True Crime Factor Interview: Ron Miscavige

Since its initial development in the mid-1950s, the Church of Scientology has garnered a reputation as one of the most controversial religions in the world. Originally conceived by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology has come under intense public scrutiny for its controversial practices, with many former members accusing the organization of mistreating its loyalists while employing damaging policies against ex-Scientologists which they say have been instrumental in destroying many families.

Ron Miscavige is the father of David Miscavige, the undisputed leader of Scientology who assumed control of the group following Hubbard’s death in 1986. Ron was associated with Scientology for 42 years and served as a member of the Sea Organization – Scientology’s highest branch – before departing in 2012.

Ron partnered with St. Martin’s Press to pen his memoir, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. The book was released in May 2016 and reached the top spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Ron Miscavige kindly spoke with me on the morning of July 11 to discuss the book, his decades-long tenure in Scientology and the state of the organization under his son David’s regime.

You can visit Ron Miscavige online at, follow him on Twitter under the handle @MiscavigeRon and find his official Facebook page at this link. Purchasing information for Ruthless is available here.

To book Ron Miscavige for public speaking engagements, please contact Sean Fracek at

(Special thanks to Sean Fracek of Mythicist Milwaukee and Gabrielle Gantz at St. Martin’s Press)

Before we discuss the book, can you give us an overview of your tenure in Scientology and your history with the organization?

Sure. Adam, I was a member of the Church of Scientology for 42 years. I joined in June of 1970, and, of course, I escaped on March 25, 2012. Now, I joined the Sea Organization – are you familiar with that? You must be if you read the book.

Right. Yes.

I joined the Sea Organization in June of 1985 and I was part of that organization for twenty-six and a half years. So, that’s the short version of it. Of course, the book fills in all the details in between.

What was behind your decision to write the book and how did the opportunity arise to have it published?

Well, basically, being part of the Sea Organization meant … well, it’s a rough life. I went in because I wanted to help and I felt that Scientology was out to help every man, woman and child on the planet with its technology. After many years in the Sea Org, I became disabused with that idea because I saw that what they were doing was not leading up to helping very many people at all. I mean, they talked about clearing the planet in 1970, when I first got in. Adam, they haven’t cleared one street yet, or an alley. Now, if you’re talking about clearing a planet, that’s not a hell of a lot of progress, you know?

Being part of the Sea Organization – which, as I said, was quite rough … actually, when I first got in, I didn’t mind it that much because I was doing projects that I really enjoyed. I’m a musician, so as soon as I joined the Sea Org, I was working in the music department and one of the first things we did was an album to promote this book, Mission Earth. And Edgar Winter – do you know the name Edgar Winter?

No, I’m not familiar with it.

Okay. Edgar Winter was a rock star in the 70s, a very talented person. So, the first thing I did when I joined the Sea Org is I worked on an album with him for about three months. That’s all I did, and I enjoyed it very much. Hard work, long hours, but I enjoyed it.

As years went by – we’re talking about over two decades – I saw that what (Scientology) was doing mostly was just gathering up money. Fundraising was the main occupation rather than helping individuals, and my life had become more Draconian. As an example, the last twelve years when I was in the Sea Organization, we didn’t receive one day off. Now, when I say we didn’t receive a day off – we did get some time off for Christmas, maybe a day or an afternoon. In earlier years, we’d get maybe two or three days off for Christmas. Toward the end, we’d be lucky to get one day off. I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about … when you’re part of that organization, you are supposed to get one day off every two weeks provided that your statistics are up – in other words, that you’re doing a good job.

So, no days off for twelve years. I couldn’t drive off the compound to go to the store to buy the little necessities in life, like maybe toothpaste or underwear or shaving cream. We had to buy it on the Internet or at the company store, which is called the canteen. I couldn’t write a letter and just send it out – it was left opened and security would check out to see what I said, and if there was anything that was not favorable to the church, they would send it back to me and I would have to re-write it. I couldn’t make a phone call out without somebody listening on the other end.

Being part of the Sea Org was getting more and more restrictive in the way I lived and restrictions on my every movement and how I conducted my life. It just got unbearable for me. Now, this got to the point where I said to my wife, “Listen, we’ve got to get out of here.” We didn’t leave for many years prior to that – which I wanted to do – but my wife is an absolute optimist and she kept saying, “It’s going to get better,” “It’s going to get better.” After a while, it just got to the point where it became unliveable to me. So, that’s when we planned our escape and we got out of there on March 25, 2012.

Now, when I first got out, my daughters, Denise and Lori, were talking to me on a daily basis, which I loved because I could not do this when I was in the Sea Org. And then Lori discontinued talking to me. And then Denise, by Father’s Day, which is in June – which I got a very nice card from her; as a matter of fact, she said she would never disconnect from me – shortly after that, she did disconnect.

Now, after we left, about a year and a half later, there were two private investigators. One of them was arrested. He was trying to buy a house around the corner from where I lived so he could spy on me. He was looking at this house and one of the neighbors who lived near that house saw him and reported it to the police. So, the police came and started questioning him and he gave them a bunch of lip. Finally, the arresting officer, Nick Pye, said, “Hey, man, you’re under arrest. Do you mind if I look in your car?” So, he looked in the car – which was a van with the windows blacked out – and in the trunk of the van he found five license plates from different states, five handguns, a stun gun, two rifles – one with a silencer – and over two thousand rounds of ammunition. And they’re getting paid ten thousand dollars a week to follow me. This is all in the book, but I’m just leading up to exactly what happened.


Adam, even after that, I was not going to write a book. All I did was I called Dave – well, I tried to get in touch with him. I couldn’t get a hold of him and he put an attorney on the phone, and the attorney said, “Dave doesn’t want to talk to you. He doesn’t feel he can trust you.” He doesn’t feel he can trust me – after he had P.I.’s following me, and one of them had a rifle with a silencer.

