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Best of the Underground Bunker 1995-2020

We’ve put together a list of our favorite stories that we did in previous years. Some of the stories were scoops, others were investigative features, and some of them we just really enjoyed writing. We’ve picked out stories we covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2020), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999).




20. A new detailed look at L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘stolen valor’ by a military veteran

We thought the issue of L. Ron Hubbard’s “stolen valor” had already been examined and settled by experts. But one of our own longtime readers, PickAnotherID, revealed to us that he was a 20-year military veteran with expertise in military records and decorations, and he convinced us that in fact there was a lot lacking in the historic record. Over a three-part series, (part 1, part 2, part 3) Pick painstakingly went through the actual information in Hubbard’s military records, explaining the history and exact qualifications for each of Hubbard’s actual decorations, and debunking the ones the church has falsely claimed. What a brilliant job this was, and we were so happy to be able to post it at the Bunker.


19. Saint Hill recruiter on recorded call: Destroyed families a small price to pay

Phil Jones, like so many other former Scientologists, was being dogged by Scientology recruiters that were trying to get him back — even after the church had ripped his family apart. So he recorded a phone conversation he had with a Saint Hill recruiter, Hugh. And it turned out to be a really remarkable recording, because Hugh admitted to Phil that destroyed families is a price worth paying for the expansion of Scientology. Wow.


18. L. Ron Hubbard’s suppressed 1960 lecture on South Africa

Scientology long ago removed references to a 1960 lecture L. Ron Hubbard gave on South Africa from its catalogs. But we noticed some “independent Scientologists” praising the lecture and its pro-apartheid views and realized that copies of it were floating around online. So we posted it and pulled out key quotes that Scientology is now too embarrassed to include in its sales brochures. Gems like this, for example: “Right now you tell me, well, the government of South Africa does not permit the black man a vote. He doesn’t even know what a vote is!”



17. My mom is the auditor in the Reckless Ben Scientology infiltration videos

We’ve featured Clarissa Adams and her terrible disconnection story about being cut off by her own mother, Irmin Huber. To our surprise, Clarissa let us know that it was Irmin who had featured in one of the popular “Reckless Ben” infiltration videos as the tired looking auditor who put Ben through hours of questioning about his broken arm. We asked Clarissa to write about it for us, and the result was this moving piece about what it was like to see her mother still so dedicated to the cause, and made the butt of jokes on YouTube.


16. Scientologist chiro Dennis Nobbe charged with fraud, then drops dead

We’ve written about Dennis Nobbe for years. He was a major Scientology player in Miami, where he ran a huge chiropractic operation and repeatedly ran into trouble for forcing Scientology on his employees. But we were shocked in July when federal prosecutors charged him with insurance fraud and PPP loan abuse, and we began watching his case closely. To our further surprise, in September prosecutors wanted his bail revoked when, they said, Nobbe was caught trying to bribe witnesses. Wow! Initially, the court declined to revoke bail, settling instead for confiscating his cell phone. But prosecutors appealed that decision, and the court decided to throw Nobbe into the slammer. He had received the news of it so suddenly, he immediately got his attorney on the phone, who had heard nothing about the decision. While the attorney was checking his computer for notice of the ruling, he heard a loud sound on the other end of the line, and then learned that his client had dropped dead on the spot. And so ended the life of an ardent Scientologist who had been facing major prison time. (Strangely, although many press outlets reported on Nobbe’s criminal charges in July, the Underground Bunker is still the only news outlet to even mention his case ending with his sudden death.)


15. Scientology cruise ship commander recorded giving orders during the pandemic

Rod Keller brought us a real gem this May when he found audio of a conference call featuring Sharron Weber, the commanding officer of Scientology’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds. It was something of a textbook case of how delusional Scientology orders can be, as Weber told her listeners that Scientology’s greatest expansion was just around the corner — and at a time when the world was in lockdown. To help us put Weber’s strange harangue into perpective, we turned to experts Valeska Paris, Mat Pesch, and Chris Shelton. “All I hear is desperation,” Mat told us.



14. Jane Doe drops her Miami child abuse lawsuit against Scientology and its leader

Score another one for Miscavige. After she learned from the Clearwater police that it was dropping its criminal investigation into her child molestation claims, the woman going by Jane Doe who had filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige asked her attorneys to drop the suit. She explained to us that not only had the police let her down, but she knew that Scientology was likely to use the information to produce a smear campaign against her. She had alleged that as a child she had been molested at a Scientology kindergarten and then while she was a child employee of the church, but police were having trouble finding people who could corroborate her claims years later. Leah Remini spoke out after the case was dropped, and assured Jane Doe that she had let no one down.


13. Scientology pays its workers peanuts, but scored millions in Covid payroll bailout loans anyway

When the Trump administration gave out initial information about which businesses had scored payroll assistance loans in July, we found that the recipients included three Scientology churches, a couple of rehabs, and its most unhinged front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. A few days later we also found that several Scientology schools were also on the list. But then, when a more complete accounting was released this month, we got the full picture: Many more Scientology churches, rehabs and schools had received money, totaling $4.4 million in taxpayer cash for an organization that often pays its works pennies an hour when they pay them at all.


12. Cedric Bixler-Zavala blamed Scientology for poisoned dog he had to put down

Chrissie Carnell Bixler and her rocker husband, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, believe they have had to bury two dogs because of harassment from the Church of Scientology. Chrissie is one of Danny Masterson’s rape accusers, and since she came forward to the LAPD in 2016, she and Cedric say they’ve had a bizarre barrage of things happen to them. But the worst was the death of their dog Ethel in Texas, who died of a ruptured trachea, and the poisoning death of their dog Biscuit in Los Angeles. Both deaths were intentional, their vets told them. Scientology denies that it is harassing the couple. Meanwhile, Bobette Riales, another woman who accuses Masterson and who, along with Chrissie and Cedric are suing Masterson, almost lost her dog Jet when it was poisoned this year as well.



11. Boarded up orgs in the US: What gives, Dave?

Months after the summer’s street unrest had died down, some Scientology orgs around the US were boarded up. Our readers fanned out and got us photos to show that orgs this month were partially or fully sealed up in New York, DC, Mountain View, Los Gatos, Pasadena, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, and Sacramento. Meanwhile, we didn’t see Scientologists saying anything about it on social media. What was going on? We got a possible answer when reader Missionary Kid went by and found the San Diego org boarded up, and got a chance to ask a staffer about it. That staffer said the org was boarded up in anticipation of riots over the election. Riots over Joe Biden’s inauguration? In Los Gatos?


10. Ex-Sea Orger with ties to dark secrets ran for city council in Oregon

It’s unusual enough to find a Scientologist running for public office. But someone like Brittany Ruiz, a former Sea Org official who had been executive director at Advanced Organization of Los Angeles, where the nutty “OT” auditing levels are delivered? What was she thinking? Brittany had become known in McMinnville, Oregon as an anti-vaccination activist, and she had decided to take on a more moderate Republican for a city council seat. But we pointed out that her husband Javier Ruiz had also been a Sea Org official and played a fairly important role in the story of Leah Remini deciding to leave Scientology. And in a second piece we explained that Ruiz also played a small part in the story of Laura DeCrescenzo, and it appeared in her court papers. Did these people seriously think Brittany could run for office without their role in this abusive organization becoming known? Sheesh. Some local observers told us that they thought Brittany had a good shot at winning. But instead she was thoroughly rebuked by voters.


9. Why Scientology can worry if John Travolta and Lisa Marie Presley seek solace in each other


What a terrible double tragedy that rocked two families: John Travolta announced that his wife Kelly Preston had died of breast cancer at 57. And Lisa Marie Presley’s son, Benjamin Keough, ended his life with a firearm. He was only 27. We reported that a close friend to Benjamin told us that he had been out of Scientology for years, but “Ben had been talking about how fucked up kids get in Scientology.” We then wrote a piece pointing out that Lisa Marie and Travolta have been close, and that it makes sense these two old friends might seek solace in each other after these two terrible events. And if they did, Scientology might be the loser. We had excellent sourcing on an account of Lisa Marie trying to talk sense into Travolta about Scientology in the past. And if he can’t be convinced now that Scientology is really ineffective and its health claims are nonsense, when will he ever be?


8. Karen Bass said she attended Scientology event because it was in her district. But it wasn’t.

At the end of July the Daily Caller broke a story that quickly became the national political story of the day: Karen Bass, a Los Angeles congresswoman whom Joe Biden was purportedly considering as a running mate, had made a 2010 speech at the Scientology “Ideal Org” grand opening in L.A. We had actually had evidence of this on our website for a few years, and confirmed that the Daily Caller was correct. And we wondered if this was disqualifying for Bass to obtain such high office. But she put out a public statement saying that she only went to the event because it was in her district at the time (she was a state senator then), and anyway Leah Remini’s show has now made it public what a controversial organization Scientology is. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case: While Leah has done an amazing job of bringing Scientology’s abuses to a new audience, there had been plenty of other exposes of the church before 2010. And more importantly, we looked up the district maps that were in effect that day in 2010, and what Bass had said simply wasn’t true: The new Ideal Org was not in her district. She then had to put out a new statement, admitting that her first statement wasn’t true and that she didn’t write it anyway, an underling did. What terribly timed flubs. We don’t know if Bass really had a shot at being chosen, but this couldn’t have helped her chances, and may have also contributed to her not getting a cabinet appointment, who knows.


