After the break you can view the programme and also full-length versions of a number of the interviews that were not used in it (or used in a heavily edited form). At the very bottom of the page there is a written transcript.
“Secret Lives: L Hubbard” was a television biography for the UK commercial TV Channel 4. It includes interviews with people who witnessed crucial events of his life – notably inside stories from members of the original ‘Sea Org’ – a bizarre private navy consisting of redundant merchant ships.
Critics suggest that Hubbard ‘went to sea’ like this in order to avoid arrest for his part in “Operation Snow White”, a Scientology ‘intelligence operation’ which involved subverting government records.
Incredibly, the Scientology ‘dirty tricks department’ which oversaw these illegal activities is still operating – this report from 1977 details how the journalist responsible for this video has been persecuted by an American private detective called Eugene Ingram, who is still in the pay of the Church of Scientology.
Secret Lives: L Ron Hubbard (Written Transcript after Interview Videos)
Unused Interviews for ‘Secret Lives
Edit: Some time ago, Tony Ortega started posting links to video versions of:
- The original (full-length) interviews that were shot for the programme but only used in edited form
- Unused Interviews
I started adding them to this post – after all, how much material did a UK commercial television station allow its journalists to gather for a single programme back in 1997. The surprising answer is a lot – this post has gradually become the longest on this blog. Watch this space. There are probably more to come.
Forrest J Ackerman, L Ron Hubbard’s Literary Agent
Ackerman was the literary agent who represented Hubbard when he made a precarious living writing for pulp magazines. He was also a famous collector of SF and horror film memorabilia. By all accounts ‘Florry’ was a decent, and entertainingly eccentric, man.
His interview provides some additional insights into L Ron Hubbard’s character.
Barbara Klowden, L. Ron Hubbard’s PR Agent
Barbara Klowden was L. Ron Hubbard’s PR Agent and lover. Her interview provides insight into Hubard’s psychiatric condition and insecurity issues.
Arthur Jean Cox, Science Fiction Writer and colleague of L Ron Hubbard
Fox evidently neither liked nor trusted Hubbard. He speaks of:
- Hubbard’s description of “Excalibur”, the unpublished book which preceded “Dianetics”
- The efforts made by John W Campbell (the editor of the pulp science fiction magazine “Astounding Science Fiction”) to promote Hubbard’s book “Dianetics”
- Hubbard’s disastrous presentation of ‘the world’s first clear’ (the demonstration of total recall failed completely, and the bulk of the audience left in disgust
- Hubbard’s abusive use of ‘hypnotism’, which he practised on colleagues at meetings of an SF writers club.
Gabe Cazeres – Mayor of Clearwater when Hubbard directed Scientology to Infiltrate the Town
Since Hubbard created the ‘Sea Org’ in order to avoid investigators an summons to court to answer charges ( a situation which had worsened). He had, apparently, tired of this life, and needed a ‘land base’ controlled by The Church of Scientology where he could continue to hide.
In 1977, he selected the town of Clearwater. Armed with huge sums of money, Scientology’s ‘secret police’ (then called the ‘Guardian’s Office) infiltrated and occupied the town by buying property under a variety of false identities.
Today, the citizens of Clearwater have been effectively excluded from their own town centre. This isnow dominated by Scientology-owned properties, bristling with surveillance cameras and ‘protected’ by private security. The Church of Scientology continues to buy property there.
Gabe Cazeres was Mayor of Clearwater when Scientology began its deceitful takeover. When he objected he was personally targeted by covert operations.
Jim Dincalci – Hubbard’s Sea Org ‘Assistant Medical Officer’
Jim Dincalci abandoned medical school to join Hubbard in the ‘real’ (sea-going) Sea Org. He observed Hubbard’s behaviour both aboard ship, and in hiding in New York around 1972.
Dincalci describes life in the original Sea Org, Hubbard’s drug use and his declining mental and physical health.
He also discusses conversations with Hubbard’s son, who claimed that his father gave him amphetamines, and based one his more bizarre books (The History of Man) upon his son’s ramblings . Hubbard’s justification for this abuse was that he was actually investigating and recovering his son’s ‘past lives’ – including his experience as a clam, and as ‘Piltdown Man’ (the latter, once believed to be the evolutionary ‘missing link’ between ape and modern human, turned out to be a clever fake).
Gerald “Gerry” Armstrong – L. Ron Hubbard’s Assistant
Gerry Armstrong is a important name in the history of Scientology. He worked as L Ron Hubbard’s personal assistant, travelled with him, and took care of his literary business.
When Hubbard commissioned an autobiography, Armstrong was provided with a mass of personal papers to put into order. As he dug into them, he realised that Hubbard’s life, as revealed by these documents, bore no relationship to the myth he had constructed about himself.
Disillusioned, he left Scientology. Crucially, he took copies of Hubbard’s papers with him. Those copies where the foundations upon which the first true accounts of Hubbard’s life were based.
