Inside Scientology/Dianetics, by Robert Kaufman - Next - Previous

The Manor

I took the train from London to East Grinstead, a modest-sized town about halfway to Brighton, and from there a cab five miles through country to Fyfield Manor, the Scientology habitation where the Lancias had stayed. Fyfield was a large dun-colored house hidden from the road by trees and wild-growing hedges, with a backdrop of heights about half a mile beyond.

The man who answered my knock had a kind, homely, boyish face and looked to be in his late 50s. Introducing himself in an Australian drawl as Edward Douglas, a resident of the manor, he invited me in to wait for the landlord, who was in town buying provisions.

I immediately felt an authoritative presence behind Edward Douglas' cozy appearance. As we chatted, his childlike hazel eyes peered levelly into mine as though we shared a deep understanding. He showed me around the ground floor of the old house, guiding me through the various rooms as though presiding at a mystical initiation. In the main hallway I noticed his clear and OT I success speeches on a bulletin board.

The living room was large, sparsely furnished and ill-heated. Edward Douglas and I spent the rest of the afternoon huddled near the fireplace with an American named Sam Veach, who appeared to be recovering from an illness. The two of them talked softly to each other or wrote letters while I waited. Through the large windows on three sides I saw in the dull late-afternoon light portions of the manorhouse grounds and green fields extending off to the distant heights. The quiet house and its surroundings were in a suspended state. I felt drugged by the heat of the fire.

People began to arrive for dinner. About twelve of us sat down to soup, salad, roast beef with potatoes, something called "summer greens," and a dessert concoction I'd never encountered before. Contrary to everything I had heard about English cuisine, the dinner was excellent. I was pleased that table conversation didn't dwell on news events or other "inconsequentials."

Richie Blackburn, a rough-edged young Australian, filled me in on Sam Veach, who hadn't shown up at table. Sam had been classified at the Hill as PTS-3, a difficult-to-handle and sometimes violently disturbed type of Potential Trouble Source. He had a history of shock treatment back in the States, and had cracked up just after going clear a few days ago. If I'd arrived at the manor one day earlier, I would have witnessed the climax of the drama. Sam had thrown a fit in the dining room and smashed some soup plates. He was now under twenty-four hour surveillance until he could be taken to the Hill and given a Search and Discovery to find his suppressive. By the time I'd met him he had calmed down and, PTS-3 or not, seemed mild-mannered and likable.

After coffee, most of the diners went to the living room to sing, dance, and play the piano. The gaiety reached a high pitch, partly, I supposed, as a way to keep warm. Edward Douglas and a gray-haired lady hurled themselves from corner to corner in a wild tango while onlookers giggled and clapped. The highjinks at the manor ran far into the night, except for a ten-minute hiatus when the lights blew out.

By the time I went upstairs to bed, somewhat warmed by the exertion and conviviality, I'd lost the feeling that I'd entered a strange alien world. The landlord, Ralph Wilkins, had put me in a room with two brothers, also Australian, and in those cramped quarters there was barely space to stash my clothes. I managed to squeeze my suitcase between two of the beds, placed my coat and bathrobe over it and draped my jacket, shirt and pants over a chair. It was freezing cold in bed, and after a few minutes I jumped out and donned my clothes once more, including the coat. The warmest way to sleep was on my side, knees drawn up in the fetal position.

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