7. Valerie Haney’s fight against the order to submit to Scientology’s ‘religious arbitration’

At the end of January, it was one of the year’s biggest shocks: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Burdge granted Scientology’s motion and denied Valerie Haney her right to sue the church, telling her she had to take her grievances to Scientology’s internal brand of “religious arbitration.” She spent the rest of the year trying to overcome this ruling, even asking California’s state supreme court to intervene. They turned her down. She will eventually be able to appeal Burdge’s ruling, but only after she submits to Scientology’s star chamber, which she’s opposed to doing. In August, she gave us a public statement, saying that she wasn’t giving up the fight.



6. Mark Bunker elected to Clearwater city council

It might surprise some readers to know that Scientologists actually make up only a tiny percentage of the population of Clearwater, Florida, despite the church’s death-grip on property downtown. So maybe it was inevitable that at some point a candidate running on a platform of opposing Scientology expansion in the city would get elected. But it was still a stunning surprise when Mark Bunker did just that. Bunker, the well mannered and generous bloke we’ve known for many years, was in Clearwater during the Lisa McPherson Trust days and had moved back in more recent years as he struggled to produce a documentary about the church. But what better way, he said, to bring Scientology’s controversies to the public’s attention than to make sure they were considered in the local government? What a great result in such a terrible year that Bunker should win his election. We’re still beaming about it.


5. Scientology Black Ops: The spiked Aussie series that was leaked and then spiked again

We had been looking forward to Bryan Seymour’s latest investigation at 7 News in Australia since he interviewed us for it a year ago, last December. And we knew it was really going to be a big deal when we learned that he had made it a ten-parter of short episodes for the nightly news, and that 7 News even put out a trailer about it. But then, a total shock: At the last minute, the network killed the series without a word. Two of the people who were going to be featured heavily in the series, Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, told us that they believed Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis, whose secrets were going to be revealed in the program, had pressured the network through their friend billionaire James Packer, who was a very close friend to the chairman of 7 News. We didn’t know if that was true or not, but it seemed plain to us we’d never see this series. Then, another shock: The first episode of the series suddenly showed up online, and an embed link to it was sent to us. We posted the episode, along with a transcript of it. And over the next few weeks, the rest of the episodes also appeared, containing damaging information about, for example, Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis teaming up to threaten Cruise’s publicist Pat Kingsley if she ever spoke out about the actor. Davis then hired attorneys in Sydney who asked us to take down the episodes that featured him and we ignored it and published their letter. But then Davis threatened to sue 7 News, which asked us for the first time to take down the series. We don’t have the resources to take on a legal fight in Australia, so we took down the video embed links. But the transcripts are still there if you’d like to see what was in this excellent investigation by Seymour.


4. Leah Remini on Tom Cruise’s Covid rant in its Scientology context

Tom Cruise broke the Internet with his over-the-top screaming fit on the Mission: Impossible 7 set, yelling at crew members for not maintaining proper social distancing and potentially endangering the expensive enterprise. Right from the start reaction to the recording, released by the Sun, was mixed. On the one hand, people fed up with poor pandemic discipline were happy to see someone pitch a fit about it. But on the other, Cruise sounded awfully abusive to his employees, and he seemed to evoke his best pal David Miscavige in the process. While the controversy was swirling, Leah Remini gave us a lengthy statement reminding people that Cruise actually had a long record as an abusive Scientology celebrity. We posted it here at the Bunker under her byline and boom, wow, it got picked up all over the place.



3. Scientology and Covid: Leader David Miscavige’s leaked order and ‘planetary bullbait’

Naturally, one of the biggest stories we covered this year was Scientology’s response to the pandemic. And what a response! If you remember, here in the US the moment when things really reached critical mass and most places went into lockdown was Friday, March 13. Well, that just happened to be the date of L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, and one of Scientology’s most important international events was scheduled for that night in Clearwater, Florida. That event was canceled, and David Miscavige was not happy about it. We soon began to hear that church members were being called down to their local orgs to read a special document that they were not allowed to see unless they came in person. It was a special “Inspector General Network bulletin” written by Miscavige himself, and we wanted desperately to see what was in it. We were then extremely fortunate that one of our readers got their hands on a copy and leaked it to us. “IGN Bulletin No. 88” did not disappoint. In it, a livid Miscavige described the pandemic as a “planetary bullbait” — in other words, a hoax designed to test Scientology’s resolve — and instructed his followers that above all else, their job would be to “protect the orgs.” What ensued was a schizophrenic program as, on the one hand, Scientologists do not ascribe to germ theory and were more susceptible to most people to spreading nutty conspiracies about Covid, and on the other hand the church saw a public relations opportunity and went whole hog with a program of pretending to safeguard the public with sanitation teams, health booklets, and mask wearing. We covered it all as it unfolded over several months.


2. Leah Remini’s missing ‘Troublemaker’ chapter: The real Tom Cruise

When the ‘Scientology Black Ops’ series in Australia was killed, it looked like we might never get the chance to see Bryan Seymour’s investigation. One person who was very unhappy about that was Leah Remini, who featured prominently in the series, and who was very familiar with the secrets Seymour was going to spill. Convinced that Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis were behind the program being axed, Remini was determined that they not be successful burying one of the most important stories that Seymour was going to tell: The Scientology dirty tricks operation against Cruise’s former publicist, the legendary Pat Kingsley. So Leah did something extraordinary. She let us know that there was a missing chapter from her bestselling 2015 book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. She had written a chapter primarily about Tom Cruise but then had decided she didn’t want it to take away attention from the rest of her memoir. In that chapter, which was partially written and partially notes, she detailed the story of Cruise and Davis using Scientology’s usual dirty tricks techniques in 2004 to keep Kingsley quiet as Cruise set out (disastrously, it turned out) to be Scientology’s ambassador. Leah stunned us by turning over that chapter to us, and we worked with her to prepare it for publication here at the Underground Bunker. It contains some of the most amazing material about Cruise and Scientology we’ve ever published, and we can’t thank Leah enough for letting us make it public.


1. Danny Masterson charged with three counts of forcible rape, faces 45 years to life in prison

On March 3, 2017, we broke one of our biggest stories ever here at the Bunker: The LAPD was investigating Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson for raping multiple women while they were Scientologists over a period between 2001 and 2004. The LAPD acknowledged the investigation later that day, but for the next three years we heard nothing from the L.A. District Attorney’s office about whether it was actually going to file criminal charges against the That ’70s Show actor. Tired of waiting, in August 2019 four of the women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and Scientology for the harassment they said they were experiencing after coming forward to the LAPD. (We reported that seven women eventually came forward to the police.) Year after year the women went through wrenching interactions with the police and prosecutors while Masterson derided them as “bitter ex-girlfriends.” And we reported in 2018 that the District Attorney’s office managers had signed off on charging Masterson under the strict “One Strike Law” that could potentially put Masterson in prison for life. But still, District Attorney Jackey Lacey said nothing. Then, on June 16, it happened. Lacey charged Masterson for three forcible rapes under the strict law, carrying a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. And since then, we’ve watched closely as Masterson has had to negotiate both the criminal case and the civil lawsuit at the same time. It has, without a doubt, been the biggest story we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker this year.

Best of the Bunker, 2019



20. Charles Barkley becomes a slam dunk photo opportunity for Scientology

One of the things we keep an eye on here at the Bunker are Scientology’s many front groups, which act in sneaky ways and try to “safepoint” Scientology with “opinion leaders” — particularly celebrities. NBA legend Charles Barkley may have had no idea that he was being gladhanded by a couple of OT Scientologists at a charity golf event in Georgia this summer, but you can bet Scientology considered this photo opportunity a big win.


19. Sword-wielding, Bentley-driving man killed by police at Scientology org identified

Several days after a man was shot and killed by police at the Inglewood, California Scientology “Ideal Org,” the county medical examiner released the man’s name, Brian Statler. That allowed us to learn a few things about this 30-year-old mixed race man who drove an expensive white Bentley automobile to the org, reportedly threatened people with a “samurai sword,” and then was shot dead by the police. We’re still trying to piece together what happened that day, no thanks to the Inglewood police, who have maintained total silence about the event. What was Statler doing there at the org, and why was he so upset?


18. Sunny Pereira once again took us into the dark depths of Scientology’s cruel family policies

Sunny had another incredible year at the Bunker, and we are so grateful to her for sharing her experiences with us as a former child Sea Org member and adult technical expert before her defection. In 2019 she took us into Scientology’s homophobia, she stunned us with a letter she had written as a prisoner in the basement of Scientology’s “Big Blue” headquarters in Los Angeles, she explained how difficult it is to leave the Sea Org, how staff members are strung along with promises of superpowers, and how Scientology created its own prison for its children workers. But the piece that affected us the most was her searing look at how disconnection in her family meant that her mother, who remains in the Sea Org, gave instructions for how to divvy up family funerals so the two of them don’t run into each other. Scientology is an abomination.



