Transcript for Marc Headley on his life in Scientology

Jim Fleming: Since Scientology is so secretive, it's hard to get the inside story about what really goes on there. But, Mark Headley knows firsthand. He spent 15 years working for the Church of Scientology averaging, he says, over 100 hours a week and being paid less than 50 cents an hour. Headley eventually became a key staff member of Scientology's International Headquarters in California, but he left the church in 2005. He chronicles his experiences in his book, "Blown For Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology." Mark Headley tells Anne Strainchamps about his encounters with one of the world's most famous Scientologists.

Mark Headley: Tom Cruise was, in Scientology, what they call an "Auditor", and I was his "Pre-Clear", which is a person that is subject to the auditing.

Anne Strainchamps: What's an Auditor?

Headley: An Auditor is someone in Scientology who does Scientology processing on somebody. They have what they call the "Bridge to Total Freedom", and it has a processing side, and it has a training side. An auditor is someone who practices processing on another person and moves them through all these different processes that could take anywhere from a month to a year to get through this certain step of processing. When Tom Cruise started as an Auditor, he had to audit somebody. That's the role that I played. I was the person that he was auditing on these very introductory and basic Scientology processing tasks that he did on me.

Strainchamps: He was training on you?

Headley: That's correct. I was kind of like his guinea pig. Strainchamps: So, what did he do? What did this involve?

Headley: Basically, very introductory, what they're called "Training Routines", and introductory auditing commands where you're basically indoctrinating the person to be able to get audited and to do basic processing. It's kind of a gradient approach, and then you're going to move on to do more advanced processing on this person. But, in order for them to be able to do that, they have to get through these rudimentary procedures and sort of get indoctrinated on how auditing and processing words in Scientology. So, there's a lot of people that talk about, you know, in Scientology, some of these early things where you talk to an ashtray, and you're walking over and touching walls and windows and stuff like that. That's the sort of processing that he did on me.

Strainchamps: Wait, you talked to an ashtray?

Headley: That's correct. Actually, you yell at an ashtray.

Strainchamps: Why?

Headley: It's to show you that you can have control over an object and you can get the intention that you have in your mind. You can communicate it across the space into an object. It's not that easy to explain.

Strainchamps: Is the ashtray supposed to do something?

Headley: You physically move the ashtray as you're yelling at it, so you tell the ashtray to stand up. You don't use like a little small ashtray. You use a really big like 8-inch-by-8-inch thick glass ashtray, and you tell it to stand up, and then you lift it out of a chair, and then you tell it to sit down. Then you put it back in a chair. This can go on for hours and hours day after day until you can confidently and successfully do this.

Strainchamps: Are you telling me that Tom Cruise sat with you for like, hours and hours telling you to yell at an ashtray and then move it around the room and tell it "thank you"?

Headley: That's exactly correct. We also played with books and bottles and he asked me all sorts of questions. We did a lot of this on the E-meter which is sort of an electric device they use in Scientology and Scientology auditing and counseling.

Strainchamps: So, when you were still in the Scientology community and working at that fairly high level, did you believe all the Scientology teachings, or were you just going through the motions? For example, did you believe that a human in an immortal alien?

Headley: Well, I grew up in it, so I didn't know anything else. I didn't know any better. I didn't know anything differently, and when you're in Scientology, you're pretty much indoctrinated. Scientologists are a smarter, more advanced breed of person; that you're better than anyone else. So, that if anybody else said this is the way it was, and it was contrary to Scientology, then you would just look down on them and be like 'oh, they're crazy'.

Strainchamps: You also had a fair amount of contact with the Church of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige. What did you think of him?

Headley: I really never had anyone to compare him to until I left, and I saw a documentary on Jonestown. That's the only person I've ever seen or heard about that would most closely match him in terms of being very charismatic, and being someone who could convince people to do things, and who rubbed shoulders with politicians and celebrities, and then, you know, pass out the Kool-Aid. That's the only person I could really compare him to, just because he is a tyrant. I've seen him physically assault Scientology's highest executives.

Strainchamps: Assault how?

