'The money and glory inherent in Dianetics was entirely too much for those with whom I had the bad misfortune to associate myself . . . including a woman who had represented herself as my wife and who had been cured of severe psychosis by Dianetics, but who, because of structural brain damage would evidently never be entirely sane . . . Two of the early associates, John W. Campbell and J.A. Winter, became bitter and violent because I refused to let them write on the subject of Dianetics, for I considered their knowledge too slight and their own aberrations too broad to permit such a liberty with the science . . . Fur coats, Lincoln cars and a young man without any concept of honor so far turned the head of the woman who had been associated with me that on discovery of her affairs, she and these others, hungry for money and power, sought to take over and control all of Dianetics.' (L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics: Axioms, October 1951)
(Scientology's account of the years 1951-52.)
Don Purcell was a shy, unassuming man who was once a short-order chef in a little fourteen-stool café opposite the Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita before he made his fortune in oil and real estate during the post-war boom. Very tall and thin - he was usually described as all 'skin and bones' - he turned to Dianetics in the hope of finding a cure for his chronic constipation.
He attended an auditor's course at Elizabeth with his wife in the autumn of 1950 and returned to Wichita brimming with enthusiasm for the new science. Although he never mentioned if it had eased his constipation, he did frequently claim that Dianetics had given him the ability to work a twenty-two-hour day, which was useful to a real estate developer in Wichita in 1951. The farming town in the heart of the winter wheat belt had been transformed by the arrival of the oil and aircraft industries and it was expanding at a phenomenal rate. Roads, houses, schools, churches, office blocks and factories were being built everywhere. Between 1950 and 1951, the population of Wichita rose by more than 30,000, pushing the figure above 200,000 for the first time.
1. Interview with de Mille
Purcell's real estate company, Golden Bond Homes, was building 150 houses in the south-west of the city, an ambitious development which put him in the burgeoning ranks of Wichita's post-war millionaires. Yet despite his success and wealth, he never aspired to social prominence in the town; imbued with the quintessential hardworking, god-fearing values of the mid-West, he preferred to remain quietly in the background, perfectly content with his reputation as a businessman of integrity and a good Christian.
Like most early Dianeticists, Purcell was a true believer, both in the efficacy of the science and the genius of its founder. When he heard the Elizabeth Foundation was in difficulties, he immediately offered to 'lend a hand', with both short-term finance and practical business advice. He also provided the funds to set up a branch of the Foundation in Wichita, in a two-storey building sandwiched between Hope's Hamburger Hut and an auto repair firm at 211 West Douglas Avenue, Wichita's main street.
It was, then, entirely to be expected that Purcell would respond unhesitatingly to Hubbard's dramatic plea for help. Ron told him over the telephone from Havana of his plans to set up the headquarters of the Dianetics movement in Wichita and, as far as Purcell was concerned, if the great L. Ron Hubbard chose to make his home in Wichita, it could do the town nothing but good.
Hubbard stepped from Purcell's chartered aeroplane at Wichita airport wearing a lightweight tropical suit and a cream silk Ascot, an item of apparel not often seen in Sedgwick County. Purcell was waiting to greet him, along with a reporter from the Wichita Eagle, to whom Ron delivered a carefully prepared statement designed to appeal to the good folk of Wichita. After Los Angeles and Havana, Wichita might have appeared somewhat lacking in glamour, but Hubbard had the good sense not to make invidious comparisons. 'Dianetics is a pioneer mental science,' he announced, 'therefore it is only natural that we should prefer to centralize where the American pioneering spirit and cultural interests are still high. It is impossible to take Dianetics to every interested person, so we have established our headquarters here where those interested can come to Dianetics.' He also took the opportunity to point out that seventy per cent of insane people throughout the world could be returned to normality with Dianetics. 'Hope for Insane is Claimed for Dianetics by Founder' was the headline in the evening edition.
Hubbard checked into the Broadview Hotel, where Purcell had reserved and paid for a suite for him. Alexis, who was becoming accustomed to a succession of surrogate mothers, remained in the care of the nurse who had looked after her on the plane from Havana. The two men were soon discussing plans for the consolidation of Dianetics
2. Diane Lewis research report, Wichita, January 1987
3. FBI memo, 15 May 1951
in Wichita, plans that would be speedily brought to the attention of the FBI.