17. Scientologist says the church is telling Clearwater members not to vote for Mark Bunker

This story meant a lot to us for several different reasons, not the least of which was that it came to us from a Scientology member in Clearwater who had just begun to question their involvement in the church. And what they had to tell us was pretty spectacular: Scientologists in Clearwater were being told to get in touch with spokeswoman Pat Harney who wanted to talk to them about the upcoming March election in Clearwater, and to make sure they knew there was a “suppressive person” on the ballot, Mark Bunker. It’s actually a violation of Scientology’s tax exempt status for it to be telling its members how to vote — even in the case of telling them who not to vote for. But we expect that the IRS will ignore this report, as it has ignored so much that Scientology does which should put its tax exempt status in jeopardy.


16. Give Scientology $500 and you too could be a ‘Harlem Homie’!

We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw a spreadsheet in a recent leak of Scientology documents which suggested that donors at the Harlem org were being rewarded with statuses like “Harlem Homie” and “Harlem Globetrotter.” But there was another shock — we actually recognized one of the names in the spreadsheet, and when we contacted that person they confirmed that they had, indeed, been named a Harlem Homie for giving Scientology money. Oh, Dave. You are really too much.


15. Scientology’s biggest donors of late 2019: The whales giving millions to David Miscavige

We’ve been watching Scientology’s big donors — we call them “whales” — for years. But we’ve never seen a year like this, with more celebrations and more donors giving millions to David Miscavige in exchange for big shiny trophies. And it’s Scientology itself that puts out photos of these wealthy givers. We like to post their celebratory photos so everyone knows their names.


14. Brad Pitt’s Scientology adventure: The sauna, the auditing, the… lizard?

Another amazing account from Sunny Pereira, this time in an interview with her, when she described being assigned to be Brad Pitt’s “examiner” at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. And she related a particularly bizarre episode when Brad may have been messing with his Scientology handlers, bringing in his pet iguana for some processing.



13. Leah Remini: Where’s the outrage about Scientology’s disappeared?

In April, Leah Remini was kind enough to share with us a shocking photo from her collection. It was taken around the year 2004, and it shows Leah with two women who were each powerful Scientology executives but were each made to vanish into thin air about a year later. On Leah’s left, that’s Shelly Miscavige, wife of church leader David Miscavige, who disappeared in the summer of 2005 and has, we think, been kept at a small mountain compound out of the public eye ever since. On Leah’s right is Barbara Ruiz, who used to run Scientology’s Writers of the Future annual gala celebration, until she too was made to vanish in 2005. Year after year, there’s no sign of several former Scientology officials, and year after year law enforcement does nothing about it. “These people have family that are out in the real world but they’re afraid to ask about their imprisoned family members for fear of retaliation from Scientology,” Leah told us.


12. Graham Berry is on a roll: The attorney Scientology hates to see knocking on its door

Attorney Graham Berry had a huge 2019. We first profiled Graham for the Phoenix New Times 20 years ago, and even then he was a veteran litigator against the Church of Scientology, having so famously served the church’s celebrities in a lawsuit that had grown out of the 1991 Time magazine cover story, “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power.” In the last couple of years, Graham has found some very smart ways to help victims, particularly the elderly, recover what they lost to Scientology’s extortionate financial scams. In 2019, we told you about an elderly woman in the Midwest who was helped by Graham. And then he generously shared with us some actual legal demand letters he had sent to Scientology on behalf of other clients who had fallen victim to Scientology’s tricks. What makes these cases so important is that they are happening now, not years ago, and law enforcement has the opportunity to see how Scientology is using financial chicanery that should get the church in a lot of trouble.


11. Michael Jackson and Scientology: When the Hollywood Celebrity Centre went on lockdown

Another surprising story out of Scientology’s past that came to us in an interview with Sunny Pereira. She described the strange three days in 1994 when Lisa Marie Presley came down to the Celebrity Centre with a special guest, her new husband Michael Jackson, and the facility shut off an entire wing to make sure the visit was as secret as possible. But if Scientology thought it was going to get its hooks into the Gloved One, he had other ideas, and soon the church’s play for him, and his marriage to Lisa Marie, was over.



10. Hubbard family member: Mary Sue griped about Scientology leader’s ‘Napoleon complex’

We’ve known Guy White for years, and we were looking forward to the day when he finally went public, bringing a new focus on the Hubbard family that’s been largely missing from Scientology coverage. Guy was married to L. Ron Hubbard’s daughter Suzette, and he’s father to three of Hubbard’s grandchildren. Guy had a front row seat for the way the Hubbard family was treated after L. Ron died in 1986 and David Miscavige began to take over. He says that Mary Sue Hubbard griped about Miscavige and he suggested that there’s little regard for the dictator among Hubbard’s descendants. But will they ever speak up for themselves?


9. How ‘The Kominsky Method’ nailed it: Writer Chuck Lorre’s secret Scientology past

Scientology is the subject of so many jabs and parodies coming out of Hollywood these days, we tend to ignore them. But then we saw an episode of the Netflix series ‘The Kominsky Method’ and we had to pay attention. The series, starring Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas, took on Scientology in a big way, with Haley Joel Osment playing a disaffected Flag registrar. And not only was the show that specific about Scientology’s setup, but the use of lingo was spot on. We wondered how the show had pulled it off, but then we got a shock: Geoff Levin revealed that writer-producer Chuck Lorre had actually come to California in the 1970s as a hardcore Scientologist, something people in Hollywood seemed not to realize today.


8. Leah Remini calls Beck’s sudden Scientology defection a ‘pussy move’

When news broke that Beck Hansen had filed for divorce from his wife Marissa Ribisi, we speculated that the singer-songwriter might be divorcing Scientology as well. He grew up in Scientology and had married into one of the strongest of celebrity clans, but we’d heard some things about Beck distancing himself from the church. In November, Beck made it official by telling an Australian reporter (and the New Yorker) that he was not a Scientologist. But Leah Remini told us she was pretty unhappy with the way Beck was pretending that he’d never been a Scientologist and that it was something the press had invented. That was certainly untrue, and Leah and her co-star Mike Rinder were both disappointed that Beck was not owning up to the truth.


7. Death in the Timor Sea: The darkest war secret of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard

Historian Chris Owen had another huge year writing for us at the Bunker, and he also put out a new version of his essential book about L. Ron Hubbard’s war years, ‘Ron the War Hero.’ As he was researching his rewrite of that work, he stumbled on an incredible new account of what may be Hubbard’s biggest blunder of what was already known to be a disastrous World War II experience: A terrible strategic decision by Hubbard was at least partly responsible for the death of a number of Australian sailors in an incident not previously reported. What a scoop by Chris.



6. Tom Cruise thanked by daughter Isabella in bizarre Scientology promo

Thanks to an anonymous London tipster, we received an email that had been sent out by the London Ideal Org with a “success story” from one of its members, extolling the benefits of Scientology auditor training. We did a real double-take when we realized that the person talking about what a worthwhile ordeal she’d been through was none other than Isabella Cruise, daughter of actor Tom Cruise. Wow! We’ve been telling tabloid reporters for years that Tom and his kids were still dedicated Scientologists, but even we were shocked to see Isabella lending herself to this kind of internal marketing material.


5. Scientology’s cruise ship ‘Freewinds’ quarantined for the measles, the most wonderful and stupid story ever?

What an afternoon we had on May 1, scrambling along with several other news organizations to confirm what seemed too good to be true: An entire cruise ship had been quarantined in the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia because of a measles outbreak (which was bad enough), but incredibly the ship was none other than Scientology’s floating cathedral, the ‘Freewinds.’ The mainstream press gobbled it up as the thought of wealthy Scientologists shut up in a ship and unable to leave while the world was laughing was almost too much. Could there have been a more apt symbol for our dumb conspiracy-obsessed anti-vaccination times?


4. Jackie Lacey insider: Unseat her in March if you want to see Danny Masterson charged

More than three years ago three women came forward to the LAPD with allegations that they’d been violently raped by Scientologist actor Danny Masterson in incidents between 2001 and 2004. They were later joined by a fourth woman in 2017 as the case was forwarded by the LAPD to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for prosecution. But since then, despite “overwhelming evidence” according to journalist Yashar Ali, L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey has said nothing about whether she plans to file charges. And now, we had a bombshell: Someone close to Lacey told us that the D.A. had no intention of charging Masterson because she doesn’t want to take on the Church of Scientology, and if Masterson’s victims want justice they’ll have to hope Lacey is unseated by former S.F. District Attorney George Gascón in the March election. Gascón himself all but confirmed that he’d charge Masterson if he was elected, and Leah Remini announced at the Bunker that she’s voting for him.



