Harold and Lila Scales: a battle against cults

Teaneck Suburbanite/March 24, 1982

It is hard to believe that the impeccable beige hallway in the home of Harold and Lila Scales was once splattered with milk and groceries - the debris of the Scales' first attempt to rescue their son Jeffrey from the association of Sun Myung Moon, where he served as a top leader for almost six years.

Not only did the Scales eventually bring back their own son, but they are now working diligently to bring back others - the remaining three and one half million people involved in 3,000 cult networks Mrs. Scales is chairperson of the Citizens Freedom Foundation of NY and NJ and her husband, a local doctor, is on the board of directors of the national organization which is dedicated to information the public, the media, the clergy, mental health professionals and government officials about the dangers of mind control and destructive cultism, in one of their local lectures. The Scales are scheduled to speak tonight at the Magic Pan restaurant in Riverside Square.

When Jeffrey decided to leave Pennsylvania State University in 1971 to travel to Mexico, the Scales were not at all concerned about what they believed was the restlessness of a young man. On his way down the West Coast, however, Jeffrey was approached on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley by two young people who invited him to dinner. That was how the Scales' nightmare began.

"This was a young man who, when he was at Penn. Helped organize a rally of 10,000 war objectors. Three years later he was in Washington, D.C. taking part in a special Moonie prayer and fast rally for Richard Nixon. His whole personality had changed." Scales said. "They take you home to dinner, and "Love bomb" you. They sit around the table in rapture, hanging on every word you say. It makes you feel very accepted and it does something to your ego. Then they invite you for a weekend at one of their retreats. In Jeffrey's case it was a farm about ninety miles outside of San Francisco called Booneville.

Scales said that during a weekend indoctrination period young people are never left along. They are followed virtually everywhere and given little time to reflect on what is happening to them. They take part in discussion groups and go through a number of prayer and singing ceremonies. Repetitive prayers are used by the Moonies, which other cults use chanting or singing to create a similar trance-like state.

"One hundred thousand brain cells die every day and new ones form. If all you do day-after-day-after-day is continue to chant and use repetitive prayer you virtually begin to lose brain power. Your mind begins to go in a different direction." He explained.

Scales and his wife said they knew nothing about the Moon movement when their son first joined, but he sent letters explaining the idealistic world the young people were creating, letters of hope and optimism.

"It wasn't until my mother went out to visit him. She loves the kids, but there was just something she didn't feel was right." Mrs. Scales said, "She told us to go out and see for ourselves. But we felt if we went, we would have to either approve or disapprove of our son, and we did not want to do that. So we waited."

Heavenly deception

In the early days of the Moon cult, followers called themselves the International Re-education Foundation. The Scales received letters from their son outlining plans for the construction of a city at Booneville and the creation of a Moonie newspaper, now called the Washington Times. In the second year of Jeffrey's association with the Moonies, the Scales began to realize a grave problem existed.

"He came home and asked for money for a car. He said that he was taking courses at the university and there was really no way for him to use public transportation to get there. I asked him if the car would be in his name, and he said no, "Scales said "I ended up giving the organization $2,500 for the car. The kids were told to lie, especially to their parents. The called it heavenly deception."

It was almost two years before the Scales saw their son. Only after an emotional plea from his father, did Jeffrey come to Teaneck after the death of his paternal grandmother.

"Here was a kid, tall, healthy, robust, with a smile and a sense of humor. When Jeffrey walked through the door, we didn't recognize him. He had lost 50 pounds, he slumped. He had a book of the Divine Principles book under one arm and he looked sick. He had no interest in anything, in anyone - not even our little grandson, who is everyone's favorite." Mrs. Scales said "He wouldn't watch television, or listen to the radio, or even look at a newspaper. We saw a real behavior modification.

After a week with his family, Jeffrey seemed to come out of his shell, beginning to take part in conversations and enjoy television, but he still did strange things. The Scales found that at 1:00 a.m., while they were asleep, he was at a neighbor's house with a former girlfriend, trying to recruit her as a Moonie. The two things most important to Moonies are fund raising and recruiting new members. Jeffrey was successful at both.

Three months after his return to California, the Scales received a telephone call that Jeffrey and his college sweetheart Michelle, also a Moonie, were coming home to prepare to get married. Mrs. Scales said she was thrilled.

Crazy for God

"We invited her folks over and she went about picking out her wedding dress and invitations - all the preparations were done. My daughter, Lorna, who is five years older than Jeffrey, said there was something wrong. She kept asking Jeffrey if he really loved Michelle, who seemed to follow him around and was very subservient to him. It didn't seem natural." Mrs. Scales said. "That is the oriental way of a husband and wife, "Scales interrupted.

Three weeks after the couple returned to the Moonie retreat, Mrs. Scales said she received a call from her son that indicated he was not even seeing Michelle. The Scales decided not to interfere.

