I’m PISSED that 4 decades of my life was wasted believing in a greedy, science fiction writing, lying, sociopath m*th*r f*ck*r named L. Ron Hubbard.
I have journals, calendars and diaries of my entire life. I inherited tens of thousands of photos my mother took. When I close my eyes at night the truth of my experiences plays over and over and over. What happened to me is happening to other kids and I hope to share how it all went down and maybe, just maybe, it will help shut this cult down completely.
Or at the least give another person the courage to tell their story adding to the web of TRUTH that is being uncovered about scientology.
I want to write it all, clear the air, answer questions…tell the truth!
They helped push my mother to her death sooner than she should have. I’ll give you the facts I know on that and I might need help legally confiscating the 100’s of file folders in HER WORDS to prove it.
You’re accustom to being entertained for free. I get it. Me too.
Back in the day an artist would have special people rise up to help so they could focus on their art. I don’t know who commissioned Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci (and I’m certainly not comparing myself to them!) to paint the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa but they had to eat and put a roof over their head and SOMEBODY or some PEOPLE threw them a bone or two of support.
Here is how Leo, Michelangelo and I are the same: we want to under promise and over deliver. I have a vision to bring to the world. I need the pressures of responsibility and commitment to stay driven to the finish!
That is why I could use your help.
Writing takes time. Most of it is silent and thinking. I cannot write AND manage all of the jobs I currently do to make ends meet. I’m no slouch!
Currently my income sources are all over the place: I resell clothing online, I sell toys in person or online, I help small businesses with marketing creative and basics to be visible on the WWW, I walk dogs and pet sit plus I take care of all of the domestic work: cooking, cleaning, our own animal care, errands…doctor appointments…you get the picture I hope. I’m up at 4:30am and go to sleep about 10:00pm every night.
Oh, and to keep my mind in good condition I try to exercise every single day and eat home cooked meals (saves money)!
Being a writer means I need to READ as well!
I have attempted to find better employment and/or a stable full time job having applied for at LEAST 100 of them! My last employer was willing to pay me $15.13 an hour but would only give me 16 hours to 20 a week. After taxes I realized: I AM WORTH MORE and cannot survive there. I gave 2-weeks notice and left on professional terms. I was a Cashier, if you wondered.
Once, for half a decade, I was a General Manager of an international software company’s US Offices, I was the VP Sales at another software company for a decade, I have written and produced newsletters since the 80’s, I am an accomplished photographer (though rarely paid… because I’m a wimp asking people to pay me), I helped launch and run a small business successfully for over a decade.
I AM VALUABLE but in the world of applying for a job today…you have to at LEAST check the box that says you COMPLETED HIGH SCHOOL. A few people suggested “they never check” but I CAN’T LIE. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.
Why can’t I check that box? That whole period of my life I was locked behind a barbwire fence while guards with guns patrolled the entire compound and I was forced to serve L. Ron Hubbard against my will. I didn’t graduate High School! Last year I got my GED in Provo Utah. I cried in the parking lot realizing how much time has gone by and how LITTLE I knew. That feeling fuels my desire to make this book happen AND make it a success.
I’ll make it worth it to you for your support, just check out the different options and see if one wets your whistle. I want to make this journey FUN for you and me.
My goal would be to build my crew (you) to 1,000 kind human beings helping me in some way.
I have four decades to write about…which is more than one book. For now, to start the fire inside me, I just need to get ONE of them done.
Currently I spend 1 hour a week writing and my goal would be to earn enough to get rid of every job but pet care and walking dogs (I love this job so much). If I could invest 20 hours a week in my book I know I would complete it before the end of the year 2019!
In the end I know my story will help make anyone that reads it avoid being sucked into a cult and ruin the chance at opportunities to make the world a better place. I firmly believe this.
Technically you supporting me is helping so many people neither of us know.
Come on board!
Be a part of my quest to unleash a story that will make strangers lean in for more and help others that escaped share their stories. You will be like the parents we lost forever. That’s a big deal.