3. Here’s the lawsuit against Scientology and Danny Masterson. Let’s dive into it.

If Jackie Lacey is doing nothing about the LAPD investigation of Masterson, the actor’s victims aren’t sitting still. In a move we’d long anticipated, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Bobette Riales, and two Jane Does filed suit against Masterson in the summer, and also named the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, for harassing them since they came forward to police. Scientology has characteristically responded in an aggressive manner, calling the service of the lawsuit “fraudulent” and asking the court for sanctions. Th church has also notified the victims that they intend to file motions forcing at least some of them into “religious arbitration” and stopping their lawsuit. Three years after these women went to the police looking for justice, they’re getting a legal mugging from Scientology for daring to speak up.


2. Valerie Haney drops ‘Jane Doe’ label in brutal amended complaint against Scientology

Scientology was rocked by three important lawsuits this summer, filed by numerous women who say they were assaulted and abused by Scientologists and the church itself, and backed by a powerful national legal team made up largely of former prosecutors who have a track record of finding justice for the people wronged by religious organizations. All three of the lawsuits have the potential to open up Scientology to legal examination and hold the church accountable for its abuses. But we are especially excited about the suit filed by David Miscavige’s former steward, Valerie Haney. A Sea Org member, Valerie served for years in the private quarters of Miscavige and his wife Shelly, and has plenty to say about the church dictator’s private life. No one who has sued Scientology has ever had a closer connection to Miscavige himself, corresponding to a stronger legal justification for subpoenaing and deposing Miscavige and his wife Shelly, who was hidden away in a mountain compound in 2005. This lawsuit, perhaps more than any other, may be a spectacular legal conflagration for the church.


1. SCIENTOLOGIST ARRESTED IN L.A. COURT: Narconon fraud defendants in wild scene

Four years ago, we broke a bizarre story out of Los Angeles. A woman named Hanan Islam and three of her children had been charged with felonies for ripping off the state Medi-Cal insurance program with the use of high school students undergoing “treatment” at their Scientology Narconon clinic in Compton. In the years since, the case moved glacially through the courts despite the severity of the charges, and finally, this year, the prosecution got going in earnest. The Islams objected and started acting bizarrely in court, lofting “sovereign citizen” defenses that only got them into more trouble. And then, thanks to Jeffrey Augustine covering a preliminary hearing for us, we had an eyewitness account when the sovereign citizen nonsense got Hanan and her son Rizza handcuffed and taken to jail. Meanwhile, the state finally put on its case and we learned just how strange and brazen this scam had been. Thanks to Jeffrey, we continue to get reports on this wild case as trial nears early in 2020.

Best of the Bunker, 2018



20. In 1949, psychiatrists wouldn’t touch Dianetics — so L. Ron Hubbard invented one who would

During research on the early history of Dianetics for his book Astounding, author Alec Nevala-Lee ran across an absolutely amazing document. It was written in 1949 when L. Ron Hubbard and his early collaborators were trying to get his new “science” of the mind endorsed by some actual, you know scientists. Unable to interest any psychologists, who wanted nothing to do with Hubbard’s crackpot ideas, Hubbard decided instead to simply make one up! Hubbard himself wrote a “rebuttal” to Dianetics from the fictional psychologist, and it is a thing of beauty. One thing it proves: Hubbard himself was fully aware of the ridiculous nature of the claims he was making in his book.


19. Scientology disconnection and the incalculable damage it does to children

Sunny Pereira’s contributions were a real highlight at the Bunker this year. Whether it was dealing with a measles outbreak, or losing a parent to disconnection, or discovering that “Clear” didn’t actually exist, when it was your job to prove that they did. What a ride Sunny took us on.


18. EXCLUSIVE: The rise and fall of the ‘Pope of Scientology’ — in his own words

Historian Chris Owen made this discovery during his research: A 30-page narrative written by John McMaster for a 1977 court case that was never made public before. In it, McMaster traces his entire history in Scientology, which at one time touted him as the worlds first true “Clear.” In the second of two parts, McMaster details how much he felt betrayed by L. Ron Hubbard, and concluded that Scientology was an elaborate trap.


17. Scientologists, gullible? Would they fall for a felon saying he’s the returned L. Ron Hubbard?

Independent Scientologists in the Pacific Northwest are putting on quite a show as they get in line to follow a 31-year-old man who claims that he’s the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard. His actual name is Justin Alan Craig, and he has a pretty impressive criminal record. We managed to have a Facebook messenger conversation with him, during which he flubbed some basic Hubbard trivia, and then he got a bit defensive with us in what turned out to be the most comical exchange we had all year.




A couple of upstate New York chiropractors were charged in an $80 million Medicare scam, but what news reports left out was that Jay and Jeff Spina were major, longtime Scientologists, and we dug into their history with the church. The Spina brothers have vowed to fight the charges and keep their practice open in the meantime.


15. Joy Villa’s ex talks about her domestic violence arrest and the child she put up for adoption

Even with all of the press that Joy Villa generates — whether it’s in fawning items that buy the line that she’s a new kind of conservative heroine, or in exposes about her Scientology involvement, which drives away many ‘MAGA’ types — we’re still the only outlet that has actually dug into Joy’s past with any real detail. We spoke with her former boyfriend and father of the child she put up for adoption, who explained why she was arrested on a domestic violence charge. And we then talked at length with Joy’s former manager, who helped her make her way into the Trump White House, only to see her plans of a Congressional campaign fall apart because of her Scientology loyalty. It kind of amazes us that these stories aren’t getting more attention as Joy continues to her pro-Trump grift.


14. See the Scientology-like ad for Scientologist-owned ABCMouse, made by Scientologists!

We’ve pointed out numerous times that the popular education program for toddlers,, is owned by wealthy Scientology donor Doug Dohring, who has given millions to the church. But in August, we learned that Dohring also contracts out to a Scientologist TV outfit to make his ads. They felt a lot like the ads we see Scientology itself put out.



13. Judge to Garcias: Scientology can lie and cheat and there’s nothing I can do about it

Since Luis and Rocio Garcia filed their lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in January 2013, we followed every twist and turn in their legal saga. Mostly, it was an exercise in frustration as federal Judge James D. Whittemore denied the Garcias their day in court because of draconian contracts they had signed as Scientologists. He forced them instead to submit to the sham of Scientology’s internal arbitration, which included some pretty shocking irregularities, including lying to the court. But when the Garcias tried to get an evidentiary hearing to raise those problems, Whittemore told them his hands were tied. Scientology simply didn’t need to satisfy a court that it wasn’t defrauding its members.


12. Fifty years later and post-Scientology, 60’s band People! aims for a comeback

It was early in May 2018 that we finally got to tell a story we’ve wanted to tell for years, about the reuniting of brothers Robbie and Geoff Levin. The two were part of the 1960’s band People! that had a single radio hit in 1968 and then partially disbanded as most of the members, including the Levin brothers, got deeply involved in Scientology and joined its Sea Org. Eventually Robbie left, causing Geoff to disconnect from him. But then Geoff had his own doubts, started reading the Underground Bunker, and quietly reached out to us. Now, finally, Geoff was going public with his own disaffection from Scientology, and even better, the reunion of People! after 50 years. What a great story.


11. Scientology spells out its crazy ideas in a video you weren’t supposed to see

Michael Chan inhabits a pretty unique place in Scientology. He’s constantly traveling around the world whipping Scientologists into a fervor over, well, Scientology. He’s one of the few people who gets to speak out on L. Ron Hubbard’s arcane “tech” and the secrets and miracles of the upper levels. His talks are top secret, so you can imagine our glee when we got our hands on a full two-hour videotaped Chan stemwinder. We pulled out the best bits about bizarre Hubbard cosmology for this piece.


10. Scientology relies heavily on Russian immigrants — and ‘disconnection’ doesn’t spare them

Some stories we wait a long time for here at the Bunker, and in January we finally got to tell a story we had first heard about some six years before — the harrowing saga of Katrina Reyes, a Russian immigrant who lost her mother to the Sea Org. Katrina is yet another example of a woman being punished by Scientology because she admitted to being a victim of sexual assault. Thankfully, despite the way she was treated in the Sea Org, and even after her mother turned her back on her, Katrina found a great husband and they now have a son. She perseveres.



9. Kim Poff, finally free to speak: ‘I want this story out. I want people to know what Narconon did.’

In April we finally got to do a story we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Kim Poff, after winning a settlement from the state of Oklahoma, could finally speak freely about what she saw when she tried to get her bosses in state government to shut down Scientology’s flagship Narconon rehab there. But as Kim explained, although she found horrifying conditions at Narconon Arrowhead, her bosses were simply too afraid to take on Scientology, even after three patients had died at the facility in a nine-month period.


8. Captain David Miscavige’s faux-military Scientology ribbons, described and decoded!

What a treat this was. A tipster had taken the time to decode David Miscavige’s chest ribbons based on an internal Sea Org document, and the results were a lot of fun. Captain Miscavige, for example, had a commendation for “A/V Specialist” on his quasi-naval uniform. It was so precious!


