If every last allegation that Church of Scientology (CoS) defector Nancy Many charges in My Billion Year Contract is true, then her book should inspire several FBI raids and a Lifetime mini-series to rival any Charles Manson documentary. But even if just some of her trials really happened — we'll leave that debate to Many and her ex-cronies — her new memoir might still be the most shocking nonfiction work featured at this week's American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Boston.
The title of Many's tell-all refers to a pledge that the Greater Boston native signed in 1972, when she was an impressionable Salem State sophomore. As a perfect personal and spiritual storm flooded her life, she found in Scientology a refuge offering sympathetic friends with sensible advice. Better yet, since ringleader L. Ron Hubbard was recruiting servants in New England at that time, Many earned an opportunity to join his inner-circle Sea Organization (thus making her a high-ranking church official) at the onset of her involvement. It felt natural; she left college and eventually moved to CoS headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.
Having agreed to "fully and without reservation subscribe to the discipline" dictated by superiors, Many says she performed duties ranging from the mundane to the malicious. As a registrar, she lured in new recruits — including celebrities who she does not name — and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of courses, books, and services. Later, as a spy for Hubbard's secret-intelligence unit, she claims to have infiltrated the mental-health-care community (a perceived enemy of Scientology's) in Boston. (Many claims that one of her associates — another mole involved in the now-infamous Operation Snow White reconnaissance missions, for which several CoS honchos were jailed — found janitorial employment with Boston Globe attorneys in order to steal files regarding that newspaper's developing exposé on Scientology.)
My Billion Year Contract is a horror story. At one juncture, seemingly overnight, Many is extracted from her leadership role, separated from family members, and forced to perform hard labor and live in a parking garage. She was five-months pregnant at the time; the experience steered her toward a complete mental meltdown, and onto a trajectory that ultimately led to her deserting the church in 1996 and testifying against former associates.
Many will be joined by foes and allies at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this week. The anti-Scientology group Anonymous is expected to demonstrate outside the ALA conference, while representatives from the CoS-related Galaxy Press and Bridge Publications will also be onsite (though the latter will not be exhibiting). It took a journey to Clearwater and back for her to realize it, but Many says her years as a Dianetics pitch girl prepped her well for a new, much happier life away from Scientology.
"I started in Boston, selling books, so this is going to be full circle," says Many, who used to average 30 sales a day in Copley Square and the Logan Airport terminals. "I have no real idea what to expect. Basically, I just want this book out there so it gets read. I'm not in it for the money. This is about the psychosis and mental abuse that I suffered. I'm in it to help people."