Hana Eltringham Whitfield talk

[Hana was kind enough to send her whole transcript, which she did not have time to read completely at the Hamburg Symposium.]

Talk given in 2010 in Hamburg, Germany

My name is Hana Eltringham Whitfield.

I was a Scientologist and a member of the Sea Organization for over twenty years. I captained two of Hubbard’s ships, ran his organizations, and was Deputy Commodore under Hubbard in the United States for two years. After I left, and as a way of giving back, my husband and I began helping families retrieve their children and spouses from Scientology and the Sea Org.

I am speaking today to share my experiences about L. Ron Hubbard. Beginning with Dianetics, and particularly with Scientology Hubbard created a totalitarian culture that revolved around his claims that he was perfect, that everything he said was correct, and that he never made mistakes. Everyone else was a sinner; everyone else was wrong. The same culture permeates Scientology even today. In fact, we hear repeatedly from Scientology spokespersons how Scientology has done no wrong, and that everything it says is correct. It is as if Hubbard was still alive, and in fact, he is glorified as if this were so. It is this totalitarian culture that has everything to do with what is happening in Scientology today. It is this culture that will continue into the future because it is incapable of change and of correction from within. Hubbard conceived Scientology from a defensive public relations posture in which he always had to accuse others. This has never changed. This is the same culture that exists today. His followers do and say as Hubbard did and said.

I joined Scientology in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1965. I was twenty-four, educated, a registered nurse, altruistic, naïve, and looking for answers. I soon went to England, to Hubbard’s headquarters, at that time a friendly, pleasant place. Ethics conditions and declaring people suppressive were just starting to show their face. I trained to the highest levels then available, and graduated as a Class 7 auditor and an Organization Executive Course graduate. I was Clear #60. The training and auditing I received swiftly changed me into a person my family did not recognize. I had no doubt that Hubbard was perfect, and everything he said and did was necessary to salvage our civilization.

In August 1967, Hubbard created the Sea Project to evade the media and the law, though outsiders and general scientologists knew nothing of that. I was one of thirty-five people invited to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, to join him and help with his research, as he put it, to salvage the planet. Of course, I accepted; I believed. Then I met him, and began experiencing the way he treated those close to him as well as outsiders, people like all of you (conference attendees). It was only years after I left the Sea Organization and Scientology that I began to see the extent of his abuse.

I want to talk about some incidents I experienced in a one-year period to show that conditions within Scientology have not changed since Hubbard’s death.

I met Hubbard for the first time in Las Palmas in August 1965, when I joined the Sea Project. He had the ability to bring out the best in us as well as the worst.

On the good side, he inspired me to achieve things I never would have otherwise; captaining two of his ships through all weathers and conditions, running large organizations, and completing assignments that others said could not be done.

There were unforgettable exhilarating moments such as those on deck at night when he sat with us for hours as we passed around bottles of good Spanish wine. He spoke about civilizations that existed in the vivid constellations overhead, and he pointed them out, named them one by one, and spoke in detail about their inhabitants. I grasped those moments, hung onto them, and never wanted them to stop. As none of us were aware of what was really happening to us, we clung to what we perceived as good, and crazily justified the bad.

On the dark side, Hubbard exposed us and indeed thrust us into his world of cruelty, inhumanity, and abuse that would never have been condoned in any civilized country, and which he constantly redefined as positive, as the greatest good for the greatest number, and absolute requirements for enlightenment.

After arriving on board, I quickly found that Hubbard angered easily, and went into frequent unpredictable outbursts at us or the Spanish workers who were helping to refit the Avon River. I quickly learned from my peers that I had to rationalize his behavior. Everyone else did. Why? Because Hubbard was right. He was the only one who knew what it would take to overcome this civilization’s inability to confront and help itself. And we all believed.

There are so many revealing experiences I had with the man that I would love to give you, but I do not have the time.

