Every family has their black sheep.
On my mother’s side, our black sheep was instead a shepherd who enslaved his own flock, the king of cons, a man who made himself a messiah but never called himself a God.
His name is engraved on steel tablets in titanium capsules hidden miles underground in nuclear blast reinforced tunnels so even if our whole species goes extinct, his words will still survive.
He was the subject that never got talked about at the kids table at my family reunions, but he was my great grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard.
Lafayette Ron Hubbard.
He started as a story-teller, a science fiction writer, a golden tongued grifter who could write a book in any genre in an hour while the publisher waited downstairs in the hotel lobby. Just another name on dime store pulp mags paid only a penny a page until 1949 when he’d said, you wanna know how you really get rich?
You start a religion.
A year later he kept to his word and write Dianetics, transforming science fiction into fact until you could pay to flat line your mind for a fee. Overnight he went from pennies to a prophet, from myths to millions, until the world demanded to see his evidence, but L. Ron knew if you don’t have facts, all you need is faith so he transformed his science into a religion and Scientology was born.
A few years later, his son arrived. A baby who survived an early abortion attempt, born premature at 2 pounds and 2 ounces, abandoned as his father sought fame and fortune, now he emerged to take his part of the new family business.
He was my grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard Jr.
Carrying his father’s name and his red hair, he became his right hand disciple and helped construct the cult for years, until he realized he was only another accomplice.
Trained in the arts of electrified hypnosis, break ins and beat-downs, it took him a decade to the holes behind the holy, the man behind the myth: his father. Stuffing thousands in a shoe box he kept hidden underneath his bed: his Father. Burning incriminating documents before dawn, his Father. Escaping from state to state, as Jr. watched his friends, banks broken, brains washed.
Sickened by what he had seen behind the curtain, in 1959, Jr. left. But his Father always understood retribution better than redemption and he stalked his son with wire-taps, break-ins and death threats, Jr. coming home to a mailbox full of photographs of his children playing alone and unguarded on empty playgrounds to remind him the eye of the pyramid never blinks. Why he could never sleep, why every aunt and uncle of mine were taught how to use a gun, Jr. forced to live like his Father permanently on the run until he changed his last name from Hubbard to DeWolf. A lie, to protect him from every having to dare truth again.
When your Father has created a religion in your own lifetime, you’ll never find a sun big enough to ever escape his shadow.
But there’s a thin line between prophecy and psychosis and the bare faced messiah run from countries and criminal charges, an international outlaw on a ship escaping extradition, his sanity slipping until he could no longer tell his own fantasy from fiction, until one day he vanished.
Before a courtroom or a jail cell could ever make him real again.
Jr. now buried under debt, litigated the holy ghost to prove he still had flesh. Jr. now a dying diabetic, with an amputated foot, battered from a decade of lawsuits against the man who carried his same name, until the night his Father died in hiding, cremated the next morning, leaving only a legacy of ashes.
The Church gave the Son their final offer. Arrest your tongue, swallow the truth for one final check. Or you and your next of kin will suffer a lifetime of threats, so he signed away his silence and took his secrets and two heart attacks to his grave.
Another victim the church stopped pretending to save.
At thanksgiving in a house a self-made god paid for, his grand children never said his name.
He was the God we never gave grace to.
One day when he was still alive, my grandfather took me to a bookshelf to show me his father’s works and he said, your mom says you want to be a writer, well, don’t believe everything you read, but believe everything you say.
I never met the man who gave me my red hair, the gift of gab and the pen, the man whose manic depression is twisted in the strains of my DNA, and the first time I saw a psychiatrist and he asked me if mental illness runs in my family, all I could say is yes.
Yes it does.
When I told him my great grandfather was a cult leader who had enslaved the minds of millions, he accused me of having delusions of grandeur. What can I say? It runs in the family.
I’ve gone in secret to L. Ron Hubbard Hollywood life exhibits, taken on a tour of a life he never led, my family written out of existence, and this latest victim will never know the legacy of lies I carry in my last name.
DeWolf. A cover story to protect us from his true children, the army of empty who greet me in train stations with an E meter and personality tests, their redheaded God smiling from a book cover, and they ask me, if I’ve ever heard of L. Ron Hubbard.
I always ask them, which one?
The Son or the Father.
or the Man?