Victims of Memory.
Roger Sandell and John Rimmer

From Magonia 53, August 1995 

Like many other parents in Britain and the USA in the past decade Mark Pendergrast has been accused of child abuse on the basis of recovered memories. However he is a professional non-fiction writer, and instead of writing a ‘personal testament’ or confronting his accusers on a TV talk-show, he has written a wide-ranging survey of the whole phenomenon. [1]

Recently a number of sceptical books have appeared in the USA on the subject of recovered memories, some academic, some popular in approach. Pendergrast’s however scores over all the others by the breadth of his social and historical perspective. Seeking the origins of, and analogies for, recovered memory stories he touches on many topics of interest to Magonia readers, including UFO abductions, reincarnation claims, Satanic cults, urban legends, hypnotism, ‘bedroom visitor’ stories and the witch mania.

Many matters dealt with in this book were new to me. There is a section on ‘facilitated communication, a technique alleged to assist autistic children to communicate by holding their hands over a keyboard and picking out characters. The technique has obvious analogies with Ouija boards and the experiments conducted earlier in the twentieth century in which animals were alleged to be capable of producing messages by picking out letter cards. When a high proportion of ‘facilitated communications’ turn out to be allegations of abuse, further experiments produced clear evidence of subconscious cueing by the facilitators.

Even more bizarre are the claims of multiple-personality disorder (MPD). According to MPD specialists victims of abuse become so traumatised that they distance themselves by splitting into separate personalities, which lie dormant and can be recovered by therapists. Some patients turn out to have a hundred or more personalities, who like American TV wrestlers seem to each have one stereotyped characteristic, and answer to names such as ‘The Zombie’ and ‘Mean Joe Green’. Some therapists think the Satanists deliberately induce MPD so that their victims will carry out activities which they will not remember afterwards, such as murder, gun-running or prostitution. Others think it is the CIA, Mafia or Ku Klux Klan that are responsible. Pendergrast notes the similarity of all this to older demonic possession traditions, but does not note its closest parallel with another contemporary American fad, channelling or claiming to be the voice of some dead figure dispensing cryptic wisdom.

To the best of my knowledge MPD has not, at least so far, been a feature of British recovered memory or Satanic abuse cases, a pretty clear indication of its status as a purely cultural artifact. Its origins probably lie in images from film versions oof Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde and similar stories. One wonders if the popular misuse of the term ‘schizophrenia’ has contributed. This word, literally meaning ‘split mind’ is often misunderstood to mean having two minds rather than simply meaning ‘shattered mind’ (it is slightly regrettable that Pendergrast himself uses the term in the incorrect colloquial sense).

These beliefs are not confined to an occultist influenced fringe, but are signs that psychiatry in the U.S.A. is widely affected by what may be a terminal climate of irrationality

Pendergrast makes it clear that such beliefs as recovered memory are part of a wider climate of irrational therapy. Some therapist believe that their patients have been traumatised by sex abuse in past lives (a development that Peter Rogerson predicted in an earlier Magonia). Others believe that traumas can be traced to memories of experiences while in the womb (a belief that formed the basis of L Ran Hubbard’s pseudo-science of Dianetics in the 1950s).

These beliefs arc not confined to an occultist influenced fringe, but are signs that psychiatry in the U.S.A. is widely affected by what may be a terminal climate of irrationality. One study suggests that about a quarter of qualified therapists accept the validity of past-life regression tales. Other qualified psychiatrists have written books endorsing belief in demonic possession and exorcism, and containing accounts of ‘recovered’ memories of early embryonic stages of development.

After this over-all survey, Pendergrast devotes a major section of his book to interviews with therapists, accused and accusers. This is a grim section, but comic relief comes in an interview with a therapist who not only deals with abuse memories, past lives and UFO abductions, but pregresses her patients into their future lives. Pendergrast may of course be accused of deliberately seeking those who can be held up to ridicule, but my own reading elsewhere supports his claim that, if he had wished to do so, he could have found far more bizarre therapists than those he actually quotes.

Particularly interesting are the interviews with ‘retractors’, the increasingly large group who have repudiated earlier allegations and now, like the accusers, seem to be forming a quasi-religious group with its own networks, counsellors and personal testimonies. One wonders perhaps whether some of the retractors may be over-keen to emphasis the part played by their therapists in the emergence of their stories, and to minimise their own responsibility. As with the stories of the accused and accusers it seems best to suspend judgement on a number of aspects of these cases where more detailed information is not available.

One quoted retractor, in particular, makes serious accusations against a therapist and the most that can be said is that some recent cases Pendergrast relates of scandals involving therapists mean that this story is not necessarily implausible. (When, one wonders, are the first retractor UFO abductees going to appear?)

Pendergrast then looks at the history of psychology, seeking the background to these allegations. He finds many historical parallels 18th and 19th century beliefs in imaginary mental ailments and bizarre treatments. Sigmund Freud emerges from this section as one very much influenced by some of these ideas, and his heritage has meant that their influence has lasted to the present day.

Pendergrast’s examination of the social roots of the child abuse panic highlight the part played by specific factors such as the interactions between private medicine and the U.S. insurance companies that provide a major source of income for therapists, and wider issues such as current obsessions with victim status and the drive to pathologise an increasingly wide range of human behaviour under terms such as ‘co-dependency’, ‘emotional incest’ or ‘sex addiction’.

Of particular interest is the section of ‘survivorship as religion’, which sees many forms of therapy as amounting to a quasi-religious movement based on the worship of self, an analysis which certainly explains the apparent contradictory alliance of mental health professionals, New Agers and Christian evangelicals in the Recovery movement.

The increasing breakdown of any overall consensus on sexual morality suggests another line of analysis, in which child-abuse provides a rare example of practices that different sides in cultural wars can unite to condemn. As a historical parallel, the mediaeval persecution of the Bogomils, the first Christian heretics to be accused of worshiping the devil and participating in orgies, not only came after a similar breakdown, the rift between Greek and Roman Christianity, but occurred right in the contested territories. The 16th century disruption of Christendom preceded the witch mania which provided an issue uniting Protestants and Catholics.

One can extend the socio-political analysis of the child abuse panic in other directions. The role played by some sections of the women’s movement in fuelling the panic is reminiscent of earlier social reform movements in the USA which, in the 19th and early 20th century moved from support for slave emancipation, workers’ rights and universal suffrage, to supporting authoritarian measures such as Prohibition and the taking of the children of the poor into state care (an activity that was frequently attacked by early film-makers, not merely in melodramas such as D. W. Griffiths’ Intolerance, but in comedies such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid and Laurel and Hardy’s Pack Up Your Troubles).

Peter Rogerson has suggested that now American youth culture has become too de-politicised and commercially dominated to express any revolt against established values, child abuse allegations have emerged as purely individual anti-parental gestures.

Pendergrast ends with a section of advice and recommendations both for individuals caught up in recovered memory cases and for legislative action. Sensible and helpful as this section is, it is hard to believe that calls for licensing of therapists will achieve much since those with genuine academic qualifications have played as dubious a part in the controversy as those with none.

My final verdict is that it is hard to recommend this book too highly. It is essential reading not merely for anyone concerned with this particular controversy but concerned about contemporary culture and society as a whole.

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The Father’s Tale: 

Apart from whatever insight it gives into the phenomenon of false memory, and the illumination it throws on the medical, social and historical context of the contemporary controversy, this book is also an intensely moving account of a personal tragedy. It recounts in harrowing terms the estrangement of first one, then both, of Pendergrast’s daughters as a result of ‘memories’ recovered through therapy. However his account is not, as perhaps one would expect, a bitter condemnation of the therapists involved, nor an unqualified protestation of his own innocence. Instead he reexamines with almost painful honesty his relationships with his daughters and his ex-wife, and seeks out those aspects of his behaviour and attitudes which may have led to his current plight, to the extent that many readers might think that he is over self-critical. The account he provides of the childhood and adolescence of his daughters may perhaps reinforce the suggestion that some abuse accusations ore an aspect of a repressed, late developing revolt against parental authority. Certainly Pendergrast’s children, like some of the other children described in the individual accounts, seem to have had remarkably rebellion-free adolescence. More than most other books on the topic this book reveals the personal tragedies behind the sociological and legalistic descriptions. — John Rimmer.

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[1] Mark Pendergrast. Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives. HarperCollins (rev. edition), 1997.

Click on the cover image to order this book from Amazon

 

Desperately Seeking Satan.
Roger Sandell

From Magonia 42, March 1992 

satan-1

 


 

In November 1991 the Old Bailey’s first Satanic human sacrifice trial took place. Two girls, ten and fourteen, accused their parents and two other people of having forced them to take part in ceremonies in Epping Forest, on the eastern fringes of London, at which babies were killed and buried. In spite of the sensational headlines that greeted the opening of the case it was clear from the start that it had very curious aspects. Despite the unambiguous claims made against them, not one of the accused faced a murder charge but were instead charged with child abuse. The prosecution admitted that digging by the police had produced no buried babies and there was no evidence of any accompanying epidemic of missing babies. After four days the case collapsed when one of the girls stated that she was unsure whether the events described had really happened or were nightmares, and that her grandmother, with whom she was living, has stopped punishing her when she told her about them.

