Chapter 20

Running Aground


'I don't think I will ever regret making my discoveries public. My sole purpose was to serve and give man the knowledge I had . . . I've never looked to quarrel with anybody.' (First statement to the press by L. Ron Hubbard for five years, read by Diana Hubbard at a reception in Quebec, to launch a new edition of Dianetics, 28 April 1976.)

(Scientology's account of the years 1975-76.)

*   *   *   *   *

Frankie Freedman, a former pit boss in a Las Vegas casino and a Scientologist of ten years' standing, knew the Sea Org was going ashore because he had been scouring South Carolina, Georgia and Florida for a property with a security perimeter which could be used as a staging-post until a permanent land base was established. His 'shore story' was that he was a representative of a phoney corporation - Southern Land Sales and Development - which was looking to lease properties for church-organized retreats. 'LRH knew that if we went into town and said we were Scientologists,' said Freedman, 'we'd be out on our asses.'[1]

Early in August 1975, Freedman found a run-down motel, the Neptune, on the shore at Daytona Beach in Florida. He contacted the owner, presented his Southern Land Development business card, and offered to rent the entire motel for three months. They agreed on a figure of $50,000. Two days later, Mark Schecter arrived with the money in a suitcase.

In his cabana at the Hilton in Curaçao, Hubbard summoned the faithful Dincalci, who was once more restored to favour, and told him: 'We're going to leave the ship. Get some money, go to Daytona Beach and find me a place close to the Neptune motel. They have those condomiums all over the place - pick up one of them.' Dincalci remembered being rather touched by Hubbard's mis-pronunciation of condominium which seemed to emphasize how long the Commodore had been absent from his own country.[2]

On board the Apollo, it was by this time common knowledge that the Commodore was planning to return to the United States. Sea Org officers were already making plans to get the crew ashore in small

1. Interview with Frankie Freedman, Sherman Oaks, CA, Aug 1986
2. Interview with Dincalci


groups through the international airports at Miami, Washington DC and New York so as not to alert federal agencies to what was happening. Non US-citizens were provided with return tickets and told to enter the United States as tourists. The ship was to be left at Freeport in the Bahamas with a skeleton crew until she could be sold.

Hubbard, meanwhile, slipped out of Curaçao on a direct flight to Orlando, Florida, accompanied by Mary Sue and Kima Douglas. They were driven to Daytona Beach, where Jim Dincalci had rented adjoining suites in a modern seafront hotel a couple of hundred yards down the road from the Neptune motel. Within a few days, the first Sea Org personnel began moving into the Neptune. None if them was supposed to know the Commodore was living just down the road.

'We all used to pretend not to know where he was,' said David Mayo, 'although it was pretty obvious. We could see his hotel from the balcony of the motel, but everyone was told to stay away, not even go in there for a drink, because there were SPs [suppressive persons] there. Nobody believed that; it was too outlandish. Then he used to visit us every day and he would arrive in a gold Cadillac which we had seen leave the hotel a few minutes earlier. It would turn in the opposite direction, go round the block and then come in the motel as if it had come from somewhere else.[3]

Hubbard seemed in good spirits in Daytona and his health was much improved. 'He was really happy, was eating well and didn't curse so much,' said Dincalci. 'I guess it was the first time he'd been able to put himself out and about. There were things to do and people to see. He went out and bought some cars for the org - a couple of Matadors and a Chevy station wagon - and he enjoyed doing that; he liked wheeling and dealing. He liked the fact that he could see the org from where we were, but that no one knew we were there. Sometimes Sea Org people would take a swim from the beach right in front of our hotel and that meant he wouldn't go out until late in the evening. When he visited the org in his flash gold Cadillac, everyone would be out saluting him. He always arrived from an inland direction and said he'd driven half a day to get there.'

Holidaymakers at Daytona Beach observed the comings and going at the Neptune motel without much curiosity and the Scientologists were not around long enough to make their presence felt, for in October a perfect location was found for a permanent land base, on the other side of the Florida panhandle.