On 4 May, 1951, the FBI agent in Wichita received an anonymous letter: 'Investigate No 211 West Douglas, under the "Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation", they are conducting a vicious sexual racket. There are four women and a larger number of men. If they have moved go after them. They are bad, I know because I am one of the victims . . .' This execrable piece of rumour-mongering was added to Hubbard's FBI file, along with a memo from the special agent in charge in Wichita noting: 'General gossip at Wichita has it that the Los Angeles branch of the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation went broke and the cost of operation in New Jersey necessitated establishing headquarters of the organization in the central United States . . .'
Hubbard did not know he had been accused of running a 'vicious sexual racket', which was probably just as well because he already had so much to worry about that he was finding it exceedingly difficult to give his full attention to the affairs of the Foundation. The main problem, entirely of his own making, was that his private life remained in complete turmoil.
While his first wife was pursuing him for maintenance and he was still involved in a messy divorce from Sara, Hubbard invited his lover in Los Angeles to be his third wife. Almost as soon as he arrived in Wichita he had telephoned Barbara and asked her to join him, following up with a cable: 'DO NOT THINK I SHOULD OFFER YOU ANYTHING LESS HONORABLE THAN MARRIAGE. SHOULD YOU CONSIDER IT I MUST DOUBLY CLARIFY EXISTING STATUS TO BE SURE. WITH ALL MY HEART AND MUCH LOVE. RON.' Barbara realized that Ron remained as paranoid as ever, as a second cable arrived at her Beverly Hills apartment two hours later: 'BETTER KEEP OUR PLANS A CLOSE SECRET AS I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY WOULD TRY TO DO TO YOU IF THEY KNEW. BE VERY CAREFUL. ALL MY LOVE. RON.'
Barbara had no idea who 'they' were and was understandably concerned about marrying a man accused of bigamy, kidnapping and torture. 'Darling, yo sho is in a mess o' trouble,' she replied by letter. 'Do you dare give me any idea of the sort of future awaiting us? God knows I don't want what could be a wonderful and productive partnership between us to wind up with you in jail or continually on the lam from the law . . .'
While Barbara was pondering Ron's proposal, Sara filed a further complaint in Los Angeles, claiming she had been unable to serve divorce papers on her husband because he had fled to Cuba. To support her petition, she included the letter Hubbard had written to her from Havana and a letter, dated 2 May, that she had received from his
4. Wichita Eagle-Beacon, 26 Mar 1983
5. Interviews with Kaye
first wife in Bremerton. Polly had read about the divorce in the newspapers and felt moved to offer her sympathy. 'Sara, if I can help in any way, I'd like to,' she wrote. 'You must get Alexis in your custody. Ron is not normal. I had hoped you could straighten him out. Your charges probably sound fantastic to the average person, but I've been through it - the beatings, threats on my life, all the sadistic traits which you charge - 12 years of it.'
The newspapers were happy to report this further development in the domestic troubles of the 'mental-movement mogul', as Hubbard was described with laboured alliteration in the LA Times. In Wichita, State Marshal Arthur W. Wermuth was surprised to read that Hubbard had 'fled to Cuba' because he had just read of his arrival in Wichita in the Evening Eagle. Wermuth, who happened to be a well-known local war hero, sent a message to Los Angeles acquainting the authorities with Hubbard's whereabouts. Next day the newspapers reported that the 'missing mental-movement mogul' had been 'discovered' in Wichita by the 'legendary one-man army of Bataan'.
Prompted by the news from Wichita, on 14 May Sara's attorney filed another petition asking for Hubbard's assets in Los Angeles to be placed in receivership. The petition noted that Hubbard had been found 'hiding' in Wichita 'but that he would probably leave town upon being detected'.
Coincidentally, on the same day Hubbard despatched a seven-page letter to the Department of Justice in Washington, clearly seeking revenge against Sara. Even for Hubbard, the rambling, venomous missive was a breathtaking concoction of lies, vituperation and wild allegations rendered all the more dangerous by the rise of McCarthyism.
Describing himself as 'basically a scientist in the field of atomic and molecular phenomena', he accused Communists of destroying his half-million dollar business, ruining his health and withholding material of interest to the US Government. The architect of his misfortune was none other than 'a woman known as Sara Elizabeth Northrup . . . whom I believed to be my wife, having married her and then, after some mix-up about a divorce, believed to be my wife in common law'.
Sara, he stressed, was responsible for breaking up the 'American Institute of Advanced Therapy', an organization he had established in 1949, and the following year she was the primary cause of all the trouble at the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation, along with Art Ceppos, who was '"formerly" a member of the Communist Party' and Joseph Winter, who 'seemed to have Communist connections' and was a 'psycho-neurotic' who had been discharged from the US Army Medical Corps.