A few weeks before this case took place, the nazi activist Lady Birdwood had been found guilty at the Old Bailey of inciting racial hatred by distributing material accusing Jews of ritual murder, a coincidence which highlighted the way this trial seemed to exploit similar images of Gipsies as child stealers and wizards. The Satanist ceremonies were said to have taken place at a memorial to Gipsy Smith, the Romany evangelist of the 1930′s and 40′s, and the defendants included Gipsy Smith’s grandson George Gibbard, an Evangelical Christian and South Eastern representative on the National Gipsy Council. [1]

Meanwhile hearings into the official handling of the Orkney Satanism case continue. A parent has been cross-examined to explain why she bought a child a video of The Witches (for non-cinemagoers, the recent film of the Roald Dahl children’s story).

Meanwhile in the USA, bizarre trials continue. In North Carolina a day-care centre owner stands accused of sexual abuse and Satanic ceremonies. The evidence includes testimony from children describing the presence of lions and elephants at these ceremonies. In Chicago a judge has dismissed a case against a man accused by a five-year-old girl of murdering five identical girls in a human sacrifice. The defence centred on allegations that the child had been coached by Barbara Klein, a counsellor who apparently gave advice to the prosecutors in the recent Old Bailey case. [2]

The Satanism scare has now been with us long enough to have produced several books. Patricia Pulling’s The Devils Web [3] a US publication sold in Britain in evangelical bookshops, gives a good idea of the different components of the scare. ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ and similar occult-type games are controlling teenagers minds to the point where they murder each other or commit suicide (the book opens with an account of the allegedly D & D related suicide of Patricia Pulling’s teenage son). Records by heavy-metal rock bands not only contain pro-Satanist lyrics, but also subliminal Satanic messages only audible when played backwards. Many unsolved murders are the work of Satanists.

When examined in detail the evidence for most of these claims evaporates pretty rapidly. The alleged backwards messages in heavy metal records seem to be contemporary versions of tales dating back to the ‘sixties of great secrets hidden in rock records or their sleeves. Nothing that is known about record production or the psychology of perception makes them plausible (if it was possible to influence people in this way, why are there no messages like “Buy our next album”?) The whole argument has been reduced to total absurdity by claims of Satanic messages in such places as ‘The Mr Ed Song (the theme from the TV series about a talking horse, not the UFO witness).

Stories of groups of Satanists committing random murders appear to have originated with the US wave of alleged cattle mutilations in the 1970′s when the mutilations gave rise to rumours of cults carrying out sacrifices. Patricia Pulling’s evidence relies on two cases of the last few years. the first is Henry Lee Lucas, a Texas murderer who in 1983 confessed to murdering 360 people as part of the rites of a cult called ‘The Hand of Death’. Although Lucas’s confessions were widely publicised and were seized upon by police forces anxious to improve their clear-up rate, the only supporting evidence linked Lucas to just one murder, that of his mother, and his claims are now generally discounted by law-enforcement authorities.

The second case is rather more substantial: the Matamoros (Mexico) slayings of 1989 in which at least twelve people were murdered by a drug smuggling gang led by Adolfo Constanzo, a practitioner of the sort of supernatural beliefs held by many poor but otherwise respectable Mexicans. At least one of these murders, that of an American tourist named Mark Gilroy, does seem to have been seen as a sacrifice to confer magical powers (the gang was exposed after a member drove through a police check, believing himself to be invisible) but it is not clear where religious beliefs began and the general casual violence of drug gangs towards rivals and informers stopped.

The evidence for the alleged ill-effects for Dungeons and Dragons seems similarly inconclusive. Although some press stories have featured allegations of teenage murders and suicides by the game’s devotees, further investigation has revealed violent homes or other factors that seem at least as relevant than the fact that those involved had played a game with a US following of several million other players.

Patricia Pulling’s account of her son’s suicide after a curse was placed on him in a D & D game is certainly a sad tale, but according to local press accounts he was also depressed by his failure in a school election (and one can only be astonished by the fact that his mother had left a pistol freely available while he was alone in the house). The only other evidence for the Satanic effect of D & D games seems to be some cases of adult D & D players being convicted of sexual offences against younger players, but these fall into a long established pattern of paedophiles cultivating activities and interests liable to bring them into contact with children.

Reading Pulling’s book suggests that one reason for the current US anti-Satanist scare is the fact that it has connected a wide variety of current American fears. Serial killers, the increasing rate of suicide among young people,, the violent messages of some types of popular music, drug gangs, and the increasing presence in the US of immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, some of whom maintain traditional non-Christian religious practices, all are linked together in the same way that a few years ago Armageddon theology managed to link a variety of late ’70s and early ’80s concerns about the US and its place in the world.

The fact that most of these scares are specific to the USA probably accounts for the failure of the scare to achieve such resonance in Britain. However Children for the Devil by Tim Tate, researcher for the highly unconvincing Cook Report TV programme on Satanism, attempts to make out a case for the reality of Satanism in Britain and the US. [4]

Tate attempts to distance himself from Evangelical Christian anti-Satanism. He rejects such manifestations of the scare as campaigns against Halloween celebrations, and heavy metals bands, and accepts modern neo-Paganism as a valid religious belief. Indeed he give some interesting information on the background to US anti-Satanism that I was not previously aware of.

Especially striking is the fact that one organisation involved in spreading the anti-Satanist scare is the so-called US Labor Party led by the now-jailed political cultist Lyndon Larouche (Diane Core of ‘Childwatch’ the charity backed by Geoffrey Dickens MP that has publicised anti-Satanist tales, has also spoken at Larouchist meetings). What is significant about this is that this organisation was spreading similar tales in other contexts long before its present anti-Satanist campaign. In 1974 it claimed to have uncovered a CIA-KGB assassination plot against Larouche. Dissident members of the group were subjected to ‘debriefing’ sessions, which later resulted in charges of kidnapping against their accusers. As a result the victims told tales, promoted by the Larouche organisation, of CIA brainwashing that involved details identical to those made later in tales of Satanic child abuse. These involved sex with animals, exposure to pornography and scatological humiliations. One detail especially reminiscent of US day-care centre Satanism tales is the claim made in the confession of one victim who had been living in London that these events took place in an Islington school when it was closed over the weekend. (Incidentally Larouche has been accused of sexual abuse by female former disciples).

While Tim Tate rejects many feature of US anti-Satanism, he nonetheless devotes most of his book to defending the validity of charges of Satanic child abuse (SCA). he begins his argument by claiming that; “Ritual crime. abuse and murder have been reported, investigated, proven and recorded for nearly five hundred years”.

To prove this he devotes nearly fifty pages to a resume of the history of Satanism and witchcraft. It is difficult to speak of this section of the book with restraint. Tate gets just about every historical fact wrong and clearly has not the faintest idea of what he is writing about. He shows no sign of having read any serious books on European witchcraft such as Norman Cohn’s Europe’s Inner Demons, Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic, or Hugh Trevor Roper’s the European Witch Craze of the 16th and 17th Century. Instead the only historical sources cited are Dr Margaret Murray’s discredited writings, H. T. F. Rhodes equally unreliable The Satanic Mass, and a Peter Haining pot-boiler (Were these the only books on the subject in his local library perhaps?)

He begins by distinguishing Satanism from witchcraft, and follows Margaret Murray in seeing witchcraft as a primitive nature religion involving the worship of a horned god and moon goddess. He states that: “By the time of Christ this rural pantheistic religion was well established throughout Europe.” Oh yes? Where exactly? Such a cult bears no relation to classical or Nordic Paganism, or Celtic Druidism, the main religious systems of immediately pre-Christian Europe.

From this unpromising beginning Tim Tate jumps a millennium to give us his bizarre version of the witch trial era, arguing that tales of human sacrifice and sex orgies confirm similar modern tales. He does at one point concede that tales told under torture should be treated sceptically, but promptly disregards his own proviso by treating the trials of the Knights Templar, Gilles de Rais and Father Grandier of Loudon without mentioning that torture was employed in all these cases, neither does he point out that all these people had made powerful enemies beforehand. He accepts clearly absurd details such as the eight hundred or so child victims ascribed to de Rais – enough under medieval demographic conditions to depopulate quite a large area. He quotes the alleged Satanic pact given in evidence at the trial of father Grandier without mentioning that it was supposedly countersigned by a devil.

He totally fails to mention many important areas of the witch-mania that are highly relevant to the Satanism scare. He is totally unaware that British witch-trials were very different from those on the continent. The systematic use of torture and centralised inquisitional bodies were not a feature of British trials. As a result the tales of mass sacrifice and huge witches Sabbaths are found almost entirely on the continent. The British cases involve fewer defendants and much less spectacular organisations.

There is no discussion of the role played in the witch mania by child accusers who testified to manifest impossibilities, and in some cases resorted to conjuring tricks to create the impression of being bewitched, a subject highly relevant to contemporary SCA cases. [5] Neither does he discuss the identical accusations of ritual child murder that were commonly made against Jews. If modern SCA claims are vindicated by similar claims made hundreds of years ago, are modern neo-nazi claims vindicated by similar medieval claims?