"There was a kid named Chris Edwards who Jeffrey recruited. The young man was from Montclair. Jeffrey was renamed Yakov by the Moonies and he became Chris' spiritual father. After Chris was in almost one year, his father hired Gaylen Kelly, the deprogrammer, and Ted Patrick to go to San Diego and kidnap Chris." Scales said. "From the moment Chris was picked up, we began to receive calls from Jeffrey. First he called to report that Chris had been kidnapped and said how terrible that was. He kept saying "You wouldn't do that, would you? That was when we got an idea to do the same thing. When Chris came out of it he wrote a very informative book called "Crazy for God."

A rabbi Scales called on for spiritual guidance said the family had two options: conservatorship or kidnapping.

"Since he didn't add leaving Jeffrey there as an alternative," Scales said, "I took that to mean we had to get the boy out."

Almost three years had passed since the Scales had seen Jeffrey and they were surprised when he called to say he was coming east with a number of other Moonie members to attend a rally in New York's Yankee Stadium. Mrs. Scales told her son he would be welcomed only if he spent the time with his family. Jeffrey agreed.

"We have a pool, and as soon as the kids got here we had them all in swimming suits outside, cooking and having a great time. They were almost childlike. They had no idea anything was going on, but we already had our plan," Mrs. Scales said. "On the day the group went into New York for the rally, Jeffrey stayed with us. That was the original agreement. We have a huge double car garage and while our son-in-law was out to the store with our son, we moved out our cars and moved in the van with Gaylen Kelly inside. We waited. There were three men in the house waiting and when Jeffrey walked through the door, the grabbed him. Groceries went all over the hall, a reminder I had with me for some time. Jeffrey looked at his father with such a look of betrayal. It was heartbreaking. Later he said that the look came because he felt we were being burglarized, but we remember better."

When the Moonies arrived back at the house, Jeffrey was gone. The Scales sent them away in their van. The phone calls however, continued through the night at both the Scales home and their daughter's. Security officers stayed in the Scales home to protect them against intrusion.

"The next morning I went to the building where they were being held and there were a lot of kids there. Parents knew about the rally and were snatching as many as they could. Jeffrey wouldn't speak to me. I sat there from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. waiting for my husband and daughter to arrive." Mrs. Scales continued. "I thought they were late, and decided to go downstairs at Jeffrey's suggestion to call them. When I went back upstairs the door was locked and the window inside was open. He had climbed out the window and down the side of this silo. He was barefoot and had no coat and it was hailing out. He did, however, have his wallet. We should have taken that away from him. He simply took a bus into New York, bought shoes and a coat and went to the Hilton Hotel. While he was sitting in the lobby there reading a bible he had also purchased, in walked his "team." He was the star of the afternoon rally. He had escaped. He disappeared back to California.

Three months later Michelle was saved from the Moonies through a legal procedure called conservatorship, a legal loop-hole, that existed for short time in California. While expensive and difficult the Scales called the state and put their names on a long list of parents seeking the same relief. When work came from California that the authorities were going to get Jeffrey, Mrs. Scales was booked on a 6 p.m. flight to San Francisco. Arriving at 2 a.m. she was briefed by two attorneys and asked to sign numerous legal documents. Then came the wait.

"There were two other sets of parents there. We had four cars and we were prepared. Since it was necessary for one of the parents to be within eye distance during this ideal, it was necessary to be prepared. I was called first. Jeffrey was on his way to a medical center for work on his teeth. He was surrounded and actually acted very calm. He asked to see all the papers, and he went along with the men. I guess he felt that after all that time, he could withstand any such deprogramming. The next day they got the other two kids." Mrs. Scales said. "The Moonies didn't like two of their leaders taken. They had people at every airport. We had to keep moving at least until the kids were deprogrammed. Until that time the Moonies could get them back and actually keep them. Since most kids signed their power of attorney over to the Moonies, they had certain legal rights.

"We found our way to Las Vegas and by that time the kids were much better," she continued. "We decided to go out to dinner to celebrated their coming out. My husband had arrived in California under the name of Dr. King and we wanted to have the young people see Liza Minnelli. While we were on line to go into the club Moon and his wife, East coast leader, Onni Durst walked by. We could not get out of there fast enough. We saw them one other time that evening. We were very afraid for the kids. We went back to the motel. During the week Onni Durst found us at one of the motels. She stood outside the door screaming. "I want Yakov back." That was Jeffrey's name. She stayed until the police took her away.

Jeffrey was taken to a rehabilitation center in Arizona where he stayed for one month. Since his escape from the Moonies almost five years ago, he has become a successful businessman in New Mexico, working with two old Penn State classmates. Dr. and Mrs. Scales are confident that their son will remain away from the Moonies and are now directing their efforts towards saving others.

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