Dwayne Powell, the guy that was arrested, he was interrogated, and then his son came looking for him. His son was his partner and he was also a private investigator – Daniel Powell. Their interview – and if anybody wants to hear this, if they go to my website, it’s called, anybody can hear this interview that the cops did with them where they told them they were getting paid ten thousand dollars a week to follow me.

They also told another incident that happened prior to this when I was shopping in a town near where I lived – the town is called Janesville, it’s in Wisconsin. It was a summer day and I was shopping for groceries. I came out of the store, I had a T-shirt on that had a pocket in it. So, I went to put the groceries in the car, bent over slightly, and I thought my cell phone was going to fall out of that pocket. So, with my right hand, I grabbed my left chest. Unbeknownst to me, both of these P.I.’s were looking at me out of their blacked out van, and one of them said, “It looks like he’s going to have a heart attack. What should we do?” So, they called their contact. They called, and a guy by the name of Greg answered the phone. He said, “Listen, let me get you to somebody else.” So, a couple of minutes later, a person came on the phone, identified himself as David Miscavige and said, “Listen, if it’s his time to die, let him die. Don’t intervene. Don’t do anything.” Now, this is part of their interrogation and as I said, anybody can hear this. But even with that, I was not going to do anything. All I wanted to do was just get these guys off my back. I didn’t want to be followed.

So, what happened at that point was I got a CD made of this interrogation and my wife and I decided to go to Florida to see my daughters. I was going to play the CD for them and explain to them, “Listen, this is what the church is doing. They are making you disconnect from me, yet look what they are doing to me.”

Within thirty miles in Clearwater – when my daughters lived in Clearwater – I had three P.I.’s following me. I went to my daughter Lori’s house – she wasn’t home – and I went to my daughter Denise’s house. Her husband came to the door – Jerry – and we talked for about twenty minutes. He had the door open just a few inches and there was a dog barking in the background. A very bad scene – he wouldn’t even open the door to ask me in. I said to him, “Listen, I’d like to speak to Denise.” He said, “Ron, you have to handle this with the church.” I said, “Jerry, you’re out of your fucking mind. This isn’t going to go anywhere. The only way for me to resolve this is if I can speak to Denise.” Well, we went back and forth for about twenty minutes. Finally, I said to him, “Jerry, what does this mean?” He said, “Well, Ron, Denise and I are through with you and Becky forever.”

Adam, that’s exactly the point where I decided, “I’m going to write a book.” It was at that very second and I’ll you why. I didn’t know if I could do much for myself, but I knew this: If I were to write a blog and if I had two or three thousand followers, that would be about it. I knew if I wrote a book that I could probably get a contract with a major company because I’m the father of (David Miscavige) and I would get national exposure, and that’s exactly what happened.

I got signed to write a book – it was already written when I signed with them – with St. Martin’s. The first week that it came out – May 6 of last year – it hit number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I got more exposure: I was on 20/20, Late Night With Seth Meyers, I was on with Megyn Kelly, Good Day New York, Australian television, English radio, Irish radio, maybe at least twenty different stations and Internet blogs in the United States. I was on the Joe Rogan show.

I want to do what I feel I have to do, and that is expose the church for the abuses they do. Listen, it’s not right. There are probably hundreds of families who have been forced to disconnect from their children and vice versa. It’s a toxic road and it ruins people’s lives. Hey, I’m 81 years old and my family is now disconnected from me. If they were to talk to me, here’s the punishment: My daughter Denise has a daughter in the Sea Organization, her name is Tara. Tara would never speak to Denise again as long as she lived. Lori has a job with a Scientology employer. If she spoke to me, she would lose her job that day. So, that’s how it works and I feel I have a duty to not just walk away and let them do whatever the hell they want to do. And that’s the reason I wrote the book: I want to expose them. I’m doing things like this, interviews with people like you. Hopefully, you’ll give some publicity to the book and maybe some more people will buy it, loan it out to others and somewhere along the way we’ll get someone who has government connections and maybe we can get their tax exemption taken away. I think that would handle it.

Losing the tax exemption status – do you feel that is perhaps the most crippling blow that could be delivered to the Scientology group?

Yes, I do, because that angle is promoted like hell. I mean, when I was there, I saw it happen all the time. Toward the end of the year, they would promote it: “Look, this is your last chance for donations.” And they are tax-deductible. These big-time … well, they call them “whales.” There are whales – people who are just fabulously wealthy – who give millions of dollars to Scientology and they can write that off as a tax deduction.

The route that they are on right now, they are not on a route of helping people. They are on a fundraising drive and they are buying up real estate. They are expanding their real estate holdings and they say they are expanding at an unprecedented rate. That is a crock of bullshit, in so many words. They are getting more real estate, but these buildings are filled with air. When I did the 20/20 show last year, we went to Philadelphia to do the interview with Dan Harris, and we drove down Chestnut Street where the church bought a building. It’s about eleven stories tall – the building is empty. It’s barred up, there is graffiti written on the walls. They bought this building maybe eight or nine years ago. Nothing’s happening with it, yet the people of Philadelphia were pressed to the wall to donate money so they could open the building.

You appeared on Leah Remini’s A & E television series, Scientology and the Aftermath, which has been renewed for a second season. Can you tell us about any involvement you may have in the upcoming season?

Well, I don’t know if I have any at this point. Maybe I will, just offhand I don’t, because I know this: They have a tremendous amount of people who have been abused very badly. I can’t get into it because I just want to save it for Leah and let her expose it on the air.


But my wife and I and many of the people who were on last year’s show went out about a month ago, we went out to L.A. where they did a shoot, and it’s going to be like a teaser or a “Coming Attraction” for this coming season. As a matter of fact, we were on the set from like 9:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night. (Laughs) (The process) is grinding, but I’m glad to do it. I think there are going to be short interviews with everybody who was in last year’s because we were all interviewed. Hopefully, mine won’t end up on the editing floor, but I’d love to have some say in the P.R. video they are doing.