Clearwater was a quiet retirement resort, just north of St Petersburg, which liked to refer to itself as 'sparkling Clearwater'. It was a sobriquet derived more from its location, straddling a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, than from the nature of

3. Interview with Mayo


its social life: more than a third of Clearwater's 100,000 residents were over the age of sixty-five and so there was a leisurely, faintly antiquated, ambience about the place. Shuffleboard was the most popular afternoon recreation, after snoozing in the shade of trees draped with Spanish moss, and it was still possible to enjoy that rare delight, a real chocolate malt, at Brown Bros luncheonette.

Change was not a welcome phenomenon in a place like Clearwater, yet the town had suffered, to a certain extent, from the urban blight that had afflicted so many American cities in the 'sixties and 'seventies. Downtown residents had moved out to the suburbs, stores migrated to the shopping malls and tourists favoured the new hotels in the beach areas across the causeway. The centre of Clearwater was fast becoming an empty shell, epitomized by the fading grandeur of the town's major landmark, the eleven-storey Fort Harrison Hotel. With its chandeliered lobby overlooking a kidney-shaped swimming pool and its tier upon tier of forlornly empty rooms, the Fort Harrison marked the passing of an era and it was a surprise to no one that it was up for sale.

Its purchase, in October 1975, by Southern Land Sales and Development Corporation, occasioned no more than passing interest, although the attorney acting for the owners confessed that it was 'one of the strangest transactions' he had ever been involved in.[4] Not only did Southern Land pay the $2.3 million purchase price in cash, the corporation was so secretive it would not even admit to having a telephone number. A few days later, Southern Land also bought the old Bank of Clearwater building, not far from the Fort Harrison, for $550,000, also in cash.

Reporters on the two local newspapers, the Clearwater Sun and the St Petersburg Times, naturally began making routine inquiries about Southern Land's intentions and were surprised to discover there were no records anywhere of a Southern Land Sales and Development Corporation. Then a middle-aged man wearing, it was reported, a 'green jump-suit', arrived in Clearwater and announced that an organization called United Churches of Florida had leased both buildings for ecumenical meetings and seminars. This failed to clear up the mystery, because there were no records of United Churches, either.

Although Hubbard had not yet seen his latest real estate acquisitions, he had little doubt, from the detailed reports he had been receiving at Daytona Beach, that Clearwater would be an ideal headquarters for Scientology and a base from which the church could grow and prosper. He considered moving into the penthouse at the Fort Harrison - there was a drive-in garage on the ground floor and direct elevator access to the upper floors - but decided it would be safer to stay out of town. Frankie Freedman found four empty

4. Clearwater Sun, 5 Dec 1975


apartments in a condominium complex called King Arthur's Court in Dunedin, a small town on the coast about five miles north of Clearwater. Hubbard and Mary Sue, accompanied by a discreet entourage of messengers and aides, moved in on 5 December 1975. That location, too, was supposed to remain a closely-guarded secret.

There were a number of compelling reasons why Hubbard wanted to stay in hiding and continue the charade, for public consumption, that he had no influence or responsibilities in Scientology. One of them was that he had no desire, at the age of sixty-four, to risk going to prison.

Operation Snow White, the impudent plan to launder public records that he had dreamed up three years earlier, was progressing rapidly and with a degree of success that few would have believed possible. By the beginning of 1975, the Guardian's Office had infiltrated agents into the Internal Revenue Service, the US Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Agency. By May, Gerald Wolfe, a Scientologist working at the IRS in Washington as a clerk-typist, had stolen more than thirty thousand pages of documents relating to the Church of Scientology and the Hubbards . He was known to the Guardian's Office by the code-name, 'Silver'.

Within the hierarchy of the Church of Scientology, ultimate responsibility for the activities of Operation Snow White rested with Mary Sue Hubbard, the controller, but it was inconceivable that she was acting on her own initiative or not discussing progress with her husband. And although the amateur agents had discovered it was ridiculously easy to infiltrate, bug and burgle US government offices, the risks were considerable, both to the agents themselves and their church superiors. Hubbard was not too worried about who would take the rap if Operation Snow White was exposed, as long as it was not him.

