ED Magedson – Founder
Narconon - Vista Bay262 Gaffey Road Watsonville, California United States of America
It is hard to explain the depth of this scheme without having lived it yourself; however I sincerely hope this account prevents at least one desperate individual/family from investing a significant amount of money into a disgusting scam.
Firstly, Narconon Vista Bay is a drug rehab facility that runs $29,000. Given the nature of drug rehabs and the financial commitment in particular of this one, the incredible majority of interested parties are in a state of absolute desperation. The Narconon sales team, Mike Dipalma in particular are aware of this and do everything possible (such as calling constantly for status updates when a family is trying to make the decision, lieing - I will get to the use of this word in this context later - and declaring that unless patient X leaves TODAY there will not be any beds left, and pushing cheap plane tickets if you purchase them NOW among many other tactics).
Pushing "time sensitivity" alone is dispicable; however the sales team also lies, glosses over, and intentionally omitts an unbelievable amount of information. For instance patient Y was told she had to reserve a bed and be on a plane the same day as the phone call or there would not be a bed available. Upon arrival and for the subsequent 2 months at no point were all (or even close to all) of the beds at the Vista Bay location alone (there are two other locations: Placerville and Tahoe, which have availability always and take 'overflow' from Vista Bay) taken.
The "heated pool" is very very small, outdoors, and NEVER heated (to save money)
The "beaches" they like to advertise will only be seen after students complete book 4 (approx 2-3months into the program conservatively), and then only on Sundays, and then only if the majority of students going out on Sunday vote for the beach (doesn't happen), and then only if an individual student has 0 "chits" for the entire week. One recieves a "chit" for being 1+ second late to roll call (called ~6x/day), doesn't clean his room to the supervisors standards, his roomates (plural) don't clean their stuff to a supervisors standard daily, if the student does anything any "faculty" (ie. ex-addicts a number of whom will plainly admit that although they graduated the program they would be incapable of remaining clean if they did not work/live/eat with and at Narconon Vista Bay - In my opinion becoming a prisoner for life at Narconon is not a success story), etc. etc.
The "basketball court" is one broken hoop on a slippery gravel court not large enough to play 1/2 court on (during a 2 week period I saw 1 person break their ankle and numerous others recieve bad cuts and scraps from falling).
Everything in the program is attributed to L. Ron Hubbard (founder of scientology). His picture is hung up on numerous walls. Any talk of scientology, or negative comment concerning L. Ron Hubbard garners an "ethics cycle" (will get to later on). Additionally they present you with a paper saying you will refrain from vocalizing any and all comments/concerns about the program or L. Ron Hubbard that are not completely positive. If you refuse to sign the paper they tell you its irrelevant and goes into effect regardless. The punishment for another comment is continued ethics cycles or suspension.
Allow me to diverge quickly into "ethics cycles" and how one gets them. An ethics cycle where if they feel you have gone out of line (anything from a negative L. Ron comment, a negative comment about the effectiveness of the program or the faculty, or 3 chits) you are forced to stop your program, confess to whatever they acuse you of (this is done by signing a paper to that effect), and performing manual labor (such as raking leaves, digging holes - not even kidding - etc.) for approximately a week; although the exact time is determined by the ethics officers. On one occasion a bad storm hit and a number of branches fell down. In the subsequent day a number of students recieved ethics duty for minor-imaginary infractions. Needless to say they saved Narconon money cleaning up the branches. After the fallout of the storm was cleared the students were all taken off ethics...
Words such as brainwash, cult, indoctrination, zombies, rituals, etc. overheard at any point by faculty (or students who are encouraged to write up other students) are punished immediately with an ethics cycle (they deny it's punishment and insist it's "part of certain individuals' programs). If a student speaks with these words in reference to the program multiple times they are suspended.
Massages are in no way shape or form massages. "Assists" as they call them come in two varieties. 1. the "nerve assist" - here they rub down your spine twice and then proceed to lightly draw their fingers from you spine out to your ribs, flip you over and repeat for 30 minutes at a time. They claim it releases "bottled up nerve impulses" and allows for damaged nerve endings to repair themselves - As a biochemistry major I can assure you no one with the slightest knowledge of physiology will tell you this "explanation" has any merit whatsoever. 2. "body communication" - here they take their hands and put slight pressure on your body from shoulders to feet each time repeating the mantra "feel my hands" approximately every 2-4seconds also for 30 minutes at a time. The explanation here is they are putting your body in better communication - need I say anything to that? If for some reason one desired these "massages" after the withdrawal portion of the program they would have to get them from same sex students trained in the techniques.
The training for the assists/withdrawal cabin "specialist" (I swear on my life I am not making this up, and I saw it with my own eyes) involves, in part, walking a stuffed teddy bear with a "teacher" watching and coaching (ie. "make the bear look up into that tree" student then must physicaly turn the bears head to point towards the tree), and to top it off the trainee must perform both assists on the teddy bear.
