Image by Moaz Elemam
In 1968, Paulette Cooper was one of the first journalists to investigate a then-little-known religious group.
Fact checking support by Michelle Harris. Narration by Cate Cahan and Dan Epstein, and additional voices by Nate and Tommy Jackson.TRANSCRIPT
Nick van der Kolk: From Radiotopia, you’re listening to Love and Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode, “The Exciting World of the Totally Free” featuring Paulette Cooper.
Paulette Cooper: It was the Leonardo DaVinci, the Italian liner. Beautiful ship. I love cruise ships. They’re sleek and lovely swimming pools and great bars, which I certainly noticed. Elegant lounges. Comfy looking chairs all around it. It was just gorgeous. It was going to be fun.
I decided I wanted to be a travel writer and I wanted to write about a cruise ship, but that would have been boring. I decided I would stowaway on a major ocean liner. I just walked on. Of course you can’t do that kind of thing anymore, but in those days they had going away parties, so everybody else was partying, I ran down to the lower lounge, and sure enough there was a piano down there, and I put my attache case in the bench, and in my attache case was mix and match clothes rolled very very tightly, including by the way, a pink chiffon evening gown.
Interviewer: Why the evening gown?
Paulette: The idea was to attract attention. Add an evening gown, a stunning pink chiffon evening gown, that’s why I did it. I was very confident that I could pull it off. You know what’s funny when I tell the story about stowing away, the women always want to know where I slept, and the man always want to know where I ate. The first day out there’s no buffet. The first day at the bar setups, which it turns out if you haven’t eaten anything, olives and lemons and little onions are not very good.
Interviewer: Right, so you were just eating the garnishes?
Paulette: Stealing the garnishes, I was starving to death! I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t have a bed really. I’d have to wait until 2 in the morning when the last passengers would go to sleep, and then I’d have to be up by six. What I did is I slept on the couch. I took a glass of water and put it by the table next to the couch to make it seem as if I had passed out. I did try one point sleeping down below but then there was a crew member who started feeling me up.
Interviewer: While you were sleeping.
Paulette: Yeah. And I think that happened the first or the second night, so, I decided I was better off sleeping right out in the open than trying to hide down that lower section.
Most stowaways by the way are caught when they’re getting off the ship. And that was the hard part. I hid in a room and waited until everybody was off. But this was New York and it was very cold. So I was walking off and I was freezing to death, and at that point a car with two customs men pulled up. And they said, “Were you on that ship?” “Yes.” “Why don’t you have a coat?” “Oh, I was with my boyfriend. And we had a fight. He took my luggage and my coat.” And they said, “Well, where do you live?” And I said, “16 East 80th Street,” and they said, “Oh that’s not so far, we’ll drive you.” And I said, “No no, that’s okay,” “No, we’ll drive you!” They drove me home. I tried to desert them, abandon them when we got to the place, they said, “Oh, we’d love to come in and have a drink.” It was all of, what, ten in the morning or something. My neighbor was taking care of my dog at the time, Tiki, and she opened up the door and she saw me with these two huge customs men, and she thought that I, she knew what I was doing, she thought I had been caught and arrested, and she started to say something, and I mouthed to her, “Don’t. Say. A. Word.” I served them drinks. And then they left. “Oh my god, I did it, I pulled it off!”
I actually started as an advertising copywriter at BBDO, very very major advertising agency. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of sex. Really really very fun, I used to call the country club. I was getting fifty-two hundred a year and incidentally the same day, a friend of mine, a guy, started and he got fifty-seven hundred.
Interviewer: And that didn’t bother you at the time?
Paulette: No, it didn’t bother anybody. We understood that. We were going to leave and have children. That was just a different time, this was the sixties. That’s the way they thought. Meanwhile, they had a product they were trying to sell. It was dandruff shampoo. They couldn’t get people interested. Nobody cared if somebody had little white specks all over their suit. We decided that we could make having dandruff be extremely socially undesirable, like
Child’s voice: That lady has dandruff.
