L Ron Hubbard – Attempted Sucicide?

steve pfauth


This is an interview with Stephen ‘Sarge’ Pfauth – one of only three people who worked closely with L Ron Hubbard while he was in hiding until he died in 1986.

The story of Hubbard’s death has been covered in another post here. Smith adds considerable detail. He described the following  statements from  with Hubbard in conversation. He:

  • Believed that he was about to “Drop the body” (Scientology jargon for dying).
  • Complained that he had “failed” in his ambitions.
  • Tried to persuade Smith to modify an e-meter to deliver a lethal electric shock (presumably to provide Hubbard with a means of painless suicide). Smith produced a device designed to shock and frighten him instead, which Hubbard subsequently used (and survived).


Edit: This post originally linked to a video interview. Unfortunately it was removed from RuTube a ( which is, as the name suggests, a Russian equivalent of You Tube). I now upload this sort of material to my own hosting, so it can’t be removed. However, I’m still looking for a replacement. Until then, here’s a transcript.

Sarge (Steve Pfauth):  So, anyway, he (L. Ron Hubbard) wanted to see me.  So I went into the Bluebird and sat down.  And he sat across from me and he said, “Sarge,”…boy I wish I had written it all down because I don’t want to goof it up, because this is kind of important.  Basically he said, “Sarge, I need you to do something.”  He wanted me to build him a machine that would get rid of the bts [body thetans] and kill the body.

Mark (“Marty” Rathbun): Wow.

Sarge: Yeah.  It’s kind of heavy.  It struck me real hard.  He told me a few things.  He said, “Yeah, I’ve done all I can do here and I’m just… I’m not coming back. I’m leaving and I am not coming back.”  He wanted to die, basically.  You know, his body was going to hell and all that stuff.  He was having trouble with bts.

Mark: And you say that was in late ʼ85?

Sarge: Yeah.  Fall of ʼ85.  Yeah, it was right around October.

Mark: Like three months before he died.

Sarge: Yeah, like three or four months.  So, I didn’t want to do it. But I didn’t tell him that.  And I was hoping I could talk to Pat because Annie insisted that I build the machine.  And I said, “Annie, I don’t know that much about building machines that fry people, you know what I mean?”

Mark: Well, did he describe how it should be done?

Sarge: Basically, he wanted to hook it up to the e-meter.  And he wanted enough voltage in there that it would get rid of the bts.  And I asked him about voltages and I asked him some questions…it was so long ago. And, uh, well, I gotta tell ya, it upset me a lot.

Mark: I bet.  So, the idea was that you’d be holding the cans…

Sarge:  Turn the thing on and then, in other words, he was gonna audit the bts away and the body was gonna die.

Mark:  Right. So there would be enough voltage to kill the body?

Sarge:  To do it all.  How he figured I was going to figure that out, I have no idea…

… Sarge:  Yeah.  Earlier on I cooked for LRH.  He thought I was a good cook.  And then he got sick.  Anyway, what happened was I was very upset.  So I got pissy-ass drunk and Annie found me about four o’clock in the morning with beer cans all over the green truck, out at the racetrack.  I had passed out on the seat.  And she was screaming at me, “Oh, you son of a bitch!” Oh man, she laid into me.  And I said, “All right, Annie,” and my head was hurting.  But I was upset, I was very upset.  I was crying and everything.  That was a rough time. Very rough.  Uh, so anyway, then days went by, okay?  And Annie kept saying, “He wants to know about the machine, he wants to know about the machine. What are you doing on the machine?”  Annie says, “If you don’t do anything on this Sarge, he’s going to get the local electrician to build one for him.”  Can you picture that?

Mark: Wow.  That would have been a…

Sarge: I said “No way, man.”  So I had to show some progress. So I went to an electronics place in San Luis Obispo and I bought some Tesla coils and some up-transformer things and I got all sorts of things. I basically built him a battery-operated automotive coil type thing.  This is my reasoning now, Marty.  If he gets zapped by that sucker, it’s gonna shock him but it ain’t gonna kill him.  Okay?

Mark: Okay.

Sarge: It’ll shock him but it ain’t gonna kill him.  It’ll scare him and he won’t want to do it again.

Mark: These are like 12-volt batteries?

Sarge: Yeah.  But the voltage is going to go way up on a transformer.  It’s like an automotive coil sort of thing.

Mark:  So your thought, what you understand is that he is not going to get…

Sarge: I’m not frying him!

Mark: Exactly.  I gotcha.

Sarge:  I didn’t want anything that is going to plug into the wall.  I didn’t want to fry him, but I didn’t want to tell him I didn’t want to fry him.  You know what I mean?

Mark: Yeah, I think about what you are saying right now, and I try to put myself into your position and I…

Sarge:  It was very difficult.  I didn’t want to kill the old man.  So anyway, he used the thing and he fried up my Mark VI [e-meter].  I had a Mark VI that got fried.

Mark:  He used it?

Sarge:  Yeah.

Mark:  LRH actually used it?

Sarge:  Yeah, it was my Mark VI, yeah.  And it fried the Mark VI.  I knew that was going to happen.  Fried it.

Mark:  You mean he actually tried…

Sarge:  Oh, yeah. It had burn marks on it and everything.

Mark:  He didn’t get burnt?

Sarge: He may have.  But after that there was no more mention of any machines.  And that was my intention.  That was my intention.

Mark:  He probably got a good, hard jolt.

Sarge:  I think it scared him, or something.

Mark:  And it burned the plastic?

Sarge:  It was burnt.  It was fried.  The insides were gone.  Because, you know, those things are like a computer.  You can’t put that much power into them without zapping them…I do think people need to know. I just wish at the time when I first blew that I would have written it all down.  But I carried it because I had no terminals [people to talk to].