Playing the role of fearfully browbeaten husband, he said his 'alleged wife' had caused him to make out a will leaving her shares in the copyrights and Foundations. Later, when he was asleep at his home in New Jersey he was 'slugged'. He had unwisely done nothing about it at the time as he had no witnesses, but his health had been poor thereafter. Arriving in Los Angeles, his wife left their baby unattended in a car and he was arrested for it - 'I could never understand why.'
Much worse was to come. 'On December 5, while asleep in my apartment on North Rossmore in Los Angeles, I was again attacked and knocked out. When I woke I debated considerably about going to the police but was again afraid of publicity for again I did not know who might have done this. It never occurred to me to suspect that my wife had any part in this.
'I had become so ill by January 1st and was so long overdue in writing my second book that I went to Palm Springs. I returned from Palm Springs in late February to find my wife apparently ill, in bad mental condition, and my baby more or less forgotten in a back room of the Los Angeles Foundation. I instantly took steps, what steps I could, to give my wife help. She seemed to recover.
'I was in my apartment on February 23rd, about two or three o'clock in the morning when the apartment was entered, I was knocked out, had a needle thrust into my heart to give it a jet of air to produce "coronary thrombosis" and was given an electric shock with a 110 volt current. This is all very blurred to me. I had no witnesses. But only one person had another key to that apartment and that was Sara.'
Hubbard went on to describe how he had found love letters to his wife from Miles Hollister, a 'member of the Young Communists', and an ominous telegram containing the phrase 'Lombardo should live so long'. Lombardo, he explained, was a name Sara sometimes called him. Then he described how they had plotted to have him committed and how he had tried to get his wife away by taking her to Palm Springs. She consented to go with him, he said, and he had her signed statement to prove it. Sara's real motive in filing for divorce, he claimed, was to get control of the Foundation.
All the attacks she had mounted against him had held up research he was intending to offer to the Government. 'In August 1950 I found out a method the Russians use on such people as Vogeler, Mindszenty and others to obtain confessions. I could undo that method. My second book was to have shown how the Communists used narcosynthesis and physical torture and why it worked as it did. Further, I was working on a technology of psychological warfare to present it to the Defense Department. All that work was interrupted. Each time I tried to write, a new attack was launched.'
Hubbard declared his concern to prevent Dianetics falling into the hands of Communists and appealed for a 'round-up' of the 'vermin Communists or ex-Communists' who were trying to take over the potent forces of the Foundation. He suggested the 'round-up' should start with Sara:
'I believe this woman to be under heavy duress. She was born into a criminal atmosphere, her father having a criminal record. Her half-sister was an inmate of an insane asylum. She was part of a free love colony in Pasadena. She had attached herself to a Jack Parsons, the rocket expert, during the war and when she left him he was a wreck. Further, through Parsons, she was strangely intimate with many scientists of Los Alamo Gordos [Alamogordo in New Mexico was where the first atomic bomb was tested]. I did not know or realize these things until I myself investigated the matter. She may have a record . . . Perhaps in your criminal files or on the police blotter of Pasadena you will find Sara Elizabeth Northrop, age about 26, born April 8, 1925, about 5'9", blond-brown hair, slender . . . I have no revenge motive nor am I trying to angle this broader than it is. I believe she is under duress, that they have something on her and I believe that under a grilling she would talk and turn state's evidence.'
Hubbard made it clear he felt his life was in danger and concluded: 'Frankly, from what has happened, I am not certain I will live through this. If I do not, know that I have only these enemies in the entire world.'
If Hubbard's letter had been a little more moderate and his FBI file not already voluminous, his letter might easily have resulted in Sara's arrest. The 'Red Scare' was at its height and the American people had succumbed to an irrational fear of subversion and disloyalty encouraged by McCarthy, the cold war, Korea, a series of sensational spy trials and the Truman administration's loyalty programme. Many reputations and careers were destroyed by accusations a great deal milder than those levelled by Hubbard against his wife.
But by 1951, Hubbard was well known to the FBI. The opinion of the agent who had interviewed him in Newark that he was a 'mental case' figured prominently in his file, as did Sara's divorce allegations that he was 'hopelessly insane'. It was a diagnosis with which the FBI was inclined to concur and Hubbard's letter was tucked into his file and ignored, no doubt after the filing clerks had had a good laugh.
At the end of May, Barbara Kaye arrived in Wichita, having decided that she would marry Ron. 'If love can break men's hearts it can restore them too,' she had written to him. 'Yours shall be regenerated with my love and it will grow stronger.'