But as far as my being involved in it, I don’t know if I will be because they have so much material for this coming season it’s unreal. I think there are going to be ten shows and two specials.

And by the way, Leah is an old friend of mine. Do you want to hear how I met her?


Okay. There is an organization called Celebrity Center. I’m sure you know about it, right?


That’s in Hollywood and it’s basically for actors, actresses and people who are famous. L. Ron Hubbard figured, “Let’s get people in who are famous because they are opinion leaders.” The general public hears that Tom Cruise is a Scientologist and say, “I want to be like Tom Cruise. I’m going to find out what Scientology is.” And then they’ll come and join. Celebrity Center caters to that crowd.

One day, I was in the office there waiting for somebody and this girl came out of an adjacent office and said, “I got the part! I got the part!” She said, “There is a new show coming out called King of Queens. I got the part!” I said, “Aw, that’s great!” And I gave her a hug and we’ve been friends ever since.

Leah is just a wonderful person. She is very warm-hearted, cares about people. But I’ll tell you this: Do not mess with her because you are not going to get off the hook. When she was at Tom Cruise’s wedding over in Italy, she said, “Where’s Shelly?” – which is David’s wife. Tommy Davis, in his arrogant manner – and that’s the only way I can put it – said to Leah, “Well, Leah, you don’t have the fucking rank to ask that question.” That was the wrongest thing he could have done. If he had said to her, “Leah, she is on a correction program,” that might have just slid and been the end of it.

And when I say “correction program” – that’s what people will say if you are in the Sea Organization and you aren’t in the public for a while, and prior to that you had been in the public. Because the public knows that sometimes Sea Org members undergo little correction programs where they have to correct their behavior or their actions. And it’s totally an acceptable thing. So, if Tommy would have said, “She’s in a correction program,” that might have been the end of it.

This whole thing started with Tommy Davis saying to her, “Leah you don’t have the fucking rank to ask that question.” Isn’t that wild?


It turns out, she did have the rank. She had a major show that has been very successful, another one coming up, and it’s exposing the church for what they are. She’s a hell of a person, I’ll tell you. I love her.

She seems like a great person on camera, but also someone who’s bad side I wouldn’t want to be on, that‘s for sure. (Laughs)

Adam, that’s exactly right. But if she’s your friend, she’ll do anything for you.


The thing is this – and I’ve spoken to her about this: It’s not her that she’s fighting for. She feels that she has a national platform to stand up for all of the other people who have been harmed by the church. And that’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s doing it for the other people because when she left, her mother and sister and husband, they all left with her. Nobody disconnected from her.

Upon departing Scientology in 2012, can you describe what it was like reconnecting both with family you had essentially been estranged from, and really society as a whole?

Well, I didn’t join the Sea Organization until I was 49 years old, so I wasn’t one of those people who joined when they were 17 or 18. I worked my whole life up until then. So, coming out, I had a shorter transitional period than I guess most people would have.

But, what’s it like? I’ll tell you what it’s like: It’s like escaping from prison. And when we left that day – and, as you know, I tell all about it in the book – and I said, “Becky, we’re turning left,” I felt like I had a ton of coal that had been poured on me fly off, like, magically. We drove for about two-and-a-half days to get to her mother’s place in Whitewater – and, of course, I paid for everything in cash: food, gas, lodging, because if you use a credit card they can trace the credit card, and they would have flown somebody out and seized me physically.

But coming out, getting to her mother’s place and being able to eat whatever I wanted to eat, or just being able to go to a store or just go out and do anything I wanted to … listen, man, I gained about 12 pounds in about three weeks. Just enjoying life, it was unbelievable. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. And then, of course, reconnecting with my wife’s mother and her brothers – it was fabulous. It’s a fabulous feeling getting away from it because you don’t realize how restrictive and how bad of a life you’re living … it’s a very gray life. You wake up in the morning, around 9:00 you have breakfast. 9:30, you go on a study period for two-and-a-half hours. At noon, you have lunch. At 12:30, you have a muster where everybody gathers, and you work until 5:00. At 5:00, you go to eat. 5:30, there’s another muster. You go back to work and sometimes there’s another muster at night around 9:30 or 10:00. That’s your day, every day of the week, seven days a week. No pleasure – just work.

I’ll give you an example: There’s supposed to be a thing called “rewards and punishments.” Now, you know I’m a marine veteran – you must know that if you read the book.


There is such a thing in the Marine Corps where if you are a productive person, you do get rewarded. When I was in boot camp on the rifle range when we all qualified, I was the top shot for the week of all the marine recruits. The next week was mess duty. Everyone went on mess duty except me – I was in the office typing up menus. That was my reward. On the other hand, if you screw up, it’s pretty rough, but you’re a marine and you’re expected to do your job. If you do it, you get rewarded – if you don’t, you get punished.

Now, in the Sea Organization, there are supposed to be rewards and punishments. One week, we came back from the maiden voyage. I should explain that a little bit: There is this ship called Freewinds that sailed in 1988 on the maiden voyage and they released higher level courses that you could take. Every year after that, they called their maiden voyage “anniversary.” The ship goes out and everybody goes out with it – you can qualify to go out and celebrate that. We came back one year and we did very well, and we were supposed to get a day off. Well, there was a guy who was a senior to us who got us all together and spent the entire day until about 5:00 telling us all the things we had to do in the upcoming weeks. And he told us all of the ways we would be punished if we didn’t do it.

So, in other words, your whole day off was spent listening to this son of a bitch yap at us. So, finally, I said, “Steve, that’s the punishment. What is the reward if we do it?” Listen to this, Adam: He said, “The reward is this: You don’t get punished.” He said it with a straight face, too.

I remember that from the book, yes.

