Posted by: cultxpt
Nov 22, 2:09 pm
Sunday Morning, January 23, 1994 Copyright 1994
MOUNTAIN OF MYSTERY
A Scientology sect's underground N.M. archive is an enigma to some
neighbors. Stories by Tom Sharpe.
[This caption is beneath a color photograph of a large complex of
buildings among trees:]
The main house at the Scientology sect retreat near
Trementina, N.M., cost almost $1.5 million to build, building
permits show. The retreat is patrolled by armed guards,
some neighbors say.
[This caption is beside an aerial color photograph of a three-story
large house on a hillside:]
The 5,500-square-foot caretakers residence, which cost $524,700 to
build, is said to house the entrance to the archive tunnel through one
of its top floors.
Photos by Greg Sorber / Journal
TREMENTINA -- High in the headwaters of the Rio Trementi-
na, a reclusive sect of the Church of Scientology has established
what is described as an archive to preserve for a millennium the
words of its founder. In January 1984, the California-
based Church of Spiritual Technology -- one of the parent
church's dozens of spinoffs during its 26-year legal
battle with the federal government over tax exemp-
tions -- began buying the first of a dozen tracts of
land some 50 miles east of Las Vegas, N.M.
In 1986, Church of Spiritual Technology officials
got the San Miguel County Commission to start
maintaining the 16-mile dirt road. Then the church
began tunneling into the side of a mountain.
By 1990, workmen had finished the tunnel, cleared an air
strip atop a mesa and built at least three luxury homes, valued
at $2.5 million. The main house is massive, with 12,000 square
feet of living space and 12 bedrooms.
But what goes on inside the remote, 4,175-acre spread known
as San Miguel Ranch remains a mystery to most on the outside
-- because church officials aren't saying.
In Las Vegas, ranch foreman Chuck Dunigan has for two
years chaired the Chamber of Commerce's Rails & Trails Com-
mittee, which sponsors a festival in June, but he won't talk
about the ranch because "I choose not to" and because "I am
not the spokesman."
[Here a map entitle "Scientology Archive" shows an area with Santa Fe
on the West and Tucumcari on the East. Las Vega, Trementina, the
Trementina River, and Chonchas Lake appear on the map. This caption
appears below the map: RUSS BALI/JOURNAL]
Repeated calls for more than a month to the media
spokesman of the Church of Spiritual Technology in Los Ange-
les have gone unanswered.
Neighbors give the ranch mixed reviews. One describes its
occupants as "real nice people." Others say they've heard that
armed guards patrol the perimeter.
According to The Associated Press, the Internal Revenue
Service on Oct. 1 restored the nonprofit, tax-exempt status of
Scientology and more than 30 spinoffs, including the Church of
The news agency reported the Trementina complex is one of
[Here the text is continued on page A8 with this large headline
across the top of the page: Scientology Archive a Mystery to
three archives for the works of Scientology's late
founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The other two are near Petro-
lia, Calif., and Crestline, Calif.
Hubbard was a science-fiction writer whose dissatis-
faction with mental-health care in the 1940s led to his
development of "Dianetics" and "Scientology."
By the time he died in 1986 -- when a chief lieutenant
announced the death to a gathering of Scientologists,
saying Hubbard had "willingly discarded the body" --
Scientology was being called the world's newest reli-
Despite the nonprofit status, the San Miguel County
Assessor lists the Church of Spiritual Technology and
its San Miguel Ranch as taxable. The assessor values
the land at some $600,000 and the improvements at $2.5
million, and has billed the church for about $33,000 in
1994. The church has not yet asked San Miguel County
for any exemption from taxes.
Trementina, "turpentine" in Spanish, is named for the
pine oil once harvested there. The ranching country is
so vast and sparsely populated that F-111 jets from
Canon Air Force Base in Clovis regularly practice low-
altitude flying over the rugged mountains that drop
dramatically into the broad, flat Canadian River valley.