Paulette: Echh, he has dandruff, look at that white on his suit!
Advertisement: Some people who don’t worry about dandruff ought to. Pam, for instance. Good looking girl. Until you look close. Dandruff. It never occurred to her that behind her back, people were thinking, “Dandruff.”
Paulette: We just made it clear that it was socially unacceptable to have dandruff. That it was akin maybe to dirty fingernails, so they had to use anti-dandruff shampoo.
Advertisement: Pam got the word, started using Head and Shoulders, the most effective dandruff shampoo you can buy.
Paulette: And I don’t even think people knew what the word meant, I mean we really had to lay it on thick.
Advertisement: Nice lather. Nice smell. Beautiful way of handling hair.
Paulette: But advertising those days, there was no subtlety.
Advertisement: You can imagine what he’s thinking now. Pretty hair.
Interviewer: Did you like that line of work?
Paulette: Not really, because I felt that I was convincing people or trying to convince people to buy things that they didn’t need and didn’t want. And I didn’t like that. I’ve had this dream since I was eight years old of being a real writer, and I started writing on the side. I’d sold my first three pieces to Cosmopolitan, TV Guide, and the Washington Post, and I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wanted to be a writer. Also remember this was during the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate era. Investigative reporting was a very good thing to do. Now of course, the media has all been smeared as fake media, but in those days it was looked up to. I really wanted to make a difference. And actually by the time I was thirty I had four books out. So my life was going very very well.
Interviewer: When did you first become aware of Scientology?
Paulette: While I was working at BBDO, my boyfriend joined. He was also a copy writer. One day he said to me that he’d gotten involved in this group and had learned a lot about himself from them, and that he now realized that he had been Jesus Christ in a past life. Wooo, there goes the relationship, the man is absolutely batty. So I went to his boss who was also my boss, we both worked for this man, and I said, “Do you realize that Bruce now thinks he’s Jesus Christ since he joined Scientology?” I mean that he’s gone off the deep end. What are we going to do sort of thing. The boss said to me, “Well, maybe he really is.” He had gotten his boss into Scientology also. So, between the two of them I thought, I have got to look into this.
Archival: Many millions of words have been said and written about Scientology, but I think there’s still quite a lot of doubt in many people’s minds as to exactly what it is. What is Scientology? How would you describe it?
Ron Hubbard: Well it’s very interesting, you’ve just asked a question like, “What are the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica? Answer in one word.”
Archival: Well Mr. Hubbard, it’s obviously something that’s very wide-ranging. And if you can’t describe it–
Paulette: There were a lot of scientologists in those days.
Hubbard: We have many many denominations in Scientology, and it’s one of the principles of Scientology that one can be a Scientologist regardless of his race, color, or creed, anywhere in the world.
Paulette: And everybody was going to the, uh, Org as they called it, and they had very attractive women soliciting man outside to come and take a free personality test.
Hubbard: You see if you don’t know yourself, you know nothing. It’s all right to guess at what you are, but to know what you are, that is the essence of the whole problem.
Archival: Why do you think man is here on this planet? What’s his purpose? Why is he in a body?
Paulette: All creation myths are a little bit… bizarre. Scientology’s is an evil Prince named Xenu enslaved people 74 trillion years ago on another planet in outer space. There was an overpopulation problem so they put everybody into a volcano and they dropped a hydrogen bomb on it. The spirits called thetans floated to Earth and looked to inhabit people’s bodies.
Hubbard: Man is a spiritual being, he is not a piece of flesh.
Paulette: One of the things that scientologists do as they spend a huge amount of money and time auditing out the spirits from their bodies.
Hubbard: When you audit, or process a person, he then–
Paulette: Auditing is like, like therapy in which people hold onto a machine called an E-meter.
Hubbard: One of the most misunderstood objects that anybody has anything to do with.