He looked at me with a straight face and didn’t realize what he said was ludicrous. You live that type of life.

When you do something really bad, they’ll throw you in the lake – they call that “overboarding.” On the Apollo ship that L. Ron Hubbard had, if people had screwed up in their auditing, he would throw them off the side of the ship – which was actually a dangerous practice because that was quite a fall.

At the base where I was stationed at, you would get thrown into the lake. Very degrading. Stuff like that – the continual working, no pleasure, no nothing – to go from that and transition into a free life in the United States of America is indescribable, I will tell you. There is nothing that compares to that as far as joy in my life except maybe when my children were born, which I really enjoyed. When you welcome a new baby into life, there’s nothing like it, buddy.

You speak in the book about the differences in Scientology under David’s regime as opposed to its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. What would you point to as the primary differences between the two’s leadership?

Well, first of all, let me say this: I think it was always built into the DNA of Scientology to turn the way it did because L. Ron Hubbard wrote the policy called “Fair Game,” which you are familiar with, I’m sure.


He wrote that policy. He wrote other policies that if anybody speaks out against the church, attack them. One of their policies says either find or manufacture data against the person. Try to utterly ruin him. This was written by L. Ron Hubbard.

Let’s say in the 70s when I got in. When you first went in in the 70s, it was all about doing these basic courses in communication, helping people and helping you become more effective in life. And I enjoyed it. I took my whole family to England, as you know from the book.

Let’s put it this way: The underlying things that would make it evolve to what it is today were always there. I do think they came to more fruition under David, and when L. Ron Hubbard died and David took over and he got the church tax exemption from the IRS, he attained power and that power corrupts people.

There was a general by the name of Lord Acton, a British member of Parliament in the 1800s; he’s the guy who said, “Power tends to corrupt. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I think this is what happened to David. I think that power corrupted him because he walks around with a cortège of people who cater to his every need. And you don’t dare say anything that counters anything he says.

So, you’re walking around thinking you can do no wrong and you have all this power where you can get anything you want. It corrupts people, and I think this is what’s happened to him. He was not that way when he was a little kid. He was a lovable little kid which I had a lot of fun with, and I enjoyed his company. Right now, he’s a rough individual. He’s ruthless.

That power, I think, is the thing that got to him, and this is why he acts the way he does. The power that corrupted him turned him that way, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ll tell you, I don’t know if it could be resolved even. I don’t know how he could get out of this.

Another little point I’d like to make is this: L. Ron Hubbard would promise things and then try and figure out how to deliver them. He promised you, as a spiritual being, could leave your body and operate with full perception outside of your body. In other words, if you wanted to, you could leave your body as a spirit, and go to Germany and read a newspaper. That was never delivered to anybody. I was in Scientology for 42 years and I never met one person – and many of them had gone “up The Bridge,” as they say – not one of them had ever achieved that. Yet, he promised that, and I think he would try and figure out a way he could deliver it.

Well, these undelivered promises are now going on decades. So, David turns to things and says, “Well, you have to do The Bridge all the way from the bottom on up again.” Comes up with the usual solutions like that and then tries to point everybody’s attention to expansion. And it’s turning in that direction almost as a diversion to the fact that what was promised was never delivered, which would be almost this supernatural state of freedom as a spiritual being. I don’t know if I’m sounding a little too complex, but that’s the general gist of it, Adam.

Now, I understand you never actually met or worked with L. Ron Hubbard, but based on what you know and have heard about him, do you have an opinion as to how he would feel about how David is running Scientology now?

I don’t think he would care for it right now. As a matter of fact, I think it would be abhorrent to him. He did put into effect many useful things, they are basic things. But if you were to compare it to all the bad things that he put in, they far outweigh the good. Yet, there was that side of him – like the communication formula or how to divide life into eight different parts to examine your life a little better or various codes that you could apply in life. There was useful stuff. And these were things you got, I would say, at the bottom of The Bridge. And the later things are just horseshit. They just aren’t deliverable.

But there was the good L. Ron Hubbard and the bad L. Ron Hubbard, as far as I’m concerned. I think he did have a care for people that is covered up by the fact that he was a huckster and he was a liar. He lied about his war service and many other things.

But would he care for what David is doing these days? I think it would be very abhorrent to him. I think he would try to stop it and put a different slant to it. I don’t know what he would do. I don’t think he would have it run this way, though.

On one episode of the A & E series, a Scientology defector by the name of Mary Kahn was interviewed. Ms. Kahn was a longtime member of Scientology who said she remained with the organization long after she began to question its policies and procedures. She stated that she did this as a way to keep her family intact, as most or all of them were involved in Scientology.


This causes me to wonder just how many others within Scientology right now may feel the same way. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Well, I think there are plenty of them, and I’ll tell you why: When I got into Scientology in 1970, there was no such thing as the Internet. You could say almost anything you wanted to say and there would be no discovery of whether it was true or false. These days, I think (Scientologists) sneak to get onto the Internet. Now, the deterrent to that is that you go in for security checks every once in a while and if it comes up that you were on the Internet, then you start confessing as to various sites that you looked at that were anti-Scientology. People will steer away from looking at it, but I think many, many people get on and see these things and realize they are part of a farce. Yet, the only way they can keep their family is to just pretend everything is okay. And I think there are many, many people who are in that position. Because it’s true: You will lose your family.

How this works is that you are indoctrinated into thinking that the group is everything and the individual is nothing – yet the opposite is said. L. Ron Hubbard says you have to clear everybody one at a time, but in practice the church is everything and the individual is nothing.

