I Needed A Job, And Xenu Was Hiring

by Shéa Bennett

Xenu Costume

I recently had a job interview for an IT position with the Church of Scientology.

Let me explain. I wasn’t aware of my potential employer going in. The company in the advertisement was Narconon, who bill themselves as “the world’s most successful drug rehab,” and apparently have been in the business of narcotic rehabilitation since 1966.

I know, I know – some of you are screaming, “What!? How could you not have known that Narconon was a Scientology front?” Well, I didn’t. I have no real excuse – I simply did not know. You probably don’t know, for example, that there are four different models of the IG-88 assassin droid in the Star Wars universe.

Oh, you did? Ah.

I should have done more research. I did some research, but I didn’t look up Narconon on Wikipedia. My mistake — it won’t happen again.

The Interview

I live in East Sussex, which is on the South East coast of England, and my interview with Narconon was on Wednesday morning at one of their main drug rehabilitation centres. The building, a Tudor mansion that is well over one hundred years old, is quite simply magnificent.

I’d arrived a little early and took a moment to sit on a bench outside, soaking up the majesty of the surroundings. Very impressive indeed; must have cost a fortune.

Moments later, somebody came out to see me, and introduced himself. It was Bob, the chap I’d spoken to on the telephone when arranging my interview. We entered the building via the reception – the inside was as pretty as the out – and Bob handed me an application form.

I was taken to another room, and there I met Adam, who was also applying for the position. Bob explained that even though Adam had arrived first we would be interviewing together. The importance of this unity – that Adam and I needed to stay together – was reinforced upon me on several occasions thereafter, to the point where, looking back, I have to wonder if Adam was actually a genuine applicant, or somebody they had used to watch over me. But that’s crazy, paranoid thinking. Right?

I finished the application form and returned it to Bob. Adam followed. Now back in the reception area, I was admiring the beautiful fireplace when I noticed a large, fairly old-fashioned looking book on the mantle. The author’s name grabbed my immediate attention.

L. Ron Hubbard

The book was still shrink-wrapped – it was available for purchase. It’s not unusual to find an association between religion and rehab programs, but this still caught me a off-guard. My mind drifted back to the application, and a section therein that asked if I represented a newspaper or had the intention of writing a story about the facility. I had assumed this was a legal procedure to protect the guests, and I’d ticked the box marked “no.” Hindsight is, of course, 20-20.

Bob then led Adam and myself into a private room, and said we needed to watch a video that explained the history of Narconon. Fine; this was not the first time I’d had to sit through introductory materials for a new job. What Bob neglected to mention, however, was that the video was essentially an introduction to Scientology. Sure, it was mostly about Narconon, but L. Ron Hubbard and/or Scientology were typically given a very specific (and often congratulatory) mention at the beginning of every new scene.

Introductions

The video traced the history of Narconon through founder William “Willy” Benitez, a former inmate at Arizona State Prison who, in 1988, started a program for recovering addicts after reading Hubbard’s 1966 work, The Fundamentals of Thought. Hubbard would then go on to sponsor the incorporation of Narconon as an organization, and it wasn’t long before new programs were opening all around the world.

Numerous “celebrities” made appearances on the tape at various points, but it wasn’t until Kirstie Alley showed up that I was finally presented with a name I actually recognized. Indeed, the producers of the show obviously realized this, too, as she then appeared again. And again. And again. Before we had a moment with Kelly Preston. And then more Kirstie Alley.

Alley, it turns out, is a national spokesperson for Narconon, and thanks to her Scientology training has now achieved the level of “OT VII,” or “Operating Thetan Level 7.” Impressive stuff. Incidentally, Alley is the only cast member of Cheers never to appear on Frasier, allegedly because of that show’s positive portrayal of psychiatry, the practice of which Scientology is decidedly opposed.

As for the program itself, the gist of it involves the use of vitamins and minerals alongside exercise and lots of time in the sauna, to cleanse the body of toxins. Patients are then rehabilitated using the principles of Scientology.