I could continue for ages on the horrors of this program, but I will instead just touch on 2-3 more crucial points.
1. When you arrive there is a blackout period of 10 days. During this 10 days students are allowed no access to a phone, internet, etc. (internet is always prohibited barring a 1/100 reason, and the phones are always pay phones - incredibly expensive even with a calling card). The staff at no point during these 10 days mentions that any student leaving during that period is entitled a full refund. Everyone is very very nice until you sign this packet of 100 or so pages agreeing not to sue and to all their arbitrary borderline facist (seriously) rules. At which point all staff gives you attitude and basically treats you like a prisoner.
2. There is not one licensed counselor, much less phyciatrist on the staff. All medicines (including tylenol for headaches, any cold medicine - ie. dimetap, etc. are not allowed). Any dental/other surgeries will be done with local anestetic alone and only if absolutely necessary. Withdrawal cabin, where everyone is abruptly taken off of all medicines (including anti-depressants). Saint Johns Wort and Willow Bark are given in lue of SSRI's and Tylenol.
3. Any individual who choses to leave (self-paying, self-admitted adults included) will not be given their stuff back. In my time one invidual (self-paying/admitted) was told by the doctor he was not medically fit for the sauna program (due to a heart condition). After this news he waited 4 days of constantly talking to the staff, who had him talk to his father and friends (all of whom agreed he should leave) and as of my departure they still refused to give him his wallet, ID, etc.
4. The first 1-2 weeks (after withdrawal) are spent doing "TRs" (training routines). These entail sitting 3 feet from another individual in a chair with both of your eyes closed for 40-80 minutes at a time. Niether of you can itch, straighten up in your seat, or move in any way whatsoever or you start again. Even if you go 80 minutes your first attempt you are told to do it again to "practice". This is then done with eyes open where one must stare at the person across from you and never look away. The purpose of eyes closed is to "be comfortable in a space". Eyes open to "be comfortable confronting someone else". Other of the first week drills (these are then revisited later after the sauna for longer durations) include asking over and over for 2 hr class periods "do birds fly" if your partner (called "twins" at narconon) answers the question (ie. "yes") student replies "thank you, do birds fly?" if partner answers with something about himself (ie. "my leg hurts") student acknoledges like so "I understand, I'll repeat the question, do birds fly?" if partner answers with a comment (ie. "I hate you") student ignores it an says "I'll repeat the question, do birds fly?"
I honestly am not making up one bit of this. The other exercises are even more ridiculous including holding an ash tray out in front of you and screaming at the top of your lungs "stand up!" (student then lifts the ash tray and holds it in the air) still screaming "thank you! Sit down!" (student lowers ash tray to the seat) still screaming "thank you! stand up!" (andddd repeat). Like I said this can go on forever and I was only there a short period of time.
One final story; at night they have one ex-addict, ex-graduate watch over the 50-60 "students" sleeping at Vista Bay (by the way the staff-to-student ratio is no where near 1:1. From my count ~15 staff dealt with students on a daily basis and at least 8 of those were in secretorial/paper pushing roles. The only individualized attention given to a student is when he/she speaks negatively of the program). One night the night duty man Craig showed up so high on heroin he could not walk. Students saw him visibly fall a number of times, slur his words, have eyes that were "pinned" (extreme opposite of dialated and a distinct sign of an opiate high). Students were then forced to deal with this situation and call in other faculty from off site. The next day when students pressed the faculty they said it was said and to leave it. I told them they should make an announcement, which the ultimately, and reluctantly did. During which they explained the night man was no longer working for them etc.
At this point I asked for the faculty to be UAd (Urinary Analysis) by the students (the faculty had UAd the students 2 days prior because drugs had been discovered in the facility). I said that for the students to take seriously the word of the faculty they should prove they aren't using and if they aren't they have nothing to fear. Approximately an hour later I was told I was being suspended for "telling another student he should sue narconon for taking him off anti-depressants cold turkey".
1. I never said anything of the sort
2. The student in question to my knowledge had never taken anti-depressants in his life
3. The student himself says I never said that
4. When asked to speak with the staff member who filed the report I was denied
5. When asked to see the report I was denied and told flat out "one probably wasn't even written up"
6. My family and I were told we would recieve a refund before I left.
7. They dropped me at the airport fully aware that I had no credit, debit, or atm cards. No cell phone, no phone cards. In other words I was on the West Coast with nothing in the middle of a tiny airport and they drove away.
8. We have since sent them registered letters concerning their promise of a refund and now they avoid our phone calls or say "hold on, I can give you his/her voicemail" - needless to say the calls are not returned.
Save your money. If you have the least bit of intelligence this program will make you go insane. I have since attended a program in Michigan for significantly less money and have been clean ever since.
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 11/10/2009 07:01 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Narconon-Vista-Bay/Watsonville-California-95076/Narconon-Vista-Bay-Vista-Bay-Deceptive-and-False-Advertising-Con-Artists-Watsonville-522216. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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