I’ll give you an example: The belief is that no spiritual being – let’s say me, or you, or anybody; you’re a spiritual being – is the father, or the son, or the sister, or the daughter, or the mother of another one. So, the family, in that equation, means nothing. Yet, they’ll put on little celebrations to celebrate the family. This is just P.R. These are like P.R. events that state the opposite of how the church feels. You, as a child, going on a course two-and-a-half hours a day, five days are week, are continually indoctrinated into this. So, if the parent says something bad about the church or rises up against them, for the child to disconnect becomes somewhat easier because they are indoctrinated into thinking, “Well, that person I call ‘Mother’ is not really the mother of me. We’re both spiritual beings.” You see how that works?


It gets actually terrible. It’s almost like how the Hitler Youth used to write up their parents, write reports on them to the Gestapo; they’d come and take the parents away. It’s a very bad situation, Adam. So, as far as how many people are doing it to retain their families? I’d say there are a lot of them.

We spoke of the disconnection policy as well as the “Fair Game” policy earlier – where anyone publicly critical of the church may be subjected to various forms of heavy harassment. Does the hierarchy within Scientology not realize how suspicious these policies make the organization appear to the outside world?

You say the “hierarchy” – there is no hierarchy. David is a dictator. There is no organization up there that has anything to do with any policy that is made or broken other than him. And he operates on whim. So, do they know how suspicious this is? I don’t think it ever occurs to him.

Scientologists, in general, have an air of arrogance to them. And, of course, when you get as high as David, he feels he can do no wrong. I think he can look in the mirror and see something that’s not there. If you were to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, I’m making these families disconnect from each other,” and look yourself in the eye … damn, man, it’s a terrible rule. Or Fair Game, where L. Ron Hubbard says a person can be lied to, tricked or destroyed. It’s says that in Fair Game.

So, do they think about it? No, I think they don’t think about it. They think, “As long as we keep on doing what L. Ron Hubbard says – and he says to attack people, or do this, or disconnect – we’re going to keep on doing that.” It’s almost unbelievable that it could keep on going that way, but it has, and it will probably keep on going in that direction.

Do I ever think that maybe one day, they will say, “Okay, this is a bad idea. You can talk to each other”? The likelihood of that happening would be the same as if elephants tomorrow would start to fly. It ain’t gonna happen.

You spoke in the book about finding value in some of Scientology’s philosophies, saying that when you exited the Gold Base to leave the organization, you wanted to take your Scientology books as well as some of L. Ron Hubbard’s writings. You also wrote about taking David to an auditing session when he was young and that the severe asthma attacks which had plagued him throughout his childhood ended following that session where a mental exercise called “creative processing” was employed.


This makes me wonder if perhaps Scientology could exist if not as a religion, but a practice of sorts – the best example that comes to my mind is yoga, although that’s probably not a perfect analogy. Do you feel that the positives of Scientology could exist in another form without the negative elements such as disconnection, substantial financial expectation and alleged mistreatment of its members?

Well, I do feel that if you were to filter out all of those techniques that Scientology promises that were made and have never been fulfilled … if you try something for say, 60 years, and it doesn’t work, you have to be a lunatic to think you’re going to do it for 60 more years and it will work. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing time and time again and expecting a different result.

If you were to take, as an example, the actual cycle of communication and offer that as a course, and then other courses on interpersonal relations or how to successfully operate a business by dividing it into seven parts and being able to monitor each part so you would be able to correct it if it went of the rails … there are certain things that you could offer – a small amount. If that’s all that was offered and it was offered at a price that people could afford – because these days, unless you are very affluent, you are not going to be able to afford Scientology. Not only that, but you are going to pay for things that are not going to deliver anything except emptying your pocketbook.

But if you could distil it down to those very few things, only offer that, skip the disconnection bullshit, treat people better, yeah, I think it could be a very good self-help movement. But don’t call it a religion, because there is no deity in Scientology at all. There is nothing that has anything to do with a supreme being, a universal mind, or God.

This idea of making you into a supernatural being … look, it’s never been delivered. Just skip it. Get rid of it. That’s down to very few things, but if they were offered at a reasonable price and people could do it, they would walk out there and start applying it, and they would be more effective in their life, I firmly believe that. I’ve gained from knowing the exact communication formula in my own life – I’ve gained many times with that.

Perhaps the problem there – and please correct me if I’m wrong – is that Scientology would likely not want to give up their status as a religion because that is essentially their bread and butter due to it qualifying them as tax exempt, is that right?

Yes, that’s right. They will never give that up. If it were taken away from them, they would fight it to the death. But, it would have to be taken away by a government – I guess the I.R.S., that’s who would do it.

They don’t really deserve it. Listen, Scientology is actually a cult. It’s disguised as a religion and it’s operating as a business. That is the sum and substance of the whole movement. To break up families, how can you say that has anything to do with religion? There may be other religions that do it and claim that it’s right, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not okay for any religion to do that. The Catholic Church has ex-communication, which means you can’t receive the sacraments, but you can still talk to your family. It doesn’t break up families. I’m not touting the Catholic Church, I’m just giving you an example.

You state outright in the book that you forgive David and it does sound as if you hope for a reconciliation one day. What does reconciliation look like in your mind and what do you feel would have to happen in order for that to occur?

Well, when I said I forgive him, I cannot walk around with hate in my heart or revenge or saying, “I’m a victim, look what you did to me.” I guess it was a selfish motive. I’d just as soon say, “Listen, man, I forgive you. People make mistakes and you made a big mistake here.” Nelson Mandela said holding on to hate is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. So, I do not hold malice and hate, or wish for bad things to befall him.

Now, what does it look like as far as reconciliation? Very fucking remote. And I don’t know if I can put it better than that. Very remote, yet you have to have hope for it. This isn’t going to be the first time something like this happens on this planet – I’m sure it’s happened to many people before. It’s happening to me, and I see that wishing for revenge as a way to get even – it doesn’t work. You’re killing yourself. You don’t bring any permanent resolution. As far as I’m concerned, any problems should be able to be resolved with communication – just keep on talking until you get it resolved. And if we cold do that, who the hell knows? Maybe we could resolve it and we could be friends again, and I could see my daughters and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, many of them I’ve never even met. Really bad scene.