Not content with relying on discredited ideas from other writers Tate makes some insupportable claims of his own. He sees modern witchcraft as being largely a Cathar creation and supports this by quoting the confessions of two Cathar witches who confessed to worshipping Satan in fourteenth century trials. The only problem with this is that neither of the witches quoted ever existed. Their confessions are both nineteenth century forgeries, as Tate would have know had he troubled to read Norman Cohn. [6]

Like many dubious writers on witchcraft he seems especially fascinated by the Black Mass, and devotes several pages to the 1680′s ‘Affair of the Poisons’ and allegations of Black Masses at the court of Louis XIV. Although, as usual, most of the more bizarre allegations in this case come from confessions made under torture, the affair seems to have some factual basis. However the Black Mass of the period bore little resemblance to later fantasies. In an age when the Mass was seen as an almost magical ceremony and masses might be said for good harvest and success in war it did not seem a very big step to secretly hold masses for purposes not approved by the Church, such as sexual success or the death of an enemy. Such practices were seen more a testimony to faith in Church rituals than as a blasphemy.

Of course no book of this nature is complete without a lurid account of Alastair Crowley, a figure who in fact, when his more bizarre claims are dismissed, seems simply a not untypical member of the avant-garde of the period exaggerating his own wickedness to outrage convention in a manner similar to Gabriel D’Annunzio and the young Salvador Dali.

A further measure of Tim Tate’s historical ignorance is that he seems to know nothing of Gerald B. Gardner, who in the 1940′s and 40′s originated the ‘Wicca’ cult which Tate seems to think is genuinely ancient and whose rituals involving nakedness and flagellation are a perfectly genuine example of so-called ‘witchcraft’ being used as a cover for bizarre sexual practices.

After this lamentable ‘historical’ section we arrive at the present day. We are presented with a list of modern self-proclaimed ‘Satanists’ who have appeared in court charged with a variety of offences, chiefly sexual. The list presented is far from exhaustive, Mr Tate’s cases do not include Norman Pasnail, the 1970′s Jersey (Channel Islands) sex killer who was obsessed with Gilles de Rais, or Vic Morris, the neo-nazi Satanist and convicted child molester who various investigative journalists have linked with the search for the killers of Hilda Morrell. [7]

While these cases should serve as a warning that not all cases where allegations are made are baseless, they take us no nearer to the allegations of large scale undercover Satanist cults and human sacrifice. Most of them involve a single person and the only alleged ‘human sacrifice’ Tate can find is a case of two Birmingham fans of the pseudo-Satanist band Iron Maiden, one of whom stabbed the other after a party. Although the police officers in charge of the case talked of human sacrifice this failed to impress the Appeal Court who reduced the murder conviction to manslaughter on self-defence grounds. The cases quoted no more validate the more bizarre allegations than the recent case of a rabbinical student from London’s Hassidic community convicted of child abuse validates tales of Jewish ritual murder.

Nor does Tate consider these stories in a wider context. As has previously been pointed out in Magonia, any form of cultist organisation grouped round a leader seems to be a fertile field for sexual exploitation, whatever its alleged belief. For example the regime of Frank Beck, the Leicester children’s home manager recently convicted of sexual assaults on inmates, seems to have had many cult-like features. Beck appeared to have total domination of his staff and inmates, and justified his sexual abuse as therapeutic. [8]

Tate takes the SCA cases of the last few years back to the book Michelle Remembers. To persuade us to take this book seriously he summarises it in a highly misleading way, omitting to tell us any of the details that make it impossible to take this story at face value. He carefully ignores all the many supernatural claims made in the book, such as the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the abused child Michelle, and the presence at the Satanist ceremonies of Satan himself, speaking in what sounds like fourth-rate heavy-metal lyrics; “Look at my eyes and you can see/ the fire burning inside of me./ Look at the children in them too/ The fire that burns, what is new?”. He ignores the prophecies of an Armageddon brought about by a Soviet/Iranian alliance in the early 1980′s. Nor does he mention the fact that Michelle has two sisters who strongly deny her story. He gives the impression that her account has been endorsed by the Vatican, whereas the quote from a Canadian archbishop given in the book seems carefully non-committal: ‘I do not question that for Michelle this experience was real. In time we will know how much of it can be validated. It will require prolonged and careful study. In such mysterious matters hasty conclusions could prove unwise.”

Other cases cited by Tim Tate are the US day care cases, and some British ones that he has personally investigated. He is convinced of the accuracy of the children’s testimony. Consider these quotes:

“Like many who remain sceptics I tried to write off these children’s disclosures as fantasies or the product of watching too many videos. But neither theory works. Tried and tested psychological research has proved that children cannot fantasize the details … to recall it so vividly they have had to have experienced it in some way … More telling still is the way in which the children disclose these incidents. It causes them real visible pain to talk about their experiences. How do I know? Because I have sat with these children – by their request not mine – as they struggled to share the poisoned memories inside them”

“Of all the reports I’ve received the most personally depressing for me are those dealing with very young children … No matter how familiar researchers become with the details, the knowledge cannot alleviate the horror and confusion of such events – particularly in the lives of the youngest and most vulnerable among us. Yet those provided by three or four-year old children furnish the investigator with valuable evidence concerning the reality of this phenomenon. Since such small children cannot read there is no chance of contamination from written sources. Few TV programmes during early viewing hours have ever offered specific details of this experience… Consequently the details that children relate can be regarded as purer thanthose in adult accounts … But so far our knowledge outpaces our skill in helping people deal with these previously unimaginable experiences. New coping techniques must be introduced, new therapeutic skills must be developed. Much work is to be done if very young lives are not to suffer permanent psychological scarring.”

The first quote is from Tim Tate; the second is from Budd Hopkins, describing his interviews with very young children recounting abduction experiences. [9] In view of the similarity of their arguments we must conclude that either Satanists are holding hideous ceremonies in our midst and aliens are descending to abduct large numbers of people, or that the question of assessing testimony from children (or adults) is rather more complicated than either of these writers allow.

Certain features of the stories Tate looks at underline the similarity between SCA claims and abduction stories. He concedes at one point that some stories contain clearly impossible features and mentions claims of ‘operations’ that are contradicted by medical evidence, and even a case of a child who claimed to have been abused in a spaceship. ‘Natalie’, a teenager returned to her mother after living with her grandmother for ten years, tells of being taken into a big house where children were kept in cages and murdered. But the house also had a more curious inhabitant named ‘Lucifer’:

“He was a sort of friend, at least he seemed to be then … When I was locked up in my room at nan’s he used to be there … I had no friends except him … Now I know he was a spirit or something”

Tim Tate seems to have no very clear idea what to make of such stories. However he insists on the literal truth of all the details of them that are not manifestly impossible in spite of all contrary evidence. He tabulates allegations made in 28 US cases. Practically all of them involve claims of babies being slaughtered and acts of child abuse being videoed, but no corpse has ever turned up, no video been recovered. Satanist never get caught by the sort of mischance that commonly happens to non-Satanic criminals. The serial killer Dennis Neilson was caught when neighbours complained about the smell from his house, the Yorkshire Ripper when stopped for a traffic violation. Serial killers usually work alone and the examples of pairs are rare enough to be notorious for years afterwards (e.g. Loeb and Leopard, Brady and Hindley). However we are asked to believe in large groups of people committing murder and torture of a viciousness surpassing the worst of individual serial killers.

Tate seems impressed by Sandy Gallant, a San Francisco police officer widely credited as an expert on Satanic crime. Some of her notes of advice to police forces are printed in an appendix to The Devil’s Web and they include a quite remarkable list of problems involved in the prosecution of SCA:

“No evidence is found at alleged crime scenes to substantiate statements made by victims. Though homicides are reported no bodies are found. Though children say they saw other children who were kidnapped no record of these children can be found with the National Center for Missing/Exploited Children.”

Is any comment necessary?

The British cases described in detail are Nottingham, and others derived from Tate’s own interviews. Unfortunately his handling of the historical material already examined means there are problems here. When his assertions can be checked Tate can be shown to have ignored the use of duress in producing confessions and ignored parts of stories which are clearly impossible. Since these are also items of controversy in the modern confessions how can we be sure the same process has not gone on in the summaries of his own interviews?

His section on Nottingham gives some further details about the extended family on whom the allegations centred. These seem to have been a horrifying collection of urban hillbillies living on the fringes of society in a nexus of poverty, crime, incest and subnormality reminiscent of the legendary Sawney Beane family. However the idea of such a family being the high priests of some secret cult seems to owe more to H. P. Lovecraft than reality.

This highlights another problem. Tate rejects the idea propounded by evangelical anti-Satanists that all Satanists are part of a world-wide cult hundreds of years old. He believes rather that modern Satanists are simply following information on historical Satanist practices. At one point he remarks the resemblance between one modern Satanist claim, and the case of Gilles de Rais, and demands that sceptics explain how the person making these claims could know such obscure facts. Apart from the fact that de Rais has long been a favourite for ‘World’s Wickedest Men’-type paperbacks, this question is quite meaningless unless one accepts the ancient cult idea that he explicitly rejects. In any case, the Nottingham family do not appear to be the sort of people one can easily imagine researching historic Satanism.

