The founder of Scientology's fascinating life story.

Taking stock of people and ideas in the news.
July 15 2005 6:16 PM

L. Ron Hubbard

Scientology's esteemed founder.

(Continued from Page 1)

By that time, in any case, he had gone into hiding. On or around Jan. 17, 1986, Hubbard suffered a catastrophic stroke on a secluded ranch near Big Sur, Calif. A week later he was dead. Scientology attorneys arrived to recover his body, which they sought to have cremated immediately. They were blocked by a county coroner, who, according to Scientology critics, did an autopsy that revealed high levels of a psychiatric drug (Vistaril). That would seem like an embarrassment given the church's hostility to such medications (witness Tom Cruise's recent feud with Brooke Shields), but it didn't stop the church from summoning thousands of followers to the Hollywood Palladium days after Hubbard's death. There they were told that Hubbard "willingly discarded the body after it was no longer useful to him," and that this signified "his ultimate success: the conquest of life that he embarked upon half a century ago." Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Hubbard's ultimate success lay in convincing millions of people he was something other than a nut.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor at theNew Republic.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.