On March 14th, 2009 Scientology proudly announced the grand reopening of the historic Ft. Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater, FL.
In his usual smarmy style, Captain David Miscavige yanked his ribbon and made a speech notable for the promises made to the people of the town he had infiltrated.
After getting their foot firmly on Clearwater property by sneaking under an assumed name, Scientology proclaimed “We come in peace!” Then promptly alienated their new neighbors by the appearance of security guards, broken promises, lies and vicious attacks on anyone who dared attempt to challenge their actions.
Mayor Gabe Cazares suffered from the full force of Scientology’s wrath as they attempted to destroy him for speaking out. For anyone not familiar with the Hell Cazares was put through Tony Ortega has an excellent blog here:
If nothing else is certain about Scientology the fact that it is incapable of any truth has been proven countless times.
The taking over of the Ft. Harrison Hotel is no exception.
This grand, historic building had been the centerpiece of Clearwater for many years until finally in 1975, the building badly in need of repair and updating, Scientology bought it under the assumed names of “Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp” and the “United Churches of Florida, Inc”.
Between 1975 and 1988 three suspicious deaths occurred at the building.
Lisa McPherson was held in a room at the Ft Harrison during a psychotic episode that ended in her tragic death. Scientology would go on to bully and attack the coroner into changing the cause of death on McPherson’s death certificate, fight Lisa’s family tooth and nail thus revictimizing the already grieving parents and then nearly drive the head of the Lisa McPherson Trust, Bob Minton to complete ruin and suicide.
Scientologist Josephus A. Havenith was found dead at the Fort Harrison in a bathtub filled with water hot enough to have burned his skin off. Although Scientology claimed he’d drowned, the coroner noted that when found, Havenith’s head was not under water.
Lucy Morgan’s article in the December 7, 1997 St. Petersburg Times entitled “For some Scientologists, pilgrimage has been fatal”, noted Havenith’s death along with Scientologist Heribert Pfaff who died of a seizure. Pfaff had recently stopped taking his seizure medication in favor of Scientology’s vitamin regimen. This same article notes that “Clearwater police are suspicious about the number of 911 calls that come from rooms at the Fort Harrison Hotel. Police respond to each call only to be told most of the time by Scientology security guards that the call was a mistake. Police are not allowed to check individual rooms where the calls originated.
In the past 11 months, 161 calls to 911 were made from rooms in the hotel, but each time Scientology security guards said there was no emergency.”
The organization’s infamous RPF was housed here as well, described by Hanna Whitfield, in her affidavit to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
“Some of us slept on thin mattresses on the bare cement floor. Some had crude bunk beds. There was no place for clothes, so we lived out of suitcases and bags which were kept on bare floors. Some privacy was maintained by hanging sheets up between bunk beds and between floor mattresses. The women and men had separate bathrooms and toilets but they were small. We were not allowed to shower longer than 30 seconds. We had only to run through the shower and out the other end. There was no spare time for talk or relaxation. We awoke at 6:30 A.M. or earlier at times, did hard labor and heavy construction work and cleaning until late afternoon. After quick shower and change of clothing, we had to audit each other and ‘rehabilitate’ ourselves until 10:30 P.M. or later each evening. There were no days off, four weeks a month. We ate our meals in the garage or at times in the dining rooms AFTER normal meals had ended. Our food consisted of leftovers from staff. On occasions which seemed like Christmas, we were able to prepare ourselves fresh meals if leftovers were insufficient.”
She also stated that “To prevent zoning, health and other city inspectors from seeing the RPF conditions as they really existed, all RPFers were practiced and skilled in transforming their normal RPF sleeping areas into what looked like a regular furniture storage space, and doing so in a very short period of time. I often wished that someone from the city would spring a surprise visit on the Fort Harrison kitchen or garage or nursery but it never occurred.”
With dark abuse, suspicious deaths and a deceitful beginning, David Miscavige, Scientology’s leader and Liar-in-Chief continued as he began with his grand opening day speech.
He reminds the citizens of Clearwater of the exalted history of the building he’d managed to win from them through treachery.
“When she originally opened in 1926, they called her ‘the aristocrat of southern Florida hotels’ and described her as a ‘picturesque edifice’ known all up and down the coast, as the toast of this city and an ever-bustling hub of wedding receptions, fashion shows, bridge teas and Rotary Club functions.”
“She additionally saw no inconsiderable parade of luminaries. In the ’60s and ’70s the Phillies used to stay here during spring training and Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Buddy Rich all performed in our ballroom.”
One can almost imagine him thinking “and now it’s all MINE.”
Just as he began in deceit, so he continued as he assured all that “The bottom line is the same bottom line for the last 80-plus years: this Fort Harrison is and will always remain a landmark and home for all of Clearwater.”
The Fort Harrison may remain a landmark, but it is definitely not for all of Clearwater. Outwardly still called a “hotel”, a perusal of yelp reviews shows that non-Scientologists are not welcome. Reservations are not available to the general public. This writer called the “hotel” twice asking about booking a room and was told both times that the Ft. Harrison was a private location for Scientology for religious retreats.
The $20 million renovation with it’s marble floors, glittering chandeliers and spacious ballroom are not for tourists who come to visit the City to help boost the local economy.
What Miscavige meant when he said the Ft Harrison would be a “home for all Clearwater” is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he was looking forward to his desired future of a isolated City of Clearwater belonging only to Scientology.
Whatever his thoughts, the facts speak for themselves. Like everything else Scientology touches, the Ft Harrison may glitter under her $20 million gilding but she now bears a dark and tarnished soul.
What could have been a boon to the city, welcoming tourists and their vacation dollars now sits in the middle of a tropical desert. Streets no longer bustling with shoppers and sightseers. Restaurants no longer feed hungry beach goers.
The Ft Harrison stands like a mausoleum amongst the other Scientology properties, smaller tombstones in a desolated cult owned graveyard haunted by lies, abuse and hate.