A few days before he moved to Dunedin, he approved a Guardian's Office proposal to infiltrate agents into the US Attorney's offices in Washington DC and Los Angeles with the specific task of providing an early warning of any legal moves against him. In its usual clumsy prose, the Guardian's Office defined the first priority of 'Program LRH Security' as 'Maintain an alerting Early Warning System throughout the GO N/W [Guardian's Office network] so that any situation concerning govts or courts by reason of suits is known in adequate time to take defensive actions to suddenly raise the level on LRH personal security very high.'[5]

Confident that the Guardian's Office would protect him, Hubbard planned to insinuate himself into Clearwater society by posing as a photographer with an interest in taking scenic pictures for the tourist industry. 'Taking pictures of "beautiful CW" is the local button,' he

5. GO Order 261175, 26 Nov 1975


wrote in a letter to Henning Heldt, a deputy guardian. 'My portrait of the mayor will hang in city hall never fear.'

The mayor of Clearwater, Gabriel Cazares, had more important things on his mind than having his portrait taken. Like many of the good citizens of Clearwater, he was concerned by the sudden influx of strangely incommunicative young people. They were busily scrubbing and cleaning the Fort Harrison Hotel and the old bank building, wore a form of uniform and appeared to be guarded. 'I am discomfited,' the perplexed mayor finally announced, 'by the increasing visibility of security personnel, armed with billy clubs and mace, employed by the United Churches of Florida. I am unable to understand why this degree of security is required by a religious organization.'

For his discomfiture, the mayor was instantly placed on Scientology's 'enemies list'. He would have been even more discomfited had he seen a directive issued in December outlining plans to take control of 'key points in the Clearwater area'. The aim of 'Project Power' was to 'establish the indispensability of United Churches' in the community and the means of achieving the objective involved classic Hubbardian strategy.

'The overall plan is to locate opinion leaders - then, their enemies, the dirt, scandal, vested interest, crime of the enemies (with overt data as much as possible). Then turn this over to UC [United Churches] who will approach the opinion leader and get his agreement to look into a specific subject (which will lead to the enemies' crimes). UC then "discovers" the scandal, etc, and turns it over to the opinion leader for his use. Ops [operations] can be done as a follow up to remove or restrain the enemy.'[6]

Before United Churches' cover was blown, Hubbard made a foray into Clearwater to direct the taping of a radio show in which three local ministers had been invited to participate. The Commodore had abandoned his gold-embossed naval whites in favour of a beret and khaki fatigues and in this freakish outfit, topped by headphones, he bustled about, twiddling knobs, adjusting microphones and directing where everybody should stand. 'They introduced him to me as Mr Hubbard,' said the Reverent R. L. Wicker, of Clearwater's Calvary Temple of God. 'But that didn't mean anything to me. They said he was an engineer.'

In January, the Guardian's Office discovered that local newspapers were moving closer to discovering the real identity of United Churches. Silver reported that a Bette Orsini of the St Petersburg Times was asking questions about the tax-exempt status of the Church of Scientology. And June Byrne, a Scientologist who had got a job as a clerk in the newsroom at the Clearwater Sun, told the GO that reporter Mark Sableman seemed to be making a connection between

6. St Petersburg Times, 9 Jan 1980


United Churches and Scientology. He had been checking the registration plates of cars used by United Churches officials and had discovered one was licensed in the name of 'R. Hubbard'.

On 28 January 1976, the 'Reverend' Arthur J Maren, a striking figure with an Old Testament beard, arrived in Clearwater from Los Angeles to announce at a news conference that the Church of Scientology were the owners of the Fort Harrison Hotel and the Bank of Clearwater building. Its involvement had not previously been revealed only out of an altruistic desire to avoid overshadowing the work of its subsidiary organization, United Churches. On 5 February, five hundred citizens attended an open day at the Fort Harrison Hotel to view the renovation work that had already been completed. Maren reassured those present that there was nothing to fear from Scientology. 'Scientologists are people who don't drink or violate laws,' he said. 'They are friendly and want to contribute.' Next day, the Church of Scientology filed a $1 million lawsuit against Mayor Gabriel Cazares, accusing him of libel, slander and violation of the church's civil rights.

