"The sun came up upon the left,
out of the sea came he!
and he shone bright . . ."

("The Ancient Mariner", S. T. Coleridge 1772-1834)

If the Commodore calculated that it was now merely a question of plain sailing to reach his objective he must have been oblivious to the strong undercurrent of mounting public and official indignation which together with the waves of protest would soon start to rock the T.S.M.Y. "Apollo" and shipwreck his ambitions. So let us hop over the fence and take a look on the other side and trace the developments of these elements since the first winterís day when the young children students first stepped foot ashore flimsily dressed in summer clothing to be marched up and down the sea front in zombie-like fashion to draw the critical attention of shocked and curious onlookers whose polite questions were always answered with a blankly expressed "I dunno."

Reuter summed up the general feeling by reporting, "Many local authorities are scared to express their opinions publicly as they feel there might be an outcry against them from traders who see the ship as an easy way to fill their tills. But in private, civil, military and police officials speak strongly against Hubbard and his scientologists who come ashore in military parades, speak to no one and refuse to answer questions of what is going on underdecks on the 'Apollo'."

At an early stage in the proceedings I was besieged by British, Greek and other foreign callers to the Consulate bitterly complaining about the harbouring of the scientologists on the island. They seemed to feel that as the "Royal Scotman" was British named, British built and flying the flag of the former British colony, Sierra Leone, the British Consul had some sort of jurisdiction over her,

The higher principled Corfiots had taken particular exception to the treatment of small children particularly when (as the Harbourmaster has already told us) thrown off the deck into the icy sea in the early hours of the morning. These Corfiots had also been studying the articles of Costas Daphnis in the "Telegraph", the island's most responsible newspaper.

Costas Daphnis had pointed out that in accordance with Greek law the scientology school should come under the controls of the Ministry of Education whilst all Churches in Greece are subject to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and demanded to know why Hubbard's organisation should be excused from these controls. Costas Daphnis had also translated the "Sunday Times" article by Alexander Mitchell and had reported on the ban and expulsion of the scientologists from other countries.

I explained that the presence of the Scientologists in Corfu was not the concern of H.M. Government and suggested to protesting British and other foreign tourists (whose ranks had swollen since the "Sunday Times" article) that they should address the complaints to the Secretary General of the National Tourist Organisation in Athens. To the Corfiots I explained that the establishment of the Church of Scientology in Corfu was a matter for the Bishop and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Disappointing and discouraging that my negative attitude may have seemed at the time, my advice, as we shall see, was to play a major role in Hubbard's downfall.

On the official side friction was building up between the security police and the harbour authorities who were offering the scientologists such irregular privileges regarding their freedom of movement. As Reuter reports, "It is this freedom of movement which worries security police who however have no authority and jurisdiction on the ship or in the harbour area which is the responsibility of the Harbourmaster. A security official remarked, 'We do not know how many leave the ship on a short leave to Corfu or how many return aboard. They could easily bring here people dangerous to public security or facilitate the departure of fugitives'."

By the end of the year all was not going quite so well behind the scenes. First there was the confirmed disappearance of the American, William Deitch, hailed by his colleagues as one of the world's leading scientologists. Deitsch checked out of the Cavalieri hotel on the morning of 9 December after a week-end shore leave, stating he would return shortly to pick up his bag. He never reappeared, and his bags were collected by the police a month later, amidst much speculation.

His disappearance greatly upset a fellow American, 30-year old Pearl O'Krackel, one of his chief disciples, who had recently been appointed head cook on the "Apollo". She became greatly disillusioned and defected to live with a young Greek electrician, Sosipatras Mourikis, aged 24. Her conduct started off a chain reaction of discontent and all weekend shore leave was stopped and those whom the electronic E Meters did not register as CLEAN were severely disciplined.

By happy chance I was able to get the full, first hand story from Mourikis before he was cautioned to silence by the authorities.

After successfully evading pursuit by Hubbard's police in an exciting car chase, the eloping couple spent a "honeymoon" at a small villa at Perama, 7 kilometers south of the town. During their "honeymoon", Pearl O'Krackel explained some of the scientologists' practices. She explained how her mind was cleared of the Engrams from her brain cells arid how thoughts could be read. She alleged that her punishment if arrested and escorted back to the ship would be 20 days in a dark cell in the bowels of the ship with only bread and water*. If she returned of her own accord the sentence would be reduced to 4 days. She confirmed the punishment of being thrown overboard into the icy seas in the early hours of the morning blindfolded and explained that her marriage to O'Krackel was one of scientological convenience.

* C.f. the case of Anne Rosenblum, a student scientologist of some six years standing whose last year and a quarter's "study" was spent in the Church's punishment unit, named the "Rehabilitation Project Force" - it might be libellous to suggest that this incarceration was on a parallel with Belsen, but judging from Anne's accounts, "Colditz" can hardly have been more salubrious.

Prisoners are guarded and consequently never left alone or allowed to speak to any outsider without permission. They eat leftovers, sleep on the floor, and fill their days with strenuous physical and menial labour, including a perpetual study of El Ron's works and gruelling "auditing" to detect any criticism against him. As defectors have attested, incoherent response to "auditing" renders the culprit being locked in total isolation. Not unnaturally suicide occurs, and, in January 1980, a member of the Church hurled herself into the sea in Florida in a stretch of water ironically named Clearwater Bay.