She found a hand-written note from Ron waiting for her at the Broadview Hotel: 'Hello! I am happy you are here! I love you! Ron.'
6. FBI file, 14 May 1951
Its cheery tone encouraged her greatly and she was thus doubly shocked by Hubbard's appearance when he showed up at the hotel soon after she had checked in.
'He had visibly deteriorated both physically and mentally. He was extremely unkempt, like a street person. His fingernails were uncut and his hair was long and stringy; he looked like Howard Hughes in his last days. He talked in a monotone all the time and seemed on the verge of tears; he was obviously clinically depressed. He told me he had borrowed $50 from Purcell to pay for my room but no one was to know I was in Wichita because Purcell had opposed me coming.'
Hubbard took her out to a jewellery store to buy her an engagement ring, but she was already having second thoughts. 'I felt extremely distanced from him because he was so strange, he was like a different person. I began to think I could never marry this man; I was frightened of him.' Next morning, Barbara hurriedly returned to Los Angeles, leaving Hubbard a note saying she didn't want to come between him and his patron.
As the prospective third Mrs Hubbard swept out of town, Sara arrived to parley for the return of Alexis. 'She got the baby back', said Richard de Mille, who had by then joined Hubbard in Wichita, 'by agreeing to let him divorce her and by not saying anything bad about him.'
On 9 June 1951, Sara signed a handwritten statement scrawled on the notepaper of The Hubbard Dianetic Foundation Inc of Wichita agreeing to cancel her receivership action and divorce suit in California in return for a divorce 'guaranteed by L. Ron Hubbard' in mid-June.
Two days later she signed a typed statement categorically retracting the allegations she had made against her husband:
I, Sara Northrup Hubbard, do hereby state that the things I have said about L. Ron Hubbard in courts and the public prints have been grossly exaggerated or entirely false.
I have not at any time believed otherwise than that L. Ron Hubbard is a fine and brilliant man.
I make this statement of my own free will for I have begun to realize that what I have done may have injured the science of Dianetics, which in my studied opinion may be the only hope of sanity in future generations.
I was under enormous stress and my advisers insisted it was necessary for me to carry through an action as I have done.
There is no other reason for this statement than my own wish to make atonement for the damage I may have done. In the future I wish to lead a quiet and orderly existence with my little girl far away from the enturbulating influences which have ruined my marriage.
Sara Northrup Hubbard.
7. Interview with de Mille
The statement bore all the hallmarks of having been written by Hubbard, even down to the use of one of his own invented words, 'enturbulating'. The English language was insufficiently rich and diverse for Hubbard and he often made up new words to compensate for its inadequacies - to 'enturbulate' was a neologism meaning to 'bring into a confused state'.
On 12 June, Hubbard was awarded a divorce in Sedgwick County Court on the basis of Sara's 'gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty'. The court agreed to an emergency hearing after Hubbard testified that the breakdown of the marriage had brought about severe damage to his health and peace of mind and he feared that any delay would cause him to 'suffer further nervous breakdown and impairment to health'.
Sara did not give evidence in court. All she cared about was that she was awarded custody of Alexis. Clutching her baby, she caught the first Greyhound bus out of Wichita and out of the life of L. Ron Hubbard.
It did not take Don Purcell long to discover the role Hubbard expected him to play as president of the Hubbard Dianetic Foundation of Wichita - to provide money, uncomplainingly.
Hubbard, the vice-president and chairman, was spending Purcell's money at a prodigious rate. He had moved into a large, comfortably furnished frame house on North Yale opposite the snooty Wichita Country Club and in the heart of a select residential area called Sleepy Hollow. Following Barbara's abrupt departure he hired a comely housekeeper, a lady in her early forties, who very soon succumbed to his advances and as a consequence was summoned to his bed most nights. 'Ron enjoyed women,' explained Richard de Mille. 'He didn't see any point in having an attractive woman around without making use of her.'
At the Foundation on West Douglas, staff were hired and fired arbitrarily as Hubbard's attention and enthusiasm flitted from project to project, from one grandiose scheme to another. He had a fiction writer's gift for dreaming up impressive titles for every venture, even if it only existed as an idea. Thus, courtesy of Hubbard, Wichita was briefly the home of an organization called 'The International Library of Arts and Sciences', which no doubt caused some head-scratching among the local farmers and factory workers.