But, I’ll tell you this: What enabled me to go on and live a pretty happy life is that I’m doing something about it, like I’m talking to you, I do talks in the libraries and various other events. So, I’m trying to bring about a change in the status quo which is called Scientology and end this disconnection policy. If I could do that, I would be very happy.

What is one thing about David – either as a child or an adult – that you would wish for people to know about him?

David is a very intelligent person. He’s very charismatic, has a very good sense of humor – I’m talking about the good part of him now. And I firmly believe this: Had he chosen some other avenue to pursue in life, I think he could have been successful in anything.

He just happened to be in the right position at the right time. When L. Ron Hubbard died, he saw his opening and he rose to the top. This was due to the fact that he had a severe asthmatic attack at one point, ended up in the emergency room and when he came out, he told Paul Grady – the person who took him in – “Listen, I just had a big realization, and that is this: Power is not granted. It is assumed.” So, he assumed the leadership of Scientology and that’s how he rose to the top. He took people out of there who would oppose him and put people in there who went with his way of ruling.

His ability to do something like that is not only because it was Scientology. I think had it been some other business or profession, he would probably have been successful at that. That’s what I can tell people about David.

Before we finish up, is there anything in closing you wish to say to those reading?

I am available to do talks if you contact me through my website and my manager can set up things like that. I enjoy going out and talking to different groups of people. This is almost like a crusade for me. I feel good when I can tell a different group of people who maybe haven’t read my book or don’t know many of the things that I’m able to tell them, because I have a personal opinion on these things – I was there from the moment David was born. I enjoy doing talks, so if anybody would like me to speak, I’m available to do events. I do enlighten people on this and I think it helps a lot of people.

Thank you for your time – it’s been wonderful speaking with you today. Your viewpoint is certainly a valuable one on the subject of Scientology. I feel, at the very least, there needs to be some changes in how the organization operates. I also think it’s important to note that most people who become involved in Scientology have the best of intentions. A common thread in members appears to be a desire to make positive changes in the world.

They do. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.

I greatly appreciate it, and I wish you the best moving forward.

Okay, Adam. Thanks a lot.

True Crime Factor Interview: Melinda Esquibel

Tara Calico disappeared near her home in Belen, New Mexico on the morning of September 20, 1988 after embarking on her daily bicycle ride. The young woman’s whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

Calico’s case picked up steam after a Polaroid photograph of an unidentified boy and young female resembling the missing woman, both gagged and bound, was discovered in the parking lot of a Florida convenience store in June 1989. The story was featured on a number of prominent television programs including Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Documentary filmmaker Melinda Esquibel, a former friend and classmate of Calico’s, has exhaustively researched the case and is about to introduce a podcast series dedicated to the Calico disappearance titled Vanished: The Tara Calico Investigation. A docu-series profiling the story is also forthcoming.

Melinda Esquibel kindly spoke with me on the afternoon of June 8 as she was driving to the CrimeCon 2017 convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. We discussed the Calico-based podcast and docu-series, including Esquibel’s relationship with Tara and her family, as well as her years of extensive research into the case.

An eight and a half-minute preview episode of Vanished is available at the podcast’s official website, The show’s Facebook page can be found here.

Anyone with information on the disappearance of Tara Calico may contact Melinda Esquibel at or the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office here.

Please click on the “Play” icon below to hear the interview:

True Crime Factor Interview: Benjamin Zeller

On March 26, 1997, the bodies of 39 men and women were discovered inside a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California. It was later determined that each of the deceased were members of a millenarian group known as Heaven’s Gate; the victims had ritualistically ended their lives as part of a belief system which required them to exit their earthly vessels in order to ascend to the “next level.”

Among the dead was the group’s leader, Marshall Applewhite, who had co-founded “The Crew” – Heaven’s Gate’s earliest incarnation – in 1974 along with the late Bonnie Nettles. Applewhite posthumously shouldered most of the blame for the suicides during the ensuing media blitz, with many claiming the Heaven’s Gate chief had brainwashed his devotees into taking their lives.

Benjamin Zeller, religious scholar and Associate Professor of Religion at Lake Forest College in Illinois, has penned a book documenting the origins, history and ideology of the Heaven’s Gate movement. Released in 2014, Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion provides a balanced and unprejudiced examination of the group’s members and their fatal decisions.

Zeller kindly spoke with me on the afternoon of May 12 to discuss the Heaven’s Gate organization and his work researching the group. You can visit Ben Zeller online at and follow him on Twitter under the handle @ZellerProf.

Purchasing information for Heaven’s Gate is available here.

(Special thanks to Betsy Steve at NYU Press)

Please click on the “Play” icon below to hear the interview:

True Crime Factor Interview: Rose Pinson

15-year-old Pearl Pinson was abducted on the morning of May 25, 2016 while on her way to school in Vallejo, California. Several people witnessed the perpetrator, Fernando Castro, force the injured and screaming girl at gunpoint over a pedestrian crossing bridge. According to bystanders, Castro then put Pinson into the trunk of his car.

Castro was killed in a shootout with police the following day in Santa Barbara County, but Pinson remains missing.

Pearl’s sister, Rose Pinson, kindly spoke with me on the afternoon of May 10 to discuss her disappearance. Rose also appeared on a recent episode of The Vanished podcast, which can be heard here.