The ranch is well situated for privacy, with buildings
tucked away at the base of a mountain and not visible
from roads. The 16-mile dirt road leading up to the
property is blocked about four miles from the houses
by a padlocked, white, metal-pipe gate.
[Two small pictures are shown, one of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology
found and one of San Miguel Ranch foreman Chuck Dunigan.]
Jose Mufniz, who is building a house near where the road leaves
paved NM 419, said he has never visited the ranch, but has heard that
armed guards protect it.
"I'm a religious person," said Mufniz, who moved from Santa Fe a
year ago. "If you've got God on your side, why do you need guns?"
Alfonso Sanchez, a neighbor whose wife has worked at the ranch,
said he knows of no one carrying guns.
Sanchez said ranch employees helped him build a new, steel-frame
house after his old one burned down Nov. 5.
Sanchez said the San Miguel Ranch contributed to his restoration
of the nearby San Rafael Chapel. He also said the ranch paid the major
share of the costs for the Farmers Electric Cooperative in Clovis last
year to extend electric lines 11 miles to the ranch and several
including his own.
"Those are real nice people," Sanchez said, adding that ranch
foreman Dunigan had offered to fly in an airplane from Albuquerque,
in case of a medical emergency. He said Dunigan's wife flies into
the ranch occasionally from her home in Los Angeles.
Sanchez said his wife cleaned houses on the ranch until it "ran out
of money" two years ago.
Gilbert Gallegos, whose sister Pauline sold the church its
tract of land in San Miguel County a decade ago, said he, too, has
the archive is heavily guarded, though he has never been on it.
"I've heard they've spent lots of money," said Gallegos, from
Trujillo. "The last I heard was that they were kind of running out of
Burke Denman, a Santa Fe building contractor who worked on the
four years ago, calls stories about guns on the ranch "baloney." He
the only gun he recalls was a .22-caliber rifle used to kill rat-
"They were one of the most pleasant clients I've ever
dealt with," he said. "They're neat people and obviously
Movement has grown
The Church of Spiritual Technology's "goal of longevity embraces
a minimum of 1,000-year life for the materials it handles," say
documents filed by the church with Humboldt County officials in
northern California, for the Petrolia archive.
The Church of Scientology claims 8 million followers
worldwide and nearly $400 million in assets.
IRS records released late last year say that before
Hubbard died at age 74, he bequeathed $30.3 million to
archive his works, according to a recent story in the St.
The IRS records show that the Church of Spiritual
Technology spent $13 million in 1992 to preserve
"scripture" on 1.8 million stainless steel plates and his
lectures on 187,000 nickel records that can be played
back with a stylus as crude as a thorn in the event of
some future cataclysm, The Associated Press reported.
Linda Simmons Hight, media relations director for
the Church of Scientology International in Los Angeles,
said the Church of Spiritual Technology is a "separate,
free-standing" corporation that is "in charge of
archives" for Scientology.
Hight said she lived in Taos in the early 1970s and
has been a practicing Scientologist for some 20 years,
but knows nothing about the Trementina archive or the
two in California.
"I'm not quotable," she said of her lack of knowledge
about the archive project.
Robin Geer, corporate secretary for the Church of
Scientology of New Mexico, said in a telephone inter-
view from the church's Albuquerque office on Menaul
that she doubts the Church of Spiritual Technology is
connected to the Church of Scientology. Denise Jacobs,
president of the New Mexico church, has not been
available for comment.
The existence of the New Mexico archive was first
revealed in September 1986. A story in the Las Vegas
Optic newspaper quoted Russ Bellin, Church of Spiritu-
al Technology ranch manager, who said 14 to 17 men
were working on the 14-by-10-foot tunnel.
Bellin, who now lives in California and has not been
available for comment, said in the story the sandstone
formation would keep the tunnel's contents at a steady,
dry 63 degrees which is "perfect for the preservation
In January 1990, freelancer Sally Ooms published a
story in the Santa Fe New Mexican about the project.