Nieson Himmel a resident at Jack Parson’s house when L Ron Hubbard aso lived there
This interviewee is billed as a”Resident at Jack Parson’s House when L Ron Hubbard was there.” This is probably Nieson Himmel, who is described by Russell Miller in his book “Bare Faced Messiah” as follows:
For a while, Ron shared a room with Nieson Himmel, a young reporter who had also met Parsons through a shared interest in science fiction. Perhaps because of the inbred scepticism of newspapermen, Himmel was less impressed than most by his new room-mate: ‘I can’t stand phoneys and to me he was so obviously a phoney, a real con man. But he was certainly not a dummy. He was very sharp and quick, a fascinating story-teller, and he could charm the shit out of anybody. He talked interminably about his war experiences and seemed to have been everywhere. Once he said he was on Admiral Halsey’s staff. I called a friend who worked with Halsey and my friend said “Shit, I’ve never heard of him”. Bare Faced Messiah Chapter 7
Jack Parsons was a fascinating combination of pioneering rocket scientist and black magician whom Hubbard performed ritual magic with before the success of his book “Dianetics”.
Senator Robert Ford (Neighbour of L Ron Hubbard and His 1st Wife Polly)
In this interview Ford admits that, in 1941, when Hubbard asked him to write a letter of recommendation to further his ambition to gain a commission in the US Navy, Ford provided Hubbard with a piece of his official stationary, and invited him to write his own.
This letter (left) was not only in Hubbard’s distinctive writing style, but also demonstrates his astonishingly high opinion of himself (click on the image to view a larger version in a new tab).
The first paragraph is so over-the-top that you would have thought that this letter would have the opposite effect to that intended – “This is to introduce one of the most brilliant men I have ever known Captain L Ron Hubbard”.
Robert Vaughn Young (L Ron Hubbard’s PR and Press Assistant)
Robert Vaughn Young was a prominent player in Scientology. He was the national spokesman for the Church, and L Ron Hubbard’s Literary Assistant.
It fell to him to ‘edit’ Hubbard’s 1.2 million word manuscript for “Mission Earth” (which was presented to him as one continuous story). He was not allowed to alter the text, but came up with an ingenious solution to the problem of dividing it up so that it could be published as 10 books, which is described here.
Robert Vaughn Young also worked as Hubbard’s unacknowledged ghost writer, producing several ‘interviews’ to promote Hubbard’s late fiction “Battlefield Earth” and “Mission Earth”. The first appeared in a book entitled Dream Makers, and the second in the newspaper “The Rocky Mountain” news.
In both cases, they were published on account of public interest in a notorious recluse, not because of Hubbard’s supposed reputation as a Science fiction writer (his last, unremarkable, fiction had been published in 1950, more than 30 years previously and he had been virtually forgotten by fans).
Mike Goldstein – L Ron Hubbard’s ‘Financial Controller’
Hana Eltringham Whitfield – L Ron Hubbard’s ‘Ships Captain’
Written Transcript of “Secret Lives: L Ron Hubbard”
VOICES: “We were saving the world, we were convinced that Hubbard was the returned saviour and that his techniques and his knowledge and his majesty would eventually bring all mankind to an enlightened state and that was what we were doing…”
“There were some things about him that I do feel were rather dangerous. I felt so much under his spell that I told my room-mate that if ever I told her that I was going to marry this man, she should tie me up and not allow me out of the house…”
“I was overwhelmed: here I am in the presence of the most important individual in the cosmos. I mean, this isn’t just like meeting a film star or something, I’m meeting God with plus signs…”
Lafayette Ron Hubbard created one of the richest and most controversial cults of our time – the Church of Scientology. He spent much of his later life at sea, on the run from those who accused him of being a crook and a charlatan. But to the millions who at one time or another followed him, and to himself, he was the greatest guru who ever lived.
HUBBARD: “There is one thing you can say about Dianetics and Scientology, and I’m sorry if this sounds odd, but it isn’t everybody who can write a book that turns the world on its ear”
But more remarkable still was the story of Ron Hubbard’s life: the story of a science-fiction fantasist and self-proclaimed messiah.
Ron Hubbard was determined that from the start that his story would be the stuff of legend. He was born in 1911 and told of how he was brought up on his grandfather’s ranch in Montana, which he said in a newspaper interview, covered a quarter of the state. As a small child he was breaking broncos and hunting coyotes. He claimed that he grew up with old frontiersmen, and even became a blood brother of the local Blackfoot Indians.
These were all splendid tales, but all that is known for sure is that while he did use to visit a small livery stable his grandfather owned, he was brought up in an ordinary home, the only child of ordinary American parents. Towards the end of World War I his father joined the American navy. The teenage Hubbard spent holidays in Guam, where the family was stationed. He travelled in China and the East. With a taste for adventure, he went prospecting for gold in Puerto Rico, and, as a student, even led a sea exploration to find pirates’ hoards in the Caribbean. But he couldn’t resist gilding the lily. A Scientology book later recorded his claim to have communed with native bandits in the high hills of Tibet. But there is no evidence he ever went to Tibet.
