Zoe Woodcraft Interview, Part I

Interviewer: Stacy Brooks, Lisa McPherson Trust
Participants: Zoe Woodcraft, her older sister Astra, and their father Lawrence


Voice-Over: Zoe Woodcraft grew up in Scientology. She recently sat down with her family and spoke with Stacy Brooks.

Zoe Woodcraft: We went to Florida when I was two years old, joined the Sea Org, and I was raised in the nurseries in Florida from ages two to four.

Stacy Brooks: Do you remember that at all?

Zoe: I can't remember that much, but I remember the cockroaches, actually! That's kind of my main memory of Florida, was cockroaches.

Stacy: When you were that young?

Zoe: Yeah. 'Cause there were a lot. And then, I went to LA when my whole family moved. We went to LA, and I went...

Stacy: And how old were you then?

Zoe: I was four now. And I lived in something called the CEO, which was... I think it was the Cadets' or Children's Estates Org? And I just lived in dorms, basically. I mean my mother and my father would come pick me up late at night and drop me off in the morning. It wasn't...

Stacy: Didn't CEO stand for Cedars Estates Org?

Zoe: Yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, we just called it CEO.

Astra Woodcraft: Cadet Estates Org.

Stacy: Cadet Estates Org.

Astra: ... for children.

Zoe: And we slept on, like, cots. [speaking to Astra] Like, I think we had those same cots that you had. And, sometimes they just didn't have enough blankets, no matter how small. They would cut them up in two or, or buy them, or how cheaply... they just didn't have enough, so we would just lie there in cots in crowded rooms, and some of us would sleep there all night, and some of us would be picked up by our parents. And then when I was six years old, my mother had been promoted by this time up to higher management up in this secret location called Gold, up in, like north of LA I think.

Stacy: That's in... east of LA. It's in Gilman Hot Springs. It's near Hemet.

Zoe: Oh, OK. Yeah. So my mom said "How would you like to come with me," and I said, "OK." So I moved up there and it was kind of like this top secret ranch, and my father had divorced my mother by this time, and I'd been told never to tell my father where this place was. Of course, I'm so young I didn't even remember how to get there.

Stacy: And how old were you at this point?

Zoe: Six. And, oh God, it was so regulated there.

Stacy: Well, now... where were you? Were you out at the part that's called Happy Valley?

Zoe: Yeah. Is that... I think that's like half an hour away from Gold.

Stacy: And what was it called?

Zoe: It was called the INT Ranch.

Stacy: So this was the INT Ranch for the kids.

Zoe: Uh-huh. Yeah, for like upper management kids. And it was supposed to be like a place like we should be thankful for getting there, you know? 'Cause it was supposed to be like one of the greatest places for kids on Earth.

Stacy: And what was it really like?

Zoe: Well the rooms were better. They were renovated and painted. But it was like being raised in the military, or worse. Like all our rooms were done in navy blue. The carpet, our beds, the curtains. And we had dressers... we weren't allowed to have anything on the dressers. So it was like kind of impersonal... like where we lived was kept really impersonal. And cleanliness was so important that... like I remember when I got there I did the Make... the How to Make the Bed course. And you drilled like having every sheet folded perfectly, you know like the sailors with those fitted corners on their sheets, like that?

Stacy: This is... You're six years old then?

Zoe: Yeah. We learned the names of sheets. You had, like, the fitted sheet, and then you have, like, the top sheet, and then we had a blanket, and then we had the bedspread. The bedspread was, like, embroidered with the Sea Org symbol. And yeah, at the end of that, the How to Make the Bed course, you had to drill making a perfect bed in under five minutes... and we had bed inspections. And...

Stacy: Yeesh!

Zoe: And we had like an exact schedule that we had to follow... like exactly. And we weren't allowed to bring our shoes into the room, like into our dorm. We weren't allowed to bring food into the dorm. And I only got to see my dad every other weekend for a few hours, because we would get something called CSP on Saturday morning.

Stacy: And that's Clean Ship Program, isn't it?