Thanks, Love and Namaste,
To the Cult Leaders, we were bothersome attic rats. After months passed, the weather improved and we were allowed to play on the mansion grounds. Attic Rat became Alley Rat. We were stinky, dirty and always barefoot – but we were outside! Always hungry, but much more tolerable having fresh air.
At home the months slowly ticked by.
My mother was progressing up the Chart of Awareness getting written certifications and praise along the way but she was also expected to damage the Mereta Group. Damage that could not be undone: disband them from existence. My frail and completely wimpy mom who wouldn’t hurt a flea.
The Mereta Group was successfully recruiting our town’s wealthiest men and their families. Their leader, a woman named Bette Jagers, had once been a member of our cult and jettisoned out to create her own group after a past-life indoctrination therapy session. Law suits had been filed and it was war. She was accused of stealing our cult’s teachings and, according to our Cult Leaders, she was guilty. Lawyers were hired to send intimidating “cease and desist” letters mostly just to bully without intending to follow through.
We were a much larger Order with missions spread throughout the United States and Europe. The Mereta Group was just a seedling in our town, along with any other “splinter groups”, had to be completely eliminated by order of our Cult Founder. Any group trying to help mankind, other than ours, was labeled a Squirrel Group.
My sister and I, along with Melissa and Sarah the daughters of a fellow cult couple, were used for demonstrations and media attention when we picketed or protested any Squirrel Groups.
Meetings with executive Cult Leaders over coffee at Friendly’s always included details about the enemies . Mom had remained friends with Bette and was feeding intel back to her Handler who, in turn, reported up the lines to the Continental Liason Offices in New York.
The day was chosen and my sister and I were the unassuming spies to get into the Merata Group’s church so the work could be done. No one would suspect us and mom would keep them distracted.
We drove the freezing cold dingy dark cloudy day as she gave us our instructions. We were planting papers. I was completely confused and told her so. “This is going to finish my part.” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks and her eyes red and swollen.
I was wide-eyed and more scared than ever now. Why was she crying? What part? Were we going to hurt people? I loved Bette and her family because they opened their homes and hearts to my sister and I. They had wealth I’d never seen before and they shared it with us. We ate out of the dumpsters for God’s sake!
What could I do?
She was serving us up on a platter so she could be accepted.
We arrived and mom turned off the car. I stared out the window as rain drops hit the glass and slid down making the Christmas light display blurry.
The cold began to quickly seep into the cab. Mom turned to us buckled into the back seat and hesitated. “Are you ok?” She asked and her breath was visible. I looked back at her confused then at my sister who was bundled up more than me. I didn’t answer but thought, “OK? OK for what?”. I stared at her and kept my mouth shut.
In the passenger seat were more legal size folders. They looked just like those I’d seen in the attic a hundred times and filled about an inch deep. A green stripe on the top corner and spine with the word CLEAR stood out boldly. “Put this in your jacket and don’t let it fall.” She directed me with a crystal clear low voice. I unzipped my puffy coat and placed the folder against my chest. It cut into my neck as I zipped the coat back up. Mom hunted around on the floor beneath our feet and found a scarf tossing it at me. I put it around my neck covering the papers that were so obvious.
“It’s time. Let’s go.” She said as she opened her door. Rain sprinkled on her and she looked up letting it cover her face and soak her hair. She turned around to reach back and lift the seat forward so we could get out. I held the folder in place with one hand and used the other to grab the handle and lift out then stepped away giving her room to get my sister.
Together, the three of us turned toward the welcoming entrance surrounded by twinkling strands of Christmas lights and pots filled with red poinsettia. We scooted up the narrow path to the grand covered front porch.
I caught my mother glancing back at the car, considering her alternatives and hesitating.
The giant front door swung open and like a backdraft, the most delicious smelling food wafted into my face. Bill, Betty’s husband, stood with a welcoming smile and open arms for hugs. I froze in place worried my folder would slip from my coat.
My mom stepped in first, tugging on my coat to follow. I shoved past my sister to beat her in practically knocking her down.