CYRIL VOSPER – Hubbard’s Staff:
“He told so many stories of his exploits, in South America, the West Indies and places, that he would have to have been at least 483 years old to have had enough time to have done all those things, but that doesn’t really matter. I mean, it was just very entertaining really, except that he turned it into a religion.”
ROBERT VAUGHN YOUNG – Press Officer:
“In his diaries he was writing little stories, you know, sea adventures and yarns, but sometimes when some of his own representatives found them, they thought these were true. You know, there was an escapade of him fighting an octopus that once one of his personal representatives was telling as a true story, and I was trying to point out to her later that, no, this is just one of his stories that he’s interspersing with his private life.”
When he was 22, Hubbard married his first wife, Polly. They went to live on Puget Sound, in Washington State, and soon had two children. Hubbard’s joy in life was sailing and exploring, but now he had to settle down, and earn some money. With such a prolific imagination, he became a writer, starting with adventures and fantasies in penny-dreadfuls. Then he turned to science fiction and became a best seller.
Two books, ‘Final Blackout’ and ‘Fear’, were considered sci-fi classics. But Hubbard’s most amazing story was about himself. His literary agent was Forry Ackerman, himself a sci-fi fanatic. One night, deep into the small hours, Hubbard told Ackerman of a bizarre event in a hospital theatre that would shape his entire life.
FORREST ACKERMAN – Hubbard’s literary agent:
“He said that he had died on the operating table, and that he rose in spirit form, and he looked at the body that he had previously inhabited and he shrugged the shoulders he didn’t have any more and he thought ‘well then, where do we go from here?’ Off in the distance he saw a great ornate gate, and he wafted over to it, and the gate, as they do in supernatural films, just opened without any human assistance. He floated through and on the other side he saw an intellectual smorgasbord of everything that had ever puzzled the mind of man – you know, how did it all begin, where do we go from here, are there past lives, and like a sponge he was just absorbing all this esoteric information and all of a sudden there was a kind of swishing in the air and he heard a voice, ‘no, not yet, he’s not ready’ and like a long umbilical cord he felt himself being pulled back, back, back and he lay down in his body and he opened his eyes, and he said to the nurse, ‘I was dead, wasn’t I?’. Then he bounded off the operating table – I don’t know how you die, then you bound off an operating table. He got two reams of paper, and a gallon of scalding black coffee, and at the end of two days he had a manuscript called ‘Excalibur’ or ‘The Dark Sword’. And he told me that whoever read it either went insane or committed suicide. And he said that the last time he had shown it to a publisher in New York, he walked into the office to find out what the reaction was, the publisher called for the reader, the reader came in with the manuscript, threw it on the table and threw himself out of the skyscraper window.”
But was Hubbard’s extraordinary story true? Excalibur became the stuff of mystery. Hubbard told friends it was too dangerous to publish. But forty years later, a treasure trove from Hubbard’s early journals and manuscripts, believed to have been long lost, was discovered by his staff.
GERRY ARMSTRONG – Hubbard’s household manager:
“There were two and a half versions of Excalibur. I read them and I didn’t go mad and didn’t die. They also include the information within related writings, that these came out of a nitrous oxide incident. Hubbard had a couple of teeth extracted, and it was while under the effect of nitrous oxide that he came up with Excalibur.”
Hubbard’s ‘death’ was in fact an hallucination under the effects of anaesthetic. So what was the intellectual dish he’d fed on?
“It was not anything particularly revolutionary. The key to Excalibur was this great realisation, by Hubbard, of ‘Survive’ as being the one command that all existence, and all life and all people, have. That became the basis for a lot of Dianetics and a lot of Scientology.”
This idea had a profound impact on Hubbard. In a letter to Polly he wrote ‘I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so violently that it will take a legendary form.’
The Second World War brought a new dimension to the Hubbard legend. He said that while serving in the U.S. Navy he had been blinded, but that inspired by the insights he had first glimpsed when he died on the operating table he had dramatically been able to cure himself.
HUBBARD IN 1968:
“By 1948 through my own processing, and use of the principles I had isolated up to that time, was able to pass a 100% combat physical, which was very mysterious to the government, how had I suddenly become completely physically well, from being blind and lame.”
It was an odd story, because Hubbard’s war record shows his recurring problem was a stomach ulcer. There are mentions of conjunctivitis, but none of blindness. Indeed, none of his medical reports, before, during, or after the war, contain any suggestion of blindness, only shortsightedness and astigmatism.
After the war, Hubbard went to Hollywood. As a successful science fiction author he was a welcome visitor to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Association. Its members recalled that there was one power over the mind he undoubtedly did possess – hypnotism.