Hubbard thought it was unlikely that his own security in King Arthur's Court had been compromised, since his location was known to so few people and all of them were well-trained and fanatically loyal. But there was a kind of perfidious inevitability that he would eventually be wrong-footed, as had happened so often in his singular career. This time it was no one's fault but his own. He decided he needed a new wardrobe for his new life on shore. His usual habit was to order what he wanted from a tailor in Savile Row, via his secretary at Saint Hill Manor, but on this occasion he was impatient and decided to call in a local tailor from Tarpon Springs, the next town up Route 19A, north of Dunedin. The tailor turned out to be a science-fiction fan and while he was measuring his new client they got talking about science fiction. Hubbard let slip his identity and the tailor was delighted to be able to shake the hand of the great L. Ron Hubbard, whose sci-fi stories he had for so long admired. Back in Tarpon Springs, he told his wife, 'You'll never guess who I was just measuring for a suit . . .' News travelled fast thereabouts and it was not long before a reporter began knocking on the doors of King Arthur's Court in Dunedin.

Hubbard bolted. 'We're leaving right now,' he shouted at Kima Douglas, then head of the household unit. 'What do you want to take with you?' Kima, who was accustomed to handling crises, suggested her husband, Mike. Hubbard agreed he could be their driver. 'He was more agitated than I had seen him for years,' Kima recalled. 'We did not have time to do anything but pack a small bag.' Hubbard had five suitcases already stowed in the trunk of his gold Cadillac and they


swept out of King Arthur's Court as the sun was setting in the gulf. With Mike Douglas at the wheel, Kima on the front seat beside him and Hubbard cowering in the back to avoid being seen, they headed across the Florida panhandle on Route 4 in the direction of Orlando.

It was a journey that Kima Douglas would never forget: 'Somewhere near Orlando we stopped at a hotel, I think it was a Great Western, and checked in under false names. LRH was supposed to be my father. We got adjoining rooms and then LRH sent Mike out to telephone Mary Sue from a payphone to find out what had happened. When he came back, he said he had not been able to get through because she had moved her office. The old man just broke down and wept; tears poured out of his eyes. We didn't know what the hell was happening. He started to wail, "Don't you see? If she's moved her office it means that someone's been there. The whole thing's broken down. Don't you understand?" It looked like he was going to have a heart attack right there, so Mike went out to the payphone again to try and get some more information. When he got back he said everything was OK. Mary Sue had moved her office from one apartment to another because she thought she would be more comfortable.'

Early next morning Hubbard apprised his travelling companions that they were going to drive the 1200 miles to New York, but they were going to ditch the Cadillac because it was too noticeable. He gave Douglas $5000 to go out and buy another car; Douglas returned an hour later with a second-hand Chevrolet hatchback, big enough for their suitcases and suitably nondescript. They left immediately.

'We were on the road for three or four days,' said Kima. 'It was a horrendous trip. He sat in the back smoking cigarettes like mad and every time he saw a police car he'd scream, "There they are, they're after us!" We had to keep turning off the highways and freeways, stopping continually, to avoid police cars. We went through some real hokey places. One time he got out of the car and started beating the roof with frustration. I said to him very quietly, "Get back in the car, sir. Everything's all right ."

'He kept saying we had to get to New York, we had to get to New York, but as we were driving through New Jersey I could see he was getting more and more affected by the pollution. He was hyperventilating, panting for breath. It was scary, really scary. We headed for Queens, where he had stayed before, and an aeroplane went overhead throwing out all kinds of shit. I pointed to it and said, "Sir, I'm not going to do this to you. There's no way you're going to stay here." By then he was like a child and mumbled something about do whatever you want. I said we should turn round and go back to Washington DC. He just said, "Do whatever you have to do."'[7]

Mike Douglas swung the wheel on the Chevrolet and turned back in

7. Interview with Douglas


the direction from which they had just come, south along the New Jersey turnpike, across the Delaware river into Maryland as far as the outskirts of Washington DC. They found rooms for the night in a hotel just off the Capital Beltway. Next morning, Kima drove downtown to look for more permanent accommodation. She found a comfortable brownstone on Q Street in Georgetown, only nine or ten blocks from the Washington org, and signed a $1300-a-month rental agreement.