He soon appointed me as his first Master at Arms, or Ethics Officer, and personally trained me for the position. During my second week on the job, Linda, Hubbard’s messenger, brought me a hand-written order to do with Terry Dickinson, an Australian electrician. Terry had failed to comply with Hubbard’s order to get a HF Sharps ship-to-shore radio purchased in New York, flown to Las Palmas and installed on the ship’s bridge. His punishment? He had to stay awake until the radio was on board and operating. If he failed, he would never be allowed to talk with the crew, eat with the crew, or sleep below decks. I read the order and froze. His messenger took it out of my hand and returned it, I presume, to Hubbard. To this day, I do not know if Hubbard was testing my loyalty. Or Terry’s. Or if he believed that that kind of inhumane action was required to raise my confront of evil, a subject he was obsessed with. Or Terry’s. Or if he simply wanted to see how much brutality and manipulation someone under his control would tolerate. Why did I comply? It was simple. I was well indoctrinated. I was in love with the whole concept of Hubbard, who he was, that he had chosen to return at that time, and that we were fortunate beyond belief to be there with him. Early on in Scientology, my emotions had gone into overdrive and blocked my rational thought processes and reality checks, and I was incapable of thinking logically. Added to that was the belief that Hubbard could do no wrong. That combination set up a circular logic that neither my peers nor I could escape. No matter what he did or said, or what shock tactics he used on those around him, we believed Hubbard was correct

Knowing Terry, a happy, fun-loving Australian, I knew he would not make it on his own. As I could not face him enduring the punishment, I vowed to stay awake with him until it was done. I forced him to stay awake for five days and nights, because that was how long it took to get the radio on board, when he could not, every moment of that long time. I pushed coffee and meals down his throat, and walked up and down the beach with him through the wee hours of the night when he wept that he could not go on anymore. Much later, my ex-husband, who was still a scientologist, reviled me publically for the brutality Terry experienced by my hand. He did not know the order came from Hubbard. He would not have believed me had I told him. Hubbard never published the order. It is probably now behind one of those 1,000-year doors which guard the underground storage depositories of Hubbard’s archives in the New Mexico desert, waiting for an unlikely future when humans will see that Hubbard was infallible. I believed I was doing it all for Terry’s salvation as well as my own. Terry left the Sea Org soon afterwards, a broken man. I often wondered, given that LRH was right, why Terry did not come through the punishment with success. Obviously, it was his fault that he did not, not that of Hubbard.

About the same time, Phoebe Maurer, another Sea Project member, was the first to be assigned Hubbard’s new ethics condition of Liability, and she had to wear a torn jumpsuit, a grey rag tied around one arm, and a large black mark on her left cheek. She was forbidden to talk to or mix with anyone. She had to stay on deck twenty-four hours a day, and sleep up there as well. She could not bathe or wash. The ship’s cook, Virginia Downsboro, had the choice of giving or not giving Phoebe any food. Hubbard’s policy of putting a head on a pike worked well; we were a compliant crew.

During that time, Hubbard lived in a villa outside Las Palmas. His Public Relations Officer, Yvonne (Gilham) Jenzsch, also a Sea Project member, lived there as well. Years later Yvonne confided in me that Hubbard made repeated sexual advances toward her, even though his wife, Mary Sue, visited him every so often and he knew Yvonne was married. Yvonne told me that the only way she was able to break free was to request an assignment away from the ship, and Hubbard finally sent her to establish and run the Los Angeles Celebrity Center. She remained there for the rest of her life, returning to Sea Org headquarters in Clearwater, Florida only in the late 1970’s to die … after she got cancer. Yvonne was one of the most loved and respected women in Scientology and the Sea Organization.

By October 1967, Hubbard declared the Sea Project a success, renamed it the Sea Organization, created the awe-inspiring billion-year contract, and assigned us the goal of personally helping him salvage the planet. The heady emotions we experienced acted as glue that further trapped us inside his belief system in which he continually reframed abuse as help, punishment as salvation, and unconditional obedience to his will as the only way to achieve total freedom.

Toward the end of 1967, Hubbard appointed me to the position of Captain of the Avon River, the 150-foot North Sea fishing trawler. And yes, I really was the captain, and fully responsible for the ship and crew. We trained new Sea Org recruits in sea practices, and naval conduct and etiquette, including navigating by the stars with a sextant. Later on, I also captained the 350-foot Royal Scotman for six months.

