Ghost town now home to Scientology
The New Mexico town of Trementina was founded by Presbyterian medical missionary Alice Blake around 1900. Almost immediately, diphtheria swept through the town, nearly bringing the nascent community to its knees. The Depression, drought and World War II followed, and by 1955 Trementina was a ghost town.
Vacant structures stand pitted against the elements on a lonely bluff overlooking Trementia Creek. The ruins consist of at least two dozen rock buildings; most are roofless, doorless and windowless. Some contain the rusty remains of stoves, bedsprings and other items that indicate people once lived there. Further evidence is the walled cemetery containing graves with headstones and other markers dating back to the 1800s.
The Church of Spiritual Technology, the California-based branch of the renowned Church of Scientolgy, first came to Trementina, New Mexico in January, 1984. They began purchasing tracts of land and set to work on building a massive compound.
By 1990, workmen had finished the tunnel, cleared an air strip atop a mesa and built at least three luxury homes, valued at $2.5 million. The main house is massive, with 12,000 square feet of living space and 12 bedrooms.
But what goes on inside the remote, 4,175-acre spread known as San Miguel Ranch remains a mystery to most on the outside -- because church officials aren't saying.
The plan is that in the future, when Hubbard's followers wish to return, they will be able find the source material more easily, sparing Scientologists the same embarrassments that have befallen other major religions.
Former Scientologists familiar with Hubbard's teachings on reincarnation say the symbol marks a 'return point' so loyal staff members know where they can find the founder's works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe.
"As a lifetime staff member, you sign a billion-year contract. It's not just symbolic," said Bruce Hines of Denver, who spent 30 years in Scientology but is now critical of it. "You know you are coming back and you will defend the movement no matter what. . . . The fact that they would etch this into the desert to be seen from space, it fits into the whole ideology."
Now television station KRQE has gone to Trementina to see what else the Scientologists may be hiding. They've found a landing pad formed by two circles carved in the brush. A satellite image of the area shows what appears to be a 6,000-foot-long landing strip with a base station at its end, with a series of switchbacks reaching over the mesas, heading towards the landing pad. The church is desperately trying to kill the story.