Mysterious Island:The Scientology-Catalina Island Connection

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What with Tom Cruise in the news once again—this time for hooking up with swimsuit model Jessica White—I thought it might be a good time to visit a little-known connection between Catalina Island and the Church of Scientology, specifically its founder L. Ron Hubbard.

As you know if you read the tabloids or simply scan the magazine covers while waiting in line at Vons, Jessica White, like Cruise, is purportedly a member of that same arcane religious outfit.

What with Tom Cruise in the news once again—this time for hooking up with swimsuit model Jessica White—I thought it might be a good time to visit a little-known connection between Catalina Island and the Church of Scientology, specifically its founder L. Ron Hubbard.

As you know if you read the tabloids or simply scan the magazine covers while waiting in line at Vons, Jessica White, like Cruise, is purportedly a member of that same arcane religious outfit.

But what many people don’t know is that L. Ron Hubbard actually lived and worked on Catalina for a short time and it is said that he actually wrote the book Dianetics (the Scientologist’s “bible,” if you will) while living on the Island.

Since Dianetics was the culmination of years of research and philosophical thought on the part of Hubbard, and since the book wasn’t published until nearly four years after he left the Island, it probably wouldn’t be fair to say he actually “wrote” the book while on Catalina. However, he did much of the research (and no doubt drafted many segments) while working at the Catalina Island Yacht Club and recuperating from combat wounds he suffered during World War II.

Regardless of how you feel about Hubbard and his philosophy, he inarguably led an extraordinary life. He was of that generation that came of age on a remarkable cusp of human civilization; a generation raised on 19th century bravado alloyed with Depression-era austerity and forged, sometimes dangerously, with 20th century technology.

Born in 1911 into a Navy family in, of all places, Nebraska, Hubbard first crossed paths with Catalina shortly after the war. During that conflict, he had served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant in the Pacific Theater under General Mac- Arthur and later as commander of a subchaser in the North Atlantic, escorting convoys to Europe and back.

It was during this time that he suffered unspecified combat wounds and wound up in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. Once he was fit enough to leave, he moved to Catalina for further recuperation.

By this time in his life, Hubbard was already a well-established writer and had written a number of short stories and other fiction pieces. He was, and still is, regarded as an important science fiction writer and penned a number of novels such as “Battlefield Earth” and the “Mission Earth” series released in the 1980s.

While on Catalina, Hubbard wrote a number of articles ranging from benign sport fishing stories for the Catalina Islander and a short piece entitled “The Edna Irene” (published anonymously in this paper on Nov. 21, 1946), to the more lofty “An Error in Scholastics,” described as a treatise exploring the “frustration of so many American soldiers suffered at the hands of government bureaucracy.”

In late 1946, or perhaps early 1947, Hubbard left Catalina and shortly thereafter began to enter the limelight. With the publication of Dianetics in 1950, he was well on his way to become the iconic, if controversial, character the world has come to know.

It’s not clear whether or not Hubbard ever visited Catalina again, or—if he did—whether he spent much time here. In true Howard Hughes-ian style, much of his later life was something of a mystery; his whereabouts generally kept secret.

Hubbard died, reportedly, in January of 1986, leaving a controversial legacy and a life-long trail of literature that includes a few yellowed pages of sport fishing articles in this, the Catalina Islander.

Jim Watson is the author of “Mysterious Island: Catalina,” available on Amazon, Kindle and in stores all over Avalon.

Mysterious Island:The Scientology-Catalina Island Connection