“I’ll take your coats. Come in and warm up!” Bill said genuinely concerned as he stared at our appearance which might have resembled wet cold cats.
Bill and Bette had two sons. Both were much older than me. Their portraits hung over the fireplace and my only interaction was seeing them leave. Today they were there and invited us to the basement class room area to play ping pong which I accepted with relief. I would leave my folder there and hope for the best.
Extras! As I uncover gems from my mother’s belongings I will post them beneath a chapter. Some may not be relevant to the portion of the story…but they sure are interesting to see. For me, they are triggering memories.
This is the actual $2 Dollar Bill given to my mother by Mereta and Bill Strandwitz I found in my mother’s belongings.
My story continues…
Note: Right now I am digging through all of my mother’s photos of this period of time. She was an avid photographer and I’m looking for the best possible photos that will better accompany my story. Interestingly, she is rarely IN a photo – most of her art was capturing other’s life events. I posted a photo of her on my About Me page if you are curious.
Request: If you are reading this on my Word Press site http://www.SaritaShoemaker.com (look at the URL) I would really appreciate comments. Especially questions.
Chapter 1, Part 2
Better The Devil You Know: I’m Starving
The Cult staffers came and went from the attic once in a while. The ancient door’s knob was replaced by a giant screwdriver and duct tape. It was never open and I assumed it was a large closet. I jostled the screwdriver quietly and pushed.
I crouched to adjust my eyes to the dim slice of light that fell across the floor. It was a small room stacked from the floor to ceiling with legal size manilla folders packed with white tattered paper between 1 and 2 inches fat.
There seemed to be a organized system to the folders with names and numbers progressing upward. I had never seen so many of these folders in one place. This was where I discovered a narrow door that lead to a darkened unused staircase.
Every wooden step creaked as I tip toed downward. This was a servants route and not well kept. The only light came from two windows the size of dinner plates high above my head. The dark green paint was peeling and two landings were missing floorboards. I stayed on the inside edge hugging the banister tightly.
Making it down to the second story I heard voices through the walls. I was now passing the sacred private session rooms and a strict Code of Absolute Silence was enforced. You could hear a pin drop and I held my breath as a step creaked loudly. I waited and counted to 60 all the while expecting a door to swing open. I could hear my stomach growl loudly prodding me onward.
I heard a conversation and stopped again.
A man with a deep voice I recognized was talking. I squeezed my eyes shut to hear better. It was a Session. Completely secret interviews between a Cult Auditor and a Public person. Everything said would be written down verbatim and placed in those legal size folders that were stacked in the attic. You were not allowed to touch your own folder and absolutely forbidden from looking inside of it.
“Go to that incident and tell me what you see”, commanded the deep voice.
“I can’t see much. Just a river and a my gun. It’s hot and I’m not feeling very good” a new voice replied. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman.
“OK. Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice repeated.
“I told you, I don’t feel very good.”
“I understand. Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice calmly repeated.
“I’m serious, I don’t feel good. I want to stop. I need to go.” This time I could tell it was a woman and she was anxious.
“OK, I got that. We can stop soon enough. Now, about that incident near a river, go to that incident and tell me what you see.”
I decided I didn’t care what happened at the river, so I continued down to the first floor and into the giant kitchen which was only half of my escape plan.
This was a Member’s Only space, off limits if you were not a full fledged employee of The Cult. There was the refrigerator that always had food in it, unlike ours.
The floor was checkered black and white linoleum tiles. There were missing portions that exposed the weathered floorboards and nail holes. The west side had two giant double-pane windows. One was painted shut with a green clay colored sheet nailed at the top as a make-shift curtain and the other required Herculean strength to open and a broken off broom handle keep it that way.
Again, my stomach growled reminding me of my plan to grab a bite to eat.
The refrigerator knocked, pinged then hummed as I approached it. I pulled the Vegas slot machine handle down very slowly to be as quiet as possible waiting for the click. The pressure changed and the light popped on. I peered in the crack and my heart sank when I saw it was empty except for a giant lightbulb in the back. Dang it. I’m so hungry!
I carefully closed the door and it clicked shut.