Zoe: Yeah.

Stacy: That's when you're supposed to be doing your laundry and stuff?

Zoe: Yeah, we're supposed to be doing our cleaning. So we would have to, like, figure out how to do that and see our parents. So my mom would come pick me up at night, and I would go spend the night at her place, her berthing, and we would spend the morning together until like 11:30 and then she would have to drop me off in her car, and then... But on the other weekend, when I went to see my dad, I would start driving with mom's friend... one of my mom's friends, named Paul. We would start driving down to LA at like four o'clock in the morning. He would come wake me up and we would go down... four o'clock in the morning. I would get to my dad's place by like... maybe eight or something?

Lawrence Woodcraft: Mm-hmm.

Zoe: And then I would have to sleep normally a few more hours... Well sometimes. It depended. I tried to stay awake but... and then I would have to leave again at 10:30! So it would be like two and a half hours. Because then we had to make the long drive back to the INT ranch by twelve o'clock. You know, every weekend, I would spend like two, two and a half hours with him and Astra, and maybe my brother...

Stacy: Every weekend, or was it every other?

Zoe: No every other, but every weekend I went to see him...

Lawrence: Well, there were a lot of gaps when I would see her for maybe six weeks...

Zoe: Yeah there were.

Lawrence: ... because the guy, Paul, who was giving... he was coming down to see his family...

Zoe: Like he couldn't drive or something.

Lawrence: ... and then he would be doing something else, and then he couldn't come, and I remember like once five or six weeks passed. And he would call me to say, "I'm sorry, you're not going to see Zoe this week," and I'd say, "Well wait a minute. This is the agreement. This is my kid, my six year old kid. I want to see her." And he'd say, "I understand your frustration, but it's just not possible." And I just wouldn't know when I'd see her again.

Zoe: He was nice to just to drive me down, like that was...

Lawrence: He was... he was trying to be nice about it. He was. And he felt sorry for me, but I was like, "When am I going to see my kid?" you know?

Zoe: Yeah, so it was kind of like this starting of like always having to say goodbye to my dad. I mean, I remember that. And so it got to the point where like every time I had to say goodbye to him, I'd be crying, like not just... not just in this but like, later in my life, I would say goodbye and it would just be so hard on me.

Stacy: How much did you get to see your mom when you were at the INT Ranch?

Zoe: Every other weekend.

Stacy: But... but wasn't she there?

Zoe: No.

Stacy: She was at Gold.

Zoe: Yeah.

Stacy: But I mean...

Zoe: But she never came to see me.

Stacy: ... Gold is only twenty minutes away from Happy Valley.

Zoe: Yeah, but she was on a strict schedule, too, and no parents ever came to see their kids during the week... that was... that was like, "What?!" That would be weird.

Astra: Not part of the schedule.

Zoe: Yeah, not part of the schedule, not part of the rules.

Stacy: So, who was taking care of you, then?

Zoe: So, we just had nannnies. Actually, I was like the middle age group, and I was taken care of by like a 16... 17 year old guy named Sterling Thom... Thompson?

Astra: Tomkins.

Zoe: Tomkins.

Stacy: Foster Tomkins' boy.

Zoe: Yeah, so like we would wake up, and we would have like half an hour to get ready, and then we would eat meals, and our table was completely regulated... table captains, a new steward each week, like, a member of the table, and clean up time. And it was totally military. And then we'd have cleaning stations, and then we did have school, but...

Stacy: What's a cleaning... what's cleaning station?

Zoe: A cleaning station... that would be like... well say there was like a... there was around a hundred kids there, so we would just have like a cleaning job... like "sweep this", you know, "mop this area," and we had to have it done in 20 minutes. And then we would go to school, and most of it... well not... it varied. It would be like 20% up to... at one point in my life it was 90% of my schooling was religious studies in Scientology.

Stacy: Well, where did you go to school?

