Astra Woodcraft Interview

Part One

"Growing Up in Scientology"

Video Interview - January 20, 2001


Transcript of Part One

Voice-Over: Recently, the Woodcraft family came to visit us at the Lisa McPherson Trust. Lawrence Woodcraft and his daughters, Zoe and Astra sat down to talk with Stacy Brooks.

Stacy: Astra, why don't we start with your story? Tell us how you first got involved in Scientology and how old you were.

Astra: Well, when I was born and we lived in England, my mom was still an active member in Scientology. I don't think my dad was active. He didn't really want to be in it. He kind of went along with my mom. So, from as early as I can remember, we knew about Scientology. My mom would have us do contact assists, for example. Like, if we got hurt, we had to…say, I hit my hand on the table, I'd have to touch it back over and over and over until it felt better. These are, like, some of the things I remember growing up doing. And when I was about five or six, she took us to an organization called Saint Hill which is the main organization for Scientology in England and I received 10 or 12 hours, I think, approximately of what's called auditing. And this was mainly…the auditor, who was the person who delivers it to you, would tell me, "Look at that wall. Go over and touch that wall. Walk away from that wall." Just over and over and over (laughs)…

Stacy: What was the purpose of that?

Astra: It's supposed to, from what I know, get you into what they say, like, a present time. Like, wake you up from being all, like…

Stacy: But, I mean, you're five years old.

Astra: Yeah. (laughs)

Stacy: How did you do under the…

Astra: Well, I mean, I was five years old and I thought this is what people do, you know? I didn't know that it was weird. And I just kind of went along with it. The thing with the contact assists where I had to touch it back, I hated that. I would just have to tell her it was better because I couldn't stop until it was better. And the same with the sessions, the auditing, I couldn't stop until I said, "Oh this is great!" Or I just had a, you know, "I just had a realization."

Stacy: So, you mean at that early age…

Astra: I mean, at the age of five or six, it was, like, "Wow! That was fun!" That would be my realization. And I'd be able to stop but, yeah.

Stacy: But, I mean, at that early age, you were already learning how to pretend to be feeling better so that you could not have to do it anymore?

Astra: Yeah. Because I mean, okay, we're out shopping and I trip or something. I have to, like, hit my knee into the floor over and over…not painfully, but do it over and over. It's so embarrassing, you know? So, yeah. I'd be, like, I'd do it twice and I'd say, "It's all better. It's all better." And then I'd have to be pretending that it's all better and that I'm not hurt anymore 'cause I don't want to be so embarrassed or made to do this thing over and over again. And it was the same with the auditing. And while I thought this is what, you know, people do, it still seemed that I didn't like it really. But I just went along with it 'cause, you know, my mom really wanted me to do it. She said it was so wonderful and stuff so…When I was seven, my mom's father died and she went to Flag, which is in Clearwater in Florida. And that's, like, their highest level organization for delivering auditing. It's the most expensive and she had taken-he had left her some money-and she took that money to go and receive services from Scientology.

Stacy: Do you know how much he had left her?

Astra: Well, I know he left her a lot more in trust but he left her, like, a fixed amount imMediately for her to get of maybe ten or fifteen thousand dollars. I'm not exactly sure. So, she took that. And then she just called from Flag to us-we were in England-and said, "I've joined the Sea Org and you're all going to move out here." And she had already started working. She was already working there before she even told us and got our agreement.

Stacy: And she's telling you and your dad?

Astra: And my brother, who is older and she came back to get us, right? (to Lawrence)

Lawrence: Mm-hmm.

Astra: Yeah. To pack us all up and take us. And what she told me is we were going for a year for a vacation. We were going to stay in a big house with a lot of people and it was going to be a lot of fun. So, that's why I was okay to go. Because I would have, I'm sure, been really upset. I was already upset leaving all my friends, leaving our house, leaving my family but I thought we were going for a year. It was, like, a really long, really fun vacation. But there was no intention of that. We were obviously…it was for, you know, she signed a billion year contract 'cause that's what you sign when you go into the Sea Organization. So, that's what reality was. And we were told we were going to go to a really nice private school. That we were going to have a two bedroom apartment. That they would have time off every other week, like the day off for us to go and, you know, do whatever we wanted to do, things like that. And so we all just up and moved to Clearwater in Florida. The first place we stayed was a motel that was very run down called the Quality Inn. They kept the name, you know, they're all Quality Inn motels. They kept the name.