Paulette: It used to be just two soup cans. Now it’s a little more sophisticated and cost about a thousand dollars.
Hubbard: A meter simply shows where an individual is aberrated.
Paulette: The auditor will ask questions again and again, very repetitive questions often.
Hubbard: An auditor has to be able to get questions answered.
Paulette: What have you done?
Hubbard: The question is asked.
Paulette: What don’t you want me to know about?
Hubbard: And individual who is being processed finally has to answer the question.
Paulette: So that’s a basic thing that people pay huge amounts of money, they go up levels.
Hubbard: Their IQ goes up, their abilities increase, they’re more capable of handling their lives.
Paulette: You will have no problems, you will have no health issues.
Hubbard: Tend to get well and recover from certain illnesses.
Paulette: If you had money problems, they would be gone.
Hubbard: To make more money, to be happier in his environment.
Paulette: To live a better life.
Hubbard: He can do his job better. He can live better.
Paulette: Basically the man can be more able.
Hubbard: And that’s all we want in Scientology.
Paulette: When you reach the top level–
Hubbard: It’s a finite state known as clear.
Paulette: They believe that they can leave their body. That they can move ashtrays with their minds. One of these things where most people should say, hey, this is too good to be true.
I decided to go undercover for a weekend to what they call the Org. I just took the very first communications course. They had me do their basic technique, which was called bull baiting.
Archival: In TR0 Bullbait, the coach attempts to distract the student or break concentration in any way.
Paulette: They have people sitting there looking at each other, you have like a partner.
Archival: Ready? Start.
Paulette: Staring at you, you know.
Archival: You have an eye tic. Flunk, you flinched.
Paulette: They call it confronting, but it’s basically staring.
Paulette: Trying not to blink.
Archival: Oh, you really think you’re smart now, you really think you have it together, huh? Why your eye jumping around like that, huh, huh, huh?
Paulette: You have to try to say the most disgusting things you can to make them react.
Archival: Hmm, look at you, looking like some bedpan in a mental institution.
Interviewer: What did people say?
Archival: Ha! Pay attention when I’m speaking.
Paulette: I don’t know if we can say this kind of stuff on the, on the radio!
Archival: Be careful. Be careful I could be dangerous!
Paulette: But you know, references to, you know, cunt and, I wanna fuck you, I wanna suck you.
Archival: Is that your mother in the corner? What’s your mom doing over there?
Paulette: You know, I wanna fuck your mother.
Archival: She needs to be home.
Paulette: And I think that was probably the mildest of them, all of them. It was really bad.
Archival: Okay, that’s a pass, you did real good.
Paulette: And then I left the group and began snooping around. I made believe I was looking for a ladies room or something and I just kept walking and looking. And I found an empty room with some papers. And they listed a woman’s name, and they said she was an enemy of mankind. Her crime was that she had pushed five men down a flight of stairs. And I thought, that’s just not very likely. I didn’t have very much time, but they were maybe four or five people, papers on each one of them. And I quickly wrote down first and last names. And all of them had unlisted numbers. In the sixties, early sixties, that was very unusual for people to have unlisted numbers. And I wondered if they were being harassed, and if perhaps that was the purpose of these policy letters as they were called, to get people to harass them.
They suspected me by the way because I had been asking questions. One must never ask questions in a cult. So, I was called into what’s called the ethics officer. He said, “I wanna talk to you.” He was very, very stern. “You have to come in now,” and I said, “Well I can’t, I have to go to the bathroom.” All I could think of to get away, you know, and they said no, and I said, “Well if you don’t let me go I’ll pee right on the rug.” And I said it firmly enough that he looked at me and thought, hmm, I don’t know, this woman, maybe she means it. So he let me go, and I dashed out of the building. The whole thing was a very sinister experience right from the very beginning. It was not my intention initially to write a book. It was just to write article. It’s just that I got so much information. The truth about Hubbard, the truth about the E-meter, Scientology and celebrities, all these different categories. And that actually became the basis for my book, The Scandal of Scientology
“You may have seen them standing on three quarters with a handful of leaflets, distributing them aggressively to passerby. You may not have even noticed them at all because they look so much like you and me, except maybe a little younger, and sometimes a little more like a hippie.”