7. Scientology used an ice cream ‘date’ to run up $20,000 on senior’s credit cards

In July one of our favorite stories of the year began to unfold. We had actually begun talking to Efrem Logreira, 75, some months before as he struggled to deal with crushing debts on his credit cards. He had spent only a year in Scientology, but the church had run up huge charges on his account, without his approval he claimed, and the interest charges alone neared $1,000 a month and were about to make him homeless. We always hear that law enforcement is looking for two things regarding the Church of Scientology: 1. financial crimes and 2. timely reporting. Well, here was a senior getting bilked, and it was unfolding in Present Time (as the Scientologists say). Even better, Efrem was a lovely character who had clearly been taken advantage of, including the time some young ladies at the Celebrity Centre took him out for an ice cream date to convince him to sign off on a $20,000 charge. Efrem had taken a photograph of that event, and it was one of the best Scientology-related photos we’ve ever seen. Efrem ended up talking both to federal investigators and to attorney Graham Berry. We hope to have an update from him soon about his attempts to be made whole by the church.



6. Never public: L. Ron Hubbard Jr.’s devastating 1972 takedown of his father and Scientology

In November we made public for the first time something Paulette Cooper had typed up 46 years before. In the summer of 1972, she helped L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (“Nibs”) produce a 63-page manuscript about his father and the history of Scientology. More sober and coldly factual than what Nibs would tell Penthouse magazine a decade later, “A Look Inside Scientology” is a powerful indictment of the L. Ron Hubbard myth.


5. Strange days for a woman accusing Danny Masterson of rape — and for her rocker husband

In our most-read story of April, we talked to Chrissie Carnell and her husband, rocker Cedric Bixler-Zavala, about the harassment they’ve been experiencing since Chrissie accused Scientology actor Danny Masterson of rape. The couple has been through a bewildering series of events, including the violent death of their dog. Chrissie tells us that they continue to undergo harassment, and more than two years after she and three other women came forward, LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey has yet to make a decision on whether to charge Masterson.


4. The Valerie Haney interview: Scientology smear tactics, and where Shelly Miscavige is

To start off Leah Remini’s third season of Scientology and the Aftermath, Valerie Haney, who had served David and Shelly Miscavige as a personal steward, told her incredible story of escaping from Int Base in 2016 by hiding in the back of a car. We followed up with Valerie a few days later and learned more stunning details about life with Dave and Shelly — including some very personal details about the love life of a worldwide ecclesiastical leader.


3. A private eye comes clean: ‘Scientology is a disgrace to the world’

In January we had quite a get: The testimony of Cierra Westerman, the first professional private investigator to come forward after working for the Church of Scientology. Cierra had been recruited out of a Florida trade school to infiltrate the Anonymous movement for Scientology in 2008, and then was part of a massive operation in Clearwater targeting Mike Rinder and other recently defected church officials. She had lived near Rinder, watched his house, and had even taken and sifted through his garbage. She even had receipts. We’re so glad she decided to come forward, tell her story at the Underground Bunker, and then go on to an appearance on Leah’s show.



2. Finally, L. Ron Hubbard’s first ‘Clear’ — Sonya Bianchi — found again after 68 years

Part of what motivates us to do this work day in and day out is the prospect of solving some of Scientology’s longstanding mysteries. Like tracking down Snow White spy Michael Meisner, or tracking down the detective who investigated Flo Barnett’s bizarre death. But we never thought we’d have any chance to solve one of the original mysteries of early Dianetics history — who was Sonya Bianchi, the woman L. Ron Hubbard declared the world’s first ‘Clear,’ and what had happened to her after the night of August 10, 1950, when her debut at the Shrine Auditorium had gone so wrong? Well, after 68 years, with the help of several researchers we discovered that Sonya is still alive at 92 years old and living in Massachusetts. Her son helped fill in some details about why she had vanished from Scientology history, and we’re hoping we get a chance to meet her soon. What a surprise this was for us in 2018.



In 2012 we started watching Laura Decrescenzo’s court battle, and by then it was already three years old. She had filed her lawsuit in 2009 over her treatment as a child in Scientology’s Sea Org, which she joined at the age of 12. At 17, she alleged that she had been forced to have an abortion, which was policy in order to keep Sea Org women working 112-hour weeks. Scientology practiced its usual scorched-earth tactics in order to delay the case endlessly, but finally in 2018, those appeals began to run out. With just days to go before a trial would begin, David Miscavige blinked. Of course we would have liked to see a trial happen, and evidence of the abuse of children entered in court in front of a jury and the press, but we must salute Laura for sticking to her guns for nine years and outlasting Scientology’s ruthless dictator. “We must never forget the legacy of this lawsuit,” Mike Rinder said at his blog after Laura won her settlement. “Laura DeCrescenzo inflicted serious and permanent damage on Scientology.”

Best of the Bunker, 2017


20. ‘God of Pop’ Kuba Ka on meeting Scientology’s David Miscavige: ‘Like an emperor or the Pope’


We could hardly believe our luck when Scientology celebrity Kuba Ka, the “God of Pop,” announced in March that he was leaving the church and his friend and adviser, actress Vikki Lizzi, told us that Kuba planned to sue. Oh, if only. The next day, we published our story about the two-hour Skype interview we did with Kuba and his mother and their entourage. After that conversation, we came away liking Kuba Ka — or rather, Jakub Stepniak, the man behind the god — more than we expected to. Sadly, not long after that interview Stepniak “retired” his pop persona, and Kuba Ka vanished into thin air.


19. Before Scientology’s Xenu was a genocidal galactic overlord, he was a … mountain?

In April we had a fun little treat that had confounded our experts — a tipster pointed out to us that L. Ron Hubbard referred to a “Mount Xenu” in an obscure lecture he recorded in 1958, some ten years before Hubbard would use the name “Xenu” in his infamous “OT III” handwritten notes. None of our experts had noticed it before, but Jon Atack pointed out that it was indeed an indication that Hubbard was simply dreaming up nonsense from a limited storehouse of ideas and notions.


18. Lawrence Wright goes to Nazareth: how Reza Aslan drove us into the arms of L. Ron Hubbard

Delayed a year by the presidential election, Reza Aslan’s “Believer” CNN series finally aired in 2017, and its March 26 episode about indie Scientology was as annoying as we assumed it would be. Aslan started out his show saying that Scientology “gets a bad rap,” which was pretty terribly timed after the success of Leah Remini’s first season, and then he proceeded to make all sorts of ridiculous claims about how indie Scientology might become a major world religion — without telling viewers that the two groups he interviewed had a total of about 60 and 20 members. It was a dishonest show which, like his other episodes, really only had one goal — to aggrandize Aslan himself. On the other hand, Aslan’s bad television did motivate us to write something fun about Lawrence Wright, Aslan, and L. Ron Hubbard, and Observer gave us one of our favorite illustrations of the year to adorn it, referring to Aslan’s subtle slam that if Larry had been around in Biblical times, he would have prevented Christianity from happening by grilling Jesus. And we absolutely loved Larry’s reaction, at Twitter: “A lot of what Jesus told me was off the record.”



17. Yes, L. Ron Hubbard wrote even more about children and sex, and we need to talk about it

In the mid 1980s, while he was in total seclusion hiding not only from process servers and government investigators but also from his own family and the rest of his Scientology movement, L. Ron Hubbard spent his time writing a million-word long science fiction story that the church put out as a ten-volume series. We chose one chapter from the ninth volume of the “Mission Earth” series, Villainy Victorious, to illustrate its truly sick take on sex and young boys. And we asked our readers to decide — what did it mean that near the end of his life, Hubbard was imagining this stuff?


16. Never before seen: A woman moments after achieving superhuman Scientology powers

In October, we provided an excerpt from a 1989 home video made aboard Scientology’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds. This rare footage featured the remarkable OT 8 graduation speech of a woman named Margie Zacks, a Scientologist reaching the pinnacle of achievement after years of studying L. Ron Hubbard’s “technology.” But for many of us, seeing her talk about how she got there was simply sad.


15. Is Scientology’s notorious prison detail — the ‘RPF’ — a thing of the past?

On October 4, we asked a question that caused a stir: Is Scientology’s “RPF” a thing of the past? Punishing Sea Org members with the “Rehabilitation Project Force” is legendary, and we’ve talked to people who were stuck for years on the prison-like detail. But recent defectors told us that over the past several years, Scientology leader David Miscavige systematically disbanded the RPF in places around the world, complaining that it carried too many Hubbard-era rules and regulations. Sea Org members are still being punished, we’re told, but no longer with trappings of the RPF — and we credited activists like Mike Rinder for exposing the RPF’s legacy of mistreatment.



14. DOX: The full FBI file from its 2009-2010 human trafficking investigation of Scientology

In 2011, Lawrence Wright broke the news in his New Yorker story about Paul Haggis that the FBI had investigated the Church of Scientology for human trafficking of its Sea Org workers. The church denied it. We never doubted for a moment that it was true because we spoke with numerous former Sea Org officials who had taken part in the investigation. But it was nice, finally, to get the evidence itself — in August, for the first time, we made the entire FBI file public, proving that indeed, the law enforcement agency gathered reams of evidence about the mistreatment of Scientologists at its secretive bases in California and Florida.


