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Almost every week I drive to the Bay Area to do some healing
work where mainstream medicine has proven unsuccessful. Afterwards I often join my friend and
noted Wiccan Don Frew for dinner, The Daily Show, and stimulating
conversation. One evening he was
describing the fascinating and very strange similarities between a wide variety
of “recovered memory” cases. Don’s point was not to offer an explanation, but
rather to suggest our world is far weirder than we imagine. I suggested he write up his argument,
and I’d post it on my blog.
Don just sent it to me, and I post it below the fold.
“Help! I was
abducted by … Wait a minute. What
was that again?”
In the 1980s, America was in the
grip of what is now called “the Satanic Hysteria”. Books and TV programs were selling the idea that organized
Satanic cults were kidnapping, sexually abusing, and sacrificing children in
vast numbers. Many criminal cases
were prosecuted, often with little result. The most high-profile of these was the McMartin Preschool
case in which hundreds of children were allegedly abused in Satanic rituals by
the family that owned the preschool and their staff. The case was the longest and most expensive trial in
California history and resulted in a hung jury. When the principal defendant was retried, that trial, too,
ended in a hung jury. The most
prominent “Satanic” case that is still sometimes in the headlines is the
ongoing appeal process for the so-called “West Memphis Three”, three young men
convicted of molesting and murdering three boys in a “Satanic” ritual. Two documentary films – “Paradise Lost:
The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” and its sequel – and numerous books have
pointed out the utter lack of any
forensic evidence tying the accused to the crime and the prosecution’s rush to
connect an inexplicably brutal crime with the only local kids with an interest
in the occult.
Also in the 1980s, I was a police
consultant specializing in occult crimes.
I was asked to be part of a two and a half year investigation of
so-called “Satanic” crimes led by Shawn Carlson and Gerald LaRue of the Committee
for Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER). Our investigative team also included Robert Hicks, a
criminal justice analyst with the Virgina Department of Criminal Justice
Services, and Ken Lanning of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent
Crime at the FBI Academy in Quantico VA.
CSER published our results in 1989 in the book Satanism in America:
How the Devil Got Much More Than His Due. In this, the first skeptical
examination of “the Satanic Hysteria”, we came to the following conclusions
(reprinted from the pamphlet that came with the book in 1989)…
SATANIC CRIME IN AMERICA:
Wild Rumors; Reasonable Explanations.
Satanism is alive and well in
this country… on afternoon talk-shows and in police seminars. In reality, the number of Satanists in
America is very small, and so far no Satanic cult or organization has ever been convicted of criminal activity. However, this has not prevented a
number of individuals, often with hidden religious agendas, from making their
livings by informing our legislators, therapists, and law-enforcement personnel
that Satanism is a growing threat to our society and our children. This myth has distracted attention from
some very real problems in our society and has led to great damage to the lives
of many individuals.
[With his permission I have shortened Don’s account
here to include just the major conclusions in order to focus on what I find particularly fascinating in his account. If there is demand for it I’ll post the edited parts as well, but they deal with a happily now passed Satanism hysteria.]
…Every criminal case involving
allegations of Satanic cult activity has either resulted in a not guilty
verdict or has been thrown out for lack of evidence. Cases of “Satanic” crime resulting in actual convictions
have all involved individuals acting alone (or with a couple of buddies) and
practicing highly idiosyncratic forms of Devil-worship.
