Tales of “The Hole” have formed one of the most frightening narratives about Scientology to see the light of day.
Between the “Going Clear” book and movie, Leah Remini’s hit A&E docuseries, articles, and memoirs from former members, we’ve learned a lot about what ex-members say is Scientology’s alleged prison for executives who have fallen out of favour with the organisation’s leader, David Miscavige.
“It was a poisonous environment,” “Going Clear” author Lawrence Wright said of “The Hole” on the HBO documentary. “People were really frightened. And this went on for years. This wasn’t a couple of days.”
“He literally created this prison camp,” Marty Rathbun, a former executice who left Scientology in 2004, said in “Going Clear” of his time in the Hole. “It was inevitable that I wasn’t going to last there.”
Here’s everything we know about Scientology’s alleged “prison” known as the Hole:
Former Scientologists say David Miscavige sent dozens of senior executives to the organisation's Gold Base near Hemet, California. Leading up to the order, former members said they noticed Miscavige was extremely agitated and paranoid that there was a plot to overthrow him.
'(Miscavige) very definitely wiped out that organizational pattern in order to be able to have ultimate power,' former Scientology executive Tom DeVocht said in 'Going Clear.'
The Hole previously served as the office for the International wing of Scientology, the team David Miscavige allegedly wanted gone.
The executives were reportedly corralled into two double-wide trailers, which then served as the office space for the International wing of Scientology. International President Heber Jentzsch was among them. Many ended up spending months to years living in those trailers, according to accounts. Several people who were held there say the Hole's numbers swelled to as many as 100 people.
The trailer space morphed from being known as the International office to the 'A to E Room,' named after the church's confessional process, the A to E steps. It was then the 'SP Hole.' 'SP' refers to 'suppressive persons,' members who are believed to have broken church rules and to be bad influences on other members. Ultimately 'SP Hole' was shortened to 'the Hole.'
The Hole quickly grew into a detention center for high-ranking members who displeased David Miscavige, former members have said.
'Honestly, the reasons for that could be anything from answering a question wrongly, not answering a question, a facial expression that was inappropriate, falling asleep after being up for a couple of days — I mean anything, you're in the Hole,' ex-Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder said on A&E's 'Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.'
Mike Rinder said he and the 100 or so others being held in the Hole had to eat 'slop' and that they weren't able to come and go as they pleased.
'The doors had bars on them, the windows all had bars put on them, and there was one entrance door that a security guard sat at 24 hours a day,' Rinder said on 'Going Clear.'
David Miscavige allegedly subjected those in the Hole to extremely embarrassing and torturous punishments.
In 'Going Clear,' former Scientology executives describe being forced to play a game of musical chairs against each other, in which only the last person sitting would get to stay in Scientology. The others would be kicked out and not allowed to see or speak with their family members in Scientology again. At the end of the tense and violent game, Miscavige reportedly said they could all stay.
Other tales of mental and physical abuse in the Hole include one executive who was made to stand underneath the strong gusts of an air conditioner while water was poured on him, a woman who was beaten by other members until she confessed she was a lesbian, and another member who was made to lick a bathroom floor for a half-hour.
There was constant pressure for those in the Hole to confess their acts against David Miscavige and Scientology, according to former Scientologists. Miscavige was known to attack executives in the Hole.
'Here's the equivalent of the Pope suddenly knocking you to the ground,' Tom DeVocht said of being beat up by Miscavige in 'Going Clear.' 'And you're thinking, 'I must have really screwed up.''
But also the occupants would allegedly use violence against each other in order to draw out confessions.
'It was like 'Lord of the Flies' in there,' Rinder said on the A&E show. 'I mean, it was insane. It was literally, 'I'm going to beat the crap out of you before I get the crap beat out of me.''
Scientology's designation as a tax-exempt religion has given it protections during FBI investigations and in court cases.
In 2009, the FBI investigated Scientology on claims of human-trafficking abuses. That same year, two former Scientologists sued the church on charges of forced labour and other human-rights abuses. A judge ruled in favour of Scientology in the case due to First Amendment protections for religions and their practices, among other things. That led to the FBI investigation being dropped in 2011.
Scientology says the accounts of former members about the Hole are false and that the place doesn't exist.
While Scientology acknowledged it has a system of discipline for its members, it told ABC News that there's no such thing as the Hole and it never existed.
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