13. When a Scientology ‘body-router’ turns out to be the father you haven’t seen in 7 years

In May, we had a sad and surprising story. Earlier, we had posted some photos taken by a contributor outside the new Valley Org in Los Angeles which showed Scientology workers parking cars. One of them, however, turned out to be Irving Sorrentini, the father who had disconnected from his daughter, Jamie Sorrentini Lugli, someone well known to Bunker readers. She hadn’t seen her father in seven years, since he “disconnected” from her because she had left the church. Seeing her father was a punch to the gut. “Honestly, my heart is breaking. I feel like there’s no hope now. His eyes look so sad in that picture. That’s not the guy he was,” she told us.


12. Days before jumping to his death, actor Brad Bufanda credited Scientology with saving his life

Thanks to Angelo Pagan coming forward and giving us an interview, we got insights into the life of Brad Bufanda that the rest of the media overlooked. In the months before the Veronica Mars actor killed himself, he was telling friends of his commitment to Scientology, but he was also under heavy pressure because he refused church instructions to quit a movie because Pagan was also in it. His death shocked people who knew him well and who told us he had everything to live for.



11. Memories of a Scientology warrior: Marty Rathbun’s curious career as church rebel

In March, we uncorked a lengthy piece we’d put a lot of work into. We put together what we felt was a fair look at Marty Rathbun’s full trajectory, tracing the way his influential blog had changed over the years 2009-2016. Seen from that perspective, it made his evolution, from Scientology rebel to Scientology attack dog, all the more mysterious. This has now become one of the stories we direct people to most often as we are asked, constantly, what the hell happened to Marty Rathbun?


10. ‘Leah Remini’ show prompting more ‘ranch kids’ to come forward with agonizing family drama

One of the great results of Leah Remini’s TV series is that it has motivated so many more people to come forward with their stories of escaping Scientology — like Clarissa Adams, who talked to us about how Scientology had ripped her family apart. We were especially stunned when she told us about how her mother had reacted when Clarissa quit the Sea Org at 20: “Her response was, ‘Then why did you pick this body? Why did you pick this family?’ She never asked what I was going to do or where I would go. In fact, she didn’t bring it up again at all” But Clarissa still remembered it as the best day of her life. “I have never felt the same sense of freedom as I did that day. I had no idea what my future held, but I had a couple of hundred bucks to my name and I was no longer a part of the Sea Org. It was a beautiful moment.”


9. Scientology’s ultimate prize: For the first time online, the current ‘OT 8’ materials laid bare

Inspired by what Leah Remini had put on the air about the secrets of Scientology OT 8, in September we decided it was time to put the actual materials of New OT 8 online for the first time. (What Wikileaks had put online a decade earlier doesn’t reflect what former Scientologists told us they had experienced on that ultimate OT level.) So there it is, for you to see for yourself, what it can cost a Scientologist half a million to two million dollars to see. And it’s as underwhelming as you’d expect.



8. Coming to grips with Scientology’s most vile secret, which was hiding in plain sight

It still stuns us that a passage by L. Ron Hubbard endorsing pedophilia can be found in his most important book, Dianetics, and went unscrutinized for decades. Once again, we brought attention to it and Hubbard’s assertion that a 7-year-old girl should not “shudder” at an adult man’s kiss, “even a passionate one” — and this time, the Church of Scientology itself responded, through an official social media account, saying that the word “passionate” had no sexual connotation. Oh really? In that same book, Dianetics, Hubbard said this about the experience of a fetus in the womb: “Papa becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a running washing machine.” We’re pretty sure he wasn’t talking about knitting.


7. For the first time: The FBI file of Gabe Cazares, the Clearwater mayor targeted by Scientology

Thanks to the industrious R.M. Seibert, we got our hands on the FBI file of former Clearwater mayor and Congressional candidate Gabe Cazares. Here for the first time were new details on the hit-and-run plot Scientology tried to use to destroy his career in 1976, as well as some insight into why no one ever went to prison for it. This is the kind of material that current Clearwater residents and their leaders really ought to make themselves very familiar with.


6. Families of rescued patients are sharply divided on Scientologist-run Tennessee hellhole


In May we posted a story that has proved to be one we may have sent out as much as any other this year as we’ve tried to set the record straight on what was easily the most confusing reporting done on Scientology in a long, long time. It involved a facility in Tennessee that we’ve been watching for years, run by a Scientologist named Marc Vallieres, and which had a troubling past as a place where the church, we believed, sent members who had gone “Type III” — were in mental distress — for a medieval treatment known as the “Introspection Rundown.” Now, in 2017, that facility was shut down when sheriff’s deputies discovered a couple of patients being held there in cabins that were padlocked from the outside. But the press handling of the story was terribly mangled, in part because of a confusing statement put out by the local sheriff, and cries of “fake news” were heard across the land. The Underground Bunker was the only news organization that spoke to the families of the two victims and got the full story of what actually happened.


5. How Humira, the world’s best selling drug, is helping to finance Scientology into the future

In July we revealed that Jeffrey Augustine had found a document which showed that in the last week of 2015, Bob and Trish Duggan, the world’s richest Scientologists, socked away a million shares of stock from the pharmaceutical firm AbbVie in a foundation under their names. AbbVie is the maker of Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment that is the biggest-selling drug in the world, and its stock was trading for just under $60 a share at that time — so the stock the Duggans set aside was worth about $60 million. (AbbVie also makes depakote, a drug for treating a bipolar diagnosis. So yes, AbbVie makes “psych” drugs.) According to the tax filing made by the Duggan Foundation, that AbbVie stock was expected to bring in revenue of about $3 million a year, and the foundation was very up front that it would only disburse that income in the way of charitable grants to the Church of Scientology or its various charitable entities. So, the upshot: Bob and Trish had socked away a big chunk of money so the Church of Scientology will reliably get a few million bucks a year into perpetuity. Later in the year, we got confirmation that Bob and Trish were splitting up, and we also got word that Bob has a new science-y girlfriend and may be stepping away from the church, so in that light we’re thinking that this gift of Humira-related revenue to Scientology may be Bob’s “leave me alone” money.


4. Scientology’s disgusting secret: Young teens used to interrogate adults about their sex lives

In January we posted our first big feature of the year, about Serge Gil, who appeared on ABC’s 20/20. But that television program really sort of missed the point. ABC’s Dan Harris asked Serge about sexual questions he was asked, but all Scientologists go through that. What made Serge’s story unique isn’t the questions he was asked, but what questions he was forced to ask others. We went into depth about Serge who, as a 14-year-old auditor, was tasked with interrogating older men about their sexual habits. Sometimes, he told us, that meant having to hear about the fantasies an older man was having about him. And always Serge would be forced to push for more and more detail. Talking to other former church members, we learned that this is actually a pretty common thing in Scientology, and is most likely still happening.



3. When love triumphs over Scientology: A fairy tale of New York for the holidays

After we had brought up the subject of how escaping Scientology Sea Org workers are often talked into coming back to “route out” properly in an Orwellian process that is hard to understand from the outside, we heard from a man named Chris Tringali who wanted us to know about what he and his wife Nancy had been through. The more we questioned him about his situation, the more stunned we were by what this couple had been through and had stayed together through all of it. We were pleased to present their saga as a heartwarming tale of love for the holidays.


2. Scientology’s Celebrity Whisperer: An inside account of life in the fame-obsessed church

In February we uncorked one of our longest features of the year, our look at the “celebrity whisperer,” Quailynn McDaniel, who, with her husband Paul, was trusted for years by Scientology to pamper and cater to its famous celebrities, in particular the Elfmans, Jenna and Bodhi. But when the church asked Quailynn, while she was isolated on the Freewinds, to steal from her husband’s 401K in order to donate more, she walked away from the church and all of its perks. It was especially interesting to publish the harsh disconnection letter that Bodhi sent Paul simply because he’d “liked” something Leah Remini had posted on Facebook. What a saga!


1. LAPD probing Scientology and Danny Masterson for multiple rapes, cover-up

Without a doubt, March was our biggest month of the year for significant stories, and it started off with the year’s biggest bombshell: We revealed that Scientologist and That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson was being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department on accusations of rape by three different women, who were each Scientologists at the time of their alleged attacks. We referred to them as Victim A, who had written a scathing letter of complaint to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Victim B, who was made to do past-life auditing by the church as a bizarre kind of punishment for alleging that Masterson had raped her, and Victim C, who we interviewed, and who told us about the violent attack she went through. Since then, Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post revealed that a fourth victim had also come forward and was part of the investigation. He also reported that the District Attorney’s office had put the case on a “slow roll,” which explains why at the end of the year we were still waiting to see if charges were going to be filed.

Best of the Bunker, 2016



20. Scientology’s 20 biggest celebrities in order of those most likely to defect

Sure, you get lists of Scientology celebrities all the time. But we put this one together after Jason Lee bolted from the church because we wanted to know, from our Hollywood Celebrity Centre source, who he thought might be the next to walk. This list kicked up a lot of disagreement, and that’s what it was designed to do.