Stacy: They call it the QI.

Astra: Yeah. They call it the QI, exactly. And we got one room. One motel room, just one room with a bathroom for my dad, my mom, my brother, my sister and I. We had…my brother, my sister and I on a three-thing bunk bed, like three bunk beds high and then my mom and my dad on a bed in the corner.

Stacy: Is that common?

Zoe: There, it is. (laughs)

Astra: It's common throughout my…

Stacy: That families are living all together in one room like that? The children with the parents?

Astra: Yeah. They later moved me out into a dorm, which I liked even less. Now, they don't let the kids live with the parents. They stopped letting kids live with the parents and the kids had to all live by themselves. And the parents probably would have rather had the kids with them. Where, you know, like, a two room place with the kids in one room and them in another but, the kids were all moved out. And for about a year, from what I remember, we were in this room. My brother then got recruited to join the Sea Organization. He was…

Stacy: And how old was he?

Astra: 12, I think. So, he was not in the room anymore. So, it was me and my sister, my mom and my dad.

Stacy: He was recruited to join the Sea Org when he was 12??

Astra: 12 or 13, yeah. Their entry program, like, kind of like boot camp is called the EPF, the Estates Project Force and he was on that for a long time. It's supposed to take a couple weeks. And I remember he was on it for, like, six months or longer. Maybe the whole time we were there, I don't really remember. (laughs)
Stacy: I didn't realize they recruited kids at such an early age.

Astra: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah he was…'cause he went in pretty soon after we got there from what I remember. And he was 12 when we got there so he could have been 12 or 13. And they were supposed to take family time every evening at dinner time. They were supposed to get, like, an hour to spend with the kids. My mom hardly used to ever come. My dad would come but my mom would hardly ever come. But I don't remember her ever taking a day off. Maybe one day. I think one day I remember we went to an amusement park. I'm sure she took, you know, maybe a couple or three days off while we were there but I don't really remember any of it. My dad would take some time off. Then they sent my dad to work on the ship that they bought called the Freewinds.

Stacy: So, you didn't see him at all?

Astra: Didn't see him at all and didn't see my mom 'cause she wouldn't come for family time. And she'd get home, you know, usually, I think, 2 or 3 in the morning.

Stacy: So, how old were you at this point?

Astra: I lived in Florida from when I was seven until when I was nine.

Stacy: Who is watching you while your parents are gone?

Astra: They have a thing called the Cadet Org, which is for the young kids whose parents are in the Sea Org. So, in the morning, I go to school but they didn't get us into a private school as promised. So I went to the public school. So I go to school and then get back and then we would do work like cleaning and other little jobs. And they had, like, one adult or two adults watching all of us and then we'd go to bed. After about a year, I got moved out of my parents room because they moved all the kids into dorms. And then I slept on a couch the rest of the time. We were in another motel room with maybe four or five other kids. I think it was four kids and one adult lived in the room I was living in. And there weren't any beds so I slept on a couch the whole time. And then, so after we had been there about two years, my mom got transferred to Los Angeles to, like, middle management. And my dad…so we all moved out here. My dad took a leave of absence because he had debts and you can't pay off your debts if you work there because you only make 30 dollars a week.

Stacy: Right.

Astra: So, oh…but actually when we were in Florida, at one point we went back to England to handle our Visas. We had to go back there and we were there for a week or two. And my brother, my sister and my dad…actually she was too young to really know…myself my brother and my dad wanted to stay so badly. My dad was even saying, "We could work at the organization in England. Just let us stay. We want to stay." I was crying because, ever since I had gotten to Florida, I would walk around crying, just crying, crying and crying…I hated it. And the woman who ran the children…who was in charge of the children was really mean. She used to yell at me and I locked myself in the bathroom one day because I didn't want her to get near me. I was terrified. I hated it there so much. I thought we were there for a vacation. And instead, we're in this motel. We used to put little cockroach traps down, and in the morning, there would be, like, 50 cockroaches in it. That's how this place was. It was, like, repulsive. And, you know, my mom had lied and I even knew then. You know, because I remember, she said "Were just going to go…it's a vacation. We're going to live in a big house with a bunch of people. It's going to be a lot of fun." And I was so upset. And we begged to stay. We begged her and begged her and begged her. And we said, "We want to say!" We were crying. She just said, "No. We have to go back." And so we went back. So then I was in the Cadet Org in Los Angeles. When we first got here, we were put in a one room, like, studio apartment that was gross.