“Ron Hubbard came to our club and he hypnotised all of the members except me. I wanted to remain in present time and watch what was going on. I remember it was fascinating, he told one boy he had a little kangaroo in the palms of his hands, and the boy was going all around the room showing everyone this little kangaroo that was hopping around.”
In writings and conversations, Hubbard began to speak of his new science of the mind. As Scientology’s literature would later depict, Hubbard claimed that in addition to himself, he cured eleven other war veterans and restored sanity to forty mental patients.
JEAN COX – Writer:
“Rumours were beginning to circulate that this new science of the mind or this new philosophy had a significance for mankind that was greater than the discovery of the wheel and equal in significance to the discovery of fire.”
In the May 1950 edition of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, Hubbard published his stunning findings as fact. Dianetics was truly born. Thousands of letters poured in to the magazine. In the meantime Hubbard had been pounding the typewriter keys, putting his ideas into a 450-page book. It became a bestseller, and Dianetics a national craze.
Hubbard’s theory was that the human mind was bedevilled by ‘engrams’, memories of painful events, often imprinted before birth on the foetus. He claimed that under the direction of a Dianetics therapist or auditor, as he called them these engrams could be relived and then cleared from the mind. At this stage, Dianetics seemed just an exaggerated form of psychotherapy.
“Well, Dianetics was so popular because it promised a brave new world of everybody clear, no more colds, no more eyeglasses. It cured me of a fear of dogs.”
“Among the various things it was said to be able to do was, one person had lost a tooth, and through Dianetic auditing he regrew the tooth. Almost any illness could be cured. Schizophrenia could be cured.”
“It opened up the whole world for everybody to become perfect human beings.”
Hubbard sold Dianetics auditing courses at $500 a go. The money was rolling in. But he was about to be accused of being a con-man.
With his book, Dianetics, a best-seller, Ron Hubbard was America’s new guru. In August 1950, at a lecture hall in Los Angeles he presented to a crowd of 6,000 the first person to be what he called a ‘clear’. She was a student called Sonya Bianca. As a clear, she was supposed to have total recall.
“Various members of the audience called questions at her. Could she remember what was said on page 217 of her physics textbook? She couldn’t. Could she remember what she had for breakfast on the morning of August 17, 1946? She couldn’t. Then various people called out for Hubbard to turn his back on her and see if she could remember the colour of his tie. She couldn’t. At that moment, the whole business sort of collapsed. People started leaving the auditorium.”
Suddenly Hubbard was in trouble. He was accused of being a con-man and Dianetics a form of hypnotism., a technique at which he was so expert. He recruited a bright young PR woman, Barbara Kaye.
“Well, I’ve always found that it’s the mind of a man that is most sexy. He was not really terribly physically attractive. And he had a brilliant mind, no question about that. I surely thought this was a man who is interested in marrying me, and who I might be interested in marrying.”
The intellectual attraction turned into an affair and Barbara stayed with the 40 year old Hubbard in an apartment in Hollywood. But by now Hubbard had left Polly and was married to his second wife, Sara. He had led Barbara to believe that the marriage with Sara was over. It wasn’t.
“It was quite shocking when shortly after moving some of my things into the apartment, suddenly Sara turned up with the babies and moved in. I believe he was just as dismayed as I, because the next day when he came to the office with some of my belongings, like my cologne and toothbrush and so forth, he looked very downtrodden and apologetic and not happy about the situation at all”
Nevertheless, Barbara was kicked out. Dianetics was still in trouble. After the initial success of the book, money had rolled in, and rolled out just as fast. Hubbard went to Palm Springs to try and recoup his fortune with a follow-up book. But the business, his marriage with Sara, and his writing were in crisis. He asked Barbara to come to him.
“He was certainly very depressed, He had lost the colour in his face. His voice was hardly audible. He told me that he was totally blocked, he was working under a publisher’s deadline that he was failing to meet. He believed that his inability to write was due to the sinister interventions of other people, such as Sara hypnotizing him in his sleep and telling him that he would never write again. I found him paranoid, you know. He was clearly going through a clinical depression.”
Worse followed. Hubbard and Sara finally split up. Their divorce became a public sensation. Sara accused Hubbard of torturing her, and declared him insane. Hubbard denounced Sara as a Russian spy and kidnapped their 13-month-old daughter. Hubbard ended up in Wichita in Kansas and got back in touch with Barbara.
“He sent me a wire telling me that he had been very ill and saying that he wanted to marry me. I went to Wichita. He looked terrible. He had hair down to his shoulders and his fingernails were like talons. And I found a note, a very sweet note in my hotel room saying ‘glad you are here, I love you’ but I saw a man there who had no prospects, for one thing, and that he had some psychiatric difficulties and I didn’t see much of a life for myself with that sort of individual. So I left.”
But Hubbard bounced back. He got married for the third time, to one of his students, Mary Sue Whipp. This marriage lasted, and Mary Sue would become his devoted deputy. Sara, his second wife, was ‘cleared’ from his memory, just like an engram.