(Backpack worn by Pearl Pinson at the time of her abduction)

You can follow Rose Pinson on Twitter under the handle @Pearl_Team12. Additionally, there are two Facebook pages dedicated to Pearl Pinson’s story, Pearl Team and Find Pearl Pinson.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Pearl Pinson may contact the Solano County Sheriff’s tip line for the case at 707-784-1963, call Rose Pinson’s personal telephone number at 925-812-2059, or E-mail the Pinson family at

Please click on the “Play” icon below to hear the interview:

True Crime Factor Interview: Laura Saxton

Laura Saxton with her daughter, Kelsie Schelling
Laura Saxton with her daughter, Kelsie Schelling

On February 4, 2013, an elated Kelsie Schelling texted her mother, Laura Saxton, a sonogram of her unborn child. That same evening, Schelling – eight weeks pregnant and two weeks shy of her 22nd birthday – vanished after driving 113 miles from Denver, Colorado to the town of Pueblo, where she planned to meet Donthe Lucas, her boyfriend and father of her child. Schelling has not been seen since.

For the past four years, Schelling’s family and friends have endured the pain of her absence without any explanation of Kelsie’s fate or whereabouts. The mystery has also generated strife in the past between Schelling’s family and local law enforcement over their investigation into the young woman’s vanishing.

Schelling’s story has garnered a massive amount of mainstream media attention, including pieces on Dateline and 20/20. A Crime Watch Daily episode profiling Kelsie’s disappearance is available for viewing here.

Despite a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence against him, Donthe Lucas has never been charged in connection with Schelling’s disappearance, although authorities have publicly named him “a strong person of interest.”

Schelling’s mother, Laura Saxton, kindly spoke with me on the afternoon of March 3 to discuss Kelsie’s disappearance, the shifting relationship between Colorado investigators and Schelling’s loved ones, the effect of mainstream media coverage on her daughter’s story and more.

You can visit the official Help Find Kelsie website at and view the Help Find Kelsie Facebook page at this link.

Anyone with information regarding the disappearance of Kelsie Schelling is invited to contact Pueblo Crime Stoppers, Captain Eric Bravo of the Pueblo Police Department (719-553-2564), Agent Kevin Torres of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, or telephone the family’s personal tip line at 1-855-4-KELSIE.

Please click on the “Play” icon below to hear the interview:

True Crime Factor Interview: Daleen Berry

pretty-little-killersThe July 2012 disappearance of 16-year-old Skylar Neese stunned the West Virginia community of Monongalia County. Six months later, concern would turn to shock when one of Skylar’s best friends, Rachel Shoaf, confessed to killing the teen along with another girl, Sheila Eddy – a close confidant of Skylar’s since childhood.

Shoaf’s revelation would expose a callous – and at the same time, almost cavalier – murder plot stemming from the ever-growing rift that had developed between the three girls. A barrage of theories and accusations were levied both before and after Shoaf led authorities to Skylar’s remains – often via the influential platform of social media – and in the years since Skylar’s disappearance and murder, the crime has garnered national news coverage.

New York Times Best-Selling author Daleen Berry, a Monongalia County resident at the time of Skylar’s disappearance, closely covered the case and has penned the definitive account of Shoaf and Eddy’s crime in Pretty Little Killers, a book she co-authored with writer Geoffrey Fuller.

Berry kindly spoke with me on the evening of March 1 to discuss the Skylar Neese case and her work covering the story. Purchasing information for Pretty Little Killers can be found here.

You can visit Daleen Berry online at, follow her on Twitter under the handle @DaleenBerry and find her official Facebook page at this link.

(Special thanks to Jennifer Canzoneri at BenBella Books)

Please click on the “Play” icon below to hear the interview:

True Crime Factor Interview: John Cosgrove

unsolved_mysteries_logoDuring the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, Unsolved Mysteries served as a weekly television fix for those with an interest in the bizarre and unexplained. Most notably hosted by deep-voiced actor Robert Stack, the show masterfully blended accounts of unresolved crime along with alleged stories of the paranormal.

Over the course of 14 seasons, Unsolved Mysteries would undergo numerous changes in format, timeslot and network homes. Amidst all of the revisions, the program retained a loyal audience.

In December 2016, it was announced that FilmRise had acquired the worldwide digital distribution rights to Unsolved Mysteries. Amazon Prime was the first streaming platform to offer past episodes of the show (which are available here) and each season is expected to be added later this year.

Unsolved Mysteries co-creator and producer John Cosgrove kindly spoke with me on February 10 to discuss the program’s history and on stream re-launch. You can visit the official Unsolved Mysteries website at, follow the show on Twitter under the handle @Unsolved and find the Official Unsolved Mysteries Facebook page at this link.

Let’s begin with the big news for Unsolved Mysteries fans that came down this past December when it was announced that the FilmRise company had acquired distribution rights to the show; this meant that Unsolved Mysteries was now eligible to be presented on online streaming services. Can you discuss this deal and the decision to move forward with it?

Well, we had always wanted the most exposure we could get for the Unsolved show and we also wanted to find a way to put the original episodes that Robert Stack hosted and narrated back on the air somehow. Going with FilmRise – who then has gone to Amazon Prime – allowed us to do that. We had to do updates to the stories because Bob Stack died, as you know, several years ago. So, we did updates by using graphics to show the audience how a story had changed or how a suspect was captured.

There are quite a few seasons up now on Amazon Prime and I understand the plan is to release every season throughout the year.

Yes, that’s true. All of the episodes hosted by Dennis Farina are currently on Amazon Prime and hopefully will be on other streaming services. The Robert Stack episodes take a little longer to edit because we’re doing the updates. The first two seasons are up now and by the end of the year, all of the seasons will be up.

Wonderful. I think many people – myself included – were surprised that something like this had not happened sooner with the advent of online streaming platforms as well as the prevalence of so many DVD collections of past television programs now available. Obviously, there were the “Best Of” DVDs a number of years ago, but was there ever any consideration given to releasing the Unsolved Mysteries seasons on DVD?

No, we haven’t entertained that idea. We cherry-picked the best stories to put in the DVD collection and the sales were okay, but not great. So, we sort of shelved the plan to do the entire seasons.

You mentioned earlier that you are hopeful to get the show on other streaming platforms. Are you able to speak on any updates relating to that?