Five-hundred dollar training courses for Dianetic auditors were run on a continuous basis and although there was still a reasonable number of applicants making their way to Wichita, the excitement of the previous summer had faded away. To thousands of people across America, Dianetics was no more than a passing whim.
8. Case no. A36594, District Court of Sedgwick County, Kansas
A major conference of Dianeticists organized in Wichita at the end of June 1951 only attracted 112 delegates, but Hubbard continued to behave as if the movement was going from strength to strength. Heedless of demand, the Foundation published a never-ending stream of booklets, bulletins and pamphlets on arcane elements of the science - 'Child Dianetics', 'Handbook for Pre-clears', 'Lectures on Effort Processing', etcetera - which piled up at 211 West Douglas despite the best efforts of the staff to press them on to every visitor.
Hubbard's second book, Science of Survival, was published by the Wichita Foundation in August. Dedicated to 'Alexis Valerie Hubbard, For Whose Tomorrow May Be Hoped a World That Is Fit To Be Free,' it delved into metaphysics and reincarnation and elaborated on what Hubbard called the 'tone scale', a device for measuring an individual's emotional state and a key to the interpretation of personality. Hubbard provided a veneer of authority for the book by acknowledging the influence of a long list of philosophers from Aristotle and Socrates, through Voltaire and Descartes, to Freud and Korzybski. But despite their contribution, Science of Survival significantly failed to follow Dianetics on to the New York Times's bestseller list.
For students taking courses at the Foundation, the highlight of the week was the lecture Hubbard delivered every Friday evening. Helen O'Brien, a young woman from Philadelphia who had negotiated a bank loan in order to train as a professional auditor, described the scene: 'He would appear at the back of the crowded hall and walk down the centre aisle to the platform, amid applause. It was well staged. He spoke against a background of rich drapes, bathed in spotlights that set off his red hair and weird, enthusiastic face . . .
'Hubbard was a marvellous lecturer, and he spoke quite frankly then, introducing the soberest and wildest ideas without apology, seeming to share the uproarious delight of some of the members of his audience at his flights of intellectual audacity. His rhetoric had a tempo that usually carried everyone along in at least pseudo acceptance of everything he said, although some of it was far afield of the "science of mental health" which had brought us all together.'
Helen O'Brien soon became a member of Hubbard's 'honour guard', a small group of awed, intensely loyal admirers who considered it the highest privilege to be in Ron's presence. 'It was not like being with a human being,' she said. 'He was shaking with energy and there was a sort of light around him, a cloak of power.
'Sometimes at his house he would play the organ and sing songs he had composed in college. Ron told me quite a bit about his life. He said his father was some sort of conman, a very shadowy kind of character, who he suspected was trying to take over Dianetics. Ron
9. Dianetics in Limbo, Helen O'Brien, 1966
said he'd destroy the whole thing if that happened. He talked a lot about Sara. When she ran off with another man Ron followed them and they locked him in a hotel room and pushed drugs up his nose, but he managed to escape and went to Cuba.
'He was not promiscuous, but he was available sexually. I had sex with him one night. Several of us were working late with him, taking notes and we all went out to a coffee shop. Ron and I left the others there and went up to bed. It was real matter of fact.'
Among the motley collection of well-meaning people who trekked to Wichita in the summer of 1951 was a slim, pretty girl from Houston, Texas, by the name of Mary Sue Whipp. Born in Rockdale, Mary Sue was a nineteen-year-old coed at the University of Texas intent on making a career in petroleum research. She arrived in Wichita with a friend, Norman James, who had read about Dianetics in Astounding and had persuaded her to join him on the course. Blue-eyed and auburn-haired, Mary Sue aroused predictably mixed feelings at the Hubbard Dianetic Foundation. Most of the men liked her; most of the women did not. 'She was a nothing,' said Helen O'Brien sourly. 'Her favourite reading was True Confession.'
It did not take long for Hubbard to register the arrival of this attractive pre-clear from Texas and he took a particular interest in her progress. Mary Sue was flattered by the great man's attention and within a matter of a few weeks she had moved in with him at 910 North Yale, to the fury of the housekeeper, who found herself relegated to more conventional duties. Mary Sue rapidly qualified for her Hubbard Dianetic Auditor's Certificate and joined the staff of the Foundation as an auditor, all thoughts of a career in the petroleum industry abandoned.