19. A Scientology spy comes forward — now he’s ready for war with David Miscavige

Skip Young had a small but significant place in Scientology history as a San Diego cop who provided a footnote to the Snow White Program. But we found out that today he’s been abandoned by his two daughters, who have “disconnected” from him in the Scientology way. From Scientology spy operative to grieving dad. His was one of the most unexpected stories we covered this year.


18. How Liz Gale came to disconnect from her own mother, Scientology style


Mark Ebner had done an amazing job telling the story of Philip Gale, a young genius who had grown up in Scientology and then had thrown himself off a building on the MIT campus on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday in 1998. But Philip’s younger sister, Liz Gale, had a journey out of Scientology that deserved a telling of its own.


17. VIDEO: David Miscavige’s entire speech at Scientology’s Atlanta ‘Ideal Org’ opening

What a coup this was. If you know how hard it’s been just to get a decent photo of David Miscavige at his appearances opening new Scientology buildings, you know that our correspondents had finally squared the circle with this one. From a perch across the street, they managed to video the Scientology leader’s entire speech at the Atlanta ceremony in April. Sure, there’s traffic noise, but the quality of this video is really pretty good considering how difficult it was even to obtain it.


16. What you didn’t see on ‘I Am Cait’: Kate Bornstein and Caitlyn Jenner at Scientology HQ

Kate Bornstein and Caitlyn Jenner, walking into the Los Angeles Org and asking to see Kate’s long-lost Sea Org daughter? And cameras weren’t rolling? We’re just fortunate that Kate told us all about it. What a scene.



15. Appeals court strikes Scientology’s $1 million judgment against Ken Dandar

This may have been the biggest surprise of the year. Scientology appeared to have attorney Ken Dandar dead to rights after winning a ruinous $1 million judgment against him. How he got there was incredibly complex, but a retired judge seemed determine to make Dandar pay for suing Scientology. Ken was appealing, but they looked like long shots. How wrong we were.


14. What’s the worst that can happen when you sue Scientology? Here’s one frightening example.

Karla Taylor believed that Scientology had misused the trademarks of her company, the National Association of Forensic Counselors, in order to hide the problems of its drug rehab network, Narconon. But after filing her lawsuit against 82 defendants, alleging a widespread conspiracy run by David Miscavige, she then found herself in the crosshairs. Eventually, a magistrate judge ordered Karla to turn over her private laptop to attorneys representing Narconon, which our legal observers told us was beyond the pale. What is it about Scientology and the courts?


13. For Scientology’s most infamous dirty trickster, retirement has a happy ending

If you study the dirty tricks played by Scientology on its perceived enemies, one name comes up as much as anyone’s: Eugene Ingram, disgraced former Los Angeles cop and chief private eye for Scientology in the 1980s and 1990s. What a treat it was, with the help of our researchers, to find Gene today, “el Jefe” of his own Mexican cantina.



12. THE BILLBOARD IS UP: Scientology’s disconnection policy on view in Los Angeles

What a day this was in the Bunker, whose readers had helped raise the lion’s share of the money Phil and Willie Jones used to post their own billboard in Los Angeles bringing attention to Scientology’s policy of “Disconnection.” After, that is, two previous billboard companies had turned them down in the face of Scientology intimidation.


11. Is Scientology using Tommy Davis to get Aussie billionaire James Packer back in the fold?

Former Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis continues to be a favorite around here at the Bunker, and so we like to keep tabs on him. And did that pay off this year. Tommy has a cool new job in Hollywood, but our experts tell us he’s still likely to be trying to get James Packer back into the Scientology fold. We’re still looking for evidence of that.


10. Scientology’s Space Man: The newest defector from church management opens up

Paul Burkhart was another key defection from Scientology’s upper ranks. He was in a unique position to watch what was happening at both Int Base and then at the Hollywood Guaranty Building in Los Angeles. And having left in August 2013, his information was years fresher than anything else we’d seen. And most shocking? His estimate, based on access he had to enrollment documents, that Scientology’s active membership worldwide has now fallen under 20,000.



9. Some churches take care of the old — Scientology instead works them to death

The story of Claire Reppen was not an easy one to read. In her late 60s and suffering the effects of advanced cancer, she was still a Sea Org member and was expected to work like one. Her son provided for us a handwritten letter Claire wrote, asking for relief from her work, and her supervisors own complaint about her tendency to slack off. The details are gruesome, and point to a larger problem: Scientology has no idea what to do with the many older members it has now, except work them to death.


8. Disconnection, neglect, and suicide: Scientology, it’s even worse than you think

More than a disconnection story, this is a saga about a Scientology family that is so disturbing, we can’t look at that photo, above, without feeling astonished that it exists. Share this story with your friends, and tell them that Scientology is always worse than you thought.


7. CLAIM: Frail looking Shelly Miscavige spotted near Scientology compound in California


After years of writing about Shelly Miscavige, the wife that Scientology leader David Miscavige made disappear more than a decade ago, we were stunned to learn that there’s a good chance she’s been spotted — and exactly where we’d been telling readers to look for her. We’ve vetted the couple that reported these sightings, and we’re taking their claim seriously. And because of that, we’re more concerned than ever about the state that Shelly is in. Much more on this is coming soon.


6. Lucia Ribisi ditches Scientology and says of famous dad Giovanni, he’s questioned it

We spent months checking our facts before revealing that Lucia Ribisi had talked publicly about ditching Scientology on a Los Angeles radio show, but under an assumed name. Her defection puts enormous pressure on her famous dad, Giovanni, who, she claims, has had his own doubts about the church. This is huge: The Ribisi clan is one of the most prominent in the church, and Giovanni’s divorced parents are among the most dedicated Scientologists still left in the organization.


5. Tom Cruise penthouse in Scientology’s spiritual mecca? We have the plans

It’s so fun to beat the celebrity-obsessed bigs to a story like this. Tom Cruise is having a $3 million, double-level penthouse with a private, 9-car garage with car elevator built out in a former bank building smack in the middle of Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida. Mom lives nearby, and son Connor is also in town, so maybe it makes sense to Tom to have a place in Clearwater. But the location at the center of Scientology’s “spiritual mecca” also says a lot, doesn’t it?



4. The fight over the secrets on a Scientology spy’s seized laptop that no one is talking about

Years of detailed information that spells out Scientology’s elaborate and possibly illegal spying operations is sitting in the evidence room of a Wisconsin town, and someone has gone to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on it. Can journalists get there first? We obtained a couple of court documents that spelled out this extraordinary situation, but then we made a call out to our fellow journalists — someone needs to get their hands on that crucial information before David Miscavige does.


3. Scientology’s secret sites: The Bunker premieres drone footage never before seen of Int Base

We never knew him. We only know that he showed up out of nowhere and gave us the links to a set of the some of the most vivid footage we’ve ever seen. Our mystery man had flown a drone equipped with a 4K camera over Scientology’s super secret compounds in California and New Mexico, giving us unprecedented looks at them, with knockout clarity. Twin Peaks, where Shelly Miscavige is most likely being held? This footage not only shows you the compound, but we pinpointed the house where Shelly probably lives, and the building where she works. Other flyovers included Int Base where David Miscavige lives, the Creston ranch were L. Ron Hubbard died, the spaceship-looking vault site on the Northern California coast, and the famous Trementina base in New Mexico.


2. How Lisa Marie Presley became Scientology leader David Miscavige’s worst nightmare

This was a two-part series in April that had taken us more than a year to put together, and coincided with the publication of Ron Miscavige’s memoir, Ruthless. Ron’s escape from Int Base and his memoir were part of an ongoing destruction of his family, orchestrated by his son, David, Scientology’s iron-fisted ruler. But what no one knew until we revealed it was that one person who was intimately involved with the Miscavige family saga was Lisa Marie Presley. She became so incensed with how Ron was being treated by his own children, she went to the Flag Land Base in Clearwater in October 2014 to have a showdown with David Miscavige. He sent his sisters in his stead to scream at Lisa Marie in what has to be the single weirdest scene we’ve written about in several years.



1. Spying, intimidation, and ruin: Two lives caught up in Scientology’s notorious ‘Fair Game’

We will probably fail at trying to impart how much this story meant to us. We knew, when Rob Ramsay first brought us his dead brother’s private papers, that we had a unique opportunity. Rob’s brother, Peter, had been a dedicated Scientologist, and he had also been a spy for the church who helped Scientology carry out its ‘Fair Game’ campaigns. And on one person in particular, a guy named Gregg Hagglund whose own history was odd and wonderful. Telling the tale of how the lives of these two men were intertwined because of Scientology’s vicious thirst for revenge was one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences of our career.