No new information now. Apparently, the show is doing very well on Amazon Prime and FilmRise is letting it run on there for a while, and then they will take the show out to the marketplace to see how well it will do there.

You spoke of the editing process in regard to providing updates on previous stories featured on Unsolved Mysteries. Can you talk about how the process has been delving back into so many of these stories?

We have an update coordinator who keeps track of the cases and is in touch with the law enforcement people on the cases. And the law enforcement people who were interviewed for the stories will let us know when an update is needed. There have been a lot of updates because so many of the cases have gotten solved.

Going back to the origins of Unsolved Mysteries, the original series run was preceded with a number of television specials. Can you take us back to those early days and tell us how the concept for the show was developed?

My partner, Terry Meurer, and I did a series of three specials for NBC called Missing … Have You Seen This Person? Those were only missing persons cases. The ratings were great and some of the cases got solved, and we came up with the idea of expanding the concept to include all kinds of cases as well as historical cases, treasure cases, ghost stories and UFOs to appeal to a wider audience.

Right. One of the things that attracted me to Unsolved Mysteries was the wonderful blend of stories of a paranormal nature along with true crime cases. Are those subjects that both you and Terry Meurer are interested in personally?

Well, Terry Meurer used to read the Nancy Drew books and was always interested in mysteries. We have always been very curious about the UFO stories, stories of ESP and ghosts and so on. So, it fit right into our wheelhouse as to what our interests were.

In all your years producing Unsolved Mysteries, what are some of the standout stories for you personally?

I think one of the standout stories that we did was the case of a woman – I think it was in Michigan – who was accused of murdering her child, like a three-year-old child, by feeding her antifreeze poison because when the child died suddenly and inexplicably, they discovered an open can of antifreeze in the garage. When they did the autopsy, they concluded that she had given the kid antifreeze.

So, she was in prison – she was actually pregnant when she was arrested and had a baby in prison, but wasn’t allowed to see the baby. We did the story and somebody watching worked for, I think it was the University of Michigan biology department, and they knew that there was a very rare genetic disease that imitated antifreeze poisoning. They re-autopsied the dead child and it was determined that it was not antifreeze poisoning, but a rare genetic disease that took the child’s life. So, she was released from prison.

Oh, wow. That’s pretty incredible.

That gave us a great feeling.

Absolutely. Obviously, Unsolved Mysteries in its original run was hosted by Robert Stack, who I guess you could say became the icon of the show. He also hosted a number of the aforementioned television specials. When you saw Robert Stack in that role and it came time to select a host for the original series, did you know, “That’s our guy right there”?

Well, we did seven specials. The first was narrated by Raymond Burr and then the next two by Karl Malden. The next one – I guess it was the fourth one – Bob did. We knew from the very first day of shooting that he was going to be great, and we knew he was right for the show because of how he portrayed Eliott Ness on The Untouchables.

It’s my understanding that Stack thought highly of the Unsolved Mysteries concept as it pertains to the viewer interaction, such as providing the on-screen telephone number for those watching to call with tips and information. Is that correct?

Yeah. Bob really liked doing the show. He liked the storytelling, he liked the interactive nature of the show. He compared it to the play Our Town and that kind of gave him a sense of, “I’m doing something that is significant and important,” especially as the cases started getting solved and we were getting good ratings. It was a very satisfying job for him.

Sure. I’m curious to ask how Robert Stack was to work with behind the scenes, because obviously his cold on-camera demeanor and deep voice made him perfect for the hosting role. What was Stack like when the camera was off? Was he outgoing with a good sense of humor or more quiet and reserved? What was his personality like on set?

Bob was a very warm guy and very funny, and had just an entire treasure trove of stories to tell about his days in Hollywood. And so, he entertained us a lot while filming.

Stack was briefly paired with actress Virginia Madsen for his final season hosting Unsolved Mysteries. Can you talk about the decision to pair the two up as co-hosts?

It was basically an effort to reach a wider audience and a larger female audience. I think she’s a terrific talent and I think she did a nice job, but nobody could match Robert Stack.

Sure, absolutely. Personally, for that original series run, I can’t imagine anybody but Robert Stack hosting, to be honest. (Laughs) He was just so perfect for that position.


Unsolved Mysteries was rebooted during the late-2000s with Dennis Farina as the host. Can you take us behind the scenes of that version and the selection of Farina for the position?

Well, we’d been longtime fans of Dennis Farina and he comes out of law enforcement – as you know, he had been a cop in Chicago. So, he seemed like a really good choice to host the show when we needed to rework the shows to appear on the Spike network, which appeals to a younger audience. We wanted to do a version that had a sort of rawness that Dennis Farina brought to the show.

If a network was to approach you with the idea of airing a brand new, revamped version of Unsolved Mysteries with new cases and stories, is that something you would be interested in or are you content to let it rest and allow fans of the show to enjoy the previous incarnations?

No, we’re constantly working on ways to try and get it back on the air, either on the broadcast networks or the larger cable networks.

Terrific. Is there anything in closing you would like to say to those reading?

Just that we’re extremely excited to have the show on Amazon Prime. We’ve gotten a lot of response on our website from fans that are delighted to see it back. So, this is a very good time for us.

Absolutely. I think it’s a great time as well for fans of the show. Unsolved Mysteries has a very loyal following and there are many, many people – myself included – who are excited to see it back. Personally, I have interviewed a number of people who are closely associated with cases featured on Unsolved Mysteries that are still unresolved today, families in mourning. With more eyeballs on these stories now, perhaps answers can be provided.

We’re hoping so. We’re hoping so.

I have to say, I have been a fan of Unsolved Mysteries since I was eight or nine years old, so to get a chance to speak with you today is a real cool deal for me. I want to thank you for your time and wish you the best. I’m sure the show is going to do great on the streaming platform.

You’re welcome, and keep up the good work on your website. We appreciate your interest.