SECRET LIVES - L. Ron Hubbard

Part 3

Part 3 - RealAudio, 2607K (21m 10s)

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 4 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.

"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.

"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".

"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.

Transcripted by Jon Ritson

Converted to HTML by Chris Owen

Produced and directed by Jill Robinson

Channel 4 Television Corporation 1997