Zoe: Out at the ranch. We never left the ranch, except once I left to go to Gold, the one time I went to Gold, for Sea Org Day. It's like a holiday sort of thing. And one time... well, besides the CSP but... And then another time I went down to see my dad at Christmas time, and I was only supposed to stay one day and I stayed about seven days, which was way against the rules. I should not have done that!

Stacy: How did that happen?

Zoe: Because I just... I was like, "I'm here, and I'm kind of staying here." It was Christmas time, and it was really... I really wanted to stay with my family. But, so yeah, we never left. We never got to go to the movies...

Stacy: You never went into town?

Zoe: No! I didn't even know there was a town there! I only found out recently that there was a town nearby. Um... [laughter]... yeah, I stayed on this ranch, and it was my life.

Astra: It's not even funny.

Stacy: This is not funny at all.

Zoe: At one point... Oh yeah, so we would do schooling and then we would do like outside work in the afternoon... like, most of the time it was weeding. Like I said before, cleanliness was really important, and so was like... all the gardens had to look perfect. Because that teacher was always like we were "so lucky to live there," we had to "keep it perfect," and you know, we should do our best because "it humbled us to be there." And even at six years old, I was like, "Wow, I'm so privileged to be here." You know... Oh... the first day I went there I had lice, and I started crying because I felt like, "Oh I've humiliated myself in this great place!" That's really what my attitude about it was.

Astra: The children there regularly got lice. They couldn't do anything. They kept trying to get the kids to get rid of it, but they couldn't. Kids would have the job of picking lice out of other kids' hair.

Zoe: Yeah. And they would get scabies, and... bedbugs?... and things like that.

Stacy: Really?

Zoe: Yeah. Oh, and some like... diarrhea conditions. At one point in Florida that was going around, and... oh and if one kid had the flu, they wouldn't really treat it properly, so he could have the flu or a bad cough for a long time, and it would spread to the other kids. So, there was a lot of bad living conditions. And, um... And then there was a chairman of the board... he had a niece and a nephew, and his niece was my roommate...

Stacy: Now, what were their names?

Zoe: Jenna Miscavige and Justin Miscavige.

Stacy: So these are David Miscavige's niece and nephew?

Zoe: Uh-huh, yeah. They were the son and daughter of Ronnie Miscavige.

Stacy: Uh-huh.

Zoe: And Jenna Miscavige tended to get more... like, she was my friend, but she would get better things than the other kids and the adults treated her with more respect, like they didn't order her around meanly, like as much they would the other kids. And Justin Miscavige... There was something about a half mile off from the major buildings of the INT Ranch. It was this house... that it was like a rather new house, and it was nicely done up, and whereas our rooms were all monochromatic, I guess you would say... and they were done up really kind of severely?...

Stacy: Yeah.

Zoe: This was like a nice house, which had like a dance room in it with like mirrors and bars, and it had art paintings all over the place... and we were only allowed pictures of the Apollo ship and LRH in our rooms. So that was... I mean we couldn't... We weren't even allowed personal stuff on our dressers. But here it was all nicely done up, and there was pictures of all this different stuff, and there was a paint room, and all this kind of art stuff.

Stacy: And who lived there?

Zoe: The big boys. We called them "the big boys." It was Justin Miscavige and other boys his age. But there was no "big girls' house." I mean maybe they would make one when Jenna Miscavige grew old there. But, yeah, so we just called it "the big boys' house," and actually later... one afternoon a group of us at the INT ranch were kind of rounded up, and we were sent there, and we kind of hid in that house for like an afternoon. And I asked, you know, why were we there? I mean, I didn't mind being there because it was nice... and some... one of my friends told me there's a health inspec... or, I think actually the teacher like announced it to us in there, that there was a health inspector, or childrens inspector?... I think it was like a health inspector. He had come to inspect the ranch, and there was too many children there legally until they finished renovating this other building there called "the big house." So they were hiding us away until they finished renovating that and it was legal for all of us to be there. Another thing with "the big house"... there was something called "pig's berthing"...

Stacy: What is that?