In spite of this, a Nottingham social worker declares herself convinced of the SCA charges when a three-year old produces “a historic Satanist chant”. Ignoring the lack of understanding of anyone who thinks there is such a thing, the claim is, as Peter Rogerson points out, identical with the evidence frequently offered in reincarnation claims.

The villains of Tate’s account of the Nottingham affair are the police, who he depicts as being blind to SCA evidence and refusing to investigate. He does not mention, much less reply to, the police contention that they searched the houses for supporting evidence and found none. Nor does he point out that we are asked to believe in mass chanting, murders and the sacrifice of a live sheep (curiously described by the child as being brought in a plastic bag and killed by someone sticking their fingernails into it) in a terraced house, unnoticed by the neighbours. Does Tim Tate not realise that if such dubious material was introduced into court a defence counsel would have a field day, and the real acts of child abuse that did occur in Nottingham might well have gone unpunished? It may be that the adversarial court system of Britain and the USA is not the best means of sorting out the truth of these cases, but at present it is the one the police have to operate within.

A less tendentious account of the Nottingham case is contained in Peter Hough’s Witchcraft: A Strange affair, a journalistic survey of the development of the anti-Satanic scare in Britain. [10] It includes some dubious anecdotes and is more sympathetic to the idea of the pre-Christian antiquity of witchcraft than the evidence warrants, but is a useful and fair-minded account. It includes interviews with people on both sides of the controversy and gives a much more rounded picture of the subcultures of Satanism and amateur occultism. Hough describes the activities of the anti-Satanist con-man Derry Mainwaring-Knight, providing an insight into the credulity of some Evangelicals to any anti-Satanist claims, however ridiculous. He also gives examples of how the activities of some Evangelical anti-Satanists have caused some disturbed people they have come into contact with to become even more disturbed. He looks at the parallels of SCA claims and UFO stories, but only devotes about a page to this. I would have been interested to see this discussed in more detail, something that Peter Hough’s involvement in UFO fieldwork investigations makes him well qualified to do.

A different sceptical perspective come from In Pursuit of Satan, [11] Written by Jim Hicks, a former US policeman and analyst for the Virginia Department of Justice, he looks at the response of US police departments and the psychiatric and welfare agencies to the SCA scene. The story he tells is alarming. The SCA gospel is spread to local police departments by seminars often organised by Christian fundamentalists. Like sixteenth century witch-finders they seem to define ‘supporting evidence’ so widely as to make in practically impossible for anyone to defend themselves. (Sandy Gallant advises police seeking evidence of Satanism to search houses for objects including I-Ching books, gongs or bells, and chalices, goblets or cruets) They advocate authoritarian measures such as examining library records to see who is borrowing books on the occult, and spread tales of mass Satanic political conspiracies. Their influence on law enforcement seems a scandal reminiscent of the influence of the Ku Klux Klan on some 1950′s police departments.

The promoters of such seminars try to present themselves at ‘anti-cultist’, apparently defining cults as any non Christian-fundamentalist fringe religious belief. Thus concerns about the rise of superstition and irrationality are seized upon to reinforce political and religious authoritarianism, just as the SCA panic seizes upon increased awareness of the reality of child abuse to promote a similar agenda.

The response of the US psychiatric profession seems to have been, from James Hicks account, equally dubious. Psychiatrists are shown to have accepted obviously apocryphal stories and dubious historical accounts in discussions of SCA in professional journals. Elaborate discussions around the day-care cases have sought to explain why the accused corresponded to no known profile of child molesters or why inspectors or visiting parents never found supporting evidence. (From a British viewpoint it would also be pertinent to ask why these day-care cases seem to be a purely American phenomenon with no parallels in the British cases.)

Looking at the conduct of the day-care cases, Hicks depicts investigators leading child witnesses in a manner which seems to approach child abuse itself. His account of the most notorious of these cases, the McMartin affair, bears very little resemblance to Tim Tate’s and the story calls for a complete book of its own (a TV mini-series is not surprisingly planned, but will no doubt simply endorse the view of the affair held by whichever of the protagonists has the most expensive lawyer).

What future developments in this story will be is hard to predict. So far, what it has told us about the continuing ability of irrational panics to exercise wide influence in modern societies in not reassuring.

 


 

 REFERENCES:

  1. As is the usual custom in such cases, Mr Gibbard’s name was not given in the press. It is given here because he has chosen to make it public as part of his campaign for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. See New Statesman, November 29, 1991
  2. Economist, August 31, 1991, also Fortean Times, nos. 60 and 61
  3. Also worth considering in this context are the ‘Little Uri Gellers’ of the 1970s, who, following Geller’s TV appearances, fooled parapsychologists with simple tricks.
  4. Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons  University Press/Heinemann educational, Paladin, 1995. See chapter 4. Pimlico, 2nd revised ediiton 1998.
  5. Searchlight Anti-Fascist Monthly, September 1985. Incidentally local rumours have linked the Morrell case with witchcraft. She was killed on the spring solstice and the wood where her body was found had previously figured in local ‘witches’ sabbaths’ tales.
  6. To be precise, some sort of ‘regression therapy’
  7. UFO Brigantia, November 1991
  8. Peter Hough, Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict  Press, 1991.
  9. James Hicks. In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult  Prometheus Press, 1991


    Click on the links in the references above to order the book from Amazon 

 

It Never RAINS but it Pours: Reporting on the Satan Hunters. Basil Humphreys

 satanic

Although there have been no recent high profile cases like Rochdale or Orkney, the Satanism hunters have not gone away.

BASIL HUMPHREYS reports on recent activity.

From Magonia 59, April 1997

The claims of Satanic Child Abuse hunters are seldom given space in the press nowadays, yet they are as busy as ever. The RAINS (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support) conference at Warwick University on 13-14 September 1996 had an attendance of two hundred (two-thirds of them women), mostly professional carers of some kind, along with a few vicars, some survivors of Ritual Abuse, and a couple of sceptics who were careful to keep their views to themselves. An informal survey conducted by one of the lecturers revealed that all but about ten of those present claimed to have first hand experience of a Ritual Abuse case, and most said they had several. The speakers included Catherine Could, an American therapist who had had patients recalling Satanic rituals ever since the McMartin case was first publicised in 1984; Valerie Sinason, editor of Treating Survivals of Satanist Abuse; and Tim Tate, who was the researcher for the notorious Cook Report on Satanism in 1989. 

No doubt for security reasons, tape recorders were forbidden, and the only journalist allowed was believer Andrew Boyd. Sceptical Mail on Sunday reporters were given a press conference in a room away from the rest, mainly rhetoric from Valerie Sinason. 

The words ‘Satanic’ and ‘Satanism’ were not actually used. Rather, people tended to refer ominously to ‘them’, leaving it tacit who ‘they’ were, One woman explained the necessity for RAINS like this: “They’re networked to one another, so we have to fight them with their own weapons.” Just how far does she intend to take this principle? 

The words Satanic and Satanism were not actually used, rather, people tended to refer ominously to them, leaving it tacit who they were

The emphasis is now on ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’, This condition was not even recognised until fairly recently, and was at first assumed to be a reaction to extreme trauma. Yet it is now assumed that it is deliberately induced by the cults as a form of mind control. So far as one could tell, it was usually taken for granted that survivors of Satanism would not remember their experiences until they recalled them under therapy or hypnosis. 

That the Satanists can wield mind control to this extent is used to explain away the lack of evidence. Valerie Sinason mentioned a case where police searched for evidence to back a survivor’s story, and found none: she said they had “interviewed the wrong alter [personality]“. Two policemen from Congleton in Cheshire, who have had several Ritual Abuse cases in their town, have repeatedly dug up gardens where Ritual Abuse survivors told them the bodies of sacrificial victims were buried (I feel sorry for the gardeners of Congleton), but mysteriously enough, they have never found anything. It has not occurred to them that the survivors might be telling porky-pies: rather, there must be an incredibly efficient conspiracy to conceal the truth, Were some of their fellow police amongst the ranks of ‘them’? Masonic conspiracies, inevitably, were mooted. Then another possibility was suggested: the survivors have been subjected to cult mind-control which is still operating. After giving information to the police, the survivors are programmed to telephone ‘them’ immediately and repeat it, so that ‘they’ are able to remove the evidence before the police can get there. 

A similar point was made by Catherine Gould: patients may move to another part of the country, but the Satanists manage to find them. One reason is that: “some alters are programmed to telephone the cult and tell them their new whereabouts when they move home.” 

All this was illustrated by the Californian therapist Caryn Stardancer, editor of Survivorship, who is herself a survivor of ritual abuse and “a member of a multiple-self system”. Having announced herself as such, she briefly slipped into one of her little girl alters. She kept two stuffed toys on the front of the podium as she talked, which apparently were so useful in her therapy that she now takes them everywhere. 

