A former Scientologist who worked for the organization for 15 years has penned an explosive tell-all book about his experiences. Marc Headley’s self-published book, Blown for Good, details the ways he was overworked and manipulated by cult. He was followed and threatened when he tried to leave, and eventually escaped and was able to devise a plan to get his wife out. The Village Voice has details of the book, and Headley’s account is consistent with reports from other ex-Scientologists who have bravely come forward to speak about their experiences.
Headley is likely to get the most attention for his story that he was once “audited” by Tom Cruise for three weeks in the early 90s. Cruise had Headley talk to inanimate objects, including a bottle, book and doorknob, for hours at a time. It would be funny if it wasn’t so abusive. The Voice points out that this ridiculous exercise has a name in Scientology and that the methods are documented online.
This comes on the heels of several public setbacks for the cult, including a denouncement by director Paul Haggis, being convicted of fraud in France, and their hot-headed PR person walking out of an interview that aired a couple of weeks ago. The cult has also been exposed in several articles in the St. Petersburg Times, all of which included multiple ex Scientologists willing to go on the record with stories of extreme abuse and manipulation.
On how Cruise convinced him to talk to a bottle, book and doorknob – for three weeks
In 1990, not long after he was assigned to the sprawling Scientology compound at Gilman Hot Springs, near Hemet, California, Headley was told that he would be excused from his normal duties so that Tom Cruise — fresh off his most recent success, the movie Days of Thunder — could practice auditing on him.
Headley writes that he was selected for two reasons: although he’d already spent several years at Scientology schools and working for the church, he had participated in little auditing, and had completed few of the courses that Scientologists pursue as they travel “up the bridge” to a higher status. Also, because he was still only a teenager, Headley was thought to be a minimal security risk.
“[Cruise] was going to do his auditor training and he needed someone to audit and this person had to be low on the bridge. That was me,” he writes. Cruise had arrived at the base with his then-girlfriend, Nicole Kidman (they were married later that year), and Headley writes about what a thrill it was when Cruise took him on an impromptu ride on his motorcycle.
In the book, however, Headley doesn’t go into any real detail about what transpired during the three weeks that he spent with Cruise as the actor went through his training, using Headley as a guinea pig. What actually happened?
Headley says that Cruise took him through something called the “Upper Indoctrination Training Routines,” or “Upper Indoc TRs,” in the abbreviation-filled jargon of Scientologists.
And what did those entail?
“You do a lot of things with a book and a bottle,” Headley says. “It’s known as the book-and-bottle routine.” Cruise, he says, would instruct Headley to speak to a book, telling it to stand up, or to sit down, or otherwise to move somewhere.
“You do the same with the bottle. You talk to it. You do it with an ashtray too,” he says. “You tell the ashtray, ‘Sit in that chair.’ Then you actually go over and put the ashtray on the chair. Then you tell the ashtray, ‘Thank you.’ Then you do the same thing with the bottle, and the book. And you do this for hours and hours.”
Let us get this straight. Tom Cruise, who had already starred in Risky Business and Top Gun and Born on the Fourth of July and Days of Thunder, the man who, at the time, was 28 years old and perhaps the biggest movie star in the world, spent hours and hours of each day, for three straight weeks, instructing Headley to speak to inanimate objects, requesting that they get up and move on their own, and when they didn’t, told Headley to move them anyway, and then thank them?
“For hours and hours,” Headley says.
In God’s name, why?
“It was to get your intention over to the bottle.”
“It was supposed to rehabilitate your ability to control things. And to be controlled,” he says.
And there was more. It involved doorknobs.
“Tom would ask me to find a place in the room that I could easily communicate to. I was supposed to look around the room, and then tell him the place I had picked out. I might say, ‘the doorknob.’ And he’d tell me to over there and touch it. And then he’d say, ‘OK. Now do it again with another place.'”
Headley says that after a couple of weeks, he did begin to wonder about trying to make objects move by talking to them. But this was Tom Cruise, and not someone you would question.
That was part of why Headley had been chosen. He was young and green, and had few contacts outside the base.
“It couldn’t be someone who might run off the next day and tell the National Enquirer that Tom Cruise was telling me to talk to a bottle for the last three weeks,” he says.
As Headley points out, this kind of instruction is quite common in Scientology, and you can even find the routines spelled out in places on the Internet.
On how he was overworked, framed, and ultimate managed to escape
But Headley’s book also provides stunning material that has rarely been collected in one place, even with the Internet’s deep resources on L. Ron Hubbard’s strange creation. Headley’s account as a whole provides a damning account of life working for Scientology leader David Miscavige at the secretive desert base, where young people who sign billion-year contracts work 100-hour weeks for little or no pay with the ever-present threat that they may be pulled into hellish disciplinary drills, or separated permanently from friends and family members for the slightest perceived infraction.
In 2005, after 15 years working at the base, Headley found himself accused of embezzling money (he’d actually been selling old Scientology equipment on eBay in an approved scheme to raise money for a new base project), and was told he was about to be declared a “suppressive person.” He knew he’d probably be sent to the dreaded “Rehabilitation Project Force” in Los Angeles, a kind of prison program that was known to physically debilitate church members through harsh labor and extreme deprivation. He knew also that he’d be separated permanently from his wife of 13 years (she was also a Scientologist at the base) as well as the rest of his family in a notorious policy Hubbard had termed “disconnection.”
Before he was scheduled to be interrogated, Headley made a break for it, ditching the base in a dramatic chase with security guards that ended with Headley taking a spill on a motorcycle. An ensuing shouting match with Scientology guards drew the attention of Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, who helped Headley get away.
Headley managed to get himself to Kansas City, where his father lived. But then came the real challenge: His wife, Claire, got word to him that she also wanted to defect so that they could be reunited. Would they be able to pull it off now that she was being watched day and night? Her attempt to escape provides a thrilling final chapter to the book, which, while showing some of the rough edges of a self-published tale, is well-paced and an entertaining read.
[From The Village Voice, thanks to Jason for the tip]
Headley also notes that despite Scientology’s claims that they have 10 million members, it’s more like 10,000. The AP reports in a separate article quoted by the Voice that it’s around 25,000.
Headley is currently suing the organization for violating labor laws by employing him and his wife for years with little pay. He’s since recovered from the ordeal and now runs his own multimedia company in LA. He is still with his wife, the same one he was able to help escape from Scientology, and they have two sons. He says that it wouldn’t have been possible for them to have children if they would have stayed.
Hollywood bigwigs are scared to touch Scientology because of the cult’s connections, their reputation for being ruthless, and the dirt that have on so many. They’re an insidious organization that will stop at nothing to deter critics and defectors. The stories told by ex-Scientologists are so explosive, though. A docudrama exposing the cult would make for a very compelling TV series or film. I doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon. People are waiting for the axe to really fall before they feel comfortable exposing Scientology.
There’s a movie being made about the supposed suicides of NY artists and Scientology detractors Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan by Lionsgate, which has close connections to Tom Cruise’s production company. Somehow I don’t think that they’ll do the departed couple any kind of justice.