Oh my book wasn’t, it even still isn’t a devastating expose of Scientology.
“Step into the exciting world of the totally free.”
And you know what happened to the book? I had finished typing the manuscript, the paper was, it was like paper, really almost like tissue paper, and I put the manuscript on the floor to mail to the publisher, and my dog peed on it, my little Tiki. Ha. I should have said at that point, this is a very bad omen, I should have quit right then and there. I did not.
One day I got the first death threat. I don’t remember now, but it was something along the line of we’re going to kill you, but it didn’t say why, so I was sort of, huh? And things really began to escalate. Whenever I tried to leave the house, there was somebody outside following me all the time and they were taking photographs of me and unbeknownst to me they were writing my name and phone number up on men’s bathroom walls all over the city, you know, for a good time call Paulette. I was getting some of the most obscene phone calls. Men wanting a good time and describing what they thought a good time would be. And then there were all kinds of things we found, that my phone had been tapped, and suddenly
Voiceover: Dear fellow tenant, there is a woman of very bad character who has recently taken residence in our building.
Paulette: All three hundred tenants in the building received an anonymous smear letter that a woman had moved into the building.
Voiceover: This thirty year old sick child is an example of what the scum of the society is capable of.
Paulette: Who is a prostitute.
Voiceover: Illicit parties and sexual perversions.
Paulette: With venereal disease.
Voiceover: Noticeably swollen from an attack of venereal disease.
Paulette: Who had molested a two-year-old baby girl
Voiceover: Sexually abuse a two-year-old baby girl.
Paulette: And by the way the reason for that bizarre little statement was I had written in my book the case of a Scientology minister who had sexually molested this girl. So they wanted to make sure I knew they had written that. As if there was any question in my mind.
Voiceover: You don’t have to take my word for it, it’s easy to say for yourself. She’s thirty years old with the build of a ten year old child. Her nose is very large, and not unlike that of a Halloween witch. She is a tenant in apartment 3-H. Her name is Miss Paulette Cooper.
Paulette: It was very, very embarrassing as you can imagine, walking around, I went in the elevator and people are saying, you really think a prostitute moved in here? But the thing is, a lot of it was very childish. I felt like I could spot one of their spies because they were staring, and they were so bad. Upsetting in the aggregate, but silly.
There was a flower delivery. Very well-dressed black man rang my doorbell. As it turns out, I was not in my apartment at the time. My second cousin, she had just come to the apartment, I was out.
Paulette: And he unwraps the flowers, and there was a gun. Put the gun to her head, pulled the trigger. We don’t know if it’s jammed, if it was empty oh, but she began screaming, and then he ran off. That was the first time I really became afraid for my life.
Maybe a week or so later, I get a visit from the FBI. They said that Scientology claims to have received bomb threats, and named me as a likely suspect. I honestly thought it was the harassment of the week, I used to think of things that the harassment of the week, what are they going to do this week, you know? So I just read the whole thing someone casually, and didn’t worry about it. Next thing I know, I’m subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.
Grand jury rooms are very very large, and when I walked in there were a lot of people staring at me. There were two bomb threats involved. I was up for 5 years in jail for each letter. If I denied doing it and was convicted of it, they would add five years for perjury. So I was up for fifteen years in jail. And I still was pretty confident, and then I, when I saw the letters I actually was confident because it was such an obvious attempt to make it look as if it was me.
“I know you’re all around me everywhere.”
You know, talked about books.
“These damn books, they are closing in on me.”
I had just had an operation, so it referred to my operation.
“I hurt. My operation–“
The letters were the dumbest,
“My tongue is swollen.”
Stupidest things you’ve ever seen in your life.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this, but you are all out to get me.”