Within a few days of moving into the brownstone, Hubbard had recovered his composure. Telex communications were set up and the usual retinue of messengers and aides moved in, including Jim Dincalci, who drove up from Florida towing a U-Haul trailer loaded with the Commodore's personal possessions and private papers. Daily reports began arriving from Mary Sue, many of them detailing the activities of Operation Snow White. 'It was strange to think', said Kima, 'that while we were lying low in Washington, other Scientologists were going through the files in government buildings not far from where we were living.'

In the bustling streets of Georgetown, Hubbard felt safe to go out and about, although he grew a beard and took to wearing a curious assortment of old clothes in the fond belief that he would merge into the cosmopolitan atmosphere. 'He bought clothes from Salvation Army stores, real gungey stuff,' said Alan Vos, one of the aides who had moved into the Q Street brownstone. 'It was strange because on the ship he had had all these phobias about dust and smells and how his clothes had to be washed, but that all vanished when we were living together in Washington.

'He used to go out walking and sit in the sidewalk cafés on Connecticut Avenue. The Scientology office was just a couple of blocks away and he was often handed flyers by people recruiting for Scientology; he thought it was very funny. One day he got talking to a woman in a restaurant about Scientology and he suggested she should go round to the org on S Street. I heard later that when she got there they asked who had sent her and she pointed to LRH's picture on the wall and said, "That man over there." They went crazy and started an investigation on her, thinking she was some kind of government plant.

'It seemed to me that LRH was happy in Washington, happy to be getting out, mixing with other people, going to the movies. On the ship he had no idea what was happening in the world. He thought about moving his headquarters to Washington and looked at a property - there was a hotel for sale on Dupont Circle - but Mary Sue talked him out of it. She didn't like Washington and convinced him it was too dangerous. That's the kind of thing she used to do - play on his fears and psychoses about violence and police.'[8]

8. Interview with Alan Vos, Maclean, VA, March 1986


Hubbard spent quite a bit of time researching in the library of Congress, reading up on black magic and the occult, and most days he took a walk in Rock Creek Park, where he believed that FBI agents were trained. He bought a trick camera with a lens that looked sideways and amused himself by taking pictures of trainee agents for future reference. Kima Douglas thought he was mad to take the risk.

Coincidentally, Rock Creek Park was also the chosen venue for a fake hit-and-run accident which the Guardian's Office set up in an attempt to end the political career of the troublesome mayor of Clearwater. Gabriel Cazares by then figured prominently on the Church of Scientology's hit-list and the Guardian's Office had been trying to dig up some dirt on him for weeks. Scientologists had gone back to his home town of Alpine, Texas, trawled through public records, nosed around the courthouse and even checked the headstones in the local graveyard, without success. But then it was disclosed that Cazares would be attending the national mayors' conference in Washington from 13-17 March and the Guardian's Office made hasty plans to give him a welcome.

A Scientologist posing as a Washington reporter sought an interview with Cazares and introduced him to a friend, Sharon Thomas, who offered to show the mayor the sights of Washington. Miss Thomas was, of course, working for the Guardian's Office. Driving with the mayor through scenic Rock Creek Park, she temporarily lost control of her car and ran into a pedestrian, who crumpled dramatically. To the mayor's horror, Miss Thomas accelerated away without stopping, leaving the injured man lying on the road.

A Guardian's Office memo the following day discussed ways of using the accident to discredit Cazares and concluded: 'I should think the mayor's political days are at an end.' Curiously Cazares was also on the Commodore's mind. On the very same day, Hubbard scrawled a note to the GO: 'Cazares - is there still some possibility the Cubans in Miami might get the idea he is pro-Castro?'

The 'victim' of the hit-and-run accident was a young man called Michael Meisner, a Scientologist since 1970. Meisner was the key figure in Operation Snow White: he was 'running' all the GO agents who had been infiltrated into government agencies in Washington, had personally taken part in several burglaries at the Department of Justice and organized the copying of tens of thousands of secret government files. For almost eighteen months, GO agents had been sneaking in and out of government buildings without hindrance, but on the evening of 11 June 1976, things started to go wrong when the FBI discovered Meisner and Silver in the US Courthouse Library at the foot of Capitol Hill. They were waiting for cleaners to vacate an office from which they were going to steal files, but they told the FBI


agents they were doing legal research. They presented fake identification documents and were allowed to leave.