Next to the refrigerator was the porcelain sink and a long counter with shelves above it, all of them missing the doors. A few plates and bowls sat on the bottom shelf directly above the coffee maker and half filled pot. I noticed the red Foldger’s can and sign taped on it that someone scrawled “Coffee 25 cents per cup, NO IOUs”.
I formulated my new plan and headed to the coffee tin. The plastic top had an opening cut in it that a quarter would easily pass through. I tugged on it slightly to see if it would give. It did and I peeled it back. I didn’t want to move the can for fear of making a sound so I lifted myself up on the counter edge with both arms and peered in. I could see the bottom of the can past the nickels and pennies. Not one quarter. I bit my lip and reached in carefully for the change.
Onward, to find food elsewhere.
It was dusk and I could see and hear lights and cars passing in the distance out the open window. I stuck my head and right leg over the waist high sill bumping the stick and immediately the window began to drop onto my shoulders. I was awkwardly straddling. It was heavier than I thought. I could change my mind and turn around or I could push with all of my might and wedge the handle back in. I chose the latter then jumped the four feet into the bushes and spider webs, crouched down and scoped out my next route. The window stayed open and I planned to return on my same path.
The grounds around the mansion could be a set for a horror movie. A massive dry fountain surrounded by dirt, fallen leaves and dead grass, enormous overgrown trees, 12 foot high hedges, bougainvillea growing out of control across windows and entryways. Thorny bushes creeped all along the ground floor seeping into the four sunken basement entries.
This was a problem because I was barefoot.
With thorns between my toes and in my right heel I dashed across the 100 yards of lawn to the road where I could hear traffic. Straight ahead I could see a corner store just beyond an abandoned parking lot. It was getting dark fast. The lights of the corner store were on. I committed to my cult-law breaking escape and squeezed through the towering hedges on my stomach.
I was very hungry and I had 5 nickels and 2 pennies in my fist. I felt rich.
Dodging cars I raced across the road to the smokey dirty entryway. I pulled with all my might to open the beat up cracked glass door. The overhead bell jingled in a broken melody.
I made it. My first visit to 21st Street Market. Despite the small size of the building there were aisles crammed with food. I had to make some big decisions. Ten Tootsie Rolls and one Zero Bar. I considered stealing some watermelon Pop Rocks but changed my mind feeling remorseful of the criminal that I’d become. That left me 2 cents, which I decided I’d put back in the coffee kitty.
This was my life now. I was a squirrel trying to get a nut, by any means. Five finger discounts became my way to survive.
The bell jingled again as I exited. I used it as a Starting Gun and began counting seconds in my mind to see how long it would take me to make it back to the attic. This time I hung a left at the tall hedge surrounding the perimeter where I’d squeezed through heading to the northwest corner of the property near a dark ally that led to the Carriage House. It was darker and no one could possibly see me. I maneuvered back to the open window and heard talking. I crouched down and hid. My heart raced and I stopped counting seconds. Now I had to focus on getting back into that window sill a foot above my reach. I looked around for something to stand on but could not see, it was too dark.
Time to make a new plan, quick.
I’d passed mom’s car when returning through the staff lot. It was parked in the closest of four spaces and the windows were down. I dashed over to it and opened the passenger door quickly taking a seat putting my feet up on the dash. I would wait for someone to come out and then let them see me exiting the car. Then they would assume I’d been there the whole time.
I sat staring intently toward the front of the mansion where a porch with missing balusters wrapped the entire southwest side. It was pitch black except for the bit of light that spilled from the overhead porch casting shadows onto the narrow walkway leading to the parking lot.
After ten long minutes had passed I saw a figure dash down the stairs quickly moving toward me. It was Marlin, a staff member with a giant fuzzy fro and mustache. He was a Course Supervisor and had a big ego.
He held a large folder under his arm and an unlit smoke in his mouth. His pace slowed as I saw the flicker of light each time he attempted to light up. Finally he was forced to stop and he saw me. I felt a pang and then swallowed deeply sitting up and opening the door.
