Testimony, by Margery Wakefield - Next - Previous

Chapter 12

Back to Florida

I knew I had to do something about the anger that I was feeling. I felt as if I had been raped -- mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially.

I wanted to get my money back from Scientology. I estimated that I had spent more than $60,000 in the twelve years I had been a member.

I called Michael Flynn in Boston and told him that I wanted to sue. Again, he was very suspicious of me, because he had been "set up" before, and was wary of requests from ex-members wanting to sue.

He asked me to write him a letter detailing my history in the cult.

His phone line must have been tapped, because three days later there was a knock at the door of my small apartment in Madison. I opened the door, and there were three Scientologists from Flag, and one was holding an E-meter.

They knew about the call to Michael Flynn. They had come to "make peace."

They offered me a check for $16,000, but when I looked at the back of the check, there was a long statement typed above where I would have to sign, and the statement was a disclaimer saying that I would not sue, and would not hold Scientology responsible for anything that had happened to me.

I refused to sign.

They took me to a motel room on the other side of town. I went willingly because I was afraid of them. I knew they could kill defectors.

They wanted to do an ARC break session on the E-meter. I just told them over and over that I was no longer interested in Scientology. That was the last they ever tried to audit me.

Then they took out printed affidavits on which were printed statements implicating Michael Flynn and his brother, saying that they had coerced me into the lawsuit.

Again, I refused to sign.

One of the three men was Hugh Wilhere, my former friend from Flag. At one point he made a threat to me, saying something to the effect that he couldn't guarantee my safety if I didn't sign the papers. I knew he was saying that I could be killed.

We spent three days in the motel. They kept working on me non-stop to sign the papers. One of the papers was a promise not to sue.

I can't explain what happened, perhaps I was still under their influence after all, but after three days of this haranguing, I finally gave in. I signed the papers, and the check.

They drove me to a notary where the papers were notarized. The notary seemed suspicious, as if he suspected that something was not right here.

I took the check and gave it to my father. After all, it was his money and I didn't want it.

The Scientologists disappeared, once they had gotten what they wanted. What was really strange was that before he left, Hugh wired me a dozen roses. I didn't know what to think of that.

I called Michael Flynn and told him what had happened. I told him that I had decided not to sue after all.

That was in July of 1981.

I went back to working in the restaurant. But the anger was still there, burrowing a deep hole in my soul.

Finally, in October, I couldn't stand it anymore. I called Michael Flynn back, and said I had reconsidered. I told him the papers I had signed were signed under duress, and that I wanted to sue.

He said I would have to come out to Boston to talk to him.

I was in no condition, psychologically, to drive myself, so in October of 1981, my mother and I set out for Boston.

When we arrived at Michael Flynn's office, we were greeted with suspicion. Michael still thought I might be a "plant." But he did sit and talk with me.

He finally said that if I wanted to sue I would have to go to Florida, where there was an attorney who might represent me. The attorney's name was Walt Logan. Michael explained that the suit would have to be filed in Florida, because that was where I had last received services from Scientology.

So, we drove to Florida. For some reason, the attorneys (there were two of them) didn't want to meet us at their offices in Tampa, so we met in a hotel in Daytona Beach. I told them my story. They had me write up a complete account of all my dealings with Scientology, called a "curriculum vitae."

Then they told us just to wait until they contacted us.

My mother and I drove over to the beach in St. Petersburg and rented a motel room. And we waited. A month passed and still no word.

On Christmas Day, we bought a tiny Christmas tree and some lights and had an impromptu Christmas.

Finally, my mother had to return to Wisconsin. We looked around, and I rented a small furnished apartment in Clearwater, near a church that I had started attending.

When she left I was extremely lonely. The attorneys finally agreed to take my case, but when I asked when we would start, they seemed to be stalling me.

What I did not know at the time was that a Scientologist in California, named Ford Schwartz, was pretending to be out of Scientology, and he had told my lawyers that I was a "plant." And they believed him.

It wasn't until a year later, when Ford finally did get out of Scientology for real, that he contacted my lawyers and told them the truth, and then the work did begin on my case.

During the year in Clearwater, I tried to put my life back together. I got a job waitressing at a small restaurant near my apartment, and I started attending a Presbyterian church. I was still feeling very suicidal, so I sought out the help of a psychiatrist. He wanted to hospitalize me.

Meanwhile, the pastor of the church had made arrangements for me to give a speech on my experiences in Scientology.

When the psychiatrist, Dr. Alfred Fireman, threatened to Baker Act me into the hospital, I protested. (The Baker Act is a Florida law designed to involuntarily institutionalize people who are suicidal.) I told him I had to give this speech. But he wouldn't relent, and I drove to the hospital and was admitted.

On the day of the speech, I tried to get a pass from the hospital but was refused. I didn't know what to do.

Fate intervened. A security man came to our floor and told me that I would have to move my car. I saw my opportunity.

