Dropping the Body
The Independent Scientology movement owed its origins in part to the uncertainty surrounding Hubbard's disappearance in 1980. There was an unwillingness to ascribe the bizarre actions of Church management to the Founder. Many Independents thought Hubbard had died, or even been murdered, and that his name was being used to maintain the authority of the young rulers. It was the new management's apparent betrayal of Hubbard's principles that persuaded many to leave the Church, so that they could better realize what they considered to be Hubbard's aims. Conversely, many of those who stayed in the Church must have believed that the new management really did represent Hubbard. They were almost certainly right.
Rumors of Hubbard's whereabouts circulated freely. He was on Catalina island, or in Missouri; he had taken to the sea again, or was in Ireland. News of repeated applications for entry to Britain (which were always turned down) led to the belief that he was trying to return to Saint Hill. In 1985, two Los Angeles Times journalists bruited it about that Hubbard was just north of Santa Barbara. They came closer than anyone else.
Hubbard died at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, January 24, 1986, at his ranch near Creston, in California. He was attended by his doctor, Eugene Denk, and at least two other Scientologists. Church attorney Earle Cooley, who had defended against the Christofferson-Tichbourne suit, was informed. He advised that nothing be done before his arrival from Los Angeles, when he took charge. Cooley was with Hubbard's body from that moment until the ashes were scattered at sea. The body was kept at the ranch for over eleven hours before being collected by Reis Chapel mortuary in San Luis Obispo on Saturday morning. The mortuary notified the coroner's office, concerned that Cooley had made a request for immediate cremation. Dr. Denk reported that Hubbard had died "several days" after suffering a brain hemorrhage, and indicated on the death certificate that the cause of death was a "cerebral vascular accident," a stroke.
George Whiting, the county coroner, said that in such a "straightforward case" there would not normally have been any investigation, but because of the delay in notification, Chief Deputy Coroner Don Hines photographed the body, and took fingerprints. He was accompanied by pathologist Karl Kirschner, who examined the body for marks, and found none. He accompanied Hubbard's physician, Dr. Denk, to a laboratory to test blood samples.
Whiting has said that although the evidence supported a finding of death by natural causes, he would like to have performed an autopsy. He claimed to be prevented from doing so under California law, because four days before his death Hubbard had signed a legal document saying an autopsy would be against his religious beliefs. A will, written the day before he died, was also presented, and the district attorney was consulted, as one of the chapel employees put it, "They wanted to make sure this wasn't a scam."
The blood samples showed acceptable levels of anti-stroke medication, but no "harmful" levels of drugs. Coroner Whiting said the fingerprints were matched with sets obtained from the Department of Justice and the FBI, and concluded: "The person we fingerprinted was Hubbard."
The Coroner's office released the body to Denk and Cooley, who attended the cremation. Cooley said that the ashes had been scattered at sea by 3:40 p.m. that day, Saturday, January 25. Church officials claimed that although Hubbard had suffered a stroke the week before his death, he was lucid when he amended his will the day before he died. The change was allegedly in favor of members of his family. Cooley told the press that Hubbard had left a "very generous provision" for his wife Mary Sue, and for "certain of his children." He said that the remaining "tens of millions of dollars" would go to the Church of Scientology.
Earl Cooley joined the Church of Scientology while acting as the Church's attorney during the Christofferson-Tichbourne case, less than a year before Hubbard's death. In his talk to the assembled Scientologists who gathered to hear the news of Hubbard's death, Cooley maintained the doctrinaire attitude which governs the Church: "Together you will win total victory and achieve the ultimate goals of Scientology."
Hubbard had been living for several years at the remote 160-acre fenced ranch near Creston, about thirty miles north east of San Luis Obispo. Six other people lived there, among them Eugene Denk, and Pat and Anne Broeker. Hubbard was keeping about thirty-five quarter horses, and there were also four buffaloes, a pair of llamas, and several Black Angus cattle, including Hubbard's favorite bull, Bubba. At the time of his death Hubbard was living in one of his several luxury motor homes, while the main house was being remodeled. The property was guarded by six Japanese Akita dogs.
The Whispering Winds ranch was bought by Pat Broeker, under an assumed name, in summer 1983, for $700,000. Rebuilding the house alone cost $300,000. The Church have tried to give the image of a smiling, gregarious Hubbard wandering around the ranch, chatting with the workers. In fact, the locals saw very little of him, and he complained constantly about work done on the house, and kept changing the plans. For example, a stone fireplace was replaced with a tile one, and then ripped out altogether. That was the pattern, so much so, that in the two and a half years that he lived on the ranch, Hubbard never occupied the house, living instead in his $250,000 Bluebird motor home.
