According to the CST, an entity formed to manage the Church of Scientology’s copyright affairs, the purpose of the base is to provide storage space for an archiving project to preserve Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s writings, films and recordings for future generations.
Hubbard’s texts have been engraved on stainless steel tablets and encased in titanium capsules underground. The project began in the late 1980s The base includes a number of dwellings and the archives themselves, the latter in a network of underground tunnels. The base also has its own private, concrete airstrip, the San Miguel Ranch Airport (NM53).
The property history of Trementina Base is complex. The Federal Register shows that CST has owned two properties in the same area at different times. The one they originally built the underground vault on, between 1986 to 1992, was traded to the U.S. government on 24 August 1992:[this quote needs a citation]
- Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management Number: G-910-G3-0006-4210-04; NMNM 83264
- The United States issued an exchange conveyance document to the Church of Spiritual Technology, a California corporation, on August 24, 1992, for the surface estate in the following described land in San Miguel County, New Mexico, pursuant to section 206 of the Act of October 21, 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1716).
- New Mexico Principal Meridian T. 15 N., R. 22 E. …Containing 400.00 acres (1.6187 km2).
- In exchange for the land described above, the Church of Spiritual Technology conveyed to the United States the surface estate in the following described land located in San Miguel County, New Mexico:
- New Mexico Principal Meridian T. 17 N., R. 23 E. …Containing 400.00 acres (1.6187 km2).
- The values of the Federal public land and the non-Federal land in the exchange were appraised at $28,000.00. The public interest was served through the completion of this exchange.
According to a June 1992 Claims Court ruling CST had purchased the original site in 1986 for $250,976, then had invested millions in building an underground vault on the property. But the Federal Register record says both properties were valued at only $28,000 at the time of the land swap in August 1992. However footage from KRQE TV shows the presence of a vault built into the mountainside between the runway and the CST logo.
An aerial photograph showing the base’s enormous Scientology symbols on the ground caused media interest and broke the story in November 2005. According to a Washington Post report, the Church’s first reaction was to attempt to suppress the information:
The church tried to persuade station KRQE not to air its report last week about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault “built into a mountainside,” the station said on its Web site. Based in Los Angeles, the corporation dispatched an official named Jane McNairn and an attorney to visit the TV station in an effort to squelch the story, KRQE news director Michelle Donaldson said.
The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece, the station said in its newscast. Scientology also called KRQE’s owner, Emmis Communications, and “sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker” to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its Web site.
The huge symbols on the base, distinguishable only from an aerial view ( 35°31’28.56″N 104°34’20.20″W), are specifically those of Scientology’s Church of Spiritual Technology. Former members of the Church have said that the symbol marks a “return point” for Scientologists to help find Hubbard’s works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe.
Reportedly, two similar bases maintained by the Church of Spiritual Technology are located in Petrolia, California (40°23’15.55″N 124°18’19.05″W), and Creston, California (35°27’12.29″N 120°29’59.20″W), both for archiving permanent backups of Hubbard’s every written and spoken word. Internal Revenue Service records show that Scientologists spent $13 million in 1992 to preserve Hubbard’s fiction and non-fiction writings on 1.8 million stainless steel discs, and recorded his lectures on 187,000 nickel records. The Church of Spiritual Technology symbol also appears at the Petrolia location and in the middle of a track at the ranch in Creston, California where L. Ron Hubbard died.
Scientology’s Secret Vaults: A Rare Interview With a Former Member of Hush-Hush “CST”
By Tony Ortega
Feb. 6 2012
Over the years, we’ve talked to a lot of former Scientologists, many of whom worked at the church’s secretive desert headquarters in Southern California, “Int Base.” They were cut off from their families and the outside world, and became accustomed to living in secrecy.
“I was in international management and the Watchdog Committee for 20 years, and I never knew where CST was, the whole time,” says Amy Scobee, a former high-ranking church official.
“CST was very hush-hush. Even among the Int staff, it wasn’t well known. Anyone coming from CST, it was very sensitive,” says Gary Morehead, who was chief of security at Int Base and oversaw the interrogation of executives who had gone awry. He had to sign a bond promising that he’d keep confidential anything that came out in those interrogations, which are known as “sec-checking.” When it came to CST executives, however, Morehead says he had to sign a second bond.
“Sec-checking them, you had to sign a special bond that you would keep things secret. You were ‘bonded for CST’,” he says.
It’s still rare, however, to have a press interview with a former CST employee. But Dylan Gill, who helped build vaults in California and New Mexico — which each include houses built specifically for raising the reincarnation of Hubbard — says he finally wants to tell his story.
