She was Scientology royalty - served as L Ron Hubbard's 'Commodore Messenger' - but Janis Grady tells how an excoriating rant by leader David Miscavige over lack of preparation for a visit from Tom Cruise made her flee the church

Daily Mail, UK/September 22, 2017

By Laura Collins

Janis Gillham Grady was no ordinary member of the church - she was Scientology royalty.

Her mother Yvonne Gillham-Jentzsch founded the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre. Her father Peter Gillham espoused the Scientology creed around the globe. Her stepfather Heber Jentzsch was the church's president.

Such was her parents' devotion to the cause that Janis and her siblings had been raised in large part by L Ron Hubbard and his wife, Mary Sue.

But as she stood next to her husband, Paul, listening as church leader David Miscavige delivered an excoriating rant something in Janis snapped.

It was 11 p.m. and Miscavige was berating them for damage caused by a sudden summer storm that had flooded the church's 500-acre compound in Hemet, California, devastating villas prepared for an imminent visit from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

As their fellow members of the Sea Org - the church's administrative 'clergy' - loaded into buses to return to the base for a 24-hour clean up, Paul and Janis threw what belongings they could into their car. Then they drove and they just kept driving. 

As their fellow members of the Sea Org - the church's administrative 'clergy' - loaded into buses to return to the base for a 24-hour clean up, Paul and Janis threw what belongings they could into their car. Then they drove and they just kept driving.

It is 27 years since the August night.

Now, in an exclusive interview with to mark the publication of her memoir, Commodore's Messenger: A Child Adrift in the Scientology Sea Organization, Janis has spoken for the first time and told of how Scientology defined and destroyed her family. 

She has described her extraordinary childhood separated from her mother, 'adrift' in Scientology and put to work from the age of 11 as one of Hubbard's original Commodore Messengers aboard his flagship Sea Org ship, by his side six hours a day almost every day for eight years.

She talks about the culture of secrecy and fear, the cruel and humiliating punishments, of being held against her will and the 'group think' that normalized the strange distorted reality Hubbard fostered.

Speaking from her home in Las Vegas, Nevada mother-of-two, Janis, 61 said: 'Public relations people within the church are altering history and I look around at who's left and who even know Hubbard and there's very few people left. I thought, "I can set the record straight."' 

Janis's mother, Yvonne had been sent to Los Angeles where she began putting into action her idea for a Celebrity Centre.

Today the overarching Celebrity Centres act as part fixer part concierge for a host of high profile church members including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Orange is the New Black's Laura Prepon and Mad Men's, Elizabeth Moss.

According to Janis, as run by Miscavige, 57, today's centers bear little resemblance to those her mother conceived. Celebrities are separate from the rest of the church, blind to abuses and mistreatment of the staff and have little or no power.

Meanwhile stored information gleaned during auditing - the process of interrogation by which Scientologists strive to attain a 'clear' status - is a rich bank of material used by Scientology hierarchy.

Janis said: 'That has been an issue ever since the start.' 

Janis cannot pin point a moment when the scales fell from her eyes but serving Hubbard so closely she saw clearly that he was not 'divine' as some believed.

She said: 'He wasn't godly. He didn't have these incredible powers. People thought he could levitate things and he couldn't do that. He was a regular human being.'

Regular and flawed. Janis found out in later years that he had sexually harassed her mother - a source of great distress to the loyal Yvonne who found herself branded 'non-existent' and suppressive at various times because she had resisted his advances.

She also learned that her mother repeatedly petitioned to have her children transferred from the ships to Los Angeles but was refused because her children were deemed 'too valuable' by Hubbard.

'I look at Scientology today and if LRH [L Ron Hubbard] knew that this was going on, the fundraising and the billions of dollars that they've raised, he'd be turning in his grave if he had one. To me he would have called it criminal.'

Janis's early childhood in Australia seemed normal enough. Her father was an accountant, her mother a kindergarten teacher. But when Janis was nine, her brother Peter, 12 and sister Terri 11, her 'whole world shifted.'