The video lasted for 30 minutes. I was quiet throughout, but Adam kept saying odd things, like, “Wow, they’re really doing well for themselves,” and, “They’ve mentioned everywhere but here!” when the show had failed to say anything about the St Leonards building in which we were seated. He seemed quite interested in the information, and this odd behaviour on his part prevented me from making any obnoxious jokes. Quite clearly he either didn’t know who or what Scientology represented, or he didn’t care. Or both.

His attitude fascinated me. The situation was becoming increasingly surreal; with my mounting paranoia, I’d begun to check the room for hidden cameras. I was torn between my curiosity to see where this was going, and the blossoming worry that any time now somebody was going to start injecting me with chemicals until I declared allegiance to The Leader. Whatever happened, assuming I got out alive, and with my mental faculties otherwise intact, I was sure of one thing: I would have a half-decent story to tell.

As soon as the video finished, Adam was out of his chair, off to tell Bob. He returned to the room a few moments later, alone, and proceeded to switch off the DVD player and the television, a decision on his part I thought more than a little presumptuous.

Bob arrived, and asked us what we thought of the presentation. “Hmmm,” I said, nodding. “Hmmm?” asked Bob. “Hmmm,” I replied. He didn’t press the matter any further.

Personality Testing

Pullquote: By now I’d accepted that Adam was going to kill me.

We were then informed that we needed to take a personality test. Two hundred questions, all of which needed to be answered in one of the familiar three ways: definitely yes; unsure; and definitely no. The instructions made it clear that, where possible, we should always strive for a yes or no answer.

What made me laugh is how so many of these “personality” questions were deliberately leading. They’d be like, “Do you sometimes wish you could advocate all responsibility to a greater power?” or “Do you often feel the world is a dreamy place?”

Several times the test asked if my muscles twitched during certain events, like when I’m in a situation that might turn hostile – I mean, they do, but I put “no” to be safe, in case it led to injections – and of course like all personality tests there were lots of the same question delivered repeatedly in different ways, and I made sure I answered each of these in the opposite manner to which I had before.

This took about half an hour. I finished before Adam, and took my answers out to Bob. He had a quick look-over, seemed pleased, and then announced that we now had to take an IQ test. This was timed over 30 minutes, and meant another 80 questions. The paper proudly stated it was an “Oxford IQ Test” on the front sheet, but many of the questions were, once again, more than a little leading. Between the standard fare about which shape comes next and the usual mathematical queries were some strange word pairing problems, and one question – and I swear this is true – actually asked you a brainteaser about the letters that make up the word “lobotomized.”

Still, eighty questions is eighty questions, and part of me likes to do well in these things, no matter who I’m representing – if the Devil himself gave me a quiz I’d want to get an A – and I finished with literally seconds to spare. Adam didn’t finish, and Bob had to come and make him stop. Neither seemed enormously bothered by this fact. By now I’d accepted that Adam was going to kill me.

The Truth Laid Bare

Back at reception, we were told we’d need to speak with Dawn, the boss, before we left. She duly arrived, happened to pick up my file first, and led me into another room. This was the first time I’d been separated from Adam or Bob. It’s worth noting that nobody apart from the narrator on the video had mentioned Scientology up to this point, but Dawn didn’t hold back, immediately launching into her pitch. The teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, I was told, were pivotal to both the Narconon foundation, and the occupants of the building.

She then asked me what I knew about Scientology. Unlike Adam, I knew a fair bit, but I’m inclined to be polite to those who are polite to me, and responded to her questions with courtesy. I told her I was essentially an atheist at heart, to which she nodded approvingly, which confused me a little. Did she believe that one already with religion is a harder convert than one without? Perhaps this is true.

When she asked me what I could do for the program, I told her that I had some ideas regarding using social media to build a “loyal following.” These perhaps weren’t the best choice of words, but I didn’t offer them with humour or malice – I was being sincere. I’d checked out Narconon USA’s Twitter account and found it decidedly lacking. Of course, I’d done all this on the assumption that Narconon was just a drug rehabilitation centre.