It is a myth, Stardancer said, that “survivors are neurotic people with empty lives who invent stories to get attention”; in fact, they haven’t got the attention that False Memory Syndrome has (everyone in this field thinks that it is only their opponents who are getting the media attention). She knows it is a myth because she herself suffered, back in the 1940s and 1950s when she was a small child, and the hands of an inter-generational, multi-perpetrator cult, actually at least five cults who were conspiring together. These included: a Satanic Cabal hiding under the cover of a Fundamentalist church; a Dionysiac group (who had survived underground ever since the days of ancient Rome) who “specialise in political manipulation through crime and blackmail”; a feminist Pagan coven; a youth gang who used Satanic imagery; and military mind-control experts who were affiliated with the Masons. She was able to bring in several other favourite conspiracy theories by giving them as part of the alleged cult’s teachings: she says they claim the cult hierarchy dates back to Hermes Trismegistus, an early Grand Master, they built the pyramids, and they are in touch with extra-terrestrials, as is proved by the eye in the pyramid on the US dollar bill. Many survivors, she says, are programmed to believe that social unrest at the turn of the millennium will enable the group they are in to take control. 

This talk won a minute’s standing ovation, In response to a question from the audience, she said she was given the surname Stardancer twenty years ago by an Indian medicine man she met at a conference on adolescent schizophrenia. 

Curiously, some of the patients supposedly continue in Satanism even while in therapy. Joan Coleman’s first survivor once had to postpone her sessions by two days because she had been summoned to a Satanic court in France, When she got to the delayed sessions she described how two ‘hoods’ had taken her to a chateau, where a black cockerel was sacrificed, she was urinated on, smeared with excrement, and all the usual stuff, questioned, then apparently let off. Valerie Sinason has a Multiple Personality Disorder patient who, as a child, was made Satan’s daughter and had “a goat’s horn shoved up her bum”. Her ‘adult alter’ still goes to rituals, returning with injuries, and she is now in a wheelchair. Though Sinason and her colleague Rob Hale at the Portman Clinic were doing an NHS-funded study of SRA, asking “what corroboration?”, it did not seem to occur to her that surveillance of such a patient could readily provide proof, if her story were true. 

Sinason also stated that certain crimes are committed at the full moon, mentioning the horse mutilations of a few years ago. Presumably this is meant to prove that they occur on cult holy days, yet the same observation has also been taken as proof that astrology is true. The first thing that ought to be investigated is whether or not some crimes really are committed more often at the full moon.

The weekend was rounded off by Marjorie Orr, the astrologer and founder of ‘Accuracy About Abuse’, who devoted her talk to attacking belief in ‘false memory syndrome’, which she says has led to the silencing of adult survivors, and is in danger of wrecking psychotherapy. There may be “a little exaggeration” on the part of survivors (those who describe mass murder, perhaps), but no more. The British False Memory Society, she considers, is an umbrella group for organised paedophile rings. 

It is likely that such conferences as this are self-propagating. One presenter related how in 1994 she went to a study day at Southampton University presented by Valerie Sinason: ‘Ritual Abuse: Does it Exist.’ At first she felt “total disbelief” at what she was hearing, but by the end of the day she believed in ritual abuse. The following years one of her patients started ‘disclosing’ having been made to take part in Satanic rituals (during which devils and humans flew about in the air), hence by the time of this conference she was herself an authority on the subject. 

Finally, it may be remarked that one piece of actual physical evidence was produced in the course of the weekend, A woman who was in the process of remembering the Satanic rituals she had been made to attend as a child awoke one morning, so she said, to find a box of voodoo dolls on her doorstep, obviously a curse placed there by the Satanists to warn her to keep her mouth shut, The voodoo dolls were shown, They were Guatemalan ‘Worry Dolls’, as sold at charity shops all over the country. 

Some recent developments:

Several recent news items have shown that the debate over ‘Satanic’ abuse and ‘False Memory’ is no closer to resolution. The Daily Telegraph (March 25, 1997, p.6) reports that the British Association of Counselling has issued guidelines to its 14,000 members warning them of the dangers of creating false memories in therapy. Chairman Alex McGuire is quoted as saying that the number of people with recovered memories which proved false was low, “but we don’t know what `low’ means. It could be tens, hundreds or even thousands. There is no doubt that it is a genuine hazard.” 

The Observer, (March 2, 1997) reports on a case where a 38 year old woman, Susan Lees, is sung the NSPCC and Birmingham Social Services for withholding evidence of abuse she suffered as a very young child at the hands of her father. She was taken into care and adopted at the age of five, and claims that memories of the abuse returned after hearing news reports of torture in Bosnia, then obtained Social Services records which confirm much of her story. Critics of False Memory Syndrome are claiming that this demonstrates that victims can forget their abuse then recover the memories much later, However this case seems to have little in common with others reported. The abuse happened when Ms Lees was a baby, stopped when she was adopted, and did not continue over many years, even into adulthood, as is alleged in SRA claims. 

In the Guardian‘s Saturday magazine section (March 15, 1997) a writer who appears to have links with the relevant Social Services department mounts a criticism of the action taken by a judge in Scotland in dismissing a ritual abuse prosecution in Ayrshire. Not having seen court reports it is difficult to know what happened in the case, and to what extent ‘recovered memory’ played a part. The implication in the article is that serious abuse did occur (an allegation which would presumably be impossible to make without the anonymity of individuals in such cases) but that prosecutors and judges were unwilling to accept the ‘Ritual’ elements, so the case fell. As in the conference reported above, mention of ‘Satanic’ abuse is carefully avoided. It is also apparent that the Guardian’s writer disapproves of the lifestyle of the family concerned – ‘travellers’ who can afford a large house through exporting expensive cars to Thailand and the Far East, The fact that Thailand is a centre for paedophile pornography is carefully pointed out. 

The recurrence of cases like these serves to emphasise the concerns expressed in Magonia by John Harney and Kevin McClure about the dangers of involving children in alien abduction stories. –  John Rimmer

 

Still Seeking Satan, Part 1. Roger Sandell

First published in Magonia 51, February 1995.

Part One

Among several recent books on the subject of Satanism, Lawrence Wright’s Remembering Satan fills a notable gap by giving a detailed account of one particular Satanism case, the Olympia, Washington State, case of 1988-89.

Even by the standards of such cases the story he has to tell is bizarre and grotesque. The two teenage daughters of Sheriff Paul Ingram, an evangelical Christian, attend a church summer-camp where a speaker ‘prophecies’ that someone in the audience has been a victim of child sex abuse. the daughters respond by having flash-back memories of abuse by their father. When arrested, Ingram has his own flashbacks where he sees himself sexually abusing his children, and immediately confesses.

The charges escalate until Ingram is no longer merely a sexual pervert but the leader of a gang of Satanists carrying out human sacrifices. Two other police officers are arrested as cult members, but protest their innocence.

Throughout all of this Ingram continues to supply flashback memories of any suggestion put to him, including deliberately false ones put by a sceptical psychologist to test the validity of his confessions. the bottomless credulity of the investigating officers survives this revelation, as it does a claim by one of his daughters to have been raped by police dogs and the discovery that she has forged a letter to herself purporting to be a threat from Satanists. Finally Ingram, now repudiating his confessions, is sentenced to life imprisonment while his co-accused are acquitted. [1]

Lawrence Wright tells this story with the help of transcripts of police interviews which reveal a series of abuses that make it extremely surprising that they were ever accepted as evidence. Leading questions are asked; Ingram is told that if he does not make a full confession his daughters may kill themselves, and a potential witness is told he will be able to take out a profitable claim for compensation.

Interestingly there are hints at some points of tales that might have been interpreted in a completely different way. Ingram’s son when first interviewed by police remembers no abuse, but when pressed further to recall odd happenings in his childhood tells of a dream of little men floating through his bedroom window and standing round his bed. This story, which would have immediately been seized on by UFO abduction believers,is interpreted by police as a cover memory disguising child abuse.

The problems of ‘flashback memories’, ‘cover memories’ and ‘false memories’, which Wright also explores, have in the last few months been the subject of a number of reports in the British press and television. The False Memory Society, a US group of parents who claim to be the victims of false memories of abuse planted in adult offspring by dubious therapists, now has a British branch. Although none of the British cases have yet ended up in court, some of them also involve tales of Satanism and human sacrifices. Another British group recently founded is Accuracy About Abuse, which champions the validity of work done by therapists to recover memories of abuse. However, Marjorie Orr, the founder of this organisation is scarcely likely to dispel doubts about therapists since, although described as one, she is better known as the writer of the Daily Express’s horoscope column and the voice on a recorded message fortune-telling by phone service – activities which some evangelical. Christian promoters of the Satanism scare would regard as ‘Satanic’ themselves.