Best of the Bunker, 2015


1. Felony raps for Scientologists running L.A. rehab scam with corrupt educators

2. AUDIO LEAK: Hear a Scientologist being declared suppressive and facing the loss of her family

3. Jim Carrey’s Scientologist girlfriend on SRD when she killed herself: friends

Cat White’s ‘twin’ | Cat’s Hollywood clique | Scientology spied on Carrey | Cat White’s husband Mark Burton | Cat’s secret wake | The man who found Cat | Cat’s Ireland-Scientology connection

4. The shocking case of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill you haven’t heard


5. NY Times reports link between Scientology and hack of two who appeared in ‘Going Clear’

6. Scientology’s day care from Hell: The scandal the church managed to keep hidden, until now

7. Why Steve Fishman — of the notorious Fishman Papers — is today serving 21 years in prison

8. Hear the full police interview of Scientology spies and their stalking Ron Miscavige Sr

9. Ten year gone: Shelly Miscavige, the wife Scientology’s leader wants us to forget

10. The life and death of Scientology ‘Clear’ Lisa McPherson told in real time

11. The Leah Remini files: An exclusive look at the ‘KRs’ that inform her memoir

12. Another Scientology rehab death, and why this one is particularly bad for David Miscavige

13. Our guide to watching Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary ‘Going Clear’: Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

14. How Scientology broke up Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers: The story you haven’t heard

15. The story of Brian Sheen and his disconnected Scientology daughter you haven’t heard

16. Louis Theroux’s ‘My Scientology Movie’: A hilarious take on an unfunny bunch

17. New government release contains a surprise: L. Ron Hubbard flunked out of high school, too

18. John Coale, Greta Van Susteren, and the miracle of Scientology drug technology: A meditation


19. Listen to Jim Jones root for Scientology against Paulette Cooper in a 1978 Jonestown address

20. Reed Slatkin dies of heart attack: Scientologist served time as major Ponzi schemer

Best of the Bunker, 2014


1. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world

2. Up the Bridge: We finally reach OT 8, but was its first version really a hoax?

3. Shock dox: Scientology’s book value for just two of its entities is $1.2 billion

4. Scientology’s disconnection policy foiled as Jeremy Powers reunites with his family

5. Rare tape reveals how L. Ron Hubbard really came up with Scientology’s space cooties

6. Monique Rathbun files for sanctions, submits Scientology leader’s foul-mouthed texts


7. Five things to watch for in today’s first Scientology wedding in the UK

8. ‘Bare-Faced Messiah’ back in print: Our interview with author Russell Miller

9. Jillian Schlesinger: How I got into Scientology and how I got out

10. We asked David Miscavige’s tailor for his exact height and here’s what he told us

11. Where is Scientology keeping Barbara Cordova Oliver?

12. Media advisory: Stop saying that Scientology is infested with big movie stars already

13. Denise Brennan, 1952-2014: A truthteller who exposed Scientology’s corporate shell game

14. Verdict: Scientology’s Quebec rehab facility violated human rights of David Love and two others

15. LAWSUIT: Oklahoma officials hid wrongdoing at Scientology drug rehab

16. The rising business star, his mother, and Scientology’s attempt to rip them apart

17. The Scientologist who wouldn’t fly: The rise and fall of insurance mogul Richie Acunto

18. Jamie DeWolf: I’ve found the last memoir of the son of Scientology’s founder

19. Scientology says it’s received $5.7 million from Google in advertising grants

20. L. Ron Hubbard explains to a friend the real reason he wrote ‘Dianetics’


Best of the Bunker, 2013


1. How Scientology coerced a child to have an abortion: The Laura DeCrescenzo files

2. Breaking the news that Leah Remini had left Scientology (July 8, 2013) And follow-up with Leah’s sister Nicole

3. Monique Rathbun files suit against Scientology over harassment

4. PZ Myers helps us plunder the riches of L. Ron Hubbard’s book of Scientology evolution!

5. LEAKED: Scripts spell out how Scientology directs the unsuspecting to its rehab network

6. The history of Scientology’s weird vaults — the bizarre ‘Battlefield Earth’ connection!

7. SCIENTOLOGY’S PRIVATE DANCER: A story of seduction, intervention, and betrayal

8. LIVE OVER CLEARWATER: Watching Scientology from an Eye in the Sky

9. Will Smith-backed school that used Scientology materials closes its doors

10. Did the Headleys and their lawsuit torpedo the FBI investigation of Scientology?

11. Leah Remini files missing-person report on Scientology leader’s wife

12. Blogging Dianetics: Vance Woodward helps us parse L. Ron Hubbard’s masterpiece (series)

13. Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: We don’t think Scientology is going to like this book much

14. Document leak: Scientology sexual histories

15. Jenna Miscavige Hill on her uncle, Scientology’s leader: A bully too afraid to show his face

16. Today you begin your training as a Scientologist

17. Former Scientology enforcer Marty Rathbun examines his past as the church’s ‘warrior’

18. SCIENTOLOGISTS AT WAR, the Channel 4 documentary (and what was left out)

19. In his new book, is Neil Gaiman exorcising his Scientology past?

20. Mary Sue Hubbard’s last will fulfilled: Her dog bereft of life, it’s time to sell her house!

Best of the Bunker, 2012


1. Scientology’s master spies

2. ‘Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a god’: A Scientology insider, John Brousseau, gives first full-length interview to the Voice (Part 1, Part 2)

3. Scientology abandoned by L. Ron Hubbard’s granddaughter and David Miscavige’s father

4. Scientology’s secret vaults: A rare interview With a former member of hush-hush ‘CST’

5. SCIENTOLOGY CRUMBLING: An entire church mission defects as David Miscavige faces leadership crisis

6. How Scientology spied on Tom Cruise

7. Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

8. Scientology’s homophobia: Even the church’s token gay guy was disgusted

9. Scientology’s Writers of the Future Contest: Troubling ties to abuse in the church

10. Kate Bornstein’s amazing voyage

11. Scientology, deep in the heart of Texas: The Voice at the Debbie Cook hearing

12. Death of a Scientologist: Why Annie Broeker, Famous in the Church, Had to Die in Secret

13. Scientology and the occult: Hugh Urban’s new exploration of L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley

14. VIDEO: Proof that L. Ron Hubbard was the most awesome human being ever

15. Scientology, ‘disconnection,’ and homophobia: Derek Bloch’s story

16. Why do Scientologists accept the Xenu story?

17. Scientology’s concentration camp for its executives: The prisoners, past and present

18. The Strange Death of Flo Barnett, Mother-in-Law to Scientology Leader David Miscavige

19. Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook’s email, annotated

20. Scientology Spokeswoman Who Disconnected From Her Father Criticizes Scientology Victim Who Didn’t

A Sample of earlier stories, 1995 – 2011



Scientology’s Cruise Ship as Prison: The Voice Interviews Valeska Paris

1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu

Scientology in The New Yorker: Lawrence Wright Buries L. Ron Hubbard For Good

Tommy Davis, Scientology Spokesman, Secretly Recorded Discussing ‘Disconnection’

Scientology’s Enemies List: Are You On It?

Inside Scientology’s Labor Camp That Benefits Tom Cruise: The Photos

Daniel Montalvo Hits Scientology With Stunning Child Labor Lawsuits

‘Inside Scientology’ Promises a Lot, And Delivers: David Miscavige Has Much to Worry About

Scientology Targeted South Park’s Parker and Stone in Investigation

Melissa Paris, Valeska’s Sister, And Her Own Ordeal in Scientology’s Cadet and Sea Orgs: Forced to Marry at 16

Scientology in Israel: Arson, Attempted Murder, Foreclosure, General Paranoia — And a Visit by the Voice!

Scientology Hates Clean Ice: The “Fair Game” Operation That Should Turn Your Stomach

Scientology Never Forgets: A Telemarketing Holiday Miracle

LinkScientologists: How Many Of Them Are There, Anyway?

When Scientologists Attack! (First coverage of the Squirrel Busters in Texas)

More Scientology Hip Hop, Yo: The Curious Career of Chill EB

Milton Katselas Pleads With Scientology After Grant Cardone’s Attack: A Church Jihad?

Scientology Cruise Ship as Hellhole: The Ramana Dienes-Browning Story

Scientology and the Nation of Islam: A Heartwarming Independence Weekend Parable



Another Ex-Scientologist Publishes Damning Tell-All (‘Counterfeit Dreams’ by Jefferson Hawkins)

Scientology “Dark Ops” Program Exposed, Says Former Top Official

Daniel Montalvo, 19, Leaves Scientology, Which Convinces LA Sheriff to Jail Him For It

Aaron Saxton, Scientology Enforcer, Stops By For a Chat



‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Ditches Scientology

Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’: Life at Scientology’s Secret Headquarters (Marc Headley’s book ‘Blown for Good’)

Scientology’s Leader a Sadistic Slapper, Say Top-Level Defectors: St. Pete Times

Scientology Gets Its Ass Kicked In the Desert



Scientology’s Crushing Defeat (The Larry Wollersheim story)

Scientology’s First Celebrity Defector Reveals Church Secrets

Jason Beghe Turned Away at NY Scientology Building

What to Get L. Ron Hubbard for his Birthday

Nightline Swings at Scientology, Misses

Isaac Hayes Was No Expert Scientologist



Sympathy for the Devil (The Tory Christman story, written for New Times Los Angeles)



John Travolta won’t talk to The Finger (Written as “The Finger” for New Times Los Angeles)



Double Crossed (The Graham Berry story)

Picket Fencing (The Jeff Jacobsen story)



Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans (The Rick Ross story)

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