Headley: They've denied it and said these are all lies, and then eventually more and more people who had also witnessed these abuses started coming out and telling their stories and they were all exactly the same. Yes, David Miscavige slaps people, punches people, hits people, throws them to the ground. All these insane things. At a certain point, when I kind of decided that I really needed to expose what I knew and basically tell as much as I could was actually after I'd seen that documentary on Jonestown, because I actually believed if they passed out the Kool-Aid tomorrow, the people that I worked with would drink it in a second. And I thought 'this is crazy'. How could this be happening in a modern day society?

Strainchamps: There's one really weird episode you describe as some kind of perversion of the musical chairs game that David Miscavige used.

Headley: That's correct. We were basically assembled by David Miscavige and we were told that we were going to play a game of musical chairs. And essentially, whoever lost a chair was going to be shipped off to far corners of the world to do menial and demeaning jobs in Scientology organizations like cigarette butt cleaner upper, and toilet scrubbing in charge, and sort of things like this. As people lost chairs and were separated from their wives and husbands, it was a very dramatic, insane episode that occurred. It went on for hours, and eventually one woman was the one left, and David Miscavige said 'OK, good. You can stay here and work with me, and everybody else is outta here'. He went as far as to have plane tickets printed up for people so that they knew he wasn't joking, and they were absolutely being shipped off to wherever it was to do these very, very demeaning punishments for what could be years on end. And then the next morning it was like it never happened, and he was like 'no, it's going to cost too much money to ship you guys all over the place, so nobody's going anywhere.'

Strainchamps: Did you actually witness that?

Headley: I was there. I was one of the people. I fought with a gentleman named Marty Rathbun over a chair, and I think I ended up throwing him to the ground to get the chair over him sitting in it.

Strainchamps: Mark, by far, the most traumatic story you tell in the book is the story of your own departure from the Church of Scientology. You literally had to escape, and people came after you. Can you tell the story?

Headley: Yeah. Well, in addition to them just not letting you leave in the first place betwen the barbed wire fences, and armed guards, et cetera. If you do, in fact, manage to escape, in my case, they chased me down in a security SUV. I was fleeing the property on a motorcycle, and I was driving down the road. After them repeatedly nudging me, or yelling out the window for me to pull over to return to the property, they essentially just ran me off the road. They just slowly nudged me over as we were driving until there was no more shoulder left. I crashed the motorcycle. The security officer that was driving the vehicle got out of the vehicle, grabbed the key to my bike, and basically insisted that I return to the property, get in the SUV, and they were taking me back. At that point, I waved down passing motorists, and the security guard threw the key to my motorcycle back to me. I sort of gathered myself and got the bike. The bike was slightly damaged. And within minutes of me getting back on the road, they continues to follow me. Then, they just turned around and drove back, and then 10 seconds, 30 seconds later, Riverside County Sheriff's Department vehicle pulled me over. They'd had a 911 call that there was some gentlemen fighting on the highway, and basically, the police escorted me to safety to the nearby town. And that is the only reason that I was able to escape. If those police had not shown up when they did, I would be there to this day. I almost... I'm certain of it.

Jim Fleming: Mark Headley is the author of  "Blown For Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology." He spoke with Anne Strainchamps. Headley's wife, Claire, left the church shortly after he did. We requested an interview with a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, but they declined. Their response reads, and I quote, 'You stated that the subject of your program is what we believe. Of your three Scientology-related guests, none of them are qualified to address the topic of what we believe'. End quote.

Comments for this interview

Scientology (vickieanne, 12/24/2016 - 8:51pm)

I just read the article on Scientology and Marc Headley, I find it fascinating and unbelievable that such things can happen in this day and age. But most ex-Scientologists say that they are forbidden to get on the internet and learn anything for themselves so if they grew up with it, it is understandable. What I don't understand is if they cannot get on internet then how come there are so many comments calling him a liar?

moving ashtrays by screaming at them (Gregory Slater, 09/15/2013 - 11:40am)

Can't believe that Strainchamps didn't ask the most obvious question: Did he ever manage to move an ashtray (or anything) by shouting at it, even a millimeter? Or even make it quiver? Has any thetan or whatever moved anything by a mm by power of thought?

those books really only help insomnia (rob, 10/05/2012 - 12:37am)
Scientology (Callie Posen (pseudonym), 10/03/2012 - 8:56am)