Dark rumors have surrounded Scientology since it was created by L. Ron Hubbard under the name Dianetics. There are well-known stories about what Scientologists believe, like the existence of Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy who brought people to Earth in a spacecraft, and their alleged ability to levitate. However, the most shocking stories about Scientology don’t concern magical powers or aliens, but rather the pain the church allegedly inflicts on its followers.
In 2013, Lawrence Wright published Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, in which he told the story of Hubbard, David Miscavige, Scientology, and Tom Cruise. Wright's book includes interviews with former Scientologists as well as a detailed look at the church's practices.
In 1951, L. Ron Hubbard, Richard de Mille, and Frank B. Dessler allegedly kidnapped Hubbard's 13-month-old daughter Alexis after assaulting his wife, Sara. During the kidnapping, Hubbard attempted to have his wife committed in order to keep her from pressing charges against him, but that did not pan out the way he hoped. Going Clear states:
Later that night Hubbard returned with two other men to abduct Sara. 'We have Alexis and you’ll never see her alive unless you come with us,' Hubbard said. They tied her hands and dragged her out of bed into a waiting Lincoln. She says that Hubbard had her in a chokehold to keep her from screaming. Hubbard’s assistant, Richard de Mille, drove aimlessly, while Hubbard and Sara, who was wearing only a nightgown, sat in back. She warned him that kidnapping was a capital offense. In San Bernardino, Hubbard ordered de Mille to stop at the county hospital so he could have Sara committed, but it was the middle of the night and no doctor would talk to him.
After Hubbard gave up on committing Sara, she was able to return home, but not with her daughter. Going Clear claims that Hubbard called his then wife to tell her that he'd done away with Alexis:
He said that he had cut her into little pieces and dropped the pieces in a river and that he had seen little arms and legs floating down the river and it was my fault, I’d done it because I’d left him.
Luckily, that was a lie, and Hubbard ended up taking Alexis to Cuba where he was writing a book. Sara finally drew Hubbard and her child back to the States by suing him for divorce. Once he returned, he tried to convince Sara that she was under the hypnotic suggestion of Communists. She agreed, saying that she had to do what they said, and took her baby and ran away from Hubbard.
According to the book, Scientology leaders have been imprisoning their followers since 1974, when L. Ron Hubbard issued Flag Order 3434RB. This led to the creation of the Rehabilitation Project Force, a section of the church that claimed to rehabilitate Sea Org members who were believed to be harboring doubts or "subversive thoughts" against the church.
Hubbard believed the RPF was a chance at "redemption" for his subordinates, although it was allegedly nothing more than a cattle hold that existed on the lower decks of his ship. According to accounts, the room where Sea Org members were held contained only a single bare bulb and mattresses on the floor. Sea Org members sent to RPF weren't allowed to speak to anyone and had to eat with their hands from a bucket of table scraps.
One former Sea Org member, Jesse Prince, recalled being held in RPF for 18 months after attempting to leave the church:
[His superior] snapped his fingers and six people came and put me in a room. I was literally incarcerated. They told me the only way to get out is to learn this tech to a ‘T’ and then be able to apply it.
David Mayo worked closely with L. Ron Hubbard for years as his personal auditor, but once David Miscavige took over, Mayo supposedly experienced a freeze out. In 1984, he was declared a "suppressive person."
According to Going Clear, pretty much every member of Hubbard's inner circle was declared an SP by Miscavige and either sent to a detention center dubbed "The Hole" or forced to carry out a harsh punishment. Mayo was reportedly forced to run around a pole in the searing desert heat for 12 hours a day until his teeth fell out.
After joining Scientology as a teenager, Mike Rinder rose to the position of director of the Church of Scientology International’s legal and public-relations team. He defended the church in documentaries, news reports, and articles that appeared in major publications.
However, towards the end of his career with the church, he was allegedly confined to "The Hole." This area is basically a prison made up of double-wide trailers on "Gold Base," a property at Gilman Hot Springs California where executives within the church are reportedly sent to do penance for slights against Scientology or its leaders.
In 2003, Rinder was allegedly placed in The Hole for two years, where he was subject to physical and psychological abuse while he continued acting as the church’s chief spokesperson. In Going Clear, Lawrence Wright claims:
[Rinder] would sometimes be pulled out and ordered to conduct a press conference, or to put on a tuxedo and jet off to a Scientology gala; then he would be returned to confinement. He and other executives were made to race around the room on their hands and bare knees, day after day, tearing open scabs on their knees and leaving permanent scars. Miscavige once directed De Vocht to rough up Rinder, because "he’s just an SP." De Vocht took Rinder outside and gave him a going-over. But De Vocht was also frightened of Miscavige. He took to sleeping with a broken broom handle. When another executive spoke up about the violence, he was beaten by two of Miscavige’s assistants and made to mop the bathroom floor with his tongue.