Wright shows that both sides in the memory controversy can point to evidence in their favour. Loftus and Ganaway, two sceptical psychologists, have conducted experiments claiming to show that children will endorse and elaborate on totally imaginary events which they are told happened to them in the past. A survey conducted at an American school where a deranged gunman had fired on children showed that several months after children who were absent on that day gave accounts of allegedly seeing the gunman. [2]

On the other hand a recent survey of adults who were child victims of sex offenders allegedly showed that up to 38% had no memory of the incident. However, this survey has come under attack for including former victims who were very young at the time of the assault. One wonders also whether in some cases `don’t remember’ actually means ‘don’t want to discuss with a complete stranger after twenty years’. And did the survey make any distinction between former victims of systematic, long-term abuse and those where the abuse had been a single incident? The distinction is a vital one since there is a very big difference between repressing the memory of a brief trauma – which is known to happen after involvement in accidents or disasters – and the alleged repression of memories of long passages of one’s life.

There are wider questions, too, than can easily be settled by surveys and experiments. Is the model of the human memory propounded by the therapists who gradually uncover memories of Satanism one that is simply based on the not uncommon film plot device in which the audience is initially shown a brief unexplained flashback to a character’s memory which is gradually expanded on as the narrative progresses? (A well-known example is Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, shown on BBC-TV) [3]

Another aspect of the controversy which deserves more sceptical scrutiny than it has received is the use by both sides of the term ‘brainwashing’, which is variously depicted as a means whereby evil Satanists force victims to forget their abuse or commit crimes, or as a means whereby evil therapists force sinister memories on unsuspecting patients.

In each case the model for explanation is a dubious one. The term first appeared during the Korean War, when it was used to explain why large numbers of US prisoners of the Chinese and North Koreans were prepared to collaborate and publicly denounce US policy. According to the brainwashing model of explanation they had been the victims of a combination of advanced and sinister mind-control techniques devised by Soviet psychologists, and fiendish Oriental tortures. This belief was partly responsible for setting off a mind-control arms race between Soviet and US intelligence services in which innocent people suffered as unknowing guinea-pigs, and – like the rather similar ESP race – exaggerated reports of each side’s capabilities led the other to make frantic attempts to catch up. The film The Manchurian Candidate depicted some of the alleged capabilities of brainwashing to plant memories of imaginary events, and transform people into robot assassins, to be activated at a given signal. [4]

manchurian-candidate

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey in The ‘Manchurian Candidate’, the film that helped to establish the popular conception if brainwashing. Harvey (right) who is being programmed as an assassin, is shown shooting a fellow PoW.

Little of this stands up to scrutiny. The mysterious and sinister techniques allegedly used somehow failed to re-surface in Vietnam. The lower rate of collaboration amongst British POWs in Korea and its total absence among the Turks (the next largest UN contingent) suggests that low US army morale and motivation had more of an influence on the behaviour of American troops in captivity. However the belief in the existence of sinister techniques to control directly the human mind has been an enduring one.

Equally suspect is the idea implied by some sceptics that it might be possible to isolate some kind of ‘False Memory Syndrome’ as a specific medical condition that might explain claimed memories of bizarre and highly improbable events. This would indeed be convenient portmanteau explanation but it is probably more accurate to see these tales emerging as part of a wider interaction involving both social and psychological factors as well as group dynamics, and no more have one single explanation than all false confessions to the police or all false claims to be the victims of crimes. Individual Satanist cases probably have a variety of roots, including family tensions (which can be glimpsed in Wright’s account of the Ingram case), the very existence of ‘survivor’ groups that foster a climate of self-reinforcing fantasy, and the subconscious desire of those who have paid large amounts of money to therapists to come up with recovered memories sensational enough to justify the expense.

The fact remains, however, that the ranks of American therapists include many bizarre and sinister practitioners. Just how bizarre can be seen by reading Daniel Ryder’s Breaking the Circle of Satanic Abuse, a book so eccentric that one might dismiss it as a product of the lunatic fringe were it not for the fact that its author is a licensed social worker, and the cover contains endorsements from police officers, psychologists and child welfare groups. It appears to be a product of the so-called ‘Christian Counselling’ movement, a synthesis that makes clear the similarities between evangelical Christianity and ‘recovery therapy’. Notably their common emphasis on confession and rebirth, and emphasis on individual evil rather than social factors as an explanation for people’s problems. Thus Ryder’s accounts of work with alleged ritual abuse victims alternate between exhortations to remember that Jesus has been victorious over Satan, and passages of psychobabble that defy parody:

Tim, who’s a 37 year old computer programmer guesses that his inner child is six. Tim’s next task was to do some activities appropriate for a six year old. He got some coloring books for his inner child. He was also doing daily affirmations holding a teddy-bear and talking into a mirror. Bianca, a 40 year old manager was doing some experimental inner-child work. She was skeptical until she found herself too late for a corporate conference because she had found herself engrossed with a dolls house she was playing with.

If these methods fail to produce memories of Satanic abuse, apparently the therapist should go on a fishing expedition through any memories that are the slightest bit out of the ordinary:

If the client is ready there are other ways to jog memories. One is to go back to the neighbourhood one grew up in. Walk around if possible, remembering the adults, remember-ing the children. What were their personalities like? Did anything ever seem odd? Do you remember any adults who seemed especially sadistic or overtly sexual? What’s happened to some of the children who lived in the neighbourhood? Did some develop psychiatric disorders?

Ryder’s therapy produces Satanic cult tales that one might think would test the credulity of the most gullible believers (but to judge by the book’s endorsements have not done so). His Satanists have paranormal powers and, it seems, that they may use these to make evidence vanish. Thus neatly explaining why no-one ever finds any. Demons and non-human monsters are present at ceremonies, according to Ryder.

Tales like this underline another problem that the Satanic cult memories share with memories of alien abductions and past lives. Not only do different therapists not only keep on finding lots of whichever of the above is their speciality but never anything else, but also each finds a particular sub-type of their speciality unique to themselves. Thus Budd Hopkins’ alien abductors are rather different from John Mack’s, and reincarnation researchers tell tales about the process which completely contradict each other. Similarly, Ryder’s cult stories are very different from those found by more secular investigators. But Ryder also reports a new type of abuse which he claims to find emerging:

A certified therapist who requested anonymity for safety reasons said that some clients had memories of being abused in laboratory type settings. This laboratory abuse is seen as experimental. This therapist said survivors have remembered being hooked on to electrodes. [Another therapist] said survivors report having memories of surgical procedures. [She] also reported more than one of these survivors claim they remember being programmed to assassinate powerful people if cued.

Such stories seem to be becoming more common, and Ryder’s version of them is not the most bizarre. Cary Hammond is the producer of a video on Satanic abuse used by various American police departments, who, according to Lawrence Wright, claims:

Such cults were developed by Satanic Nazi scientists who were captured by the CIA after the war and brought to the US. The main figure was a Hasidic Jew, Dr. Greenbaum who saved himself from the gas chambers by assisting his Nazi captors and instructing them in the secrets of the Cabala.

Dr Hammond is quoted as saying:

People say what’s the purpose of it? My best guess is they want an army of Manchurian Candidates, tens of thousands of mental robots who will smuggle drugs, engage in arms smuggling, very lucrative things, and eventually, the megalomaniacs at the top believe, create a Satanic order that will rule the world.

For writers like Bill Cooper and John Lear, UFO retrieval tales have linked with themes such as drug barons and ‘treason in high places’, now the Satanic cult stories are linking up with abductee-type medical experiments, political assassinations, Nazis-in-America conspiracy theories and Jewish ritual murder tales.

NOTES:

1. A historical equivalent of Sheriff Ingram might be major weir, the former Cromwellian officer, who in 1670 made an unprompted confession to a lifetime of witchcraft and bizarre sex crimes.

2. A recent case involving demonstrably false memories is that of Roald Dahl who claimed in his autobiography to have been beaten by Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, the future Archbishop of Canterbury whilst attending Repton school. In fact Dr. Fisher was not a Repton master at the time Dahl was there. [See also The Strange Case of Mr Esther Rantzen and the Demon Headmaster]

3. Similarly, the current image of ghosts as transparent figures seems to rest not on witness accounts, but early cinema trick photography.

4. Tim Tate, the leading British journalistic proponent of the Satanic abuse scare also scripted the 1994 Channel 4 documentary claiming that Sirhan Sirhan had been brainwashed by the CIA 

For Part Two, and bibliographical notes continue HERE

 

Flying Saucers From Hell. Bill Ellis

Alien Abductions and Satanic Cult Abductions

from Magonia 40, August 1991

There are unquestionably, as John Rimmer states, ‘disturbing parallels’ between UFO abduction research and Satan-hunting. And folklorists are good at finding parallels among widely separated stories and traditions. We can suggest ways in which these coherences represent common human responses to stresses or represent revivals of motifs from the past. But we should also be aware of why we are looking for such continuities. By discussing such stories as folklore, are we explaining or explaining away?

The late 1980s brought many Americans’ attention to two similar claims: people were being abducted and abused by extraterrestrials, and ‘cult survivors’ had been abducted and abused as children by devil-worshippers. Budd Hopkins (1) uncovered and detailed several puzzling cases in which witnesses reported a close encounter with a glowing light, then found they could not account for a period of ‘missing time’. Regressive hypnosis often filled in this gap with experiences in which the witnesses were levitated inside some kind of craft, given medical examinations, then returned to where they had been.