“How many times have I been married? I’ve been married twice. And I’m very happily married just now. I have a lovely wife, and I have four children. My first wife is dead.”
“What happened to your second wife?”
“I didn’t have a second wife.”
In 1952 Hubbard launched a revolutionary new product, Scientology. Dianetics originally covered this life only. But in a new book, Scientology – A History of Man, Hubbard revealed that wasn’t enough. Human bodies were in fact inhabited by immortal souls or ‘thetans’ going back to primeval times. Hubbard’s son from his first marriage, Nibs claimed the book stemmed from an unusual piece of drug-driven research.
JIM DINCALCI – Ron Hubbard’s Medical Officer:
“LRH gave his son Nibs some amphetamines, and Nibs started talking, he said, started really going talking fast, from the speed. And he kept talking, he kept talking, and his dad kept giving him speed and all of a sudden he was talking about his history, when he was a clam and all these different situations in early Earth. And out of that came ‘History of Man’.”
“Suddenly you were nobody – ‘Oh, I’ve been back three lives, you know, I’ve been back seven, you know, I was in the time of Pharaoh’. Well, when I got back to the individual who was a clam, lying on a primordial seashore with a grain of sand irritating a pearl inside it, I decided that was as far back as I wanted to go and I just departed from Scientology altogether.”
In late 1952, Hubbard came to London. He was still in financial trouble back home. A business partner had just issued a warrant for the return of $9,000 Hubbard had borrowed. To make money, he needed to go international, and here, instead of creditors, he found a new group of adoring fans.
PAM KEMP – friend and ex-scientologist:
“He was really flamboyant, I mean he was full of life and he rode about on his Harley motorcycle, and we threw parties and he would play his guitar and sing and put on his cowboy hat and he was just lots and lots of fun. We would all get together and then we would do various exercises and we would go out and see if just with thoughts we could knock off policemen’s hats. What kind of power did we have in terms of thinking and thought and energy and that sort of thing. I mean, it was great fun.”
CYRIL VOSPER – Ron Hubbard’s Staff:
“I thought it would give me total control over my own life. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it, but put in those terms, that is basically what Hubbard was saying. He was saying that you and everyone else, with the use of Scientology (or Dianetics at that time) could become a god. And we were all, if you like, fallen gods.”
The next step was to create a church for his new gods. A writer friend called Lloyd Eschbach later recalled how after a dinner in the late 1940′s Hubbard had said “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is’. Now, a few years later the Church of Scientology was born. In America, in particular, there were sound practical reasons.
RAYMOND KEMP – friend and ex-Scientologist:
“There are tax advantages and there are advantages in the Constitution which says that the Government must not abridge the operations of a church. I think that that more than anything else made him agree to using that vehicle because it is and has to date proved to be very difficult for any government to abridge the activities of a church.”
Hubbard found the perfect cathedral for his church: Saint Hill Manor, in East Grinstead in Sussex. He played his new role, the country squire. He told the locals that he was a scientist, researching plants, and their reaction to pain. He and his young family settled into Sussex society, bringing American razzmatazz into East Grinstead’s Road Safety Campaign.
But the locals hadn’t realised that Saint Hill was to become the Mecca of Scientology. Devotees arrived from all over the world to study at their master’s feet. They paid thousands of pounds for Hubbard’s courses. Virginia Downsborough was on the first Saint Hill clearing course.
VIRGINIA DOWNSBOROUGH – Ron Hubbard’s Personal Assistant:
“Ron had such an amazing ability for making you feel that you were just so important to him and so valued. So many people wanted to do what he wanted, wanted to show him their best efforts, wanted to be part, you know it was ‘wait for me, let me come along with this wonderful game you’re playing’.”
Central to the game was Hubbard’s E-meter, a form of lie-detector which he claimed could electrically detect emotional charge. Students spent hours, days, months, sometimes years going over painful events or engrams in this or their past lives trying to make the needle float – proof that the engram was now cleared from their memories.
Hubbard had designed an ingenious commercial product. The more past lives, the more memories, the more engrams to be cleared, all in a complex series of expensive courses.
HANA ELTRINGHAM – Hubbard’s Deputy at Sea:
“Making money, I think, to Hubbard was paramount. He wasn’t that interested in it for himself. He did have perks, he did have his cars, his motorbikes, his books, his good food and things like that and eventually he had his villas and he had his estates and so on but the money that he wanted predominantly was for power.”
Hubbard wanted to create a world-wide army of Scientologists. Going clear was only the first step. After that, further courses could improve your IQ, improve your work, turn you into a superman.
“The purpose of Scientology was to make the able more able, and he was always striving for that, and in everything he did I think he was looking at that. Now his idea was that if you could get everybody looking in the same direction then you’d have a very powerful nation, you see.”