Oddly, Dawn told me she had never heard of Twitter, but that the organization stayed away from social media because, quote, “there is so much bullshit out there.” All of this explained how such an obviously popular search query as “drug rehab” yielded so little traffic for Narconon; evidently, most of the visitors did a little more research than I did, and never went back again. And probably warned their friends.

I still didn’t know an awful lot about my duties or anything about the package that came with the position, so I asked Dawn about the remuneration involved. I was shocked to hear that Narconon were expecting a 48-hour week, over six days, and were paying exactly the national minimum wage of £5.73 per hour. Nothing more. No perks; no extras. That was it. “We all work for minimum wage,” she told me, which was almost certainly not true. Still, somebody was picking up the tab for the building, and every penny counts. Tom Cruise’s money has to go somewhere – why waste money on the staff?

Still, this irked me, and even though I attempted to maintain a civil tone, clearly I’d let something slip as she started to wrap up the interview, adding that she’d keep my details “on file” if I was interested. I said that I was – in the back of my mind, Bob was waiting outside the door with his needles, and from here on there were only wrong answers. Of course, even if they are crazy enough to offer the job to me, there is no way I’m going to accept.

The Other Side of Narconon

Narconon now has a presence virtually everywhere in the world. Its program and methods have caused considerable controversy, and despite Narconon’s claims of a success rate of over 70%, one Swedish study found that the organization’s numbers were closer to 6.6%. Each independent Narconon centre pays 10% of its gross to Narconon International, an institution that is part of the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), a promoter of Scientology. Narconon International has been accused of everything from website plagiarism to lawsuits involving wrongful death, and their targeting of children through the UK school system has particularly come under fire.

The Church of Scientology has a lot of money. Patients at a Narconon centre in the USA stay for 3-4 months at a cost of up to $30,000, typically paid for by quickly-disillusioned parents. You think they’d know better. You think they’d have a little more savvy when it comes to making believers out of ordinary folk.

So, 48 hours each and every week to help in the publication of propaganda for a religious cult? No thanks. I mean, for fifty, maybe sixty thousand a year, I’ll “believe” whatever you want me to, up to a point. I may not ever openly acknowledge the existence of Xenu – you know, like most Scientologists – but I could maybe look the other way when he’s doing his rounds. Somebody has to do the website – might as well be me. For a hundred grand, I might even do a little door-to-door. You know, on the QT.

But, I’m sorry – I have some scruples, and it takes a lot more than minimum wage, a lovely old building and, yes, some happy shiny people, to make me a convert.

While the events in this article are reported accurately, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  • unladenswallow

    I’ve noticed during what few interview officials of Scientology give that one of the things they always mention when asked about the core of their believes (Xenu and his evil empire) is that what they espouse is no more crazy than believing in a guy died and rose again and somehow saves your soul from hell. Interesting that they use other believes implausibility as an excuse for there own implausible belief.

    • Jabster

      That seems to me to be a common trait among a certain section of believers. They will use one set of arguments to explain why a different faith is wrong but will not then apply the same set of arguments to their own faith. This is always going to be a problem when you having competing ‘systems’ based on faith. I just don’t understand the method by which this double standards can be appiled. We all do it to a certain extent but this type of thinking takes it to a new level.

  • Custador

    There is a chap who blogs on WordPress and YouTube called Angry Aussie who talks about a very similar experience. Video here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBWn9DmZI_A

    Describes extremely similar experiences to you. Plus he’s an entertaining bloke to read / watch.

    • Custador

      Actually, Daniel: if you look up Angry Aussie on wordpress, he’s had all sorts of fun with the scientologists; I think they’ve tried to sue him a few times.

  • Jerome

    Wow, that must have been creepy!!

    And what a sh*t wage.

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  • Sunny Day

    “I was shocked to hear that Narconon were expecting a 48-hour week, over six days, and were paying exactly the national minimum wage of £5.73 per hour.”

    This is the point where Cameron* goes Berserk. – Ferris Bueller

    At the end of the day they would count themselves lucky that nobody was injured and no property damage was done.

  • http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com Personal Failure

    When they announced minimum wage for IT work, I would have burst out laughing and said something rude about Xenu. I’m a secretary and I make more than minimum wage.