Her mother left the family and traveled to the UK, to East Grinstead, Sussex where L Ron Hubbard had established his base at St Hill Manor.

Janis said: 'Over the years they became parents who switched their passions and allegiance from our family to dedicate themselves foremost to L Ron Hubbard's world of Dianetics and Scientology.'

She said: 'For a time that feels too long to measure, Mum's world did not include Peter, Terri me. It would be many years before I ever connected the dots to understand my parents' choice for our lives.'

Truth be told, today as the mother of a 26-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter Janis struggles to reconcile her own experience of motherhood with the choices her mother made.

She admitted: 'Scientology became her priority. I'd look at my own kids growing up and think: "What was my mother thinking?" I'd look at my daughter at 11 years old, the age I was when I went onto the ship, and I'd think "I could never do that."' 

'When I left Scientology I knew I was pregnant and that there was no way I was going to raise my child there.'

Much of what Janis now views as the neglect and mistreatment she claims she experienced and witnessed as a child stemmed from Hubbard's notion that children 'were adults, they were just in little bodies.'

Preaching that we are all Thetans - alien beings who have lived many lives and simply occupy our body for one of them - Hubbard believed children were essentially old souls in small packages.

In the first episode of the new season of her hit show, 'Scientology and the Aftermath, actress Leah Remini who split from the church and is now one of its most vocal critics, addressed the danger of this belief. To her it leaves children vulnerable to abuse, because it wipes away any sense of 'parental ownership.'

Janis revealed: 'Hubbard used to say that parents used to dump there children on the Sea Org but they didn't, they wanted to be with their children but they had to work long hours and there was an issue with that.'

Hubbard's 'solution' to the growing childcare problem according to Janis was to buy a ranch in Mexico and ship the children of its Los Angeles members there wholesale.

She said: 'Some people who were at the Celebrity Centre told me that my mother had actually hidden children from Celebrity Centre staff so they weren't shipped down to Mexico. She round up the children and put them in a different building when they came to get them.'

Those sent were, she said 'neglected.' 

She explained: 'There's a lot of horror stories from these kids about being molested and not being cared for. I heard of one child who told their mother they'd been molested and the response was "What did you do to pull that in?" Because in Scientology if something bad happens to you it's because you've done something to 'pull it in.' So a little five-year-old…they're responsible for some pedophile. That was the attitude.'

For her part Janis's childhood was spent in a cycle of the hope of being reunited with her mother and it's repeated dashing.

On December 9, 1965 her mother left for England. On December 22, 1965, following a public inquiry, Victoria legislature passed a bill outlawing the practice of Scientology.

The following May her father put Janis, her brother and her sister on a ship from Melbourne to Southampton to join their mother at St Hill Mansion. They made the 41-day voyage while he stayed to pack up their lives in Australia.

Janis recalled: 'When we first arrived at St Hill, Hubbard was in Rhodesia, people were arriving from Australia so it was exciting and we would play with the Hubbard children and everyone was friendly.'

But when Hubbard arrived the atmosphere changed, she said. He had begun writing his 'ethics conditions' placing members into different categories of existence according to how well they did their jobs and followed his rules.

Janis said: 'I started seeing men walking around unshaven and women without their make-up on, my parents wouldn't come home or they'd come home very late.

'That was when the conditions of 'non-existence' and so on were being assigned. If you were non-existent one of the penalties was that you weren't allowed to shave or clean up. If you were considered a threat to progress you were assigned a condition of 'liability' and had to wear a grey rag around your arm.

'And if you had doubts about being in the group and were assigned a condition of doubt you had to wear a chain around your wrist and most people ignored you.'

Janis and her siblings were at St Hill for a year and a half until Hubbard decided to establish his Sea Org, a quasi-military clergy of sorts made up of Scientology's most dedicated members.