This photograph, composed by Ron Hubbard himself, betrays an extraordinary ambition he held for Scientology.
“The entire objective was to find a place that Hubbard could eventually turn into his own kingdom, with his own government, his own passports, his own monetary system, in other words his own principality, that he would be the benign dictator of. That was the objective.”
“He had been having some auditing and doing some investigative auditing and looking at past lives and past experiences and he ran into what he thought might be the past life of Cecil Rhodes so he went to Rhodesia to check out what he had discovered in his auditing.”
“He was there to attempt to create a Scientology community in the country and eventually turn the country over into a Scientology country. He was looking for a homebase for Scientology.”
Hubbard’s vision of becoming a latter-day Rhodes failed. The Rhodesian Government became suspicious of him and his visa was not renewed. Back in England, Hubbard was also under attack. Parents were worried by strange communications from children who had fallen under Scientology’s thrall.
MRS HENSLOW – parent of Scientologist:
“There was a letter from her saying that she was disconnecting from me. You’re probably familiar with this, you’ve seen it in the papers, but that I was destroying her and that she didn’t want to see me again. That was it. Karen, it was signed.”
The newspapers were accusing him of being a fraud and lobbied the government to launch an enquiry. Hubbard decided there was only one answer. He would take to the high seas. With his loyal band of disciples he would move himself and his empire outside any government’s jurisdiction.
“At one point he turned round and said to us in a very masterful way, in a very, almost ambassadorial sort of way, he said, ‘It’s perfectly all right to step outside the law, because the law itself is aberrated, so in order to achieve our ends, that gives us licence to step outside the law.”
Hubbard’s followers were about to see the consequences of life beyond the law as their messiah became their dictator.
In 1967, with his own navy of Scientologists, the Sea Organisation of Ron Hubbard set sail. Hana Eltringham, then 24, went with him. She had never crewed on a large ship before, but Hubbard detected that she was unusually well equipped for naval command.
“Hubbard called me in to his cabin and stood right in the doorway of his cabin, fiddling with his E-meter and started asking me questions about when I had last been a captain. This could only be past lives because I had never been a captain in this life. So I started, you know, thinking back and came up with this past experience about being a space captain of a space ship and being blown up in space and the planet was being invaded and all this fighting and blasting going on and so forth, and at the end of it he peered over the E-meter at me and he said ‘Were you one of the Loyal Officers?’ and at that point I got this up-rush and I felt good. I must have been one of these Loyal Officers, I must have been one of the elite, you know.”
The young Hana was appointed captain of Hubbard’s number 2 ship, a 400-ton trawler. His flagship was a 3,000 ton converted cattle ferry. On board, Hubbard had a personal guard, called the Commodore’s Messengers.
“They took care of everything for him, they dressed him, they got him ready for bed, they lit his cigarettes, they held his ashtray.”
MIKE GOLDSTEIN – Hubbard’s financial controller:
“Most of the messengers were young girls – 13,14,15. They were an extension of his communication, so when somebody saw them on the ship or they came up to them, it was like you were talking to him.”
On one occasion, Gerry Armstrong, who had been sent on a shore errand, was visited by one of Hubbard’s messengers.
“This was Terri, who was later to be my wife. She came to me where I was working and said ‘The Commodore wants to know, is it true that when you were ashore, you went to the US Embassy and applied for some 30-some-odd visas?’ And I said ‘Yes sir’ because that’s how you respond to the messenger Her next message was, ‘The Commodore says you’re a fucking asshole!’ ”
The attacks on Scientology had pitched Hubbard into one of his periodic depressions. His response was to take it out on his followers, on sea and land. He designed a new disciplinary code called ‘Ethics’ which put many of them into what he called ‘lower conditions of existence’ like ‘Liability’, ‘Doubt’, or ‘Treason’. To rise out of these conditions, penances were required. Liability, for example, required you to ‘deal an effective blow to Scientology’s enemies’.
VICTORIA DOWNSBOROUGH – crew member, Avon River:
“Everybody was supposedly in one of these lower conditions, which was quite astonishing because everybody really loved Ron, and wanted to contribute to having whatever his dreams might be come true.”
“What happened was it became a very heavy, almost military organisation. People changed. I think people became scared. They were scared of ‘Ethics’, scared of what would happen, so they became very intimidated.”
At sea the cruelty extended to children. On one occasion, Hubbard was infuriated by a small boy who had unwittingly chewed a telex.
“He put this 4½ year old little boy – Derek Greene – into the chain locker for two days and two nights. It’s a closed metal container, it’s wet, it’s full of water and seaweed, it smells bad. But Derek was sitting up, on the chain, in this place, on his own, in the dark, for two days and two nights. He was not allowed to go to the potty. I mean he had to go in the chain locker on his own, soil himself. He was given food. And I never went near it, the chain locker while he was in there, but people heard him crying. That is sheer, total brutality. That is child abuse.”