  • firexbrat

    I had an interview with Scienologists that went almost the same. WEIRD. I didn’t know they were scientologists, I applied for a graphic Design position. It was in a gorgeous old Convent building, and the main mezzanine still had floor to ceiling stained glass windows, though they had replaced th religious icons with abstract colored glass. Don’t want to mix your poisons.

    Best perk of the job? Free meals in the gourmet cafeteria for all faculty and staff. Scientologists are LOADED. Too bad I didn’t get the job. I actually scored very well on their personality test…

  • LRA

    Ah, the Onion always manages to get it right:

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/E-Meter/Onion/travoltahospital.html

  • GoofFloof

    A hilarious and yet frightening account Shéa! Good on you for realizing what propaganda was being shoveled your direction by the Scientologists. By the way, I’d be willing to bet my last body thetan that “Adam” was indeed a plant assigned to watch you and try to influence your reaction to the promo video. I myself visited the Scientology-run “Psychiatry: Industry of Death” traveling propaganda display when it came to my town. It was mostly deserted while I was there, but yet there always seemed to be a young woman sitting suspiciously close to me while making gushingly enthusiastic comments about the messages portrayed in the video presentations. This is a common Scientology tactic. They’re not the most honest or straightforward lot, are they?

  • http://www.sourapplesblog.com Elliott

    It’s always tough getting yourself into a situation where you realize halfway through that you’re in over your head with some creepy cultish shit.

    I remember one time, when I was a photo technician, some lady’s kid wanted to keep a disposable camera, but she was worried it had dangerous parts in it. So I gutted it, and gave it back to her, and she said “wow, you really take initiative. Are you looking for employment?”

    At the time, I was, desperately. So I agreed to meet her at a coffee shop. Come to find out, she was one of those Rich Dad Poor Dad cultists, and was peddling some pyramid scheme built around reselling retail products. She had a little brochure for me, complete with handy little diagrams about the road to riches: “you see, you’re in the working box, here. You want to move into the passive income ‘investor’ box, here.” Blah blah blah.

    I just “yeah…mmmhhmmm…whatever you say”ed my way through the conversation, and took the first lapse in her spiel as a cue to run for the door.

    People get caught up in some weird shit.

    • Daniel Florien

      RDPD actually has some good advice, and it doesn’t have anything in it about pyramid schemes. However, I know the kind of people you are talking about, and they are creepy and I can’t wait to get away from them.

      • LRA

        A guy asked me out on a date one time just to pyramid scheme me.

  • Zachary Pruckowski

    What’s the point of recruiting externally? I mean, you’re recruiting from a “non-believer” population to work for a fraction of the wages they could otherwise get, and work for more than standard hours? I’d be hard-pressed to take a job at half or less the wages I could legitimately get (I’m assuming you’re more than the guy who makes sure the harddrives in the servers get replaced) even if the job was at the “Beer, Strippers and Porn Factory”, much less an organization I actually disagree with. I’d be shocked if anyone actually takes that job who’s not already a Scientologist.

    Not to mention, what’s the point of an interview, at the end of which you say “Oh, by the way, we’re only paying a third to half of what you would make at other jobs, and we demand overtime”? Seems like getting that out of the way up front would save them a lot of time/money.

    • Jon

      Maybe the point is to recruit people in a sneaky fashion?

      • Mike

        > Maybe the point is to recruit people in a sneaky fashion?

        Exactly. And they simply are not very good at it. The ‘improved’ recruiting practices are in fact less effective than what they did in the 80s and the bad side of Scientology has been exposed all over the web for nearly as long as there has been a web. The church has had less and less of an effective response to it, and their Supreme Leader has grown more and more insane and is expelling capable people at an accelerating rate. I guess it is a good thing, since the cult is imploding, but the remaining people on the inside are having a hard time.

    • Joe Mama

      The point of recruiting externally is, is that the only previous way they recruit for Narconon staff is from previous clients. You can literally be a patient one day, and the next be “delivering the program” to other drug addicts. What hell.
      Narconon has had failing “stats” for a loong time…meaning no one wants to come onto staff anymore…so they have NO choice! I know this first hand.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    Narconon may not know about Twitter, but they certainly know about blog spam.