In early 1968, in Valencia, Spain, Hubbard released OT 3, the fantasy story about Xenu and body thetans. Emotions ran sky high. I, however, found the story incomprehensible, and from then on for fifteen years, I struggled to apply its sci-fi techniques while undergoing innumerable auditing reviews, retrains, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of Dianetic auditing, all designed to make it possible for me to do OT3. Why did I stick with it for so long? Because the alternative, according to Hubbard, who was always right, meant I was suppressive, a degraded being, and beyond salvation. That is when I began to get headaches.

Hubbard appointed Peggy Bankston, a friend and Sea Org member, as his Personal Banking Officer. Peggy confided in me soon afterwards that she and Hubbard were having an affair. I was flabbergasted. But how could I doubt? Obviously, Hubbard knew what he was doing. A short time later, Peggy fell out of favor, and Hubbard declared her Suppressive. Did that cause me to doubt? Not for long. I am sad to say, I believed that Peggy was to blame for what happened to her.

Then Hubbard ordered Derek Green put into the chain locker for stealing jewelry and tossing it overboard. Granted, it was valuable, as at least one antique piece in the lot. But Derek was a four-year old child. Do you know what a chain locker is? It is a metal compartment at the front of the ship into the which the anchor chain is coiled when not in use. I was present when Derek’s mother, Felice Green, cried and pleaded with Hubbard to let her little boy out, and he brutally admonished her, “A child is an adult in a child’s body, and is to be treated like an adult. He knows he did wrong”, and then turned away. Derek had no blankets, no extra clothing. He was not allowed to leave the chain locker to go to the potty. He was in there for four days and nights.

Hubbard also assigned the entire Royal Scotman crew as well as their ship the Ethics condition of Liability for non-compliance. He stood next to me on the Avon River Bridge as the Royal Scotman sailed out of Valencia harbor to redeem herself. She had an enormous length of gray material tied around her funnel. The crew — men, women, and children — scurrying around on deck, all wore old jumpsuits, gray rags around their arms, and black marks on their cheeks. They were allowed only five or six hours of sleep each night, and limited hygiene. The whole scenario shouted unclean! Yet Hubbard exuded contentment. He walked around the Avon River Bridge, chest puffed out, nodding and smiling, saying, “That will do it!” I remember feeling a real deep fear in my gut, not so much about what Hubbard had done, but about the apparent wickedness he saw in the Royal Scotman crew that I did not, and the possibility that one day he might see the same in me. I thought my inability to see his punishment as something positive was proof of my severe limitations.

As soon as the Royal Scotman had completed the Liability requirements set by Hubbard and was back in good standing, he moved his quarters and personal crew back on board, and sailed the ship south to Melilla, French Morocco. We continued sailing around Valencia training new recruits.

Late one night, Amos, my Chief Officer, called me urgently to the bridge. Hubbard was on the radio, crying, begging me to sail immediately to Melilla to help him as he had lost control of the Royal Scotman. I was shocked as I had never seen or heard him that devastated, and I wanted to run the other way. By the time we arrived, the worst was over. My then-husband told me that a hundred new untrained recruits had come aboard and caused havoc. To regain control, Hubbard had ordered the recruits, as well as the Sea Org Officers who failed to hold the line, into the Royal Scotsman’s old water tanks, which were huge metal containers with small outlets, to chip out the ancient paint and rust. The sinners were in the tanks for up to eighty-four hours and longer, my then-husband one of them. They had to chip twenty-four hours a day without sleep. When someone stopped chipping or nodded off, a guard at the hatch hit the tank with a metal bar. I shuddered when I heard the chippers ate meals by hand out of buckets lowered down to them, and were given no toilet breaks, etc. Hubbard really enjoyed the punishments he assigned. He did not need wire fences. He simply shocked people into compliance with his will. My then-husband told me that had our ship, the Avon River, arrived earlier, Hubbard planned to appoint me Captain of the Royal Scotman “to fix everything”. I was horrified by what I heard, and I knew I had escaped a time bomb. But did I question how denying sleep could salvage people? Or withholding toilet paper? No. I was incapable of thinking logically.