She revealed that the syringes with which the students are periodically injected are alleged to contain only vitamins - although in his book, "Dianetics", Hubbard says that, if necessary, drugs may have to be administered.

The dramatic diary of events during Pearl O'Krackel's brief spell of freedom ashore was as follows:
Saturday, 18 Jan:
Defected from ship and eloped with Mourikis.
Tuesday, 21 Jan:
Mourikis was grilled by the Harbourmaster and was threatened to reveal the girl's whereabouts, which he refused to do.
Wednesday, 22 Jan:
Pearl O'Krackel seeks formal asylum from police, which is granted.
Thursday, 23 Jan:
Police obtain her passport from ship and return it to her. In the evening the pair are tracked down by Pandelis Lezos, one of Hubbard's hired Corfiot spies, in the foyer of a local cinema. Mourikis recognises the youth and swears him to secrecy but within five minutes Hubbard's police arrive and whilst Mourikis scuffles with the spy, Hubbard's police try to remove Pearl (who had by now taken her seat) from the cinema. She resists by burying her face in her hands with eyes tight shut and shouting, "I'm not going back," later explaining that had she opened her eyes and looked her followers in the face the would have been hypnotically compelled to return to the ship.
Friday, 24 Jan:
Pearl O'Krackel receives $1,000 from her parents, overjoyed at the prospect of her returning home and defection.
Saturday, 25 Jan:
The couple purchase engagement rings.
Monday, 27 Jan:
Final attempt by "Apollo's" doctor to persuade O'Krackel to return to the ship "to collect her belongings."
Tuesday, 28 Jan:
Pearl O'Krackel leaves for Athens by air and phones Mourikis on arrival at Ellinikon airport saying that she will phone again next day before departure for U.S.

On 30 January, Mourikis received a worried telegram from Pearl's parents in Las Vegas asking for news of their daughter, Pearl, who never made home base.

I reported to the U.S. Embassy (who had requested my help) that a suspected scientologist named Heinz had left Corfu for Athens on the same plane as Pearl. The Embassy later put out a S.O.S. call to the Greek Security Forces who, after a check at the frontiers, confirmed that Pearl was still in Greece. About a month later she turned up at the- U.S. Embassy of her own free will, angrily demanding what all the fuss was about and stating that she had always been a devoted scientologist who had never left the movement or asked for asylum, Hubbard's police, had certainly done an efficient job on her.

Another pathetic case was that of 50-year old New Zealander Grace Hill.

Like several other privileged scientologists, she would visit the posh Cavalieri Hotel at week-ends for a hot bath, a facility not provided on the "Apollo", and sometimes stay the night. Having no normal contact with the outside world, she chatted freely with the sympathetic manager and unloaded some of her innermost feelings. She eventually wrote to him saying that she was fed up and disillusioned and planned to leave Corfu on the ferry for Brindisi on the third of February. Her friend replied that he was sorry that she was leaving and hoped she would call to say goodbye before she departed.

This letter was entrusted to one of the scientologist executives staying in the hotel and, to cut a long story short, Grade Hill never called at the Cavalieri again and neither did she ever leave the ship. I reported the matter to the New Zealand Embassy in Athens but, of course, there was little they could do about it unless she asked for help.

Yet another dramatic event which took place behind the scenes on the other side of the fence concerned two Belfast maintenance fitters, Colin Craig and Jack Russell. On the afternoon of 11 March I received an urgent phone call at my home from a highly nervous and agitated Irishman whose story was that he and his mate had answered an advertisement in the "Belfast Telegraph" for qualified maintenance fitters for the SS "Apollo".

They were met at Corfu airport and on arrival on board they were told they would work under the Chief Engineer, a brilliant technician who turned out to be a youth of 15. When he discovered what sort of ship it was, Craig locked himself in his cabin feigning sickness. Here he remained for two days without food (which he proclaimed uneatable) whilst his mate was becoming slowly but surely converted to scientology and would burst into the cabin shrieking, "I'm clear"; he appeared to Craig to be getting more and more insane as his course of pills and E Meter treatment progressed.

Eventually Craig managed to persuade the confused Russell to go ashore against his will. After escaping from the ship with a certain amount of difficulty, the Irishmen met up with some of the visiting U.S. 6th Fleet in a nearby cafe. On learning their story the sailors, in the words of Craig, "blew their top" and insisted that they phone me immediately and fortunately they got through to me at my home in the country. I ordered them to go direct to the Hotel Suisse and to stay there until I called for them in the morning, and to be careful to keep their doors locked and to have their meals in their room.

After making the necessary arrangements with the hotel, I contacted the Aliens Police who were delighted to co-operate and posted an all night guard in the hotel lobby in case the Harbourmaster or the scientologists should try and inveigle them back to the ship. Sure enough, Hubbard's police soon tracked them down only to be confronted by an armed police guard.

When I called at the Hotel Suisse in the morning, I found a highly excitable Craig and a most neurotic Russell, who were later repatriated to the U.K. but not before they had made a statement to the police, which was quickly relayed to Athens where it was received with delight by the Security Police as this was the first unbiased and unsolicited evidence they had as yet obtained. Russell's story made the front page news in the "Belfast Sunday News" with the headline: "Belfastman tells of his escape from horror Ship".

Last updated 12 January 1997
Chris Owen (co@nvg.unit.no)