    I deleted dozens of Narconon blog spams on my blog before I turned on comment moderation.

  • http://myurlisname.blogspot.com Lafayette

    The inclusion of the anagram exercises are interesting. It’s a standard “priming” technique in psychology experiments – getting people to solve anagrams of words relating to old age and then seeing how long it takes them to walk to the lift compared to a control group, for example.

  • http://myurlisname.blogspot.com Lafayette

    Zachary – They’re caught in a Catch 22, especially when recruiting in fields as fast moving as IT. People can’t develop their skills in the cult because they can’t afford to, and the Church can’t recruit from outside because, even without the pseudo-scientific relgion they just aren’t competitive employers.

    Sadly their way out tends to be to get stuff done through third party companies.

  • Zachary Pruckowski

    Lafayette – my point was more “shouldn’t they just find a geeky follower and get him trained?” or “can’t they get their current followers in IT to switch over to working for them?”.

    Actually, my real point was more that they’re, as you said, a non-competitive employer irrespective of their religion stuff. “I don’t want to work for Scientology for moral/ethical/political reasons” comes into play a lot later than “Dude, I’m not working for minimum wage” in many people’s “Pros and Cons of taking this job” decision process.

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  • elflocko

    So, Daniel. Are we taking bets on how long it will be till you get a “Cease & Desist” order from the “Church” of Scientology regarding this story?

    • http://twittercism.com Sheamus

      I put this on Twitter earlier and it’s been re-tweeted heavily. It’s also about to make the front page of Reddit, by the looks of it. I didn’t think it would generate this much attention, I have to say. I’m half-expecting a brick through the window.

      Give it two years, and Russell Crowe will port over his role from “The Insider” and play me in a movie about my life and death at the hands of a religious cult called, “The Candidate”. Although that’s probably a little OTT – they’ll probably hire David Spade.

      Appreciate all the positive responses folks.

  • lorina

    OK I’m laughing.

    Not at your waste of time Shea, but rather at the major FAILURE of scientology. I’ve never seen so much mismanagement in my life.

    Though I work very hard at not underestimating them, sometimes I wonder how they organize and deliver anything at all.

  • AndyN

    Shea, I live near Brighton. My sister used to work for the council and had to visit a Scientology building once. She had no idea what they were about. I nearly freaked when I found out what she’d been up to that day!

    >Somebody has to do the website – might as well be me.

    If I’m honest, that statement kinda turned me off. I wouldn’t lift a finger to help them, no matter what the monetary reward. One of their biggest advantages is the amount of money that they have at their disposal. That money would be useless if more people took a similar moral stance.

    • http://twittercism.com Sheamus

      Ah, I was only being tongue-in-cheek at the end, but there’s a point there, too. The odds of any kind of religious cult getting decent, hard-working and dedicated employees from outside the organisation are already pretty thin. Add minimum wage to the equation, and you’re looking at a *very* limited pool.

      So much so that, as others have said in this comments area, it doesn’t make a lot of sense as to why they wouldn’t just find somebody who was already committed and train him up. Which makes me wonder if they need to advertise their vacancies and interview to cover some kind of legal requirement. And of course, there’s always the off-chance they might pick up another stray.

      • AndyN

        Phew! That’s good to hear then! :-D

        Thanks for sharing your story.

      • Yoav

        Or maybe it’s a scam to get people in. Who know they may have got lucky and after seeing the movie you would have seen the error of your way and ran to buy the complete works of L. Ron and give all your property to the church of Scientology.

  • Kurt

    It just strikes me how absolutely selfish the whole operation is. Narconon doesn’t want to make people better for the peoples’ sake. They want to make people better so that they become adamant advocates/supporters of their cult. Same goes for Christianity.

    Absolutely shameful.

    • Siveambrai

      Go, go AA!