I was sent with a guard down to the parking lot, but the guard was distracted by a conversation with a female worker at the hospital. He let me go to my car by myself, and I simply drove off the lot and out into traffic.

I went back to my apartment and quickly showered and changed clothes for my speech. I showed up at the church, and it was packed with people, about 1200 people, some even standing in the balcony.

I gave my speech and got a standing ovation. Afterward, I answered questions. For some of the people in the audience, this was their first glimpse into the mysterious cult that had invaded their community. The speech was a success.

On the next day, which was Sunday, a large article appeared in the paper about my speech. I had given the speech under the name of "Lee," which was my middle name, because I was still afraid of the Scientologists.

I drove back to the hospital and re-admitted myself. I didn't want to be non-compliant with Dr. Fireman. I showed them the article about my speech. I don't think they had believed my story earlier and here was proof that I had told them the truth.

The staff was a bit angry with me for running away, but I stayed in the hospital for several weeks until I was finally released.

I stayed in Clearwater for a year, but I was very lonely. I had made one friend at the church and sometimes spent time with her and her family, but I wanted to be around more people my age. Also, I wanted to go back to school.

My mother came down for a visit, and we drove over to Tampa, to the University of South Florida. I had arranged an audition with a piano teacher there and he immediately accepted me as a student. I wanted to move to Tampa.

So we found an apartment near the campus, and my mother helped me make the move. I enrolled in the music school for piano lessons with my teacher.

I had also heard about a program at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, where you could study at home, and where you would be given credit for "life experiences." I decided to enroll in the program, and my father agreed to pay my tuition.

To support myself, I got a job working in a restaurant in the nearby mall.

But I was far from well. I was still having the panic attacks, and before long I ended up back in the hospital, this time at Northside Hospital in Tampa. It was to be the first of many stays.

In the hospital, I was put on medications and was again diagnosed as schizophrenic.

The medications made me feel tired and funny and as though I was walking through water. Every little chore, like getting up and dressed and showered in the morning required almost superhuman effort. I really didn't like the medications at all.

Sometimes, in the hospital, I would "lose time." There would be days, or parts of days, when I had no awareness of what was happening to me. I would start sentences and not remember in the middle of the sentence what I had started to say. I was lost in my thoughts. The other patients would laugh at me, and I thought this was extremely cruel. I was doing the best I could.

I had made a friend in Tampa, named Joan Capellini, who was the local volunteer who ran Cult Awareness Network in the area. Joan had befriended me after the speech I made in Clearwater.

One day I got a pass from the hospital to visit Joan at her home, and I showed her the handfuls of medications I was being forced to take.

She was angry.

"You're not schizophrenic," she told me. "You've been in a cult. Don't they understand that?"

I agreed with her. I hated the medications I was taking. So Joan and I planned my escape from the hospital.

We went back to the hospital and gathered up a few of my things, then just walked out the door. The security must have been lax that day, as it was a locked unit.

I went back to my apartment and once again tried to make sense of my life.

I managed to stay out of the hospital for awhile, but the fact was that I did need to be on some medications for my symptoms. Whenever I would have a serious panic attack, I inevitably would return to the hospital.

The panic attacks that I was having were extremely severe. When they would hit, I would become helpless, unable to do even simple tasks like dressing or taking a shower. The feelings would become unbearably painful to the point that I would lose consciousness, and it was usually at this point that I would check myself back into the hospital. I knew I couldn't function on my own.

So life continued in this way. I would have periods at home when I would be OK, and I would be able to study and make progress on my degree. I started to take my medications out of the hospital and that helped.

The blackouts continued, however. One day Joan took me downtown to see my lawyer, and I had no memory of the day at all. She took me to a restaurant for lunch, and I ordered a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich but I don't remember ordering or eating it.

Later, I told Joan about this.

"What was I like?" I asked her.

She told me that I just seemed very suggestible. Whenever she would suggest something, I would just say OK and do it. The BLT sandwich had been her idea.

I worked hard at my schoolwork from Eckerd. I was determined to make up for lost time and get a B.A. degree. I was in the Program for Experienced Learners.

I would go to the college and pick up my box of materials for each course. There would be books to read and essays to write which I would mail in to the school.

Finally, at the end of 1984, I graduated. I finally had a piece of paper that said I was something, and somehow that helped to make up for all the time I had lost in the cult.

I continued to feel very angry, however. I just couldn't stop obsessing about the cult. If I hadn't had the lawsuit to channel some of my aggression, I think I would have gone insane from the anger. I just felt so ripped off.

People would say to me, "Why don't you just forget about Scientology and get on with your life?"

This was never very helpful.

First of all, I couldn't just make the anger disappear. I had to work through it. It was a process. And secondly, I really was trying to get on with my life as best I could.

The twelve lost years continued to haunt me. I was still not free of Scientology. The anger that bored through my soul kept me attached to it just as if I were still in it.

I longed for the time when I would actually be free -- free from the memories and the nightmares. How long would it take?

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