Stacy: And where was that?

Astra: This was just in, like, a building. It was just rented for us. But it was really, like, in a bad area and it was really gross and just, like, rundown. We were there for about a month, I think. And then my dad finally just went and got us an apartment.

Stacy: Now, what year was this?

Astra: '88. I was nine. So then I was in the Cadet Org in Los Angeles and for about the first year I was there…and how it would was, in the morning, they…they had their own school. They, like, made their own school but their…our teacher wasn't an actual teacher. They were just trained Scientology supervisors. But they don't have to have any formal education. They don't even have to have a high school diploma. They were just the people who happened to get that job. And we would be bussed out to the school and we would sit all in a classroom. We wouldn't get lessons. The teacher wouldn't teach us anything 'cause that's against the rules in Scientology. The teacher is not allowed to explain anything to you. You're only allowed to read and clear the words you don't understand like look them up in a dictionary.

Stacy: What kind of things would you read?

Astra: I don't even remember. (laughs) Like math, I would just, like, read a math book or do, like, flashcard drills. And then make clay representations of what I was reading. Things like that. If…

Stacy: Did you learn anything?

Astra: (laughs) I don't remember. I don't remember learning much. I don't remember any math that I learned. We weren't taught history. We weren't taught science. We weren't taught anything like that.

Stacy: What were you taught?

Astra: I remember doing math. Doing flashcards over and over to learn…I learned my multiplication tables. I think that's the only thing that I remember that I actually learned. And we had to…they had these things, like, check sheets where they would say, like, you would have to do each thing and check it off. It would say, like, "Read this page. Make a clay representation of what you read. Have someone give you a check out on it," which means they ask you, like, the words out of what you just read and you have to tell the person exactly what they mean. And if you don't, you have to go look them up in the dictionary and do it over again. So that's, like, how we learned. If we acted up in class, we just got thrown out.

Stacy: And then what would you do?

Astra: Then we would just go sit out and play on the field and cause trouble or do whatever we wanted to do. (Laughs) It wasn't like school. It was, like, killing time, really. So then, okay, after school, we'd be bussed back and we'd be put to work. We had to go to the basement in one of their main buildings where they had just mounds and mounds and rooms and rooms of filing. Like, filing of letters people had written in to Scientology, all kinds of stuff. And we had to file it. And we had to, like, sort it all and file it all. And…

Stacy: And this is…you're nine?

Astra: Yeah, I was nine. And I think we did that until about 9:00 at night. 8:30 or 9:00, 9:30.

Stacy: What? You're going to school in the morning…

Astra: Yeah.

Stacy: And you're getting out of school at…

Astra: By the time we got bussed back 'cause the school they had rented was, like, a 45 minute to an hour drive away, so by the time we got back, I think it was about 5:00. And then we'd have dinner. I'd usually try and have dinner with my dad. And then I'd have to go back and work.

Stacy: (To Lawrence) So you would have to come to the Cadet Org have dinner with her there?

Lawrence: Mm-hmm.

Astra: I think he used to pick me up or something…

Lawrence: I think, yes. I used to drop by, pick her up and…

Astra: I never wanted to go back but I'd always tell him I had to go back 'cause they said I…I got in trouble, like, a couple times I didn't go back after dinner. And I got in big trouble. So I would be, like, "Oh, you have to take me back. I want to go back," you know?

Stacy: Mm-hmm.

Astra: And it was at that…you know, I was such an early age, I already learned to, like, lie to my dad because otherwise, I would get in trouble.

Stacy: So, you're working. You're going to school. You're having dinner and then you're going to work until 9:00 at night?

Astra: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah.

Stacy: And you're nine years old?

Astra: Yeah. And then…then we'd have to go to sleep on these cots on the floor. They were, like…like a little metal frame maybe, like, 4 feet long and like this wide (indicating) and with, like, canvas. And we'd go to sleep on those and they had, like, these big blankets and they'd cut them up and we'd all get a piece of blanket. And we'd sleep on these cots or on the floor when we ran out of cots until my mom came and picked me up. And she would come at, like, midnight, 11:00 or midnight. It was very strict there, too, you know, lots of rules. Lots of people, you know, they had an adult who was in charge of handling our ethics, handling us when we did something wrong. And she would yell at us and stuff. And, at one point, I think I had been there for maybe a year and several things happened. There was a boy there who was really unhappy and this, we had this…like a little building with, like, two big rooms in it. And there was a fence all around it with, like, a front and back courtyard, little concrete courtyard. And there was a billboard, like, next to it and the boy got so upset one day, he climbed up the billboard and said he was going to jump off.