“People were frightened of him. He was the boss, he was the dictator. He could order anyone to do anything on board. He was ruthless, he could be, at times, charming. But he could also be very belligerent, and he could also be very uncaring and cruel.”
Yet Hubbard’s disciples continued to believe in him. In 1968, he took a select few around the Mediterranean on his yacht, the Enchanter, on a project he called the ‘Mission into Time’. The task was to find treasure that Hubbard had buried during his previous lives.
“We were in a tizzy, you know, all was excitement at this upcoming, very exciting mission. And I was amongst one of the chosen, and we sailed off with our metal detectors and went to a variety of locations and did find some metal at the basement of what he claimed used to be a temple in which he had liaisons with some priestess during his trips to Sardinia. There was metal buried down below. He was very triumphant during those times. It was very heady stuff for us people, it had a very magical, magnetic, hypnotising effect on the followers.”
Hubbard was also engaged on a further great expansion of Scientology. Once a Scientologist reached the state of ‘clear’ he became an Operating Thetan or OT. Hubbard now designed a series of secret OT levels. Each one was part of an unfolding saga which revealed that we are all infested by ‘thetans’ – the souls of exiles from the Galactic Federation, which under Prince Xenu ruled this sector of the Galaxy 95 million years ago.
If you ever reach the top OT level you will have crossed the ‘Bridge to Total Freedom.’ As always in Scientology, each OT level could only be reached after an expensive course. Did Hubbard believe it, or was he having his followers on?
“He probably always knew he was running a con. He must have known that much of the stuff he was talking about was a lot of rubbish. But I think that after a while, when he found there were thousands of people, with the adulation around the planet for this man, I think they started to take him over. I think he began to believe that he was, if not God, then very close to God.”
Hubbard’s new cosmology was accompanied by new forms of punishment on board ship. Crew members who displeased him were liable to be thrown overboard before being retrieved from the harbour below. If they re-offended they were tied up and blindfolded first.
“I saw one woman, Julia Lewis Salmon, from the United States, thrown overboard. This woman must have been in her fifties. She was – had her hands and I think her feet tied, maybe only her hands tied and a blindfold, but she went over. She was so panicked by the thought of being thrown over this way – she was standing on the edge of the deck, panicked, beside herself, shouting. And I was standing on the A deck with Hubbard and his other aides, watching this going on. And Julia didn’t jump over, she had to be pushed over, because she was incapable, she was in such a fit.”
“He saw everyone suspiciously and assumed everyone was intentionally attacking him. Governments were attacking him, and then everyone around, who made a mistake, were attacking him, and the only thing he could do would be to attack back.”
In 1973 a French court started proceedings against Hubbard for fraud. He had left his ship, which was berthed in Morocco and went to live in hiding in New York, where he was looked after by Jim Dincalci.
To turn the tables on his enemies he devised a bizarre plan called ‘Snow White’. Its stated aim was to correct false reports about Scientology. It led to Scientology members infiltrating government departments. Hubbard even issued a reading list for learning the black arts of espionage.
ROBERT VAUGHN YOUNG:
“He believed that there was an international cabal that was in control of the attack on him around the world as well as all the attacks in various countries. And so ‘Snow White’ was written to find this cabal, find all the connections between these enemy groups, and to expose them, to destroy them. It was done through infiltration, in some cases it was done through burglary. It was just pure military intelligence.”
Having instigated ‘Snow White’ Hubbard rejoined his ship in the Canary Islands. There he had a serious motorbike accident. His mood dramatically worsened.
“This was his period which I called the pouting, the crying, the mad period where he would cry and throw things against the wall, the bulkheads and pout and scream. Right towards the tail end of that he created the RPF, the ‘Rehabilitation Project Force’.”
The RPF was yet another correctional regime. Its orders were fearsome. As ship’s captain it was Hana Eltringham’s job to implement them.
“I was absolutely horrified when I read them, because they talked about the creation of this – pretty much like a slave labour camp. Those weren’t the words used but that was the impression given. Where the unwanteds, those found wanting, seriously wanting were sent, and they were to be kept in this with no rights, no freedoms, no privileges of any kind. Pretty much the only rights they were allowed were a little bit of sleep each day, food leftovers. The harshest treatment, they were not allowed to speak to any of the crew. It was very, very, very bad that this was going on, but Hubbard’s statement to us was that it is going to take a lot more Ethics, a lot more punishment than anyone has, can easily face up to, to get this whole world back in shape, and at that point, I believed that statement.”
“Human emotion and reactions is the way humans were. And he didn’t specially regard humans very highly. He liked the idea of the ‘doll bodies’ that were in other civilisations. Doll bodies didn’t have human emotions and reactions . They were, I guess, like Spock, you know. Just very analytical, you just get the job done. No emotion there. Love is not a sentiment that’s known or cared for, and to me that’s the tragedy because he put that, I feel, into the organisation, into the way of being in the organisation.”