Next day, in the brownstone on Q Street, an agitated Hubbard showed Kima Douglas a telex from Mary Sue and asked, 'What am I going to do about this?' 'The essence of the report,' said Kima, 'was that they had caught the man who had been getting all this great information for us from the tax files.' Although no arrests had yet been made, Hubbard surmised, correctly, that there was trouble in store. His instinct, once again, was to flee.

A bolthole had been established on the other side of the country in anticipation of just this eventuality. On the following morning, Kima Douglas checked in at National Airport with her elderly "father", for a flight to Los Angeles. Travelling under false names, they sat together in the first-class cabin and watched an adventure movie, featuring a spectacular hang-glider rescue, which the old man very much enjoyed. At LAX, they were met by a limousine and driven to Overland Avenue in Culver City, where Gerry Armstrong had rented four adjoining apartments. Back at the brownstone on Q Street in Georgetown, the occupants were toiling in and out of the house, loading boxes into two U-Haul trailers parked outside. They would leave that night for the long drive across the continent to Los Angeles.

Overland Avenue was a wide tree-lined street with low-rise apartment blocks on one side and the usual American suburban parade of shopping plazas, filling stations and used-car lots on the other. It was middle-class and anonymous, the kind of place where people could come and go for months without ever being noticed by their neighbours. Armstrong had already set up a telex link before the Commodore arrived. Special decoder equipment was installed to provide direct secure communications with Clearwater and the Guardian's Office in Los Angeles, code-named Beta. Overland Avenue's code name was Alpha.

Among early telex messages to arrive at Alpha was the news that Gerald Wolfe, agent Silver, had been arrested at his desk at the IRS building in Washington and a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Michael Meisner, who was missing from his home. Hubbard was not surprised by Meisner's disappearance - he was staying at Beta, where he was being provided with a new appearance and identity. Mary Sue's plan was that he should 'lose himself' in some large city.

Mary Sue soon joined her husband at Overland Avenue to discuss the situation and some pressing family problems. She persuaded him that they would be able to resume family life in safety if they could find a remote ranch somewhere in southern California, but the truth was that the family had already disintegrated under the stress of constantly being 'on the run'. Diana's marriage was in trouble,


Quentin was supposed to be working for the org in Clearwater but was constantly absent, reckless Suzette was dating 'wogs' and Arthur had dropped out of the California Institute of the Arts after gentle Jim Dincalci had pulled strings to get him a place. 'I took his portfolio along,' said Dincalci, 'made up a story about him and gave him a false hyphenated name to disguise who he was. He was accepted on the strength of his portfolio and his mother and father were very happy with it, but he didn't last long.'

Not unreasonably, Mary Sue longed for some kind of stability and missions were despatched to find a property for the family, although Hubbard insisted that there had to be enough space to accommodate his messengers and his ever-changing court of loyal aides. The Commodore could not countenance life without a bevy of nubile messengers at his beck and call.

Kima Douglas went to look over a beautiful farm with its own beach not far from Santa Barbara and pleaded with him to buy it, but he said it was too expensive at $4 million. Then a mission scouring the Palm Springs area reported back on a promising property in the desert at La Quinta, on the east side of the San Jacinto Mountains, which was on the market for $1.3 million. Hubbard drove down to look at it in his new red Cadillac Eldorado convertible, wearing a jaunty little cap pulled down over his straggling long hair, which had at last turned grey. It was not a car that guaranteed him a low profile, but he had insisted on having it. He swept in through the high gates of the Olive Tree Ranch at La Quinta, took a quick look round, professed himself satisfied and returned immediately to Los Angeles.