Michelle Smith reconstructed an influential cult abuse story with the help of her psychiatrist (and husband-to-be) Lawrence Pazder. (2] She described in detail how she had been taken by her devil-worshipping mother to many gruesome rituals during which babies were murdered, animal blood drunk, and children forced to lie in graves with dead animals. She was followed by several other dramatic ‘survivors’ who claimed to have been the victims of similar cults. This claim, in fact, has become accepted as standard among many fully accredited psychiatrists treating patients with multiple-personality disorder, now widely assumed to be caused by satanic ritual abuse during childhood. (3)

These scenarios share many motifs with older Anglo-American beliefs and legends focusing on abductions, and they can be historically linked to each other and to older folk traditions. But are they identical claims? If the dynamics and the content of alien abductions and satanic survivor stories are structurally identical, isn’t it reasonable to assume that they are reflections of a similar cultural process that produces or encourages delusions? I believe that the differences between the two types of claim are more important than the parallels: one is empirical, the other is mythological. And this distinction, in social and political terms, is hardly trivial.

Satanic abuse and UFO abductions do have much in common, particularly the contexts out of which they arise. Generally speaking, both kinds of abductees do not initially recall any unusual event. Most UFO abductees recall only seeing a bright light, followed by disorientating nightmares and flashbacks. Likewise, cult survivors ‘present’ with generalised feelings of anxiety and recurring dreams, like Michelle Smith’s vision (familiar to urban legend scholars) of an itchy boil that, when lanced, proves to be full of little spiders. (4) In both cases, the

abduction or ritual abuse is reconstructed with the help of a therapist, often using regressive hypnosis. And in many instances, the moment of ‘recall’ is marked by a cathartic moment of screaming – as in the case of Michelle Smith and Whitley Strieber. (5) And in both instances, follow-up therapy sessions recall these stories in increasing detail. The internal consistency and sincerity of such accounts lend both kinds of accounts credibility, and in both fine details from one victim’s story are apparently corroborated by others interviewed independently. (6)

But we must also admit significant contrasts. UFO abductees generally focus attention, at least initially, on a recent puzzling encounter that can be to some extent corroborated by others present: the glowing light and other puzzling sounds or traces do apparently point to some specific event that occurred in some specific place. By contrast. satanic abuses are more frequently placed in a distant past, and survivors frequently concede that they have no direct witnesses or physical proof that would link their experiences to any specific time or place. This need not be taken as proof that UFOs landed in Whitley Strieber’s backyard: only that the apparent abduction was linked to some identifiable incident in his and his acquaintances’ immediate past; by contrast, Michelle Smith’s ritual abuse took place more than twenty years before she sought medical help and was corroborated in no way by her friends and relatives.

Despite elaborate efforts to connect their stories to abnormal psychological patterns, UFO abductees stubbornly test in the normal range. Experienced psychologists like Rima Laibow and John P. Wilson have noted that such patients do often show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, but this seems a reaction to the apparent abduction rather than a cause of it. (6) And integration into a support group of fellow ‘abductees’ and sympathetic researchers seems to have been therapeutic rather than destructive: the detailed survey conducted by Kenneth Ring and Christopher J. Rosing among UFO abductees shows that ‘on the whole it has made a positive difference in their lives’. (7)

Satanic cult abductees arrive at their ritual abuse memories only after a long string of previous extravagant claims have been tried and found wanting

By contrast, satanic cult survivors normally appear with long histories of psychosis: substance abuse, self-mutilation, previous fantasies, and so on. ‘Lauren Stratford’, or Laurel Rose Willson, one of the most visible American ‘survivors’, arrived at her story of being a cult ‘breeder’ after impressing a series of pastors and church members with detailed stories of abuse and personal illness. Her acquaintances recalled numerous times when she faked suicide attempts, making superficial cuts on her arms, to provoke sympathy. In fact, before she was adopted by the anti-Satanist network, she was living on total state disability benefit due to her mental problems. (8) Alien abductees, in short, construct their experiences as the explanation of a recent, intense state of disorientation; satanic cult abductees, on the other hand, arrive at their ritual abuse memories only after a long string of previous extravagant claims have been tried and found wanting.

Likewise, the contents of these ‘experiences’ show interesting but superficial parallels. Both show victims incapacitated in same way – a drug, a strange ray, perhaps even brainwashing – that reduces their will to resist. They are removed to another place: Michelle recalls being put on a bed and ‘flying’; other witnesses recall ‘mystery planes’ or ‘tunnels’ that took them into some mysterious place, where some kind of symbolic or actual rape took place. Strieber, like many others, recalls being levitated into a small room, where, among other discomforts, he was subjected to some kind of anal probe. Both victims return, frequently with some mysterious mark on their bodies, besides which there is no physical sign of the abductors’ presence. Among cult survivors, the killing of a baby seems the most common climax to such events; a growing number of UFO abductees sense that sperm or ova – even a developing foetus – had been removed by aliens as a personal sacrifice to some scientific purpose. We could say that the one is a technological transformation of the other.

These parallels noted, the obvious difference remains: alien abductions are caused by superhumans; cult abuse is carried out by humans. True, satanists show nearly superhuman powers in the way they can carry out the most gruesome ceremonies without leaving any physical evidence. And since many of the survivors’ accounts include demonic manifestations caused by the cultists, we could say that the difference is academic. But is it? I think not, if we put the two phenomena in full historical perspective.

Since space aliens by definition do not inhabit the same world as humans, abductees must deal with them as part of a mythical otherworld. The main problem, as expressed by many victims, is not merely how to avoid further contacts, but to accept them as genuine but unbelievable experiences. Such a process obviously puts pressure on abduction victims to reduce their experiences to good form. By forming networks to exchange ideas or perceptions of the aliens, abductees follow a pattern of group therapy similar to that studied by folklorists as women’s ‘rap groups’. (9) Whether the trauma of the abduction is empirical or imagined, the folk process that it initiates is essentially one that integrates members into a self-supportive group.

Alien abduction, as many commentators have noted, is a modern cognate to earlier supernatural attack traditions, most notably fairy kidnaps. These bodies of lore also focused on queer experiences in which individuals were ‘taken away’ into another plane of existence in which normal time was disordered. But they were self-regulating, including also a broad range of ritualistic activities intended to keep away these unwelcome guests or limit their power over humans: carrying cold iron, whistling, turning pockets inside out, a broom placed in the chimney upside down. (10) As I noted in an earlier essay on UFO abductions, the common Old Hag or ‘bedroom visitor’ experience has much in common with abductions, (11) and indeed Budd Hopkins took on a person who had had such a ‘hagging’, repeatedly regressing him until the witness eventually produced a suitable abduction memory. [12) But while the Old Hag generally could be kept at bay by sleeping with a sharp knife under the pillow, I expressed fears that abduction researchers might not provide any proper 'superstitions' to dispel fears of aliens.

But now it appears that the network is generating these new folk beliefs. Fetishistic or ritualistic ways are emerging to control the threat of abduction. In Transformation, Strieber describes a series of personal and communal rituals that he participated in as part of his acceptance of 'the visitors': these ranged from refraining from certain foods (chocolate in particular) to holding a group invocation in a Wiccan or neo-pagan sanctuary. (13)

Another 'new age' channeler has circulated the useful knowledge that, if aliens are really after our 'glandular secretions', then we can defeat them by eating things that they don't like, specifically 'sugar, sweet foods, and spinach and rhubarb, hot spicy foods, such as chili peppers'. (14) Even Philip Klass ends his debunking of abduction research by telling readers that ufonauts will never abduct a 'True UFO-Skeptic': 'To assure that you are a TUFOS, and thereby completely protected against ufonaut abduction, it is suggested that you read my earlier book[s])…’ (15) Though a jest, Klass’s remark points to an insight shared by several folklorists examining cultural responses to the paranormal – that the sceptical response frequently mirrors the uncritical reasoning of believers. (16)

Supernatural attack traditions are responses to a specific, directly remembered psychological crisis. Certainly the details of this crisis, as reconstructed in memory and shared with others rely on acceptable cultural models. But are abductions simply subsets of of popular culture antecedents like alien invasion movies and comic strips? (17) The direction taken by most abductees, as with those who have experienced near-death experiences, has been to challenge and move outside of mainstream institutions like organised sciences and religions. To that extent, UFO abductions marginalise victims, but living in the margins also impels many of them to create novel myths and rituals to reorder their world views. These alternative world views may offend mainstreamers, but the fact remains: abductees form their own alternative networks and resist being subsumed by mass-culture movements.