There was no way any intelligent person could ever think that I would write something like that.
“I give you one week before Scientology is a exploding volcano.”
I mean it was just insane, and it was almost a relief when I saw the letters.
“I’ll bomb you, I’ll kill you, if my friends don’t do it, then I’ll do it.”
The prosecutor, he had a nervous twitch in his leg. When he was getting worked up, his leg would twitch even more. He kept asking me these, what I thought were somewhat stupid questions, again and again. “Are you on drugs? Have you ever seen these letters? Do you understand what I’m saying? Why did you touch this paper?” At that point I was just confused. Then his leg really began shaking, “If you’ve never seen these letters before, and if you’ve never touched these letters before, could you tell me how your fingerprint got on one of them?”
The whole room collapsed in front of me. The room actually began spinning. I think I fainted sitting up, because I realized how incredibly serious the all was. Imagine if you will, to be put in this kind of situation. You’re accused of something, you have no idea what it’s about, you’re going to be bankrupted paying for it, and you may go to jail. And yet it was very important that I not lose my cool, because after all, I’m supposed to be crazy bomber, you know.
Interviewer: Do you remember what you did after you walked out of that room, did you go somewhere, did you have a drink or something?
Paulette: I think I had a very strong drink, I think I probably had four very strong drinks, I was drinking a lot during those days. I was living on vodka and valium, tomato juice, and one egg a day, I went down to eighty-three pounds, I couldn’t sleep. The anxiety was there, underneath my throat, no matter what I did. This was stark-raving terror of what I faced. Jail, public humiliation. Once the trial started, it was going to hit the papers. I was going to be the scandal du jour of the New York Post and the Daily News. And I knew that no editor was ever going to give a writing assignment to somebody accused of sending bomb threats to the people that she wrote about. And remember that bomb threats are terrorist crimes, they tend to put people in jail and ask questions later.
I should backtrack a little bit by saying that I had a boyfriend, we talked marriage, we talk to children, but I became so depressed, couldn’t even get out of my robe, I mean I was just, I could no longer make love, that he had left me. And this other guy came into my life, Jerry Leben. But it was a completely platonic relationship. He would walk the dog and he paid half the rent and he listened to me. If you’ve ever had a friend who has some horrible, horrible, horrible nightmare, and just keeps talking about it, you know that after a while, you don’t want to listen. And that’s what had happened really with my friends who began avoiding me, because they knew that things were just terrible and that’s all I was going to talk about. So, he was anxious to hear me, he was great. Every night, he would go up to the roof, there was a swimming pool at the roof of this new building. A couple of times, he got me to go up there, and he’s a really gutsy guy, he jumped up on the ledge, and he says come on Paulette, you can do it. Show those bastards that you’re not afraid of anything. Here’s somebody who once stowed away on an ocean liner, and had once been so gutsy, and I just trembled down below, I couldn’t do anything.
What happened with that, he had a very common name. And one day I was looking through the Scientology Publications, and I did see the name Jerry Leben. The notion that he was a Scientologist was ridiculous, but, when I mentioned the situation to my lawyers, they got panicked, and they said, “Well, who is this guy you’re living with?” I said to Jerry, I said, “Look, I know you’re okay, but my lawyers are concerned, and, you know, they think, you know, maybe you have something to do with Scientology.” He turned on me, and he said, “Now you’ve become totally paranoid, I’ve been your best friend, and you don’t even believe me anymore, you’ve really gone off the deep end.” He left, stormed out, disappeared. And I felt even worse, because then I had really nobody.
I knew he was right, but I was just totally paranoid and falling apart, didn’t trust anybody anymore. And then I couldn’t even look people in the eye. There was one night where I kind of saw evil for the first time. I fell asleep about two in the morning and I woke up at about four. Suddenly woke up with this icy, icy terror. I don’t think I even understood, I never believed until all this that people could be evil. Maybe that’s why I’m still, I read all this stuff about, you know, people suffering. Famine in China, gulags in Russia. Basically it’s evil. It’s horrible, what we’ve done to people throughout the history of the world. Believing that you have a better way, you are superior, you can destroy people who do not fit into your master plan. That was the first time that I realized there was some true evil in this world. And I was frightened. Horrified.