She quoted Church of Spiritual Technology administra-
tor Jane McNairn of Los Angeles about how the organi-
zation got the underground-archive idea from the Mor-
McNairn said Scientology lectures would be digitally
recorded onto gold-plated, chrome compact discs, and
books would be printed using archival-grade papers,
cloths and threads made from pure cotton and linen
McNairn, who has not been available for comment
for this article, told Ooms the Church of Spiritual Tech-
nology is only seeking privacy. The site in central San
Miguel County was chosen because "it is away from the
pollution of a major city and it is an area that is not
likely to be a nuclear target," McNairn said.
About the same time Ooms' story appeared, Las
Vegas city and San Miguel County officials toured the
Hilario Rubio, Jr., a former county planner, recalled
that he toured the archive with former City Councilor
Dana Lucero, former County Manager Edward Lucero,
former County Attorney Arthur Bustos and a deputy
"There are so many rumors about it," said Rubio, who
now works for the regional housing authority. "They
built nice houses and a tunnel in the mountain to store
records -- exactly what they said they would do."
Bustos recalled that the tunnel was "the size you
could put a train in" with several "finger corridors" off
the main shaft.
But those now in office say all they know about the
San Miguel Ranch is what they read in a newspaper
four years ago.
Last September, a group of State Police officers
toured the archive at the request of the Churchg of Spiritual
[Two pictures are shown. The upper shows a man standing before a
house, perhaps one-room made of adobe. A dog and construction
materials are near the house. The caption reads:]
Above: Jose Mufiiz, who is building a house some 16 miles
from the San Miguel Ranch where Scientologists have built
a archive complex, said he has never visited the ranch or met
any of its employees.
[A picture shows a road with six hairpin turns ascending a hill. The
Left: In an aerial view of the Scientology retreat near Trementina, an
airstrip can be seen on top of the mesa, the retreat is at lower
right, and the building housing the tunnel entrance is at left.
[A picture shows a locked iron gate across a two-track dirt road.
The caption reads:]
Below: The 16-mile dirt road leading up to the Scientology
property is blocked about four miles from the houses by a
padlocked, metal-pipe gate.
[The text of the article continues.]
"After what had happened in Waco, these people
came to us because they wanted to cool the rumors
some of the misconceptions that were going on,"
recalled Capt. David Velarde, formerly commander of
the Las Vegas office of the State Police.
Department of Public Safety Secretary Richard C de
Baca, who joined the tour, said that he visited the tun-
nel, the houses and watched a demonstration of docu-
ment preservation. He said video cameras are placed at
the tunnel's entrance, but that none of the San Miguel
Ranch employees carried guns.
Luxury in the wilderness
State Construction Industry Division records show
that contractor Burke Denman of Santa Fe built the
steel-frame, stuccoed buildings at the San Miguel
Ranch based on plans by architects from Mazria
Associates of Santa Fe.
Building permits for more than $2.3 million worth of
construction were taken out in 1989 -- including a near-
ly $1.5 million, 12,000-square-foot main house; a
$524,700 5,500 square-foot caretaker residence; a
$143,000, 1,500-square-foot guest house; and other
A Santa Fe mining engineer who worked on the pro-
ject described the underground tunnel to reporters
some four years ago as Y-shaped -- a 200-foot shaft
that branches into two 150-foot legs. The tunnel's
entrance, he said, was through one of the top floors of
the caretaker residence.
One workman employed there in 1989 and '90 said the
main house on the property had 12 bedrooms and was
"phenomenally elaborate." He said some of the church
officials on the scene were armed and spoke a language
he could not identify.
Others who worked on the project said they promised
their clients not to discuss the project publicly.
The State Corporation Commission has no listing for
the Church of Spiritual TecMology or the San Miguel
Ranch. But commission records indicate the Church of
Scientology of New Mexico was incorporated as a non-
profit entity in 1970, with an anticipated expiration
date of 2070.
