HBO’s documentary on the Church of Scientology, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” addresses rumours that have been swirling for years about the church. But the film’s director, Alex Gibney, didn’t tackle one of the biggest Scientology mysteries — the current location of the wife of Scientology leader, David Miscavige.
“At the end of the day, rather than doing stone skipping and covering as much as possible in a superficial way we chose to dig in on certain things,” Gibney told Business Insider on why he left the story out of the documentary.
Gibney also told BI that though there was a longer version of the film that included more details about Scientology, the story of Miscavige’s allegedly missing wife, Shelley, was never investigated and they never filmed anything about it.
Shelley has been missing since 2006, allegedly following an incident where she filled several job vacancies without her husband’s permission, as initially reported by The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright
(who would go on to write “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison of Belief,” the book that inspired Gibney’s film).
Church spokespeople have denied that Shelley is missing, Vanity Fair reported last year, but the rumours of her absence persist.
In 2012, Steve Hall, a former Scientologist, told BI that he believes she’s staying at the little-known “Church of Spiritual Technology,” a remote forest compound in Twin Peaks, California, near San Bernadino.
After actress Leah Remini, a 30-year vet of the church, left Scientology in 2013, she reportedly filed amissing persons reportfor Shelly with the Los Angeles Police Department. Her suspicion reportedly began years ago after noticing Shelly wasn’t with her husband at the 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, in which David was Cruise’s best man.
Around the time of Remini notifying the police, the journalist Tony Ortega, a longtime critic of the church with his blog “The Underground Bunker” (who is also featured in “Going Clear”), reported that Shelly is at the church’s secret compound in the mountains of Los Angeles.
Here’s why Shelly is allegedly banished, according to Ortega:
“Early in 2004, at Scientology’s International Base — a secretive, 500-acre compound about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, near the town of Hemet — Miscavige took his ideas about discipline to strange new lengths. A few dozen executives he wanted to punish were locked into a set of rooms that had been an office, and “The Hole” was born. Over the next several years, even more executives who had fallen from his favour were added to the bizarre and harsh office-prison, reaching about 100 total prisoners.
Around that time, Miscavige also became obsessed with the base’s “Org Board.” It was a roster of jobs that Miscavige wanted filled, but for some reason his underlings could never fill out the empty slots in the roster to his satisfaction. People who worked there at the time tell us that Miscavige’s tirades about the org board were maddening and relentless.
Then in 2005, Miscavige did something surprising — he traveled to nearby Los Angeles to work on a publishing project, and Shelly stayed behind at the base. People who worked at the base tell us it was the first time they remembered seeing the couple apart.
Shelly took advantage of her husband’s absence to fill in the org board that had proved such a headache. She also made progress on another project Miscavige had been promising to start by moving his belongings out of a set of buildings called the ‘Villas.’ She moved his things into another set of rooms called ‘the G’s,’ so the Villas could be renovated…
When Miscavige returned from Los Angeles and found the org board filled and his belongings moved, he erupted. A week later — which was sometime late in 2005 or early in 2006, our sources tell us, Shelly vanished.”
“The hole” is featured in one of the most chilling scenes in “Going Clear.” (In a 2012 letter to ABC News, a lawyer for the Church of Scientology said the hole didn’t exist and that there has never been a place with that name.)
Former Scientology executives who claim to have been in the hole said Miscavige gathered the group in a room, put empty chairs in the middle of it, and told them to play musical chairs. He allegedly told them when one chair remained that person was allowed to stay in their position, and everyone else would be sent off to remote locations.
According to the film, Miscavige started playing the music, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and the staff began circling the chairs. When the music stopped the staff battled for seats. The fewer chairs that remained throughout the game, the more aggressive people were to get a chair, allegedly leading to punching and shoving. After one person finally remained, Miscavige told everyone in the room that he changed his mind and everyone was allowed to stay.
The group stayed in the hole and continued work on the org board, according to the film.
“This just is David Miscavige,” Mike Rinder, a former executive of Scientology who is featured in “Going Clear” and was involved in the alleged musical chairs incident, told reporters at HBO’s offices last week. “His personality type is sociopath. He takes a lot of things that in the hands of someone else would be innocuous and uses those as tools of weapons to abuse people.”
This is not Gibney’s first time examining the alleged abuse of power. He won an Oscar exposing the corrupt acts by the heads of Enron (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) and has done films on the illegal methods done by “Casino Jack” Abramoff (“Casino Jack and the United States of Money”), the untruthful statements made by Lance Armstrong (“The Armstrong Lie”) and the questionable motives of Julian Assange (“We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”), not to mention the illegal sexual conduct by the Catholic Church (“Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God”).
With his history of examining infamous characters, how does Gibney see Miscavige?
“He’s a true believer who is doing everything he can to protect his religion,” Gibney told BI. “And in that way it may be even more terrifying because at some point you can sit someone down who is not a true believer and say ‘let’s do a risk/reward analysis.’ That’s not something he’d be willing to engage in.”
A representative for the Church of Scientology didn’t respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on allegations in the film.
“Going Clear” opens theatrically in limited release today and airs on HBO March 29.