The worst day was my 31st birthday. Everything had gone wrong that day. A book of mine had come out, and the first review was bad. And I had been saving Valium pills, I didn’t take every one I had, and I had saved a whole bunch of them for the trial, which at that point was about three months away. I had decided that if I had to go to trial on this, rather than be totally humiliated and humiliate my parents and probably lose, that I would kill myself the night before. But I was so hysterical, drunk, depressed, I began taking the Valium that night. I just kept drinking, and I wrote a suicide letter to my parents explaining that I was Justin too much pain, but I love them, and that they should understand. Fortunately, a girlfriend from college called me. And when she realized the state I was in, she just kept me on the phone, she wouldn’t let me hang up until I had drank so much that I, you know, I just sort of passed out. I can’t say the next day things looked better, but at least the next day I didn’t kill myself.
I had volunteered to take lie detector tests, and they had this guy test me who was their police person. He spent a half-hour screaming at me before, telling me that I was obviously guilty, and by the time I took the test, I was so agitated, he said, “Oh yeah,” he says, “Obviously guilty,” and he would testify. Then we went to another expert to try to negate his results, I was so stressed I couldn’t even pass the control question, where they start by saying, “Well, did you kill JFK?” And I said, “No!” And he said, “Ah, lying, you did.” You see? All in all, I ended up taking four of them, and none of them were anything we could use. So I was in a position where, we have a fingerprint on a terrorist document, and I had quote failed the lie detector test. I was desperate, I mean we tried hypnosis, we tried everything. There really was nothing left for me to prove my innocence except truth serum test.
I went around to a couple of doctors and they wouldn’t do it because I weighed eighty-three pounds. It’s anesthesia, they put you under. They said, “You could die.” And I said, “I don’t care. If I have to go to trial and going to kill myself anyway.” We found a doctor, a very prestigious doctor at Mount Sinai. When he heard the story, that this really was a last-ditch effort, he agreed. I went into a medical room, I laid down, and the doctor was there. And the lawyers were there. And my parents were there. Oh yeah, my big fear during the test was that my parents were present and I wondered how much I was going to say either about my somewhat active sex life during the sexual revolution, and also the pot smoking, both of which would have really shocked my parents. I don’t know because I never had the guts to ask them afterward what I had said, but um, anyway.
He put the needle in the back of my hand. I remember seeing the doctors and the lawyers looking at each other. I was told afterwards it was because it took me a long time to go under, and the reason was that I had so much alcohol in my system. And then I had no idea what happened. And they were asking me questions, and one of them was, “What were bombs made of?” I didn’t know what bombs were made of. And apparently they kept asking me, “Who sent it?” And I kept saying Scientology.
When I came to, which was several hours later, everybody is smiling and happy and telling me there’ll be no trial and not to worry. The doctor was so angry that the government was putting me through this, when I was so obviously innocent, that he said that if they continued with the trial, not only would he testify for me, but he was chain himself outside the courtroom to protest the trial.
Interviewer: Would you say that the truth serum was like a turning point?
Paulette: Yes, it was a turning point. At that point the government began to look for ways to get out of the case. When the government prosecutes the wrong person, they want to make sure that they don’t come out looking bad. So they wouldn’t just drop the charges. They agreed to postpone the trial for one year, not drop it, postpone it for one year. And if at the end of the year Scientology did not claim to have received any more bomb threats, and I went to a psychiatrist for the year, they often make that a precondition, and you have to pay for the psychiatrist of course, okay. I didn’t want to do it cause to me the whole thing was very humiliating, but I had to do something, and I had to pretty much accept whatever was offered. I agreed and at the end of the year, they dropped the charges. On the other hand, I knew that any time, if there was ever anything like bomb threats that Scientology claimed I did that I would be accused and, because they didn’t, they weren’t sure whether I did it or not, they just weren’t sure whether they would win the case or not, that’s a big difference. So I had this over my head for years. It was a continuation, more lawsuits, more anonymous letters, more being followed. They were not good years.