Stacy: How old was he?

Astra: He was, maybe a couple years older than me. So, I see this boy threatening to, like, commit suicide. So, that kind of scared me. And then another boy threw a cockroach at me and punched me. So, at that point, I got really upset and I told my dad, "I'm not going back." I called him, I said, "Come pick me up." And I said, "I'm not going back." And he, of course, didn't want me to go back. I was always the one saying, "I have to go back." You know, making it sound like it was all wonderful. But I just…I refused to go back. And I told my mom what happened and I said, "I'm not going back." And she said, "You have to go back. You have to back." And for weeks and weeks and weeks, or months, she pressured me and she said, "Just come in and speak to someone. We'll work it out. Come back. Come back." And I said, "No. I'm not going to come back." But I did continue to go to their school 'cause I had no other school to go to. So I'd go to the school and then when I got off school, I would just go home to our apartment. But they kept saying, "You can't keep going to this school. You can only go to this school if you're in the Cadet Org afterwards and you work. Otherwise, you're not allowed to go to school." So, I'm not sure exactly how…I think I kept going to the school for maybe four, four to six months and then they wouldn't let me go anymore. So, my dad enrolled in a private school, which was a Scientology school at my mother's insistence. She insisted. I had to go to a Scientology school.

Stacy: What school was this?

Astra: It was called Ability Plus. And this school wasn't really an improvement over the last school. There was two course rooms, two classrooms. One for the young children and one for the older children. The teachers weren't necessarily credentialed teachers. We weren't…we were taught with the same technology of study with…you can't have the teacher explain things to you. You have to read. You have to make clay. You have to clear your words in the dictionary. We used the same check sheets even that we had in the other…in the other place. And I think I learned a little bit more there but I didn't learn much there either. And no one had ever graduated from this school, nobody. No one was…

Stacy: What do you mean?

Astra: No one had ever graduated school going to this school.

Stacy: What ever happened to the kids? What happened to them?

Astra: They grow up and they join the Sea Org, mainly, I think. You know 15…

Stacy: So those were all Scientology…

Astra: or 16…it's all Scientology kids.

Stacy: Mostly parents were Sea Org.

Astra: I don't think so, no. But the kids would join the Sea Org anyway. They'd be recruited. Or they would, you know, go in full-time training in Scientology. Not be in the Sea Org but be training to be an auditor. Or they would take their GED, like, their high school equivalency exam or I don't know. They just never really got to the point of…no one had ever graduated 'cause the teacher's own daughter was always saying she was going to be the first person to graduate from the school. But they didn't even have a way to graduate people. Neither did they at the school I went to in the Sea Org because that wasn't their purpose. Their purpose was just to school you to fill the legal requirement until you're old enough to go into the Sea Org. Because when I went into the Cadet Org, I had to sign the billion year contract saying, I agree to be in the Sea Organization when I'm old enough. Otherwise, I wouldn't be allowed there. And then I stopped going there and I started going to another school called Larry Dennison's Academy. And it was just in the morning from 8:00 to 12:00. And Sea Org kids, they go there at the time. And that was even worse. It was a little…it was his apartment and we all sat in there at tables and, like, read books and stuff and just did nothing, really, watched TV.

Stacy: So by then, how old are you?

Astra: Like 13. I went there for a few months and then stopped going there because it was useless. And then I was on course at the Celebrity Center. I started a course there. And while I…and I turned 14. And while I was on course, these two recruiters from Bridge Publications, which is a Sea Org org…they say it's not, it's, like, incorporated by itself but it's the organization that makes the books and things like that for Scientology. And really, you know, everyone in there is a Sea Org member. So they say it's not, but it is. So they came to see me and they told me if I went to work there, I'd get paid minimum wage, which would be, for a 14 year old, you know, it's like $300.00 a week. It's a lot of money. That I wouldn't have to wear a uniform 'cause many people have tried to recruit me before for the Sea Org, like, from the age of 12 and I always said "No," I didn't want to. But they said I get paid all this money, I wouldn't have to wear a uniform. It was really fun. And these guys were young, they were charismatic. They were good looking and they sweet talked me into it. Plus I had always been very upset that I had let my mom. And I knew she would be just, like, ecstatic if I joined, so I did.

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