…Setting aside the observation that
it would be hard to hide a quantity of ritual sacrifices that is more than
twice the number of murders recorded each
year by the F.B.I., the fact is that the number of genuinely missing children
is very small. The National Child
Safety Council (a branch of the Justice Department) and the F.B.I. together
receive about 240,000 missing child reports each year. Once you remove the repeat reports of
straying toddlers, the known runaways, and the children known to have been
taken by parents in custody disputes, you are left with about 67
children abducted by strangers each year. Both groups agree that they receive at
least half the reports, so no more than 140 children are being abducted by
strangers each year. At least half
of these children are eventually recovered; so far none have reported having been taken by
Devil-worshippers. This means that
even if all of the remaining
children are being abducted and sacrificed (which seems unlikely) at
most 70 children could be being killed by
Devil-worshippers each year. If
true, this would still be an alarming and distressing figure! But compare this with the 150 children
who drown in swimming pools each year, or the 2,100 that are killed by their
own parents, and it becomes apparent that other threats, especially those
within the home & family, are much more of a real danger than are
…The vast majority of so-called
“survivors” are Born Again Christians who only “remembered” being ritually
abused in the course of therapy, often under hypnosis. So far, not a single one of these women, who were allegedly more deeply
involved in these groups than any F.B.I. Mafia-infiltrator, has been able to
produce verifiable names, dates, or places. This makes their information highly suspect. Two of the most well-known of these
“survivors,” Lauren Stratford and “Elaine”, have been thoroughly investigated
and their stories proven to be
substantially false. As Lauren
Stratford was the first woman to use the term “Breeder”, and her story is a
complete fabrication, the stories of all the other women claiming to be
“Breeders” must be called into question.
…As with the “Breeders” and other
“survivors,” these alleged former Satanists have yet to produce any tangible evidence to support their claims. This is especially puzzling as some,
such as Mike Warnke, claim not to have been victims, but to have been
masterminds and ring-leaders. Somehow, they feel that they now have no more
obligation to expose their alleged former co-Satanists other than to lecture
about Satanism on the Christian speakers’ circuit. This would be like a Mafia Don leaving the Mob, going on the
Tonight Show, and feeling that they have done their bit for law and order
simply by saying publicly “Yes, there is a Mafia.” Why have none of the “reformed Satanists” turned themselves
and their co-conspirators in to the police?
… None of these accounts have
evidenced a knowledge of the occult or of Satanism that is deeper than that
available to the general public in horror films or comic books. In fact, many of the survivors’
accounts include information that is only
found in conservative Christian anti-occult tracts.
It should be
noted that this is the same kind of argument used to support the claims of
alleged “abductees” by U.F.O.’s.
However, the evidence in favor of the U.F.O. “abductees” is marginally better in that it sometimes includes physical evidence, of
which the Satanic “survivors” have produced none. The rule here should be: If you are not willing to believe
that people are being kidnapped by space aliens, then there is no reason for you to believe the stories of alleged
“survivors” of Satanic cults.
(Note: None of this means that we are arguing that these
adults and/or children weren’t abused, sexually or
otherwise. We just question the
Satanic aspects of their stories.
Clearly these individuals are in need of therapy and counseling by
professionals conversant in the myths and realities of Satanic crime.)
. . .
Thanks to our book, and the many
similar books that followed, the Satanic Hysteria passed. It enjoyed a brief revival in the
United Kingdom, but a quick investigation by the British government found that all claims could be traced to British parents attending
programs and rallies by American Christian “anti-Satanism” agitators.
Flash forward to the beginning of
the 21st century and the current clergy pedophilia scandals
involving Catholic Priests. Hmm… I couldn’t
help but wonder about all those cases in which children and “adult survivors”
said that they had been taken to a church, tied to an altar, and subjected to
sexual abuse by men in black robes.
In the 1980s everyone assumed that such men just had to be Satanists.
I mean, nothing else would make sense, right?
I kept waiting for the other shoe
to drop and for someone to make the connection, but so far, no one has, and
that’s probably a good thing since I think the two phenomena – claims of
Satanic Ritual Abuse and claims of Catholic clergy pedophilia – are not related.
That’s because they fall into two very different patterns.
Catholic clerical pedophilia is a
straightforward, if sordid and horrific, phenomenon. Catholic children are abused by Catholic Priests. The children know it is happening, even
if those around them frequently refuse to believe it. They may hide it, but they remember the abuse, and it gnaws
at them into adulthood.