I would have liked to, I think, to have just crawled under a rock or something, but people kept contacting me. All these people that had all these problems with Scientology and had nobody to go to, nobody to talk to, they all began calling me and contacting me and asking for help, and telling me these terrible stories. If you called the district attorney in California and said you were having trouble with Scientology, they’d say well we can’t help you, they’re a religion, but there’s a woman in New York named Paulette Cooper and she has a listed phone number, and she will help you. I was the only voice in the wilderness willing to try to help these people and stand up the Scientology, of course every time I open my mouth publicly, they say it again. They sued me nineteen times all over the world. And they would do things like five male attorneys cross-examine me while videotaping me and asking me questions like, “How long do your periods last?” to try to humiliate me so I would back off. I didn’t want to be an activist, I wanted to live a normal life, get married, have children, but I couldn’t turn my back on all these people, even though I really wanted to just quit the whole thing. Also I did, to be honest, I wanted revenge. And if I had quit they would have won. And I just didn’t want that.
Now flash forward, okay, October 1977.
Voiceover: Church of Scientology documents seized by the FBI indicate that the church has been waging an extensive sophisticated campaign to identify attack and discredit its enemies, including–
Paulette: I was then doing some travel writing, and I came back, I was flying back from Africa, and they used to give out free Herald Tribune newspapers, and I opened it up, and I thought, oh, please, maybe they’ll finally find something that proves my innocence. And there’s the story, a very small story.
Voiceover: Scientologists obtained the personal stationary of a woman, typed a bomb threat on it, mailed it to a Scientology office, and reported the threat to police.
Paulette: I just got chills even remembering it.
Voiceover: The woman, who had written a book critical of Scientology, was arrested, charged with making a bomb threat, and charged with perjury when she denied doing it. She suffered a nervous breakdown before the case…
Paulette: And I just started crying because I knew finally I was going to be able to prove my innocence.
The papers released, I went down to Washington DC to look at them, and one of the first papers I see are a series of typewritten notes, and it was saying things like what I was wearing, what I was doing, and then saying things like, today she’s talking suicide, wouldn’t this be great for Scientology. I realize that there’s only one person that knew the things that were in there, and that was Jerry. When he went up to the roof every night to get air, he was calling in whatever I was saying and doing to Scientology. Then I began thinking about those nights that he wanted me to get up on that ledge with him, because the roof was thirty-three flights up. I believe to this day, that he would have pushed me. Nobody would have known. They would have thought that I committed suicide. And this guy was very gutsy, we’ve since found out his real name, and that he used to be a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war, so he had guts. Oh by the way, the happy part about seeing pictures of him again is that he’s gotten very very fat, [laugh].
The main thing that I found with something called Operation Freakout.
Voiceover: Operation Freakout. USB1 NE Sec working in liaison with Opps-Nat if needed. NE Sec, and AGINY organization–
Paulette: After they had failed to get me jailed in 1973, they attempted again.
Voiceover: Major target: to get PC, Paulette Cooper, incarcerated in a mental institution, or jail, or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks.
Paulette: The new plan included having me threaten to bomb local shops.
Voiceover: Locate a laundry near PC’s place, and make sure she isn’t known there.
Paulette: Send bomb threats to Henry Kissinger.
Voiceover: Write the following letter on a library typewriter: “You are a traitor to your people, you bastard. You are one of them. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to bomb you. I have connection.”