“You couldn’t tell anybody at Int Base about it. Nobody knew where the CST headquarters was,” Gill tells me while the sound of one of his young children putting up a fuss comes into and out of our telephone conversation. Today Gill, 41, lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two kids and life is pretty normal.
But in 1988, as a member of Scientology’s elite “Sea Org,” having signed a billion-year contract and promising to dedicate himself and his future lifetimes to the church, Gill found himself being driven up into the San Bernardino Mountains.
“My [first] wife had already been up there posted as the HCO secretary,” he remembers. (He’s now married to someone else.) “I think there were only 18 people in the entire org at the CST headquarters.”
Where he was taken was a complex in the mountains above Los Angeles. Gill, who worked there and at other CST bases for the next three years, refers to the compound as “Rimforest,” which is the name of a nearby hamlet southwest of Lake Arrowhead. Other ex-Scientologists tend to call the compound “Twin Peaks,” which is the name of another nearby mountain village.
“My aunt, the family’s original Scientologist, suggested I go to the EPF at Flag,” he says, referring to Estates Project Force, the sort of “boot camp” that new Sea Org members go through, at “Flag,” the church’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.
“I was made to sign a Sea Org contract at 14, and was sent to Flag. I did my EPF, and that’s when CMO picked me up,” he says, referring to the Commodore’s Messenger Service, an elite group within the elite Sea Org that tends to be populated by young recruits. (Hubbard’s original messengers were teenaged girls who ran errands for him on the yacht Apollo in the late 1960s.)
It’s common for Sea Org members to marry young — as we’ve written numerous times before, former SO members tell us that the only way to get any privacy was to get married and move out of the single-sex barracks that were for unmarried workers. “I got married to a second-generation Scientologist,” Gill says. And then he and his wife were both recruited to CST.
Gill was sent from Florida to Scientology’s administrative headquarters in Los Angeles, a former hospital that takes up a full city block and is known as Pacific Area Command (PAC) by Scientologists.
“I was sent to PAC for clearances,” Gill says, and he explained that even if a young church member proved squeaky clean enough to become a Sea Org member, he’d have to be even more unblemished for CST. And after passing that gauntlet, Gill was on his way to Rimforest.
“I was replacing the ‘estates secretary,’ who was going to the RPF,” he says.
CST’s estates secretary had been overseeing numerous construction projects at the headquarters, but he had run afoul of Scientology’s top management. As punishment, he was taken down to Happy Valley, a ranch near Hemet, California, and several miles from Int Base itself. There, he was going into the Sea Org’s prison detail, Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), to do grueling, menial labor and to be interrogated by Gary Morehead and his security crew.
I asked Gill if he knew what his predecessor had done so wrong. “It was pretty arbitrary,” he says. “You’re dealing with so many projects and so much money, there’s no way you’re going to succeed. It’s set up so you’ll eventually fail,” he says.
Gill was sent up to take over the estates secretary position, and would oversee a budget of about $14 million to fund 16 different ongoing construction projects at the Rimforest complex.
He was 19 years old.
[Map above. Scientology’s administrative headquarters are in Los Angeles, housed in the former Cedars of Lebanon hospital on a street that was renamed L. Ron Hubbard Way (Scientologists refer to the place as “Big Blue” or “PAC base,” for Pacific Area Command). But the highest levels of international management are housed at a secretive desert base near Hemet, about 85 miles east, which Scientologists call “Int Base” or “Gold,” because it houses Scientology’s audiovisual studios, Golden Era Productions. CST’s compound, however, is in the mountains above San Bernardino, near Lake Arrowhead — as Amy Scobee pointed out, even high-level executives at Int Base had no idea where it was.]
[The entrance to the compound from Squirrel Inn Road. Gill says that when he arrived in 1988, the guard shack had not yet been built.]
[The building near the circular drive in the center has an elevator that lowers into the twin vaults below.]
[This is an overhead look at Rimforest’s “LRH House,” where a reincarnated L. Ron Hubbard would be raised until he’s old enough to take over Scientology.]
The compound at Rimforest had quite a few structures, but the point of the thing — the point of all of CST’s bases — was its vault.
When Gill arrived in 1988, he says, the Rimforest vault was about a third of the way to completion. It consisted of twin, cylindrical underground repositories with corrugated steel walls, and a suspended concrete floor about a third of the way up from the bottom of the cylinders.
“They were about 17 to 20 feet tall,” Gill says. “There were two portals where it goes between the two steel pipes.”
As with similar vaults farther north in California, in New Mexico, and another one under construction in Wyoming, the point of the vaults is to store L. Ron Hubbard’s writings and lectures in the form of etched steel plates in titanium containers, as well as in other forms, so that his “technology” could survive a nuclear attack and help reform society in an apocalyptic world.