  • Gus

    This interview process seems like a waste of time for all involved.
    The only way they’d be able to hire anyone at that wage is if they became an instant convert and they surely have a pretty low batting average.

    It’s comical but at the same time quite disgraceful, you have people going for an interview and a cult attempting to convert them during the interview in order to hire them for minimum wage.

  • Thelonious

    Great story! Reminds me of a brush I had with the Moonies (aka the Unification Church)

    Long story short: I was invited to a “seminar” on religion by this totally hot chick who was seriously flirting with me. The “seminar” turned out to be three of them and one of me in a big expensive (but curiously empty) house in an unfamiliar part of town and totally focused on getting me to see that Rev. Moon had the answers. Luckily, even then I was a cantankerous, argumentative sort who didn’t take it lying down. I argued with them for hours and they finally drove me back to Berkeley.

    Never did nail the chick, either (though rumor has it they did put out if they thought it would get you to convert)

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  • http://www.freshleafdesigns.com Melanie

    Wow!! Thanks for sharing this eye-opening experience…. In the future, perhaps you could write a post about what the freemasons society’s BIG secret is… :)

  • http://ozatheist.wordpress.com/ OzAtheist

    Interesting read, it sounds like Adam was a “plant”, perhaps all part of the plan to turn you into a cult member so you’ll accept the ridiculous low wage and bad work conditions (48 hour week! you have to be kidding me).

    Perhaps, as someone else said, interviewing you was just a legal requirement to show they are not discriminating against non-cultists?

    There are always people out there desperate for a job, any job, maybe they target these people. Additionally if you are that desperate for a job you’d accept those conditions, you are probably more susceptible to being indoctrinated into the cult?

  • Ty

    Thanks for this story. It was fascinating.

  • http://tofangsazan-the.blogspot.com/ media_lush

    thank spag monster you got out, lol

    reminds me of the story of the work crew that were working on a Road parallel to Tottenham Court Rd in London (Scientology shop there)…. some of the guys working noticed that he could see into their premises from the back and would often make stupid gestures – walking like Frankenstein, pretending to be a Dalek shouting ‘exterminate’ etc

    …. anyway this went on for most of the week.

    ….that weekend one of the guys woke up on Sunday morning to hearing an almighty noise coming from his front house entrance at 6am – he opened the door to be confronted by a half dozen scientology staff from the shop banging pots and pans (they actually brought them with them). they said they wanted to show him how it felt to be ‘abused’ at work or at home….. creepy, eh?

    the thing is his was the only address where they could actually do something like this – the other workers lived in high rise flats or similar that needed a key to get in which, they reckoned, meant that they must have followed all of the workers to their homes before they chose him…. even more creepy!

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  • Joe Mama

    AWESOME post – but I want to clear up that Narconon pays 60% of their monies to Narconon Int, not 10%. Isnt that kirazee? I know this first hand. Xenu out.

  • http://wayofcats.com/blog WereBear

    How I laughed when I read, “By now I’d accepted that Adam was going to kill me.”

    This was one of the creepiest job interviews ever… and for a monumentally crappy offer at the end. I once got sucked into a “job interview” which turned out to be convincing us to go door to door selling some kind of air cleaner.

    I did not get any salesperson genes, so snuck out fairly early.

  • ArtlessDodger

    Scientology is “MEGAFICTION” and the only decent fiction Hubbard ever penned.

    It has all the literary elements in spades.

  • http://www.dctouristsandlocals.wordpress.com DCtouristsANDlocals

    I don’t think it was a waste of time at all. It was like an exciting undercover operation. I want to apply now just to see what happens and to have a good story to tell. I think there’s some important Scientology building downtown in DC… maybe they’re hiring?

  • http://www.crackpots.org/ Fredric L. Rice

    It’s hard to believe that someone still hasn’t learned that NarCONon is actually the notorious Scientology crime syndicate trying to rook and swindle money out of people.

  • Randall

    Funny story, Shea. I think the only thing they have right is that psychiatry is total BS. Are you sure you got out injection free?

  • Sam Hughes

    I would have billed them for wasting my time, 10x minimum wage (probably closer to industry standard for your work).