Later, while I was still Captain of the Avon River that year, Hubbard sent a telex ordering me to put Nikki Freedman in the chain locker for five days. Nikki worked for Mary Sue Hubbard, LRH’s wife, who ran the Guardian Office World Wide from the Royal Scotman. Nikki was travelling with us on that leg of our voyage. I complied. But the thought of Nikki in that dark freezing metal compartment at night while we were at sea without warm clothes, limited food, and more turned me upside down … I couldn’t do it. After a few hours, I said to hell with it and took her out. Was I scared that Hubbard would punish me for non-compliance? Of course. Did he? No. What was amazing was that he never questioned me as to why I let her out. What was more amazing was that I never questioned disobeying Hubbard’s order and getting away with. It just showed the extent to which he controlled me, and indeed, to which he controlled us all.

Granada (British) TV has an extremely revealing video program of the Royal Scotman crew in those days, literally dressed in rags, filthy, bearded, and degraded. They looked more like prison convicts than an elite crew helping L. Ron Hubbard save the world, and not one of us saw and acted on the glaring contradiction.

The first overboard occurred that same year in Tunisia. Hubbard ordered the Royal Scotman and Avon River moved during a severe storm. I never understood why, as he taught us on no account to endanger our ships and crew unnecessarily, a solid rule I fully concurred with. One Sea Org Officer, tried to move a steel cable from the Royal Scotman by hand from one bollard to another on the dock, but the wind was pushing the Scotman away from the dock with so much force that he could not hold on. Later, with both ships safe, Hubbard ordered the man, Otto Roos, thrown from the Scotman’s bridge, a height of four stories or more. I wrote to Hubbard that night to give him the correct facts as to what happened; I assumed he did not understand the severity of the wind. My report came back with a note – “Never question LRH!”

Later that same year, in Corfu, Greece, Hubbard began ordering errant staff thrown overboard each morning in a ritual with all crew present on board and standing to attention. No one was exempt except Hubbard’s family. After a name announced, the person had to step forward and jump overboard, two and a half stories down – about 30 feet or 9.2 meter – into dirty harbor water. Each morning, Hubbard watched daily from a higher deck, his aides including me by his side. And each morning, a contingent of Corfu citizens gathered on the dock to watch the proceedings, many shaking their heads, and whispering to one another as the ‘ceremony’ proceeded. There was no way Hubbard did not see them — they were in his direct line of sight. When Hubbard saw the jumpers were beginning to enjoy themselves, he ordered their hands tied behind their backs before they jumped. Later, he ordered hands and feet tied. A week after that, he ordered blindfolds as well. His reason? The existing punishment was not severe enough to raise their confront of evil. Julia Salmon, about sixty years old and a senior Scientology Organization Executive in the Los Angeles Org for decades, was thrown over blindfolded, with her hands and feet tied. She screamed all the way down. When the sound stopped, Hubbard ordered a deck hand to jump in after her. Had he not, I think Julia may have drowned. She left the Scotman soon afterwards.

The same year, Hubbard ordered Mike Douglas, a fellow Sea Org officer, to clean out the bilges, where waste fuels, oils and water collect to form a black foul-smelling sludge. Michael had messed up. Hubbard went to talk to him, did not like what Michael said, and hit him so hard that Mike flew back into a metal bulkhead. Though injured, he received no medical care. He was down there a week under guard, again, with no sleep, food in a bucket, and you know the rest … That was the start of what was to become known as Hubbard’s Mud Box Brigade.

Another incident. Hubbard believed a Scientology executive from Celebrity Center, San Francisco, who was on board the Royal Scotman for Flag Executive Briefing Course training, was stealing employees from the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles. He told me she was guilty and ordered me to “Find her crimes!” I spent an eighteen-hour day investigating, and came up with zilch. That evening, Hubbard said to me, “I hear you have her crimes! I want them tonight!” I felt helpless, and I am ashamed to say that I gave Hubbard what he wanted. The next day, he triumphantly declared the woman a Suppressive Person. One could say she was lucky to be out of the Sea Organization and Scientology. But not to be treated that way … I do not remember her name. I hope she learns the truth someday and can forgive me.

These incidents happened in a little over one year. Keep in mind that Hubbard had three ships in the Mediterranean at the time, and I did not always know what was happening on the other two.