La Quinta was about twenty minutes' drive from Palm Springs and was a quiet little community of cheap low-roofed houses that simmered on a flat patch of sun-scorched earth between the mountains. Olive Tree Ranch occupied the land behind the seedy La Quinta Country Club and perversely grew dates and citrus fruit rather than olives. The main house was a sprawling white adobe hacienda with a red-tiled roof built around a courtyard. There was a swimming-pool with an island in the middle sporting a single, surprising, palm tree and two other smaller houses, one called Rifle and the other The Palms.

As soon as the purchase papers had been signed, a working party from the Los Angeles RPF moved in to begin renovations and improvements. Hubbard had decided he would live in Rifle and wanted the house painted white throughout, with white tiles on the floor and all white furniture. Telex machines were installed in the main house, but it was intended that the ranch would be insulated as much as possible from the Church of Scientology. Everyone living and working there was given a cover name, warned not to use Scientology words or bring Scientology books on to the property.


The Hubbards moved in at the beginning of October 1976 and began to enjoy a new life of tranquillity on their ranch in the desert. The messengers noticed a change in the Commodore; he was much more relaxed than formerly and usually in good spirits. But on the morning of Wednesday, 17 November, as Doreen Smith was running across the Rifle to begin her watch, she could hear him shouting at the top of his voice: 'That stupid fucking kid! That stupid fucking kid! Look what he's done to me! Stupid fucking . . .' As she got closer, she could hear another unearthly, chilling noise. It was Mary Sue keening, barely drawing breath, but emitting a terrible endless scream.

When she entered the house, the messenger she was relieving was in tears. She sobbed out the awful news: 'Quentin's killed himself.'

Quentin had been found in Las Vegas at 0832 hours on 28 October, slumped over the steering-wheel of a white Pontiac parked off Sunset Road alongside the perimeter fence of McCarran Airport at the end of the north-south runway. All the car windows were rolled up and a white vacuum cleaner tube led from the passenger's vent window to the exhaust tail pipe. Tissue papers had been stuffed into the window opening around the tube and the car's engine was still running.

Officer Bruns of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was first on the scene. He wrenched open both the car doors and ascertained that the young man inside was still alive, though unconscious, probably because the tube had fallen off the tail pipe. He carried no identification of any kind and there were no licence plates on the car. There was nothing in the car but a Grundig portable radio, a black tote bag containing miscellaneous clothing and an open, partly consumed, bottle of tequila. 'The vehicle appeared as though the subject might have been sleeping in it,' the police report noted. 'The subject himself was very unkempt, his clothing was dirty, and would be possibly described as a vagrant type subject. A white male, appeared in his mid to late 20s. The subject was transported to Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital via Mercy Ambulance . . .'[9]

As no one knew who he was, Quentin was admitted to hospital as 'John Doe'. The only identifying marks that the hospital could record were his red hair and red moustache. He never regained consciousness and died at 2115 on 12 November. The police records listed him as a 'possible suicide'.

On Monday, 15 November, the Las Vegas coroner's office began making attempts to establish 'John Doe's' identity. His car, which had been impounded, was re-checked and a Florida Highway Patrol smog sticker was found, along with a vehicle identification number. A telex to the Florida department of motor vehicles came up with the

9. Officer's Report, D.R. No 76-57596, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department


information that the vehicle was registered to a Quentin Hubbard of 210 South Fort Harrison Avenue, Clearwater. Descriptions of the car and the dead man were telexed to Clearwater police department with a request that the information be checked.

At 8.40 pm that same day, a man called Dick Weigand telephoned the deputy coroner from Los Angeles airport, said he was leaving for Las Vegas in five minutes and hoped to be able to identify John Doe. They agreed to meet at ten o'clock that night at the Medical Examiner Facility on Pinto Lane. Weigand was a senior Guardian's Office agent. He arrived at Pinto Lane five minutes late and explained that he had been contacted by a Kathy O'Gorman, who lived at the same address in Clearwater as Quentin Hubbard. However, he said he had only seen Quentin a couple of times and could not be sure of making a positive identification. Weigand viewed the body twice, stared into Quentin's white face, with his unmistakable red hair and moustache, then shook his head and said he was not sure. He could give no more help and he did not even know the telephone number of Kathy O'Gorman in Clearwater. Weigand disappeared into the garish Las Vegas night and immediately put a call through to the Guardian's Office to give them the bad news: it was Quentin, all right.