Auditing was the major activity at the Foundation, for staff and students alike. Everyone was auditing everyone else and someone, naturally, had to audit Hubbard. This dubious honour was variously bestowed and on one occasion it passed to Perry Chapdelaine, who was working as a research assistant at the Wichita Foundation. 'I assumed I would have to stick rigidly to the techniques we had been taught at the Foundation,' said Chapdelaine, 'but it was very different from what I expected. He just lay down on the bed in his bedroom, closed his eyes and started to talk. I sat on a chair by the bed and snapped my fingers a time or two, like we had been taught, directing him to go back to the earliest moment he could recall but he opened his eyes, glared at me, closed his eyes again and continued talking. He was relating, very vividly, what was happening to him as a clam or a jellyfish, in terms of effort and counter-effort. It was fascinating, but I didn't know what to make of it. I learned then,
10. Telephone interviews with Helen O'Brien, Los Angeles, August 1986
pretty well, what he meant by research - it was him talking and the auditor listening.
'The problem for many people involved in Dianetics was that they accepted every word Hubbard said as literal truth, rather than a framework around which you could do things. I remember at a lecture one night he told people if they did this or that they would no longer need to wear glasses and that they would be able to throw them away forever. He pointed to a big bowl at the bottom of the steps leading up to the rostrum and at the end of the lecture people were throwing their glasses into this bowl. Don Purcell was one of them.
'Hubbard thought it was a great joke. He told me about it afterwards, making a snide remark about Purcell and describing how he took off his glasses, threw them into the bowl and groped his way out of the lecture hall. Hubbard was laughing that people would do something like that just because of what he said. Of course, it didn't work. Like every one else, Purcell had a new pair of glasses in a couple of days.
'There was no question Hubbard had an extraordinary ability to transmit to other people. He audited me once in his front room in Wichita and it was the one and only time in my life I had a perfect perception of being in embryo. I'll never forget it, it was the most amazing experience of my whole life.'
In August, Hubbard had to submit to the indignity of another medical examination to avoid losing his pension from the Veterans Administration. 'This veteran gives a long history of three years of sea duty,' the examining physician noted in his report. 'It was gathered from what he says that the duty was rather strenuous, his first assignment in 1942 being with a merchant ship which was assigned to transporting troops. Later, he states, he served with escorts in the North Atlantic. On one occasion, in 1942, he fell down a ladder and struck his right hip, but there were no facilities aboard ship and it was necessary for him to go on without any aid . . . He is a writer by profession and states he has some income from previous writing that helps take care of him.'
Hubbard presented his usual laundry list of injuries and ailments, but the doctors could find symptoms for none of them. 'This is a well nourished and muscled white adult', the examination report concluded, 'who does not appear chronically ill.'
Understandably, the VA saw no cause to increase the veteran's pension, but on this occasion the veteran was perhaps not too concerned since Don Purcell was still providing ample funds for his activities, even though their relationship was fraying. It had been agreed between them that Purcell would be responsible for the management and business affairs of the Foundation while Hubbard
11. Interview with Chapdelaine
12. Hubbard file, VA archives
looked after training, processing and research, but a simple division of responsibility proved to be unworkable.
'Things went along fine for a while, then Ron began to encroach on my territory,' Purcell recorded. 'The more he did this the ornerier I got. Ron established an overhead structure that far exceeded the gross income. I began to hold out for an organizational structure that could exist within its income with the idea of expanding the structure as our income increased. This idea did not satisfy Ron. He kept telling me that I had agreed to pay off all the old debts and underwrite a new start for the Foundation and why didn't I go ahead and do it?'
Purcell's Wichita lawyer, Jean Oliver Moore, was present on many occasions when money was discussed. 'The bills were reaching astronomical proportions,' he said. 'Ron believed one thing should be done and Don another and there was a divergence of opinion. But in the end it had to be a matter of prudent business judgement - the Foundation was losing money hand over fist at a rate faster than Purcell could replace it.'
Money was not the only problem. Purcell and Hubbard were in fundamental disagreement over the issue of 'past lives'. From the earliest days of auditing, pre-clears invited to travel back along the time-track had occasionally progressed beyond birth or conception to previous, often romantic, existences, recalling their adventures as medieval knights or centurions in ancient Rome. It happened to Helen O'Brien, who received the experience of being a young peasant woman in Ireland in the early nineteenth century who was killed by a British soldier when she tried to prevent him raping her.
Hubbard was at first ambivalent about the validity of 'past lives', but by the time he got to Wichita he had embraced the concept so enthusiastically that he showed up for one of his regular Friday night lectures with a dreadful limp; he explained to the audience that he had returned on his genetic time-track to a moment when he was shot in the leg during the Civil War and had not had time to complete 'running' the incident.
