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How We Escaped The Clutches Of A Cult

The Mirror, December 26, 1998, Saturday

From geoff.bronner@dartmouth.edu Sat Jan  2 13:09:25 GMT 1999

Not a bad article considering the tabloid source... doesn't seem to be on
their web site.

FEATURES; Pg. 12, 13, 14



By Steve Tooze

Farmer's son Gary Fry, 31, lives in Milton Abbas, Dorset, with his wife Carol
and children Sam, three, and two-year-old Megan. Six years ago, his life was
turned upside-down when he was lured into joining the Scientologists, a US
-based cult that counts John Travolta as one of its converts.

I was easy prey for the Scientologists because they seemed to make a prophecy
about my life come true. In 1992, a clairvoyant told me I was going to join a
group who would show me the truth.

That appealed to the part of me that had been searching for a spiritual meaning
for nine years since I was 16. True enough, a month later, I was approached in
the street by a Scientologist with a questionnaire. We talked and I bought a
book from him called Dianetics which explained that the Scientologists could
help me to become "clear" - a perfect state of consciousness where you deal with
everything logically instead of emotionally.

I was intrigued. So, a few days later, I visited their headquarters in Poole to
ask some questions. I was shown into a plush suite where I answered 200 personal
questions. My answers were fed into a computer which supposedly analysed my IQ,
my energy levels and my confidence.

To my dismay, I was below average in everything, but the Scientologists promised
to show me how to become far above average - by joining them.

I paid for two courses of "personal auditing" and spent 12 hours analysing
myself to discover whether I was social or anti-social. Scientologists believe
everyone fits into one of these categories. They explain it with lots of
scientific terminology but, simply put, social people are good and anti-social
people are bad. And anti-social people are those who disagree with Scientology.

Once I'd accepted that idea, they convinced me that there are two kinds of
minds: reactive or clear. Reactive minds are full of emotion and negative
thoughts, while clear minds are perfect and work on logic alone.

The brainwashing made me paranoid. I was told I could be badly affected by the
negative thoughts of those around me. So I feared my friends and family - or
anyone who argued against Scientology - was ruining my spiritual development.

Scientologists teach you to ignore criticism. I was taught to change the subject
if Mum or Dad asked me to do something that interfered with my "studies", and
then carry on as if they had never asked. My family were worried about my
strange behaviour, but I refused to listen.

I had spent more than pounds 21,000 - all the money I'd saved to buy a house -
in only three months on expensive Scientology courses. I spent three evenings a
week and every weekend at the Scientologists HQ, studying or taking part in
"counselling" where I was encouraged to confess my innermost fears and darkest

These sessions made me feel that I was a bad person who needed to spend even
more money on courses to become perfect. I became introverted, self- critical
and suspicious of all non-Scientologists. If my parents hadn't decided to act I
would never have left.

One evening Mum and Dad showed me a video about Scientology. It showed the
founder, L Ron Hubbard - who I'd been taught to see as a saint - as a liar and a
bigamist. It also claimed that many ex-members had taken their own lives or
ended up in mental institutions.

I refused to believe any of it at first. My Dad screamed and shouted and told me
what an idiot I was being. That simply confirmed to me that outsiders were
"reactives" trying to undermine my beliefs.

My Mum stayed calm, however, and kept asking me questions which played on my own
buried doubts about the amount of money I was spending on the cult.

I didn't sleep a wink that night and when I found Mum crying at the breakfast
table the next morning, I promised to leave Scientology. I talked to her all
day, confessing everything and admitting I'd spent pounds 21,000, not the pounds
190 I'd originally told her. That evening I rang the Scientologists and told
them I was leaving.

They promised to refund my money, but insisted I come to the HQ for an
"auditing" session to explain why I was leaving. Mum begged me not to go but I
felt it was my only chance of getting my money back.

I arrived to find that word had gone round that Gary Fry was leaving.
Scientologists "love bomb" their members, showering them with praise and
affection to make they feel loved and appreciated. I experienced the exact
opposite that day. I was treated like a leper. No one would look at me or talk
to me. It was very intimidating to be ignored by people who had acted like my
best friends the day before.

I felt my resolve starting to crumble and it was only by picturing my Mum crying
that I hung on to my determination to leave.

My auditing session was with a senior Scientologist who specialises in
convincing would-be leavers to stay. He spent hours trying to change my mind.
Only my promise to Mum stopped me cracking.

When I stood up to go, he said, "Your reactive mind will get bigger and finally
take you over, Gary. And remember... Scientologists always tell the truth."

This was a subtle threat. He knew my most intimate secrets because they had been
written down during my auditing sessions. I understood that he was planning to
use that information against me if I caused any problems.

I learned later that other ex-members have been blackmailed in just that way. I
was shaking all over as I left the building. I'd escaped, but they still had my
money and a real hold over my mind.

I got the money back by threatening legal action. They finally paid up in full a
few days before the scheduled court appearance.

At one point, an American private investigator confronted my parents. He was
scary and was obviously chosen to frighten us into dropping the case and keeping
quiet. He failed.

It was much harder to break my brain-washing. For a month or so, I threw myself
into my fence contracting business but my emotions were all over the place. I
became badly depressed and was convinced that people were following me. I
developed a hair-trigger temper and feared I'd never trust anyone again.

I considered suicide. The Scientologists had told me that reincarnation was real
and, as I still believed a lot of their teachings, I thought it might be better
to kill myself and come back in a new life with a clean sheet.

I was at my lowest when I met an ex-Scientologist called Bonnie Woods who
introduced me to Christianity. Her Pastor led me in a prayer session and I was
flooded with a feeling of peace.

That night I drove home a changed man. I feel I've discovered a faith that
doesn't want to take advantage of me and I'm training to become a full-time

Scientology almost wrecked my life. If anyone else is tempted to try it I'd say
don't, if you value your sanity.

[snip story about woman who was in the Children of God]

[snip story of woman who was in the International Church of Christ]



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