The Satanic Ritual Abuse
phenomenon is a very different thing, since it is primarily driven by “adult
survivors” who only remember what happened through “recovered memory”, i.e. some
form of hypnosis. The stories told
by the children who were supposedly abused by Satanists were very vague and
fanciful until they were given form and detail by adult “experts”. I worked on the McMartin Preschool case
and I know that the “Patient Zero” for Satanic Ritual Abuse – “Michelle” of the
book Michelle Remembers – was brought in
to talk to the children. Her
paradigm of a global, Satanic church orchestrating mass sacrifices gave form to
the children’s’ ramblings. One of
the aspects of the McMartin case that sank the case for prosecution was their
failed efforts at trying to explain the difference between the children’s
“real” testimony about participating Satanic rituals (which the Prosecution
wanted the Jury to believe) and their “imaginary” testimony about such things
as flying to another state on a private jet with movie stars and the state
governor to participate in Satanic rituals, and then fly back again, all during
in the space of one hour at the preschool one afternoon (which they wanted the
Jury to ignore).
Putting aside the professional
ex-Satanists, who can easily be debunked and dismissed as con men, the real
details about the criminal Satanic cults, their members, their rituals, and
their administrative organization all came from folks who had no memory of
any of this for most of their lives. These “adult survivors” (and I use the
term here specifically in the
context of “recovered memory”) only “remembered” these details in repeated,
exhaustive counseling sessions with someone already disposed to find
Satanism. Having read many
transcripts, I can say that sessions would often go along the lines of …
Patient: I see ten people
in the room.
Therapist: Really? Are there three more, possibly behind
you? That would make a coven.
Patient: Wait… three more
people just entered the room.
Therapist: Ahhh. […but therapist doesn’t continue to ask
if there are any additional people,
since 13 is the desired number.]
In the pamphlet reprinted above,
the authors of Satanism in America noted
the similarity between the claims of “adult survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse”
and those of “UFO abductees”, who also “remembered” their experiences after
recovering from “missing time”.
Both groups “remembered”:
— being taken from their home /
bed / car / safe place.
— being taken to a special
— being taken by people / beings
who were very different from themselves.
— being placed on an altar /
— being used / abused in a sexual
— being returned with no memory of
We noted with interest that the
“adult survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse” were almost all born-again Christians
while the “UFO abductees” were almost all either secular or New Age in their
beliefs. The “bad guy” in each
story was whomever their own subculture identified as “The Other”! After this, it came as no surprise to
discover that some adult Mormons “remembered” being abducted as children by
Freemasons who sexually abused them in Masonic rituals, and that some adult
Jews “remembered” being abducted as children by men in SS uniforms who sexually
abused them in Nazi rituals!
Something was going on, of that we never had any doubt, but
whatever that something was, it was being understood and interpreted in the
trappings and terms of each persons’ own culture.
And then I remembered Jacques
Vallée. In 1969, Vallée published Passport
to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. Essentially, he argued that if one
examines all of the reports of
human interactions with alleged extraterrestrials, and not just reports that
fit the “space aliens visiting our planet in spaceships” paradigm, then one
sees a consistent pattern of humans interacting with an “other” – faeries,
angels, aliens – in a very stereotyped way, but interpreted according to the
cultural paradigm of the witness in question.
UFO proponents have argued that
these were all aliens, but that more
primitive people couldn’t understand the advanced technology of the aliens and
misinterpreted them as faeries, angels, and other spirits. Vallée responded that there is no a
priori reason to make such an assumption, and
the arguments against these beings being space aliens – put forward in his Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Flying Objects – make a modern technological explanation for such encounters no more likely to
be true than a Classical or Medieval one.
Something is being
encountered, Vallée argues, but it is always being understood and interpreted
in the trappings and terms of each person’s own culture. Sound familiar?
The main difference between the
experiences addressed by Vallée and the ones we addressed in examining claims
of Satanic Ritual Abuse is a strange one.
— In the Classical & Medieval
encounters with spirits, faeries, and angels, the beings are scary, but
friendly, and often give the witness food and gold.
— In the Modern encounters with
aliens, the beings are sometimes friendly, and give food and precious metals,
and sometimes scary–and perform anal probes.
— In the Modern encounters with
Satanists, Freemasons, and Nazis, the beings are scary and prone to sexual
So, what’s changed, and why? And what’s really going on?
Beats me, but whatever it is, I’m
sure it’s a lot weirder and a lot more complex than any of the explanations
offered so far… with the possible exception of Vallée’s. Look him up.
There seems to be something strange happening when I link to Vallee’s “Five Arguments…” online PDF. Here is the url: www.jacquesvallee.net/bookdocs/arguments.pdf