Fort Harrison Hotel - Room 771

Death of scientologist Josephus A. Havenith

Newspaper articles of the St. Petersburg Times published in Decembere 1997 mention the suspicious death of Dutch Scientologist Mr. Josephus A. Havenith. An autopsy report lists his death as "probable drowning" but notes that his head was not under water. He died in February 1980 at the Scientology Fort Harrison Hotel in a bathtub filled with water so hot it had burned his skin off. This page is a memorial for Mr. Havenith. Here you'll find an excerpt and one St. Petersburg Times article in full plus what is most probably his picture, taken from a TV documentary by Mona Botros and Egmond R. Koch - ARD (Germany), April 1997 - Die dunkle Seite von Scientology (The dark side of Scientology) . The pictures link to the releated web-pages, just click on them.

Warning: the picture was made while the person was still in the bathtub. It's not a pretty sight!

Excerpt of SP Times article of December the 7th, 1997

Josephus A. Havenith, 45

Josephus A. Havenith was a Dutch citizen living in Munich, Germany, where he taught music. On Feb. 25, 1980, Havenith had been at the Fort Harrison Hotel for two months taking counseling and following a regimen of vitamins and minerals prescribed by Scientology. A maid said Havenith left a note on his door -- Room 771. It read "sleeping," so he was not disturbed until later in the day when other guests discovered that the carpet outside his room was soaked. Inside, the hot water was still running in the tub.


At the time, church officials and police told reporters that Havenith was in his "50s or 60s" and was found dead in bed. In truth, Havenith was found by the maid lying dead in the bathtub. The water was so hot it had taken the skin off of his body. No one is certain when he died. An autopsy report lists his death as "probable drowning" but notes that his head was not under water. In 1980 when Havenith died, Florida officials had little knowledge of the vitamin and mineral programs used by Scientology.

"Is it possible that given whatever was going on in his body, getting into hot water did something?" asks medical examiner Wood in reviewing the case. "Perhaps." With no evidence of a struggle in his room or other foul play, Wood said she had to presume that some sudden event occurred involving his heart or his diet. "We'll never know what happened, the questions remain unanswered," she said.

His body was cremated and shipped home to the Netherlands at the expense of the Church of Scientology. Family members could not be located.

Most probably the picture of Mr. Josephus A. Havenith. Caption:
1980, mysterious death in the bathroom (sic), in boiling hot water. Probably drowned.

SP Times article of December the 9th, 1997

A Times Editorial
The prosecutor's duty

©St. Petersburg Times

By their own admission, law enforcement authorities did not investigate the suspicious deaths of members of the Church of Scientology as thoroughly as they might have. They have an opportunity to correct that mistake as they wind up the investigation of the death of Lisa McPherson, a 36-year-old woman who died two years ago after spending 17 days at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.

As Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe ponders whether to file criminal charges in the case, he cannot allow his judgment to be impaired by Scientology's evolving defense or its rising level of intimidation.

A disturbing pattern now has been established of apparently healthy Scientologists who die suddenly after arriving in Clearwater for training or counseling. An investigation by the Times' Lucy Morgan found at least eight Scientology members, including McPherson, have died under circumstances that are not easily explained.

Scientology's attempt to dismiss the deaths and divert attention by citing the number of deaths of Times' staffers does not offer the answers a timely, complete law enforcement investigation could have provided.

Some of the Scientology deaths are more alarming than others. In 1980, 45-year-old Josephus A. Havenith was found dead in a bathtub filled with water so hot it had taken the skin off of his body. An autopsy report lists his death as "probable drowning" but his head was above water.

In 1988, 37-year-old Peter E. Frei's body was found fully clothed floating off the Dunedin shore. His wallet and other valuables were missing from his room, and his apartment in Switzerland was burglarized and ransacked.

Those sorts of situations, had they not been tied to Scientology, probably would have received more scrutiny. But the Church of Scientology has a history of bullying anyone searching for the truth, and those aggressive tactics apparently had a chilling effect on law enforcement.

With decision time nearing on the McPherson investigation, Scientologists have once again decided the best defense is an aggressive offense. They have attacked Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood, who has raised serious questions about the circumstances surrounding McPherson's death. They have attacked Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein, who has repeatedly met with Scientologists to address their concerns. They also have recklessly accused Klein's department of racism and other sins. These are tactics designed to silence critics, not reveal the truth.

After complaining about a small group of Scientology opponents who planned to demonstrate outside the Fort Harrison, the Scientologists launched a much larger demonstration at Clearwater police headquarters Friday night after leading Klein to believe they would not. Of course Scientologists can exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and free speech, as they did again Monday in front of the Clearwater police headquarters and the Times' Clearwater bureau. But their diversionary techniques and failure to negotiate in good faith with the police chief undercut their claims that all they want is to be accepted by the community.

Now the spotlight shifts to McCabe, the state attorney who must decide whether to file charges in the McPherson case. He has taken the unusual step of meeting with Scientology attorneys and reviewing the conclusions of their experts before hearing from law enforcement investigators. McCabe argues he merely wants as much information as possible before making his decision. But he also should guard against creating even the impression that he is giving special treatment to the Church of Scientology, particularly when one of Scientology's attorneys once worked with McCabe in the state attorney's office.

McCabe is the prosecutor, not the judge or the jury. He has a duty to follow the evidence collected by law enforcement and to decide whether criminal charges are warranted, not whether anyone is guilty. He should not be swayed by public demonstrations or verbal attacks on other public officials by Scientologists. If his concern is the cost of pursuing criminal charges, McCabe can seek help from the state.

In hindsight, the deaths of Scientologists were not as aggressively investigated as they should have been. There should be no such second thoughts about the investigation of the death of Lisa McPherson. This community cannot shrug its shoulders and accept Scientology's unchallenged explanations every time a Scientologist turns up dead.

© Copyright 1997 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.

After a search I found the following information which could be related to this case.

Excerpt of FACTNet's Scientology & Suicide list:

????? name unknown criminal acts A person, name unknown, drowned in a bathtub at Flag. The GO/OSA apparently went to the guy's room and sanitized it in the sense of removing anything that would incriminate Scientology before the police arrived to do their investigation. They created a shore story that he fell down in the bathtub, and that's how he died (FACTNet's contributor was there at the time). There was a tremendous hush hush about anything having to do with this guys death. The implication from FACTNet's contributor is that the samtized room stopped any meaningful investigation by local police.

????? name unknown criminal acts The person we mentioned in our first questionnaire who drowned in the bathtub at the Flag Land Base was actually from Germany, so that is an additional piece of information.

Excerpt of the APRIL 4, 1994 Declaration of Hana (Eltringham) Whitfield:

253. A high level German Scientologist who came to Clearwater for upper level auditing on BTs and clusters, died one day in his room. The "PR story" was he slipped in his bathtub one day and died. I don't remember his name. His death was very hushed up by Scientology top command in Clearwater.

Additional links

Other Scientology related deaths