|Image courtesy of Shardcore|
On this day in 1950, a book with the subtitle "The Modern Science of Mental Health" was first published.
The subject of the book seemed to be quite a bit different than the stuff the author usually wrote. His previously published works were all in the science fiction/fantasy genre, and even though this book wasn't much different in that regard, lots of people took it seriously.
So many in fact, that over 100,000 copies were sold in the first couple of years and the author, an ex-navy WWII vet, began a speaking tour of the country giving lectures about what it all meant and how to live your life.
The book explained that people could become "clear" of their "engrams" if they "exorcised" them to an "auditor." That sounded about right to a lot of folks back then, and to a lot of Hollywood types even today. So, after he wrote and sold six more books in the next year, the whole thing became a new religion. Which was just in the nick of time for the author and some of his cronies to make mega-millions off the simpletons who were looking for anything other than actual religions to "show them the way."
The author's name was Lafayette Hubbard, (L. Ron Hubbard for those of you keeping score) and his new religion was called "Scientology."
The religion was based on his book, the full title of which was "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." As it turns out, he made it all up, just as he had all the stories he wrote for the magazine "Astounding Science Fiction" right before his financial ship came in.
Unfortunately, right in the middle of all this success, his wife (#2) filed for divorce claiming he was guilty of beating and strangling people, "scientific" systematic torture, and kidnapping their child. As one might expect, these allegations put a crimp in his style for a time. But even today, years after his death, there are plenty of dopes who buy into the gag. He was a sort of trail blazer though, because later another scam artist jumped into the "fantasy as reality" business with a great deal of success as well.
This person was actually convicted of systematic torture (not necessarily scientific), beating someone, and pushing a water hose down their throat. That guy calls himself, M. Ron Karenga, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Maulana Ron Karenga, and just plain ole' Ron Karenga, but his real name was Ronald McKinley Everett. While he was in prison, he made up an "African Festival" that he calls Kwanzaa.
A whole different group of gullible people still buy into that scam but the story is really the same: you can make a ton of money writing fiction, particularly if your middle name is Ron and enough people take your BS seriously.
Sources: History.com and Wikipedia