Zoe: Like I said, cleanliness was so important and image was so important, that if someone had a dirty dorm for, I think it was like for more than a day, they got [??????] pig's berthing... it was also... you could also call it the punishment pig's berthing. And you know, in different cadet orgs in different orgs the punishment varied, but normally it's like you have to clean your room and do amends. Here because they had, like... it was a ranch and they had... they could do all this kind of cool stuff, they had the people, the kids, sleep at night in the big house, which was this two-story old house with rats and insects, and it had just been abandoned for the longest time. It was really dangerous. We were told never to go in there. On normal days we were told never to go in there because, you know, you could trip, fall through some boards, you know, get a nail stuck in your foot. So this girl I knew named Lindsay, who was probably a little older than me... she was like nine... and another, a dormmate of hers had pig's berthing one day, and they were made to sleep in the big house one night, and they ran out in the middle of the night, screaming because some bats had terrified them. They'd walked around or something, or some bats flew by their face, and they freaked out and they ran screaming out of there. They weren't made to go back in. I guess, you know... In fact, I even heard someone say, "Well, I guess they learned their lesson."

Stacy: God!

Zoe: Yeah, that's how it was there. We were like told that we should be adults, and we were given jobs like, if there was ever a fire, like I was in charge of a fire extinguisher in a certain area, and I would be the one putting out the fire instead of adults... Because we didn't have a lot of adults there. There was like seven...

Stacy: And how old were you at that point?

Zoe: I was probably around seven. I lived on the INT Ranch from maybe like six to seven.

Stacy: And you were in charge of putting out a fire...

Zoe: Yeah...

Stacy: ... with a fire extinguisher?

Zoe: Yeah. And if we came across a rattlesnake... If there was a security guard nearby... Of course, we had adults, but some of them were like security guards to make sure no one came onto the ranch that wasn't supposed to and no one left that wasn't supposed to...

Stacy: Were you guarded all the time?

Zoe: Well, we were run all the... like I... my... I was watched by Sterling Tomkins all the time...

Stacy: How old was he?

Zoe: Sixteen... Seventeen. But...

Stacy: But, were there adults?

Zoe: Yeah, there were some. My teacher was an adult. But not a lot of others. Probably about... There was a governess. There was a laundress. There was at least one security guard. There was a guy in charge of the whole ranch, and maybe like one or two other people?

Stacy: And this was for a hundred kids?

Zoe: Yeah, about a hundred. But, we were told, like if we came across a rattlesnake, and there wasn't a security guard around, then to back up slowly, but if he was in our way... in the way of something, then to chop off his head with a shovel. So we were supposed to kill rattlesnakes that we came across. In fact, we were told there was... Gold was giving out an award of like ten dollars, or fifteen dollars... no,it was... at one point it got to twenty dollars for anyone turning in a rattlesnake tail, so we would try to. At one point, I was... I would kind of look for them, like oh, I want ten dollars, I want fifteen dollars! And some kids did. I probably would have not been brave enough to...

Stacy: Good!

Zoe: ... actually kill one. Yeah, exactly. But some other kids did.

Stacy: So, how long were you at the INT Ranch?

Zoe: Until I was almost eight. And then, uh... my mother had been on mission in New York at this time, and she said, "Do you want to come over here?" And I said, "OK."

Stacy: Come to New York?

Zoe: Yeah, so I went to New York. I lived there for eleven months. It was supposed to be like a visit, but I lived there for eleven months. I didn't go to school at all. My mom actually, at one point, she said, "Why don't you go to the public school?" But I had been taught that public school was a bad thing... that like psychiatrists were constantly dragging off kids to drug them, like... honestly this is what I believed. I believed Scientologists... I mean psychiatrists were dragging kids off without their parents permission to drug them, and do weird things to them, and cause them pain, and that you didn't really learn anything, and once you walked in there, people made fun of you. So she asked me once to go to public school, which some of the other kids in New York did, and I said, "No! No!" And she said, "OK." And I don't know why she let me make the decision.

Stacy: So, what'd you do instead?

Zoe: So, I kind of hung around all day. Hung around at the office...

Stacy: At the org?