Hubbard eked out his last days working on the presentation of the OT levels beyond 7, taking photographs, designing and redesigning the house, and watching films. "His movie favorites included Hitchcock films, Star Wars but not the later movies in the trilogy, Diva, Citizen Kane, Slaughter House Five and Patton. He liked Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall," according to one of the Messengers.
After Hubbard's death, Rocky Mountain News journalist Sue Lindsay was allowed to visit both the Whispering Winds ranch and Gilman Hot Springs. In her excellent article the truth was revealed about the luxurious accommodation prepared for Hubbard by the Messengers. The house at Gilman, which he never occupied, was completed in 1983, after three years work. The Clipper ship, which cost about half a million dollars in materials alone, has already been mentioned, and in 1984 a twenty-four track recording studio was also completed for Hubbard at Gilman:
Now, although he is dead, tables throughout the [Gilman] compound are set for one with glasses of water covered with plastic wrap, a flexible, striped straw poking through. Each of Hubbard's personal bathrooms has toothbrushes and identical sets of Thom McAn black thongs ready for him to step into after a shower or bath. Any spot where Hubbard would conceivably sit is furnished with a yellow legal pad and pen, usually placed at an artful slant ....
His snappy black, white and chrome office in the movie studio contains a kitchenette with a table set with fresh flowers and salt and pepper shakers. In the adjoining bathroom, equipped as a makeup studio, Hubbard's red wig rests on a mannequin's head ....
He owned enough photography gear to stock a large camera store, if not a chain of them. Hundreds of cameras are boxed with lenses ready for use. Another 3,000 pieces of gear are in storage.
The news of Hubbard's death was first given to a sizeable group of Scientologists, who had been peremptorily summoned to the Hollywood Palladium. Here the elusive Pat Broeker made his first public appearance of the 1980s. The audience was told that Hubbard had decided to "leave the body," because it was hindering his OT research. David Miscavige assured them that Hubbard had "moved on to his next level of OT research." Miscavige added, "This level is beyond anything any one of us ever imagined. This level is in fact done in an exterior state, meaning that it is done completely exterior from the body. At this level of OT, the body is nothing more than an impediment." According to Pat Broeker, "LRH expressly stated that there was to be no grief, no mourning... 'They know they're not a body. Don't let them be confused about it.'"
Hubbard's last message to his flock, dated five days before his death, was a Flag Order entitled "The Sea Org and the Future." 1 In it he assumed the rank of Admiral, and created the new rank of "Loyal Officer." Pat and Annie Broeker became the First and Second Loyal Officers respectively. Hubbard ended with a cheery message to Sea Org members, speaking of taking Scientology to other planets, and reassuring them that they would be seeing him again.
Heber Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, announced Hubbard's death to the press at 9:00 p.m. on Monday, January 27, 1986. Jentzsch told the Press that "after completing his life's work to his full satisfaction," Hubbard had "departed his body." Another Scientology spokesman said Hubbard would continue his research, having "learned how to do it without a body."
In March 1986, Scientologists celebrated Hubbard's birthday as usual. In Los Angeles, Annie Broeker made her first public appearance since the 1970s. Fumbling with her lines, looking tired and wearing too much makeup, she told the assembled fans a story. She said that Hubbard had once told her that "after the first tick of time" that one "Arp Cola" had invented music. There was a strong implication that Hubbard had been Cola. He had supposedly borrowed some of these early tunes and refashioned them into the modern style. The result was an album called "The Road to Freedom," which was released that night.
The record was made by Scientologist musicians, with Hubbard supervising at long distance through taped messages. Hubbard wrote the lyrics, which are peppered with Scientologese. They provide an insight into his state of mind at the end: "There was a worried being who did secret acts/He felt he had to hide, hide, hide, hide, hide"; or, as a confession about the OT levels perhaps, "In olden days the populace was much afraid of demons/And paid an awful sky high price to buy some priestly begones .... Oh now here is why that makes the world an evil circus/No demons at all but just the easily erased evil purpose."
"Thank you for listening," the last ditty on the album, sung in a rumbling growl by Hubbard himself, takes the form of a "thank you" to attack his detractors: "For truth is truth and if they then decide to live with lies/That's their concern not mine, my friend, they're free to fantasize."
A reviewer at the leading British music paper, the Melody Maker, finished his criticism of the album with this quip: "You're supposed to eat vegetables, not listen to them."
Sources: "International Scientology," issue 8; Rocky Mountain News, 16 February 1986; Riverside Press-Enterprise, January & February 1986; San Jose Mercury News, 28, 30 & 31 January 1986; St. Petersburg Times, 2 February 1986; Clearwater Sun, 31 January 1986; Los Angeles Times, 28 & 30 January 1986; Miller interview with Robert Whaley, Creston, August 1986.
1. Flag Order 3879, 19 January 1986