Church Seeks World Conquest, Defector Says
Robert Vaughn Young, one of Scientology's
chief public spokesmen until his defection four
years ago, compares the underground archive
near Trementina to a "pyramid for the pharaohs."
"Nothing is ever done lightly or innocently," he
said. "Their goal is world conquest."
Young said the archive fits into Scientology's
top leadership's plan to create a 1,000-year repos-
itory for the works of its founder, L. Ron Hub-
He said another plan calls for above-ground
obelisks that would be engraved with Hubbard's
words in various languages.
In recent telephone interviews with the Journal
from his residence in the Los Angeles area,
Young said people involved in local chapters of
Scientology were zealots devoted to their cause.
"At that level, it's very harmless," he said.
"Those people really believe in what they're
doing . . .
"But as soon as you get into the organizational
level, which has to do with what you're licensed to
do, it gets very different. The organization
became incredibly paranoid and went into a siege
mentality in the mid-'60s."
In the 1970s, he said, paramilitary groups
sprang up in Scientology's ranks.
By the 1980s, Scientology's leadership "began
to devour itself," said Young, who left the organi-
zation in 1989. "There were always witch hunts
and purges to find their enemies."
He said the Church of Spiritual Technology was
created by top church leaders in 1982 "as a way to
get tax exemptions."
Linda Simmons Hight, media relations director
for the Church of Scientology International in Los
Angeles since 1992, said in a telephone interview
that since leaving his job with Scientology, Young i
has tried to make a living as an "expert for hire"
against the organization. !
Scientology is based on Hubbard's 1950 best-
seller, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental
Health," which calls for freeing one's mind from
trauma through intensive counseling called
"auditing," involving a lie-detector-like device
called an "electropsychometer" or "E meter."
One of Scientology's goals is to become a
"clear" -- a person who has rid himself of his or
her "reactive" mind so as to achieve virtually per-
fert mental and physical health. An even higher
goal is to become an "operating thetan" or "O.T."
-- a stage at which one supposedly remembers
his or her past lives. Hight, who said she is "in a
state of clear," said Scientologists believe "we
live again because we're immortal."
The process of reaching Scientology's advanced
stages can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,
according to some reports. Hight said that figure
was too high, but declined to name a figure.
"There is a system of fixed donations that vary
from person to person," she said.
According to "L Ron Hubbard: Messiah or
Madman?" by Hubbard's estranged son and
another disillusioned Scientologist, the elder Hub-
bard told a meeting of science-fiction writers in
1947: "If you really want to make a million . . . the
quickest way is to start your own religion."
Hight said Hubbard's son has since recanted
the 1987 book.
By the 1950s, Hubbard's book royalties had
made him "a millionaire several times over,"
according to church literature.
In the '60s and '70s, Hubbard bought three
ships. With his closest advisers, known collective-
ly as the "Sea Organization" or "Sea Org," he
sailed the north Atlantic and Mediterranean look- uc
ing for an entire country for Scientology. tu
According to the book co-authored by Hub-
bard's son, Sea Org members who made mistakes,
questioned Hubbard's authority or tried to leave ~
often were detained by what was known as the
"Rehabilitation Project Force," or RPF, and
forced to do "slave labor" in the lower decks of
ships or in the basement boiler rooms of build-
Scientology claims in its recently published
690-page guidebook, "What is Scientology?" to be
"the most open group on Earth." But Scientol-
ogy's tenets don't recommend talking to the
media. In a chapter called "Those Who Oppose ~
Scientology," Hubbard is quoted as saying that ~
there is no "good press." i~
"The politician, the reporter; the medico, the
drug manufacturer; the militarist and the arms
manufacturer; the police and the undertaker, to ~
name the leaders of the list, fatten only upon 'the
dangerous environment,'" Hubbard wrote.
"Even individuals and family members can be
Merchants of Chaos."