Sinking the master mariner, L Ron Hubbard - 1984-10-28
The temperature must have been well over 100°F, a dry burning heat that shimmered the figures on the roof. They were dressed in faded blue denim, heads bare under the sun. One looked towards the road and our car. But the guard below yelled and the man bent his head back to his work of resurfacing the roof. My companion in the car said quietly, "That's a Rehabilitation Project Force. They're RPFers, psychological prisoners -slave labour - , in a way."
This was America, summer 1984, on a major highway between the southern Californian city of Riverside and the millionaires' playground of Palm Springs. Here, in the cactus hamlet of Gillman Hot Springs, where the masts of a $565,000 clipper ship sway incongruously in the desert winds, is the world headquarters of the Church of Scientology.
Yet the great helmsman of this bizarre cult was not on board. No one knows for sure whether L. Ron Hubbard, the 74-year-old founder, is even alive. His round, smiling face gazes down from the walls of more than 100 Scientology offices around the world, orders are given in his name, but he hasn't been seen in nearly five years. He may be in seclusion, as Church leaders claim, or he may be, as recent defectors believe, either dead or in failing health and under the control of half a dozen young followers who are manipulating big fortune.