Mary Sue screamed for ten minutes when she heard the news. 'It was horrendous,' said Kima Douglas. 'It kept on going. I couldn't believe she could get that much air in her lungs. The only time I had ever really seen her cry before was when Vixie, her Corgi, died and I had to give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to try and revive it. The old man didn't cry or get emotional. He was furious - really angry that Quentin had done it.'

That same morning, a detective from Clearwater police department telephoned Las Vegas to say that 210 South Fort Harrison Avenue was the address of the US headquarters of the Church of Scientology, but that the church's public affairs officer, one Kathy O'Gorman, had refused to give him any information about Quentin Hubbard. The detective said that the Clearwater police had had 'many problems' with the church; as far as he knew, the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, lived on a yacht in the bay.

The Guardian's Office, meanwhile, had moved swiftly to 'handle' the situation. Its local representative in Las Vegas was a pit boss at the Sands Hotel by the name of Ed Walters. 'I had been working as a covert operator for about eight years,' he said. 'I had secretly tape-recorded a psychiatrist and got him to talk about lobotomies to try and discredit him and I had bugged the meetings of Clark County Mental Health Association, things like that. I worked on anything that org conceived to be a threat to the Hubbards.

'When they found out Quentin was here, I was told to get hold of all


his medical files. There was apparently evidence that he had had a homosexual encounter shortly before he was found and they didn't want anything like that to get out. There was a girl Scientologist working in the hospital in a very secure position and she got all the reports on Quentin and gave them to me and I handed them over to the Guardian's Office.'[10]

On the morning of Thursday, 18 November, Arthur Maren arrived at the coroner's office in Las Vegas and introduced himself as director of public affairs for the Church of Scientology. He said he would be able to make a positive identification of the body and at 11.25 he confirmed that John Doe was, indeed, Geoffrey Quentin McCaully Hubbard, aged twenty-two. Maren said that Quentin's parents were not in the United States, but were away on a trip round the world.

Maren went backwards and forwards to the coroner's office over the next few days providing information designed to deter any further investigation into Quentin's death. He even persuaded the coroner to describe the cause of death as 'undetermined' in a press release. Quentin was said to have been on vacation and in Las Vegas to check out enrolment requirements for a flying school.

On Monday, 22 November, a young woman called Mary Rezzonico turned up with an authorization signed by L. Ron Hubbard and Mary Sue Hubbard for the release of their son's remains and his personal effects. Rezzonico said she had personally obtained the signatures over the weekend at 'an unspecified location in Ireland'.

Quentin was cremated next day at Palm Crematory in Las Vegas. 'I knew he had homosexual problems,' said Ed Walters, 'but he was a good kid. He was just a young, soft boy, not the ruthless, hard-nosed type. He had wanted to get out of Scientology for some time, but you don't just leave something like Scientology. You quit and then instantly become an enemy. He knew his father violently attacked anyone who betrayed him and he knew that the Guardian's Office would be after him as a traitor. He had grown up in Scientology and would have been tremendously afraid of the world out there, full of wogs and evil people. I guess he just couldn't handle it.'

'He was just a miserable, miserable boy,' said Kima Douglas. 'He was a little kid out of his depth who knew he could never compete with his father.'

A final macabre chapter was still to be enacted. Quentin had chosen to die at the end of an airport runway, watching the aircraft he had longed to fly landing and taking off. It was thus resolved that his ashes should be scattered from a light aircraft over the Pacific. Frank Gerbode, a Scientologist in Palo Alto, had his own aeroplane.

'The Guardian's Office telephoned and asked me to help with a special project,' Gerbode said. 'I was to fly my plane out over the

10. Interview with Ed Walters, Las Vegas, Aug 1986


Pacific with a couple of GO people who were going to scatter Quentin's ashes. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, of course. It turned out to be a gruesome business. It's not easy to throw particulate matter out of a light aircraft and the ashes blew back into the plane. I was taking little bits of Quentin Hubbard out of the upholstery for months afterwards.'[11]

11. Interview with Dr. Frank Gerbode, Palo Alto, Aug 1986