Purcell, who was still hoping that Dianetics would achieve academic and professional recognition, considered the notion of 'past lives' to be unscientific and wanted it dropped. Hubbard resented his interference in his 'research' and was anyway disinclined to heed the views of a pragmatic real estate developer. 'Ron's motive was always to limit Dianetics to the authority of his teachings,' Purcell noted. 'Anyone who had the effrontery to suggest that others beside Ron could contribute creatively to the work must be inhibited.' Friction between the two men increased markedly.
Meanwhile, the FBI, ever vigilant, continued to fret about what Hubbard was up to, at the same time displaying a remarkable talent
13. Dianetics Today, Don Purcell, January 1954
14. Interview with Moore, Wichita, November 1986
for obfuscation. On 1 October 1951, for example, the FBI office in Kansas City, which apparently did not read newspapers, asked Washington for any information about a school or clinic of 'Dyanetics' operated by an L. Ron Hubbard in Wichita. The reply indicated that the FBI was quite as paranoid about Hubbard as Hubbard was about the FBI. Prominent mention was made of allegations that the activities of the Foundation were of 'particular interest to sexual perverts and hypochondriacs' and that Sara had accused her husband of being 'mentally incompetent'. The file failed to note that she had retracted her accusations.
In November and December, Hubbard played a starring role in FBI communications when he became enthused, temporarily, by an extraordinary enterprise straight from the pages of his own science fiction and smacking faintly of world domination. His idea was to establish an alliance of leading international scientists and to store all the latest scientific research on microfilm in an atom-bomb-proof archive somewhere in Arizona. In this way, he argued somewhat obscurely, individual nations would be denied the technical capacity to wage a nuclear war. Hubbard called the project 'Allied Scientists of the World' [the name of an organisation that had featured in his novel 'The End Is Not Yet'] and chose Perry Chapdelaine to supervise its inauguration.
'Ron telephoned me at three o'clock in the morning and said he needed me real bad,' Chapdelaine recalled. 'I got dressed and went over to his house and we sat in the front room where he told me all about his plan for Allied Scientists of the World. His stated goal was to stop war in the world. He thought with Allied Scientists he could control war and in that way control the world. That was what he wanted, no question.'
Chapdelaine was despatched in great secrecy - 'Hubbard told me to make sure no one knew he was behind it, I've no idea why' - to Denver, Colorado, where the headquarters of Allied Scientists of the World was to be established. His orders were to organize a mass mailing of scientists and technicians who would be informed that they had been awarded fellowships in Allied Scientists of the World in recognition of their scientific achievements and invited to send in annual dues of $25.
The timing could not have been worse. 'Thousands of leaflets went out,' said Chapdelaine, 'but only one or two came back.' Instead, the FBI was deluged with requests from recipients of the mail-shot to investigate the organization as a possible Communist front organization - such was the power of McCarthyism. The FBI soon established that L. Ron Hubbard was behind Allied Scientists: inter-Bureau memoranda now contained the information that 'several individuals' alleged he was 'mentally incompetent' and a report from the Kansas City office noted that he had 'delusions of grandeur'.
15. US Govt memos, 1 Oct 1951 and 16 Oct 1951
16. FBI Dn File 100-6136
When Post Office inspectors began an investigation of Allied Scientists for possible violation of mail fraud statutes, Hubbard beat a rapid retreat and abandoned the venture. But he was, as always, untroubled by trouble. At the Foundation's New Year party, which was held in a Wichita hotel and featured a live orchestra and a floor show, he was the life and soul of the festivities. 'He danced a great deal,' said Helen O'Brien, 'with a light and exact rhythm that was completely without grace. There was something attention-arresting in the way he handled himself. Many almost worshipped him in those days, but there were other individuals who looked at him askance, with something close to fear.'
For Don Purcell, the Allied Scientists fiasco was almost, but not quite, the last straw. According to Chapdelaine, Purcell was 'frantic, almost hysterical' over the ill-starred enterprise. 'He was scared to death that it would reflect on him,' said Chapdelaine. 'He was afraid of what Hubbard might do next.'
With the relationship between the two men at its lowest ebb, it full to lawyers to deliver the final blow. Ever since Hubbard's arrival in Wichita, Purcell had been fending off creditors who had been left in the lurch as, one after another, the original Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundations closed their doors. At one point he had had to lodge an $11,000 bond with the district court to prevent the Wichita Foundation being placed in State receivership.
'During this time,' he noted, 'I was negotiating with attorneys trying to effect a settlement of the State receivership. I purchased all of the accounts involved in the deal and heaved a sigh of relief. The mess was cleaned up.'
