It's No Secret

Urban Explorer Handbook 2006

click to enlarge WAITING FOR RON: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard has a lovingly recreated office in every church facility in the world. - Wayne Garcia
Wayne Garcia
WAITING FOR RON: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard has a lovingly recreated office in every church facility in the world.

Where: The "Inner Sanctum" At The Church Of Scientology, Fort Harrison Hotel, 201 S. Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater

Public access: Tours of the Fort Harrison Hotel are advertised in this newspaper, so getting in ain't that tough.

Element of danger: None. (Unless you labor under the notion that Scientology is a dangerous cult that is ready to kidnap you and brainwash your mind.)

Why we went: Thirty years after Scientology moved its international spiritual headquarters to Clearwater amid great controversy, Scientology is accepted by many as part of the community. The secrecy surrounding parts of Scientology's dogma and scriptures leaves some believing that something funny has got to be going on in its facilities, including the Fort Harrison Hotel.

What we discovered: Critics' assertions and Clearwater folklore to the contrary, there is no "inner sanctum" from which Scientology operates at the Fort Harrison, or some kind of "punishment" center in the basement of the famous hotel. Scientology operates several buildings in downtown, all aimed at providing the upper levels of Scientology religious services and training to its parishioners, who donate money to the church for the privilege.

If there is an "inner sanctum" in Scientology, it is the auditing room. We got to tour one at the Sandcastle, another Scientology hotel a few blocks from the Fort Harrison. It is a Spartan room, with a single desk, two chairs, some textbooks and an E-meter. Scientology describes auditing as "a very unique form of personal counseling which helps an individual look at his own existence and improves his ability to confront what he is and where he is." Using the E-meter, which is similar to a skin galvanometer, the auditor helps the parishioner locate events and memories — "areas of spiritual distress or travail" — in what founder L. Ron Hubbard called the reactive part of the mind. Since these small rooms are so intensely personal, they are probably the closest thing the church has to an "inner sanctum," but they are not any great secret; opponents and proponents of the church have been publicly debating auditing for decades.

While checking out Scientology's buildings, we ran across one other interesting room — L. Ron Hubbard's office, set off with a velvet rope, his nautical captain's hat sitting on his desk, seemingly awaiting his return. Every Scientology building has its own version of Hubbard's office; it reflects both their respect for their founder and the religion's belief in the immortality of the soul.

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