Hubbard even consigned his own son, Quentin, who was a senior auditor on the ship, to the RPF.
“Quentin really was a real sweet kid. He was a real nice guy, and very soft-spoken and it was very difficult for him being Hubbard’s son, and being put in a very high position, and I don’t think he was that interested in it. He just wanted to be a pilot and also the fact that he was gay and that’s a very tough thing in Scientology, to be gay. Especially that kid, to be Hubbard’s son, to be this top technical person, and to be gay. Oh, that would be a horrible thing to be wrestling with.”
Quentin was sent to the RPF, after he committed the sin of trying to commit suicide. Two years later, he succeeded.
“Hubbard saw it as a betrayal, because everything was referenced around him, the world was doing everything to him. This technology that was supposed to work, didn’t even work on the senior person of all Scientology, you know, Hubbard and his son. No, he just saw that as an attack from his son. You know, the love was gone. He had lost love.”
In 1975 Hubbard decided it was time to come ashore. He sent scouts to look for a suitable land base. They settled on Clearwater, in the rich state of Florida.
“He stated coming ashore would be profitable. Because we could get so many more people to the Flag Land Base, as it was to be called, for auditing and training. And he also wanted to concentrate on getting professionals to the Land Base because of course they had more accessible money. They had pension funds, they had children’s education funds, and some of these he named that were accessible.”
Hubbard knew Scientology would be unwelcome, so he devised a top-secret battle plan. He called it ‘Operation Goldmine”. Using a covername – ‘United Churches of Florida’ – Hubbard issued secret orders to take over the town.
GABRIEL CAZARES – former Mayor of Clearwater:
“These orders, in effect, very clearly stated, move into this area. Find out who your friends are, develop them, find out who your enemies are, destroy them. And then move into every possible area of community life, business, social, religious, education.”
The plan worked. Clearwater is a Scientology bastion. Scientology owns many prime sites. Big-name Scientologists like Lisa-Marie Presley have moved in.
“You could get all the big high-rollers, you could get the people with the dollars, and you could make a fortune. And I believe the income for a week, this was like in 1978/1979 would be somewhere, sort of half a million dollars a week. I mean, that’s where the big bucks started to be made, when you could do that.”
With the money rolling in, Hubbard moved to California, where he’d play his last great role. His ambition was to film sci-fi blockbusters based on his books, but he ended up making Scientology training films.
“The movie mogul – Cecil B DeMille. You know, it was like he was. He tried to be bigger than life. But he just wasn’t. So he would make these extravagant sets. They were ludicrous. They were not big productions. They were just silliness. They were egomaniac. He tried to be blustery and big and powerful, but if you looked, just stepped and observed, you could see that he had fear about everything. And finally the fear came down to dust particles, little teeny dust particles.”
“He had phobias about dust, he had phobias about smells, he had phobias about sounds. He would hear sounds that weren’t there and he would scream at the sound technician. He would see things that weren’t there and he would scream at the people who were framing the shot. And he would smell smells that weren’t there and he would have people rinse his clothing some 13 or 15 or however many times.”
In 1977, while Hubbard was away making movies, the FBI caught up with the Snow White operation and raided Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles and Washington. Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue and eight other Scientology executives were convicted and sentenced for conspiracy and stealing government documents.
Hubbard disappeared, never to be seen publicly again. After living in a succession of hiding places, he ended up on this secluded ranch in the California hills. Secrecy has veiled his final years. But one man, Robert Vaughn Young, who was then a Scientology public relations officer, was later given a description of Hubbard by one of his guardians. This and evidence from Hubbard’s autopsy report, paint a sad picture.
ROBERT VAUGHN YOUNG:
“He had grown a beard, he had grown his long hair, the nails were long, very much in the same problem as they found with Howard Hughes, unkempt nails. Neighbours – there was a neighbour that walked in on him one day and he had become very frightened, and suddenly scurried out of the barn. He was frightened to meet people, he was terrified of meeting any new people. He was disappearing down, down, down into this little strange world of his. The irony of this is that this was a man who was promulgating and telling the world that ‘with my technology and ideas, you can get bigger and bigger and bigger,’ and yet he was shrinking down until finally he was hiding.”
On January 24th 1986, Ron Hubbard died. The Church of Scientology said he’d simply “quit his body to continue his work elsewhere”.
ROBERT VAUGHN YOUNG:
“Him dying suddenly made him very mortal. And the last thing we could have was for Hubbard to be mortal. So a story had to be designed and the story is that he went off to research the next level. What is amazing is how the Scientologists bought this. Without any question, they bought it.”
Today the L. Ron Hubbard image is carefully protected by the Church of Scientology. It says he is the greatest humanitarian in history. Hollywood has named a street after him and millions of dollars roll into Scientology every year. It continues to preach that Hubbard’s teachings are the best solution to the mental problems of the world. The personal tragedy is that one mind Scientology did not appear to help was that of its founder.