Paulette: And threaten to bomb–
Voiceover: Two Arab consulates in NYC, from telephone booth nearest PC’s place. Telephoner should be a girl that sounds like PC and the call should be fast, to the point, and impinge. It should go as follows: “I just came back from Israel.” Pronounce this the way it is pronounced in Israel. “I’ve seen what you fucking bastards do. At least you’re not going to kill my sister. I can get away with anything. I’m going to bomb you bastards.” Say something in Jewish, swear or mumble something Jewish.
Paulette: Haven’t read that one in years! Wow. [Laugh].
Interviewer: Yeah. [Laugh]
Paulette: Woo! [Laugh].
When the documents came out, the press finally begin to turn on Scientology. 60 Minutes was doing a major piece.
News Anchor: We wonder just who are these Scientologists, and what they’re doing.
News Anchor: But first, to a tale of serial harassment so extreme, it’s hard to comprehend. American Journalist
News Anchor: Journalist working in New York in the late 60s and early 70s stumbled into Scientology.
News Anchor: Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper.
News Anchor: Paulette Cooper read a book back in 1971.
Paulette: Many many newspapers did stories.
News Anchor: This is one of Hubbard’s ethics orders on critics of Scientology, so called suppressors.
Paulette: And it was a very exciting time. Different people knew different things, and they were willing to speak.
News Anchor: Tonight, a former Scientology Insider will allege there is much we don’t know about this famously powerful, wealthy, and secretive institution.
Archival: You don’t talk to people who are not Scientologists, your life becomes Scientology.
Archival: The most stigmatized religion in the country. The Church of Scientology is well known for being wealthy, defensive, and litigious.
Archival: They want to call themselves The Church, fine. So why is a church splitting up families?
News Anchor: One of the church’s most prominent figures has resigned and denounced the church’s leadership.
Archival: I have been harassed, I have been sued twice.
Archival: I was put in a trash can.
Archival: I have been followed.
Archival: Cold water poured over me.
Archival: I want people to have an opinion, I don’t think being impartial is the right position to take here.
Paulette: All those years people thought I was crazy, I was the only one saying that this is a bad group. Now people really know it. When I saw that there were other people willing to step forward, I could set back and live my life.
Even now, how many years later, when somebody said something happened in 1974 I think to myself, oh, the year after the frame-up, it still defines me. Almost every week, sometimes more, I get emails from people who tell me that they got out because of me and thank me. But now that I’m much much older, I say to myself, why should somebody else’s happiness be more important than mine. People don’t walk all over me like they used to. But I think that comes with maturity. There are people that are always going to try to take advantage of weaker people. But there’s also goodness. There are always people that will try to do something about it. They may get snuffed out, but there are sensitive people in this world. I think I was one of them.
Nick: That’s it for Love and Radio. This episode was produced by Steven Jackson, with fact-checking support from Michelle Harris, narration by Cate Cahan and Dan Epstein, and additional voices by Tommy Jackson and Nate Jackson. Love and Radio is produced by Steven Jackson and Julia DeWitt. We are a production of PRX’s Radiotopia whose executive producer is Julie Shapiro. Radiotopia is made possible thanks to the generous support of our listeners. Thank you.
Now, I generally don’t like to brag, but I should point out that our team of editorial artists have been absolutely killing at this season. Although you may not be aware if you’re just listening to the audio. So head on over to loveandradio.org, and you can see amazing illustrations of everything that we’ve done. Thanks for listening.
Interviewer: I’ll just get a level, can you tell me, tell me about your day.
Paulette: Oh, it was great fun, went to a major, major luncheon with many people that I knew, and, oh Paul, you’ll be delighted to know I didn’t buy a seven hundred dollar dachshund bag–
Paulette: –that was absolutely precious, and when I knew that it was a um, what do you call it, a um, Timmy Woods, they dropped the price to five hundred, and I still didn’t buy it. [Laugh]. Anyway, so that’s the story of how I did not buy a bag that was made for me. But, I’m not crazy, I’m not going to spend five hundred bucks on a bag. Even if they came down two hundred.