His relief was premature. Early in 1952, a court ruled that the Hubbard Dianetic Foundation in Wichita was liable for the very considerable debts of the defunct Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was a disaster. Purcell, now deeply suspicious that his partner had all along deliberately suppressed the truth about the financial situation in Elizabeth, believed the only option was to file for voluntary bankruptcy.
Hubbard would not countenance such a move, but was outvoted at an emergency meeting of the board of directors held on 12 February. He resigned immediately and announced his intention to establish a 'Hubbard College' on the other side of town. After some discussion, he shook hands on a 'gentlemen's agreement' to continue co-operating with Don Purcell and the Wichita Foundation.
The 'gentlemen's agreement' was worthless, for Purcell had crossed Hubbard and had thus become an enemy to be attacked and harassed
17. Purcell, op. cit.
at every opportunity. The millionaire got a taste of what lay in store ten days later when, on the day the Foundation filed for bankruptcy, he received a telegram from Hubbard: 'YOU ARE ADVISED THAT A $50,000 BREACH OF FAITH AND CONTRACT SUIT IS BEING FILED AGAINST YOU PURSUANT TO FAILURE TO DISCHARGE CREDITOR OBLIGATIONS AND THAT ANOTHER SUIT FOR BAD MANAGEMENT FOR A SIMILAR AMOUNT IS BEING FILED. I AM SORRY TO BE PRESSED TO THIS EXTREMITY. SORROWFULLY, L. RON HUBBARD.'
The final accounts for the Hubbard Dianetic Foundation of Wichita revealed an income of $142,000 and expenditure of $205,000. Hubbard had received fees amounting to nearly $22,000 while salaries for all the remaining staff only accounted for $54,000. The assets of the Foundation largely comprised copyright of all the tapes, books, techniques, processes and paraphernalia of Dianetics, including the name.
Both Purcell and Hubbard claimed ownership and during the bitter feud that inevitably followed, Hubbard mounted a campaign of vilification against his former partner and took to referring to him as 'that little flatulence'. He accused Purcell of plotting to steal Dianetics and of accepting a $500,000 bribe from the American Medical Association to destroy the movement. Purcell was out of his depth: one day he arrived at the Foundation offices on West Douglas and found that all the address plates for the mailing list were missing. Later James Elliott, a Hubbard aide, admitted 'inadvertently' removing them. (They were kept in three boxes, each two feet long and three feet high and weighing more than twenty-five pounds.) Subsequently a number of taped lectures went missing and when a court ordered the tapes to be returned Purcell discovered every third or fourth word had been erased.
In March, Hubbard took a break from hostilities to marry Mary Sue Whipp, who was by then two months pregnant. To avoid the three-day waiting period required by the state of Kansas, they drove across the state line into Oklahoma where it was possible to be married instantly by a Justice of the Peace. Mary Sue would later provide friends with two versions of the circumstances: one had Hubbard knocking on her door in the middle of night shouting, 'Susie, you're the girl I'm going to marry. Get your things, we're leaving.' In the other, they eloped with her parents in hot pursuit and got a JP out of bed to perform the ceremony, still in his pyjamas.
Back in Wichita, the new Mrs Hubbard assumed partial responsibility for running the Hubbard College, which occupied the second floor of a modern office building on North Broadway. It only stayed in business for just six weeks, but it was long enough for the founder to gather together, by telegram, as many loyal followers as he could find
18. Hubbard Dianetic Foundation Inc. in Bankruptcy no. 379-B-2, District Court of Kansas
19. Non-attributable interviews in Los Angeles, August 1986, and Haywards Heath, Sussex, May 1986
to attend a convention at which he promised to present 'important new material'.
About eighty people turned up for the event, which was held in the banqueting hall of a Wichita hotel. Hubbard first introduced an ingenious little gadget called an E-meter, which he claimed was capable of measuring emotions accurately enough to 'give an auditor a deep and marvellous insight into the mind of his pre-clear'. It was a black metal box with a lighted dial, adjustment knobs and wires connected to two tin cans. He demonstrated how it worked by inviting a member of the audience to hold the tin cans and then pinching him - the needle of the dial flickered in response. Then he asked him simply to imagine the pinch and the needle fluctuated again!
The excitement generated by the E-meter was as nothing compared to Hubbard's next revelation. He had, he said, discovered an entirely new science which transcended the limitations of Dianetics. It was a science of certainty and he already had a name for it - he was going to call it Scientology.