Abuses like these continued throughout subsequent years. Several people on the Royal Scotman (later renamed the Apollo) went crazy, psychotic I presume, and Hubbard ordered them confined and locked up in cabins for weeks on end in the ship’s stern; they never received proper medical or mental health care. There was the Rehabilitation Project Force, the RPF, created by Hubbard in 1974, which reduced crew to the status of sub-humans, living in dirty, unhygienic quarters, eating slop out of buckets with their bare hands, and not permitted to bathe or clean themselves in any way. What was their crime? Thinking bad thoughts about Hubbard or Scientology or the techniques or policy. RPFers lived in what used to be a huge old cattle hold below decks. One rickety ladder led way down to the bottom of the hold. One bare electric light bulb strung with rope illuminated the vast space, its dim light casting grotesque shadows with each movement of the ship. There were no beds, only dirty blankets, and mattresses strewn around. It smelt bad. RPFers performed only menial work scrubbing toilets and decks. Then there were Hubbard’s frequent rages and screaming fits, and one time I heard sounds like dishes smashing against a bulkhead in his private cabin. There were secretive flights to New York by Hubbard Aides and others for abortions either ordered or condoned by Hubbard. Then there were Hubbard’s Kahlo Ceremonies held several time each week in another hold for Scientology Organization Executives who were on board for training. Those who had erred in their studies had to smash cardboard representations of their organizations to pieces with hammers while chanting, “I have destroyed my organization”. Many ended up in tears and left their training incomplete. There was Susan Meister’s so-called suicide on board the Royal Scotman in Safi, Morocco, with her body shipped back to the US in a sealed casket due to a “cholera scare”. I was on the Royal Scotman when this happened, and helped Mary Sue with the investigation immediately following Susan’s death. There was no cholera scare in Morocco at that time. It was just a fancy PR caper that Hubbard called “a brilliant PR coup” to prevent Susan’s family from taking action against Scientology in some way. Two decades later, her father, Mr. Meister, called my husband and myself in Los Angeles, his voice breaking, pleading for help, still searching for information as to what really happened to his daughter, Susan. There was the young woman, Pearl O’Krackel, who escaped from the Scotman in Corfu. Hubbard had ordered her physically restrained on board, and she finally escaped from ship’s crew as they chased her through the town’s streets. There was the little body of one baby found dead in his crib in the filthy urine-smelling nursery at the Fort Harrison. A dear Sea Org friend of mine, Judi Light, whose daughter was raised in that nursery, told me there was more than one dead baby. There were children from three to nine-years old who, as punishment in that nursery, had to pick lint off the carpet for hours each day while reciting, “I am glad to be in the Sea Org”. And then there was the Rock-Slam Project in the late 1970’s in Clearwater, Florida, Hubbard’s witch-hunt, his grand purge to find those he knew were disloyal to him. It ended with hundreds of staff and executives from all levels assigned to the RPF and the RPF’s RPF. The list goes on and on … Every insider was safe only as long as he or she played by Hubbard’s rules. And every outsider was Fair Game.

And in 1978, there was my own inevitable RPF assignment in Clearwater. For one year. How did I ever think I could escape that fate? All I remember is the intense Florida heat, my head pounding, running up and down endless flights of stairs to clean toilets and mirrors. We were not allowed to walk. And we had to clean the mirrors only with newspaper, nothing else, or we were punished. My twin, Lynn Froyland from the Guardian Office, refused to confess her misdeeds, and was assigned to the RPF’s RPF, chained in the basement boiler room in the dark and heat, filthy, sullen and insolent, still refusing to cooperate. Years later, in response to my affidavit about her experience, she — still in Scientology — replied in her brief that “… it wasn’t that bad”. After I graduated — yes, in Hubbard’s culture, even the word used to describe someone’s release from the RPF was twisted to sound like a positive – after I graduated, a Board of Review granted me a full pardon, said I should never have been assigned to the RPF, and restored my back pay and my rank of Commander Right Arm. I was glad to get the pardon; but the assignment had broken my will. I was in pain most of the time. Auditing no longer worked on me; it had not for some years. I was almost unable to work.

When I began getting panic attacks, I knew I had to leave while I knew I had to leave.