Zoe: Yeah. And this was like in the middle of Manhattan. It wasn't a very nice area.

Stacy: This was your... You were eight years old?

Zoe: Yeah. So, I didn't really do anything. There was a guy called Eugene that was supposed to watch us like after three, for when some of the kids got out of school, and he took us once to Central Park and... and... I think once he took us to the Empire State Building and... we did have a little room, and he would help the kids who went to public school with their homework. So that's kind of what New York was like. Oh, me and my mom had a nice room, because she came from like top management to New York, which was a smaller org, so we were given like this nice room, and we slept in bunk beds, like she was on the bottom and I was on the top...

Stacy: And that was a nice room?

Zoe: Yeah, that was a nice room. We were like, "Oh my God!" But the rest of the place, like other people had bad rooms. Like no carpeting, and smelly... it was like an old New York apartment that... Oh, the bottom area, where the public went was nice, and my mom's room was nice, and that's all I remember that were... you know, renovated areas. Oh, my mom also got no time off during this. She would take me at the end of dinner sometimes out, like to go buy a slice of pizza just down the block, or go buy a comic book. I was a comic book collector then. But that was it. She didn't get any other time off.

Stacy: So, I mean, what did you do all day?

Zoe: I was...

Stacy: Do you remember?

Zoe: I kind of like... like would hang around. Once Eugene... or twice Eugene took us down to this park down the street, and uh....

Stacy: So, otherwise what did you do?

Zoe: I was bored. Oh, my mom at one point tried to have me do Scientology courses, something called the STCCs, Success Through Communication, and that was boring. I didn't like it. Oh, another course I had done before at the INT Ranch was called the BSM...

Stacy: Basic Study Manual.

Zoe: Yeah, the Basic Study Manual. And, I had been only six when I did that, maybe seven. And that's kind of hard to understand when you're six or seven.

Stacy: Yeah, it's basically a shorter version of the Student Hat, isn't it?

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah.

Stacy: It's sort of a simplified version of a course to teach someone how to study.

Zoe: Mm-hmm.

Stacy: ... in the Scientology way.

Lawrence: It strikes me, though, that it's not designed for study by, like, a six or seven year old...

Stacy: No.

Lawrence: I would think it's way... It's designed for adults.

Stacy: Adults take the Basic Study Manual...

Zoe: Yeah.

Stacy: ... not six or seven year olds.

Zoe: Yeah, so I read through it, and I had like two other girls I was supposed to study with, and I went to go take the test, and I only got 30% on it. And I was really ashamed, but I didn't quite understand even what 30% of the test meant. So, when I brought it down to my teacher, and she called out in front of the whole class... I walked to my seat down like at the back of the classroom, and she said, "Well, Zoe, you better get started in your crams." Oh, my teacher's name was Yolanda Avila, and she said, "You better get started on your crams," and I said, "OK," and then she's like, "On second, thought, you don't seem to understand any of this. You'd better just do the whole thing over." And all my classmates in front of me gasped, and I was really humiliated. So, my mom... at this point I could see her health was declining...

Stacy: How?

Zoe: She got very little sleep, and she would always have these deep bags under her eyes here, and she started to wrinkle before her time from all the smoking and coffee she drank. And she wasn't eating properly, and she'd choke on her food easily. And she just... she got tired really easily... like the times we would go out, like to walk down to the pizza place, or... on one CSP, one Saturday morning, we went out shopping, and she got really irritated with me... she said she was all tired. Because I couldn't figure out which pair of pants I wanted, she got all irritated, and then she said, "I'm sorry, I'm just tired." So, already I could see the strain the Sea Org was having on her. But, later as I grew up, it kind of became one of my major concerns. I always felt like, "My mother's going to die! My mother's going to die!" Because she looked so bad! She was really skinny. She was like five foot eight and 118 pounds.

Stacy: That's very skinny.

Zoe: Yeah. So I was... I started really worrying about my mother, like in New York, and I would continue to.


Transcript continued in Zoe Woodcraft Interview, Part II