“What the fuck are you doing out here?” He asked still holding his smoke between his lips. I lied without hesitation, “I was waiting in the car till now.” Walking past him breathing in and secretly enjoying the second hand smoke and catching the scent you get when its first lit.
“You are a fucking trouble maker aren’t you?” It wasn’t a question.
I ignored him and walked slowly to the porch steps staying on the darker edge as I ascended into the brightly lit foyer. The old glass door had been propped open so I slipped in pretending to look at the pamphlets left on display.
There were staff and public milling around talking gaily. No one looked my way and I figured I was safe.
I hadn’t even considered I would be accused of stealing from the coffee tin later that night. At 10:05pm, after Indoctrination was over, I was pulled from to be dealt with and pay for my unproven and unethical behavior.
What do you think so far?
It was 1976. I was 9 years old and The Cult was growing.
Daily visits to the Indoctrination Classrooms were required. “Two and a half hours or more” barked the person who seemed in charge, “or your dedication will be suspect.”
They said they had the answers, so she signed on the line.
She was officially “in” and nothing could or would stop her.
Things would need to change in order for this to work. Mom held two jobs and received $180 a month from our dad in child support. We had two sets of clothing and one pair of shoes which we rarely wore. Food filled our refrigerator when she could find something decent in the back alley of the grocery store on Lane Avenue, always in the dark using the car headlights to dumpster dive.
Somehow the three of us were able to spend a lot of time together building forts, playing make-believe or at our athletic events.
With Public Assistance, we were included in softball and soccer leagues from age 9 to 13 which kept us busy, hungry and tired. Almost every game I hitched a ride with a teammate’s family and then waited for her to pick me up. She was always late. More times than not, the lights on the fields turned off and I sat on the curb in the empty parking lot hugging my glove between my knees scared to death. She never apologized for being late or even acknowledged I was scared.
We lived with grandma in small postage-stamp size two story house. All of my family battled problems with drugs and drinking which is why there was never alcohol in our empty refrigerator. We slept in my Uncle’s room, all three of us on two twin size beds among his hoarded electronics junk.
No one in her family knew what she was doing or why things dramatically changed overnight.
We moved into a subsidized housing development called Winchester Station and completely disconnected from everyone. I was heartbroken.
Nightly, because she couldn’t afford a sitter, she dragged us with her to mandatory classes from 6:00pm until 11:00pm at The Prentise-Tulford Manor, the Cult’s local “Church”.
Supper was a hard boiled egg or spoon of peanut butter and an apple which was never satisfying. I often supplemented meals from the “Staff Only” refrigerator taking bites out of cold chicken, old sandwiches or spooning yogurt before someone walked into the kitchen. My arms were long enough to reach into the vending machines and grab whatever the bottom row had to offer which is how my love for Tiger Milk Bars began.
We parked in the back of the property with a few other cars where the old spooky carriage barn doubled as parking for paying parishioners and junk storage.
Because she was always running late we were hurried to the attic where 3 other kids would be stashed as well. I was the oldest, but I wasn’t in charge due to my awful self-esteem. 10 years old and 111 lbs, I was considered obese and weathered the taunts outside of my home regularly. My little sister was 6 and thin as a rail.
Day after day the routine was the same and I watched our family-time extinguished while time in the attic grew out of control. Weekdays in the evening and weekends all day.
The Queen-Anne style 17 room mansion was built in the late 19th Century with gargantuan glass windows, tall ceilings, dark wood floor and decades of gaudy wallpaper peeling off the hacked up plaster walls. It smelled like rotting death and our piece of this heaven was the top story where servants had lived.
Any improvements must have ended in the 1950’s because exposed wires with fabric casings poked out from the walls and only two of the four bathroom toilets flushed. The painted doors had their original hardware and a giant staircase into the foyer transported you back in time when the wealthy Banker entertained his clientele. Despite the bronze and crystal chandelier missing a lot of gems it still twinkled and along with the wall sconces it lit the foyer. To me it was just an enormous haunted sparkling penitentiary.
