'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle': Life at Scientology's Secret Headquarters

The author of a new book on Scientology reveals to the Village Voice details of his experience being "audited" by Tom Cruise, who asked him to talk to a book, a bottle, and an ashtray for hours at a time in order to perfect his "upper indoctrination."


Marc Headley's remarkable account of his 15 years as an employee at Scientology's formerly secret international headquarters east of Los Angeles, Blown for Good, officially goes on sale Thursday. He sent the Voice a review copy, and then in a telephone interview provided additional details that aren't in the 383-page book, which will be available for sale at his website, blownforgood.com.

In 1990, not long after he was assigned to the sprawling Scientology compound at Gilman Hot Springs, near Hemet, California, Headley was told that he would be excused from his normal duties so that Tom Cruise -- fresh off his most recent success, the movie Days of Thunder -- could practice auditing on him.

Headley writes that he was selected for two reasons: although he'd already spent several years at Scientology schools and working for the church, he had participated in little auditing, and had completed few of the courses that Scientologists pursue as they travel "up the bridge" to a higher status. Also, because he was still only a teenager, Headley was thought to be a minimal security risk.

"[Cruise] was going to do his auditor training and he needed someone to audit and this person had to be low on the bridge. That was me," he writes. Cruise had arrived at the base with his then-girlfriend, Nicole Kidman (they were married later that year), and Headley writes about what a thrill it was when Cruise took him on an impromptu ride on his motorcycle.

In the book, however, Headley doesn't go into any real detail about what transpired during the three weeks that he spent with Cruise as the actor went through his training, using Headley as a guinea pig. What actually happened?

Headley says that Cruise took him through something called the "Upper Indoctrination Training Routines," or "Upper Indoc TRs," in the abbreviation-filled jargon of Scientologists.

And what did those entail?

"You do a lot of things with a book and a bottle," Headley says. "It's known as the book-and-bottle routine." Cruise, he says, would instruct Headley to speak to a book, telling it to stand up, or to sit down, or otherwise to move somewhere.

"You do the same with the bottle. You talk to it. You do it with an ashtray too," he says. "You tell the ashtray, 'Sit in that chair.' Then you actually go over and put the ashtray on the chair. Then you tell the ashtray, 'Thank you.' Then you do the same thing with the bottle, and the book. And you do this for hours and hours."

Let us get this straight. Tom Cruise, who had already starred in Risky Business and Top Gun and Born on the Fourth of July and Days of Thunder, the man who, at the time, was 28 years old and perhaps the biggest movie star in the world, spent hours and hours of each day, for three straight weeks, instructing Headley to speak to inanimate objects, requesting that they get up and move on their own, and when they didn't, told Headley to move them anyway, and then thank them?

"For hours and hours," Headley says.

In God's name, why?

"It was to get your intention over to the bottle."

Your what?

"It was supposed to rehabilitate your ability to control things. And to be controlled," he says.

And there was more. It involved doorknobs.

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