But in 1988, that was still well in the future. The titanium capsules were still in the planning stages, and much of CST’s work involved simply archiving all of Hubbard’s written and spoken words, organizing them, and xeroxing them on acid-free paper.
“The capsules were still being researched. The etching of the plates was being started, and compact discs were being researched, too,” Gill says. “CST made a lot of trips to China to get a deal going on the time capsules and new e-meters,” he adds.
I asked him what the plans for the titanium capsules looked like. “It was like a banker’s box, and you’d have a place to fill it with inert gas, like argon gas,” he says.
So at this point, the vaults themselves were empty. But there was still much work to be done to them. “We hadn’t loaded anything into the vaults yet. We were still waiting for the time capsules. But we were pushing to get everything by LRH archived. Plates etched, Compact discs copied. The plan was to make each base completely self-sufficient,” Gill says.
While the vault would hold all of the Hubbard materials, each base would need housing for staff, and all of it would need to have power from big, reliable generator sets. “That was one thing I did. We went to Caterpillar and got generators for all of our bases,” he says.
They took their work very seriously. In the production buildings, where the Hubbard archives were being handled, they had actually constructed full-blown clean rooms, the kind of thing you normally only expect at high-tech firms. “There’s an argon gas system that will flush out the air in the room in three seconds,” he says.
Everything about his job, Gill says, was done on an emergency basis; each new order had to be treated with even more urgency than the one before, whatever the expense.
As an example, he tells me about a time one winter when things were icy and the footing was unsure. “A French woman tripped walking between the main production building to a building where staff lived. She broke her wrist. I got an order to solve the problem. What I came up with was heated pathways. We put in three to five miles of pathways connecting the dining area to the production building to the staff housing, using stamped concrete pathways with glycol hosing in it. We set up a pump room on a thermostat. When the temperature dropped, it would pump heated glycol into the pathways and melt the snow,” he says. “We got a guy from Germany who had developed it for runways. He was living in LA. We brought him up to design it. It was a huge deal. I think it was around $20,000.”
Another time, he says, they came up with a way to reduce the number of times staff had to go into town: “We put in a dry cleaning machine at the base so we didn’t have to go outside to do that.” Gill says the machine alone cost between $50,000 and $70,000 in that project.
Gill didn’t only oversee construction projects at CST’s Rimforest headquarters. He also spent much of his time at Trementina base, in New Mexico.
Like Rimforest, the main point of Trementina is its vault. But it has another feature that has also made it somewhat notorious, and previously caught the attention of news organizations: its bizarre giant CST logo carved into the desert floor, intended to be seen from the sky.
[CST’s logo is carved into the desert floor not far from the vault entrance.]
[Trementina is an unincorporated town in the northeastern portion of New Mexico.]
When Gill arrived at Trementina base for the first time, the airstrip was still being cut out of the desert. “The priority when I was there was finishing the LRH House,” he says.
As at Rimforest, Tremintina’s vault was in place, but was mostly empty. I asked him to describe it to me.
“It’s a huge door with a timelock on it. It’s like a huge safe, like a safe in the bank,” he says. And inside? “It’s all white, like painted cement. One long shaft, with a dividing wall about halfway down, with another vault door inside of the main vault.”
There was equipment, too. Reel-to-reel players, for example, and other devices that could make use of the things that would be stored. “It’s like an external library,” Gill says. “There’s everything you need to make use of the materials. Multiple binders of instructions…whoever survived a nuclear war could use it, if mankind was going to rebuild society.”
I told him I understood that concept, but why the big logo visible from the air (which at that time was still being planned)?
“That’s where LRH is supposed to go, when he returns,” Gill says. Once Hubbard adopts a new body, he’s expected to make his way to one of the CST bases. “That’s where he’s supposed to be raised and be taken care of,” Gill says. “So the symbol is a way for a spirit to find its way back to where it belongs.”
I hadn’t heard that one. Naturally, people have made fun of the symbol, saying that it looked like it was intended to signal space aliens coming to Earth. Instead, Gill was telling me it was there to signal the wandering spirit of L. Ron Hubbard.
Suddenly, I realized that Chuck Beatty really was only half-joking when he noted that CST’s logo seemed reminiscent of the Kool cigarettes trademark, the brand that Hubbard smoked like a fiend in life. (Beatty, a former Sea Org member, is a sort of unofficial historian of the church.)
There’s another interesting feature at Trementina. The vault entrance is not visible from the outside: a large, multi-story house was built around it to conceal it. Gill says it’s called the “Ventilation House.” Trementina’s LRH House is some distance away, and is only one story. (An image of the ventilation house can be seen at the top of this story, taken from a CBS investigation that flew over Trementina.)
Here is a couple news reports on this from 2008: