether many other blogs go to that much trouble to protect their editorial integrity, but for us it’s ironclad and something we’ve followed to the letter since we started accepting donations.

What is ‘HowdyCon’ and how did it come to be?

In the summer of 2015, we were traveling around the country (and even to Europe and Australia) on tour for our book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. At one point, one of our commenters asked, why are you going to so many cities? Kidding, we responded, “we’re trying to figure out which one to hold a convention in.” Well, that joke took on a life of its own among our readers, who were so excited by the idea of a convention, they held a vote to choose a location, and chose Cleveland. (And that’s the last time we leave that up to them, ahem.) We decided to name our meet-up after “Captain Howdy,” the screen nick of Steve Cox, a beloved commenter who had recently passed away. The event was also dedicated to the memory of another much-loved member of the Underground Bunker community, SugarPlumFairy, Mary Marinelli. And that’s what HowdyCon is all about, the people who have formed a community at coming together to have a fun time and talk about our favorite subject. The fourth HowdyCon was held June 20-22, 2019 in Los Angeles. (And here’s a report on it from The Hollywood Reporter.)

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30 comments to About The Underground Bunker

  • Yeeeeees!

    Yeah the new Tony O Page!

  • I used to have a radio show called “The Undergound Bunker” broadcasting from deep beneath the crust of the Earth. Welcome back, Tony!

  • AnonOrange

    Add a newsfeed icon so your new posts get automatically posted on news agregator personal pages like “My Yahoo”.

  • Califa

    I loved you before, but now that I know you have four cats, I absolutely adore you!

  • WeStandTall

    Oh man 4 Cats?! That bunker must smell like shit!

    • We live humbly, but we live clean. The bunker smells of fresh-roasted coffee, baked items just out of the oven, and that faintly piquant aroma of humming electronics.

    • marcotai

      “Oh man 4 Cats?! That bunker must smell like shit!”
      Don’t worry WST, I’m sure that those cats will find a way out of it.

  • Miles Biondo

    What did I just stumble upon? Did I miss something?
    It seems Tony’s column didn’t really die, it just dropped its meat body and now exists as an entity of pure Theta.
    Seriously, this is a welcome oasis. Thank you for doing this.

  • Bob

    Tony, Glad to see that you are still active.

  • Tony Ortega blogging from The Underground Bunker!


    This find made my weekend!

    Welome to WordPress Tony!

  • I pined for a week or two, then found the Google group. It’s sustained me but I can’t begin to describe how great it is to have you back!!

  • Chris Smith

    WELL, I read the article about the Lemburgers, and this really is one of the way that these people show how manipulative they really are and how they use illogic and false thinking to promote/push their product (a person paying money to get clear or whatever):

    Here’s a quote from Dani Lemburger, and I find it extremely funny because it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but is actually intended to have the person taking it at face value, without scrutiny (hence the generalities and no examples: simply stated as fact, when it isn’t fact):

    “In fact, he says, becoming a Scientologist will eventually save you money.
    How? He rattles off a quick list: “You’ll have much happier relations with your wife, so there will be no divorce costs,” he says, by way of example. “You’ll raise happy and productive children, so you won’t need to support them all the time.” The list goes on and on. “You won’t have illness, sickness or accidents. You’ll be better off mentally. And your career will take off,” he says. “That’s how.””

    Well, maybe he and his wife are still married, and he attributes that to his putting a lot of money and effort into Sci….but it is only his perception of his marriage. There’s a distinct possibilty they could still be married if they were both practicing Catholics or were agnostics. Maybe it’s because they complement each other, and have an inherent willingness to stay together. But it’s a patent falsehood that their willingness to put a hundred thou or more into Sci is the reason they are not divorced, and no amount of money put into a religion (or cult, in this case) is going to “save” you the money of not being divorced. You can’t save money when it isn’t being spent on something. Also, spending money to “save” part of it just doesn’t compute. You simply spend.

    Secondly, if spending 100 thou or even more (in most cases much more) is the road to not divorcing and raising kids who are productive citizens, etc. then I guess that Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruse, Mimi Rogers (formerly Cruise), Johnny Lewis’s parents, the former head honcho of Sci who’s being held in detention, etc. are all not Scientologists. Because spending their money would have prevented their divorces, or their kids doing drugs or needing psycho help. Even with this thinking, I think that David Miscavage must not be a Scientologist, because he certainly hasn’t shown his wife as being by his side and in a productive marriage. It seems she may be locked up in their prison, possibly cause she pissed him off somehow, maybe by thinking she was equal to him in some fashion, or even by the great sin of thinking on her own.

    I guess that being raised a scientologist didn’t take in Johnny Lewis’s case, as he evidently did have psychotic problems. Which if he or his parents truly were Scientologists just would not have happened. Their tons of money and commitment to getting Sci more money from others just would have overcome that and prevented it.

    Pushers really disgust me. And Sci is a total “pusher” entity. They want you to “try” it and learn about it on your own, so you can “decide”. That is a pusher mentality. They are no better than the most common drug pushers in any neighborhood. They use any type of manipulative ploy to get you “in” and then take your money and make you a Sci pusher.

    BTW, I understand that individuals can be conned (also called brainwashing) into doing/believing that they are not pushing. But they are and the only way they will ever be able to say they were is to get out of the cult and understand it’s mentality. So when I say pushers disgust me, I attribute this totally to Sci as the pusher. And the only persons I will put that with are the ones who know they are doing this purposely, and are not the ones who have been conned into it. I think a lot of the heads of Sci are actually con men in their own right (even if they are women). And the game to play is to keep ahead of the other con men at the top so you don’t get cast into the prison.

  • created URL shortcut for your site (for those that can’t type out biglongassaddressesforwordpressblogs, lol)

  • Bob

    Quick question. I sent an email to your tonyo94 address. Since I got no reply I wondered if you received it?

  • ashura

    I’m a little late to the game, TO, but welcome back! Once you closed up shop @ the vv, I actually got some work done 🙂

  • ashura

    I’m a little late to the game, TO, but welcome back! Once you closed up shop @ the vv, I actually got some work done 🙂

  • Jory

    And I second that: We got 5 cats and a dog!

  • […] can’t be shot for what you have done, you can only be shot for what you haven’t told us.” Via The Underground Bunker, more highlights from the extensive questionnaire, with the truthfulness of answers sometimes […]

  • […] can’t be shot for what you have done, you can only be shot for what you haven’t told us.” Via The Underground Bunker, more highlights from the extensive questionnaire, with the truthfulness of answers sometimes […]

  • Editor Anonymous

    Sounds like heaven to me.

  • Elle

    Glad to see you back.

  • deElizabethan

    Looks like I missed this thread, till now… LUV U

  • TheHoleDoesNotExist

  • whingeybingey

    I miss being able to subscribe to the blog. I never know when a new post happens now. In fact I didn’t even know that the new site was up and running.

  • blackvelvetHR

    Have been reading your articles about Scientolotgy for years now, thank you for your courage, Tony. I really appreciate that.