Those signing up to be part of it signed a contract pledging complete loyalty for 'the next billion years.'

Little did Janis know as she entered into it that she was effectively signing away her childhood. She said: 'My mum was one of the original people asked to join. She always said to me, "I only agreed to join if you kids could be kept with me and I kept being told you would be."

It was an empty promise. Janis and her siblings spent most of the next eight years separated from their parents and sometimes each other.

She said: 'It was cruel.' She and her siblings were assigned as pot and dishwashers when they joined the Royal Scotman (later renamed the Apollo) in January 1968.

Soon after Janis was summoned to run messages for Hubbard around the ship and given the role of Commodore Messenger. She worked one of three shifts: noon to 6pm, 6pm to midnight, midnight till dawn - though Hubbard usually released her at 3am when he went to bed.

Hubbard always had his pack of non-filtered Kools cigarettes and a flip lighter in his right-hand pants pocket and smoked wherever he went.

He also had an explosive temper that struck Janis as odd given his preaching on the weaknesses of 'Human Emotion and Response' (HE&R).

She described Hubbard as hugely 'charismatic' but admitted: 'I didn't like being around his temper. He was very explosive and unpredictable, yelling and screaming at the drop of a hat.'

When Janis was around 12 Hubbard was working on what he called his 'Heavy Ethics,' in which he wrote that to 'get compliance,' one sometimes needed to 'implement penalties…too gruesome to confront.'

Two such penalties were 'overboarding' and 'the chain locker.'

The first person to be 'overboarded' was a loyal, disciplined, servant and auditor of Hubbard himself. His crime was to cast off a line from the dock one day before being told to by Hubbard.

Janis recalled: 'Hubbard got furious at [name]  and ordered him overboard. From there it became a ceremony.

'People would muster on the deck. They'd open up the gate from the well deck, which was probably about two decks up. The chaplain and the Master at Arms would stand there. The chaplain would say, "Commit your sins and errors to the deep and hope you will raise a better Thetan." Then they'd pick them up and throw them over the side.'

Janis added: 'There's a difference between jumping and being thrown. As a kid I'd get thrown over the side and I didn't have an issue, I was more fearless and I used to jump from there to swim anyway.

'But I watched people have panic attacks, or they'd hit the water then say they couldn't swim.'

On one occasion Janis watched her own mother flung overboard.

Another traumatic recollection is of her father been put in the chain locker, the dark, cramped place where the anchor chain was stored.

She said: 'My dad was put in the chain locker for three or four days. If you needed to go to the bathroom they'd take off the cover and escort you there and back, though I heard some people were given buckets.

'He was fed on bread and water. It was very traumatic to watch my father go through that.'

The trauma was only exacerbated by the fact that she and her sister Terri - her mother and brother were not on the same ship at the time - were instructed to write letters 'disconnecting' from their father as he had been deemed a 'suppressive person.'

Janis said: 'I remember sitting in tears as I'm writing, 'I Janis Gilham disconnect from Peter Gilham…'

Meanwhile, Janis's mother, Yvonne had been sent to Los Angeles where she began putting into action her idea for a Celebrity Centre.

Janis explained: 'Her idea was to help people - in the beginning some of them were artists they weren't all celebrities but her whole idea was she would take different datums by Hubbard and teach that person to use them in their life.'

Perhaps the cruelest wound inflicted by Scientology - and one that Janis cannot forgive to this day - was that she was denied a chance to say goodbye to her mother.

By then Janis was living in La Quinta in a ranch known as WHQ (Winter Headquarters) and her mother was working out of Los Angeles.

Janis has been able to piece together what happened. She said: 'In October 1977 my mother had been on tour in Mexico and had a stroke. Whoever was with her just put her on a flight back to LA because I found out later when she was picked up from the airport she was slurring her words.'

The following month Janis received a suitcase from her mother for her 21st birthday but was disturbed by the letter that accompanied it. She said: 'Words were missing. It just didn't seem right.'