Two double-hung windows at the far end of the attic let a small amount of light in during the day. That was the only connection to the outside world we had, and despite spending hours looking out I never saw one person even glance in our direction day or night.
The 200-watt bulbs dangling from the rafters cast shadows like a disco tech in every direction giving me the creeps thinking about what spiders, bugs and secrets lurked in the dark corners.
We slept, read, played card games and worked for the few cult staff members folding letters, stamping envelopes, filing or any other menial task you could trust a kid to do. Every single adult smoked and had awful coffee breath.
Like Lord Of The Flies, we policed each other tattling on any unacceptable behavior to Bennick, the short, bearded local leader with beady blue eyes. There was never a conversation to determine guilt or innocence. He treated us like the Cult Holy Scriptures told him to and we were punished with a choice: manual labor or getting my mother banned from the group.
I tried my best to lay low most of the time keeping occupied with stacks of books while my hatred for being forced to stay put for so long grew every single day. I knew this was abuse, but who could I tell?
Reading was my escape and seemed to be my mother’s as well. Before 1976 she took her research with her in the bath flipping pages until she fell asleep often dropping the book into the tepid water. I sat on the toilet perusing her pile of soul-searching materials asking questions about her life. She never had a satisfying reply which kept me questioning.
Symbolism, Numerology, Palmistry, Astrology, Scientology, Parents Without Partners, Alcoholics Anonymous, The Bible, Wicca, Christian Science, Homeopathy, Naturopath, Cupping, Coning and Reflexology. Every trip to the library resulted in another topic.
There was one book I read cover to cover in one sitting. At 9 years old, it changed the way I processed my thinking.
“Have You Lived Before This Life” with true experiences from real people. This was a page-turner with each chapter telling a different tale taking me through life histories filled with crime and a few naughty bits. Case Study after Case Study and 174 pages later, I believed it completely and began to put more significance in my own unexplained thoughts. I opened my mind a crack.
There we were, one easily influenced mother and two little girls. We renovated, protested, paraded, met with government officials and sold books authored by the cult leader. We always had quotas to make. No matter what we were doing, mom was expected in the Indoctrination Room to meet her 2 ½ hour daily minimum or face the Ethics Officer.
Nothing was an acceptable excuse to avoid participation. School, softball practice, homework, playing. Childhood, as we knew it, was over. I was told by a cult staffer, “You are not children, you are able members in small bodies!”
I began a protest that got my mother in a lot of trouble.
She needed us to stop all resistance and conform as well. Her plan was to become a full time member and take us with her, wherever that meant we would go. She told us we would be living in a lighthouse on the coast of Maine and brought home magazines and maps about the eastern seaboard. It got me excited and willing to support her and temporarily stop causing trouble. I would do anything to get out of the attic and away from the embarrassment I felt among my friends in the real world.
There was really only one big problem still looming.
Before my mother joined the Cult she was part of a competitor cult called The Mereta Group. Because of that she would never be completely trusted. She was treated cautiously and watched closely by the local Executive Structure. The slightest infraction was documented and she was called to the carpet by the Ethics Department to explain, in writing, what she did to cause the problem and how she would ensure it would never happen again, ever. Until the Ethics Officer was satisfied with mom’s compliance, she would not be allowed back into the Course Room, which she craved.
My sticky fingers and regular verbal complaints about our situation got her in trouble on a regular basis. She begged me to knock-it-off and tried to convince me things would be alright.
Every so often she lectured us about responsibility and ethics at the start of our drive home in our beat up old blue Gremlin. I had no concept of what she was talking about.
Our life now completely revolved around her required training time. Kids in the attic and adults in the Course Room, every single weekday from 6:00pm to 11:00pm and even longer on the weekends from 9:00am until 11:00pm.
My attitude went from bothered to indignantly furious about spending so much time in that attic. This was an unguarded prison to me. I was embarrassed by my mother so I never told anyone about what was happening to us. I wanted to escape. So I did. thirteen times.
There were hidden doors and paths throughout the Mansion and I quietly sought them out. It took me four tries before I could get from the attic to the kitchen without being detected.