When I walked out of the Fort Harrison Hotel, in Clearwater in March 1982, I had no one to go to. I had no family in the United States, having been born and raised overseas, and not one Scientology friend as I was a declared Suppressive. I had no money. I did not drive. And I did not dare go to the authorities, as I believed they were the enemy. Many people who leave Scientology end up in this kind of no man’s land — without family or friends, cut off from all avenues of help.

My husband and I have often been asked why people join Scientology, and why they do not leave more quickly. These are good questions. There is no quick answer.

I knew L. Ron Hubbard. I worked for him. I saw him do terrible things, and I saw him make us do similarly dreadful acts. Early on, I had no difficulty rationalizing his actions; few of us did. We believed Hubbard was who he claimed to be – a returned leader, a savior. We believed his claim that we had one chance to save the human race, that the time was now, that we dare not waste it, and that it was up to us and us alone. We had no idea what that entailed, or that we were being used by Hubbard to further his own selfish ends.

These beliefs are an integral part of the Scientology culture. The abusive behavior, the abhorrent control, the punishments, the cruelty, the manipulation, as well as the extreme and genuine camaraderie members have for one another, the intense pleasure of working toward goals believed to be worthwhile, and the deep gratification of seeing a percentage of Scientologists improve with auditing and training and live better lives, these are all contained in the culture. The extreme bad, and the extreme good. And it is all passed on generation to generation within Scientology.

People ask my husband and myself why do people join Scientology and the Sea Organization?

The answer is simple. People who are searching for answers they think they find them in Scientology. Most are intelligent, educated, sincere, and altruistic. They think they have found their true home, true friends, safety, security, and a worthwhile goal in life. They know nothing of Hubbard’s early years, his sex fantasies and practices in Pasadena, California; his numerous “affirmations” one of which is, “All men shall be my slaves”. Or that when he went to the Veteran’s Administration to increase his disability benefits, he affirmed repeatedly, “When I go in for the exam, the doctors will find me very ill. After I leave, I will have my full health again”. They know nothing of Hubbard’s financial irregularities, and that as far back as the early 1950’s after his many Dianetic Conferences, $10,000’s were regularly unaccounted for. Both Hubbard and David Miscavige have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the documentation of these truths and multitudes of others in underground vaults in several American States, all reportedly sealed with 1,000-year doors.

Hubbard did not want the truth known. Neither does David Miscavige.

New recruits, unaware of all this, fall in love with the group’s ideals, and lose touch with their normal reality checks and the critical thinking processes with which they grew up. From that point on, they are as malleable in the hands of their controllers as people whose independent will has been taken from them. My friends and colleagues present at this meeting in Hamburg, have all experienced the same. For many years we had no idea that we were being controlled by others for their own benefit and not ours.

Another question is why members stay for so long through so much abuse? Because they believe Hubbard had the only techniques to remove their fears and concerns forever, to restore their full potential and return them to their original God-like state. They believe that only Hubbard knew that it would take going through hell and high water to reach his goal. This conditioning prepares one to suffer the worst depravities and abuses without question.

This is the guts of the Scientology culture, and what makes it all stick so hard.

Why do some people leave on their own? For many reasons. Something happens and they snap out of the trance state. Or they get ill. Or a loved one outside Scientology says something that shows he or she cares … It is different for everyone. These are the lucky ones.

Thank you to Ursula Caberta for giving me the time to address this conference. I am honored to be here.

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2 Responses to Hana Eltringham Whitfield talk

  1. Tom R says:

    Dear Hana,
    i don’t know why I thought of you yesterday because on the ship we never really knew one another but i do remember having an admiration amd respect for you as one of the higher ups. My name is Tom R
    I arrived in 1971 (Apollo) and remained in the SO until 1981 (Clearwater)
    I started in Mimeo Files and became one of the Apollo Stars musicians.
    I just read your transcript. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    I hope you are well.

  2. Thanks for printing this. I’ve read and heard similar stories from different ex-SO members. It’s horrific how Hubbard was able to manipulate and command obedience. It’s embarrassing, actually, for me to say that I also thought he was perfect and that everything he said and did was true and correct.
    .
    I’m am truly exhilarated that I saw the light and got out.

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