She tried to find out if her mother was okay and was told that she was fine.

She said: 'What I didn't know was that my sister had got a phone call from someone saying you're mum is really sick and they're keeping it from you. I don't know who made that call or who 'they' were.'

Janis's sister Terri found her mother in her apartment, alone and delirious. She took her to hospital where she was diagnosed as having two brain tumors.

From there Janis later discovered her mother had been taken to the Scientology base in Clearwater, Florida.

'When you get sick you're considered a 'down stat,' she said. 'A burden. The priority was to go and clear that planet and if you get in the way you're collateral damage. It's groupthink. Step over them while you keep going.'

Janis knew nothing of her mother's illness until she received a phone call informing her she had died on January 23, 1978.

She said: 'It's that whole mentality. Scientology becomes a priority over life, your family, your wellness.'

Janis attended a small family memorial. The church organized a large celebrity memorial service to which she was not invited.

She said: 'I didn't even want to ask how it went.'

When it comes to the fractured relationship she had with her mother Janis said: 'I try not to look on that. I don't want to keep looking back. When you're in it you don't consider yourself abused or a victim and then when you step away from it…the first few years it's like peeling an onion.

'Layers come off, things that you didn't want to confront or acknowledge. I knew that she always thought of us. She'd get these cute little cards of cute little girls and sent them to me and write, 'This reminds me of you.' So I hold onto that but I just got to keep moving forward.'

During her last few years in Scientology's Sea Org Janis was a senior and largely respected member, who had met and married fellow Sea Org member, former medical student, Paul Grady in 1979.

But she watched the sweeping away of the 'old guard' and the rise of David Miscavige with unease.

Today she believes he has changed Scientology beyond recognition.

She claims: 'He runs everything on fear and he personally gets in the face of people.'

She claims Miscavige is an enthusiastic proponent of the Rehabilitation Project Force where Sea Org members who had been assigned a low condition were 'rehabilitated' by being assigned 'the dirtiest and grossest jobs of hard labor.'

She said: 'They were required to run, not walk, everywhere and were forbidden to speak. This 'rehabilitation' program at the Scientology penal colony stripped staff members of all rights and dignity. It was like leprosy.'

Janis herself was held captive for several days, without any form of communication with the outside world, shunned by the group and guarded 24 hours a day for some perceived misdemeanor.

Once out of the church Janis reconnected with her brother and sister who had already left and she and her husband hoped for a fresh start in Las Vegas, when another former Scientologist who had 'escaped' offered to help get them started in the mortgage loans business.

They established a life, built a company and started a family.

But they began to notice that one of their employees never closed a deal.

One day Janis raised the matter with a colleague.

She said: 'This broker said, "Oh [name] is  not here as a loan officer. His real job is as a private eye and he's in Vegas on a job."'

She was told how he'd shown her broker  his Private Eye license, and his gun and his whole set up of how he listened to these people.'

According to Janis, Lubow was a 'Scientology plant' who had listened to their business and embedded himself in their lives for more than a year.

Remarkably she just accepted that this is what 'they' did. Just like she never reported finding her off base storage facility broken into and all her birthday cards and correspondence from Hubbard stolen.

In response to's request for comment, The Church of Scientology said: 'Janis Grady has not been a member of the Church of Scientology for nearly thirty years. 

'We have not read her book and so are not in a position to confirm or deny any of its contents, but the false allegations you raise are contrary to our archive records about the Gillham family and do not represent in any way the Church today.'

Looking back Janis said, even though she had left she didn't have the 'separation' needed to see things clearly.

There are still remnants of Scientology woven into Janis's DNA. If she hurts herself she still does a 'contact assist' placing the injured part back on whatever caused it injury and repeating until the pain goes away.

On some level Janis may never be completely clear of the long shadow of Scientology.

But after three decades on the inside and three on the outside she is finally 'separate' enough to talk about the life she kept secret for so many years.

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