Satanic cult survivors, by contrast, assume that the actions they have witnessed have occurred in real time and in the real world, not in some otherworldly fairy hill. This is why police and vigilantes have, on several occasions, gone so far as to excavate sites named by survivors, looking for graves or signs of secret tunnels. (18) The agents of ritual abuse, even if they have superhuman powers given them by the devil, are still mortals who live in the same community as we do. This point is made quite clear by the Satan hunters: ‘A coven … is set up so that no one knows more than one or two members involved at the next level of its hierarchy … And because many of the people involved hold respectable positions in the community, few are willing to believe what often are considered ravings from a troubled mind.’ (19)

salemwitchtrial-e

Witches could not hide when they were pointed out by afflicted girls or professional witch-finders executing the will of God almighty

Alien abductees may report real-time contacts with strange ‘men in black’. but these characters often betray their extrahuman natures by their odd appearance and tendency to vanish. The cult members who harass survivors, on the other hand, are assumed by therapists to be real people who can be identified and arrested. In fact, the Satanists cannot vanish; however secretive they may be, they can and must be disarmed by decisive social action. And the actions projected by the two groups’ beliefs point in quite different directions. At worst, the UFO abduction camp demands respect for non-standard myths and beliefs; the satanic abduction camp, on the other hand, wants to hurt the people responsible for their experiences. By its nature, the cult mythology is reactionary and aggressive. It exorcises a generalised, poorly defined fear by projecting it outward on to other members of the community.

Its proper cognate is not fairy lore but witch-hunting. Witches, too, had superhuman abilities given them by the devil: they could enter people’s dreams, afflict their bodies, kill their children and cattle. But they could not hide when they were pointed out by afflicted girls or professional witch-finders, executing the will of God almighty. Susanna Martin, one of the accused witches in the Salem, Massachusetts, panic of 1692, took one farmer, Joseph Ring, from his bed, flew him to a nearby field, and forced him to take part in black sabbats. Before returning, she would ‘strike him dumb’ so that he could not tell of what he had seen. This continued for more than two years, but by the grace of God he recovered his memories in time to participate in the testimony that put Goody Martin’s head in the noose. (20)

In many cultures and times, witch-hunts have led to acts of violence against marginal classes – women, Jews, Gypsies, African Americans, Socialists, any group who can serve as ready targets for the generalised fears of the mainstream. In short, alien abductees seek to create a marginal world view; satanic cult abductees seek to eliminate marginality.

Is it surprising that the two bodies of information share motifs? Both grew organically out of the cattle mutilation panics of the 1970s, which were widely linked to devil-worship ceremonies. The abduction scenario received an infusion of new blood from two simultaneous abduction mutilation experiences elicited by ufologist Leo Sprinkle through hypnotic regression. These recollections, helpfully reprinted in extenso by Linda Moulton Howe, include a number of motifs common to satanic cult lore, including aliens in cult lore, including aliens in black hooded robes and with eyes ‘red, like the devil’, who bathe in tubs of blood and excised organs. (21) It should also be noted that Michelle Remembers was published at the height of Canada’s own cattle mutilation panic of 1979-80, which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police openly attributed to a sinister cult called ‘Sons in the Service of Satan’ or ‘S.I.S.S.’ (22)

The ‘missing children’ moral crusade likewise took hold in the early 1980s, while psychopathic mass murderers, according to the media, haunted neighbourhoods and roamed the Interstates. (23) And this crusade has hardly been confined to Americans but affected the Communist Bloc: while cattle mutilators roamed Colorado in the 1970s, strangers in a mysterious black car prowled Russia and Poland, abducting children to drain out their blood or pluck out their eyeballs and vital organs. (24) This kind of story is a universal cultural myth, found in some form in nearly every continent, especially when Europeans were perceived as a threat to Africans, Asians, or Latin Americans. (25) Overall, such patterns indicate broad bodies of cultural language, that would affect any anomalous claim.

Is one simply a more sophisticated form of the other? Michael Goss implies this when he notes that ‘The Georgians, and the Victorians after them, were too sophisticated to fear that their children might be kidnapped by fairies. But as they had nomadic gypsy bands the loss was not felt’. This comment seems close in spirit to Jan Harold Brunvand’s confident explanation that when ballads containing references to fairies, ghosts and the like where brought over from England to the US, Americans dropped out the supernatural elements, ‘presumably because they (Americans) are hard-headed and practical’. (26)

A close reading of Hilary Evans’s Intrusions (27) would show that the Victorian period was an extraordinarily active period for supernatural beliefs and research at the most sophisticated scientific levels. Spiritualism, table-tapping, and ESP were seriously entertained by figures of no less import than William James, Sir William Crookes, and Sir Arthur Coma Doyle (whose arguments for the existence of fairies continue to mystify the hard-headed American fans of Sherlock Holmes). In fact, sociologists have recently noted, the outbreak of the witchcraft hysterics in Europe matched precisely the emergence of modern scientific methods that removed fairies as a ‘sensible’ explanation for phenomena later used to burn witches. (28)

Supernatural attack claims and witch-hunts have coexisted at every cultural period, however ‘sophisticated’ it might have been. Romans believed in lamia that might snatch children’s spirits to the underworld, and they also believed in Christians that kidnapped babies and ate them during their love feasts. They appeased the former and burned the latter. The medieval English believed in fairies that might abduct children or adults into underground neverlands; they also could be convincedthat Jews were using Christian babies as a Passover sacrifice. Bowls of milk were left out for the fairies; the Jews were dispossessed and burned.

And in our own time alien abductions and satanic cult abductions emerge, both equally drawing on contemporary beliefs and concepts to refurbish equally ancient structures. ‘But doesn’t it scare you that abductees are forming these networks?’ one popular press reporter demanded during a phone interview. No, I responded: the marginality of ufology in general and doubly marginal place abductionology holds even there, it seems unlikely that it will ever have the clout to appeal to more than a minority of New Age seekers. True, Edith Fiore blatantly uses hypnosis to cure Californians’ anxieties by helping them construct satisfying ‘abduction experiences’ and gives the reader helpful hints on building your own UFO experience by dangling a crystal over your wrist while asking it leading questions. (29) But like past-life therapy (in which Fiore also dabbles), such tactics may offend sceptics’ sense of logic, but they do produce cures (like shamanism) when the therapist and patient share similar world views and when the patient expects the therapy to make him better. (30)

The question is: how much social damage can abductee networks cause? Anecdotal accounts circulate about victims who consider suicide and murders to keep themselves and children from being abducted by extraterrestrials. These ‘horror stories’, however, have not yet been accompanied by names and dates. On the other hand, the satanic abduction network has the desire to damage individuals and institutions and possesses the clout of academic and political institutions. Consider the coalition as we have experienced it in the United States: the producers of ABC-TV’s 20-20 News programme, the members of the American Psychiatric Association who organised and participated in the international conferences on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States; at least three archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church; the District Attorney of Los Angeles, who pursued the McMartin Preschool satanic abuse case despite a lack of objective evidence, even, for several years, the US Government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And to what positive end? The MPD/satanism therapy, like others, works when therapist and patient agree on the reality of cults. Many ‘survivors’ find relief from their psychoses in becoming widely demanded ‘experts’ on ritual abuse. But the benefit of the patient must be balanced against the staggering cost of careers and reputations damaged by innuendo, And, as Mulhern has pointed out, many patients diagnosed as victims of ritual abuse, are further traumatised by being convinced that they are in continual danger from real-life Satanists. Given the role that Michelle Remembers played in initiating the McMartin prosecution in Los Angeles (the model for Rochdale), Michelle Smith could have done a lot worse than contact Budd Hopkins. And, ironically, the saddest toll must be numbered in real child victims, which can be documented by name and date.

Angela Palmer, 4, burned to death in an oven in Lewiston, Maine, 27 October 1984: Her mother’s boyfriend was trying to exorcise a demonic image from the mother, put there by her father who had abused her as a child. The exorcism went awry when Lucifer manifested himself in the child. (31)

Kimberly Jackson, 4, died of starvation in Milton, Florida, 8 February 1987: her mother, concerned about her daughter’s ‘defiance’, had consulted an evangelist, who ordered her to punish her child by beating and starving her, and forcing her to sleep under black blankets representing the death of the soul. (32)

Eric Cottam, 14, died of starvation near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 4 January 1989: their parents, afraid that the children were being subjected to satanic abuse in a local Seventh-Day Adventist school, took their children to psychiatrists at a Pittsburgh children’s hospital, who elicited detailed accounts of animal sacrifices and sexual abuse. After the specialists determined that it was ‘reasonably realistic that those acts did occur’, the Cottams fled into seclusion and, lacking money, waited for God to save them from the satanists. (33)

Folklorists can’t decide if extraterrestrials exist or if any given accusation of ritual abuse is valid or not, but they can and should help people keep phenomena like this in perspective. History repeats for those unwilling to learn it.

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References:

1. See his Intruders, Ballantine, 1987, and Missing Time, Ballantine 1988

2. Michelle Remembers, Pocket Books, 1981.

3. Particularly influential among these has been; Stratford, Lauren; Satan’s Underground, Harvest House, 1988. For further background see: Mulhern, Sherrill, ‘Satanism and psychotherapy: a Rumor in Search of an Inquisition’, in The Satanism Scare

4. Smith and Padzer, p.9. See Brunvand, Jan harold, The Mexican Pet, Norton, 1986, pp. 76-77. ‘The spider bite’, he notes has been a popular urban legend in North America and Europe since the mid-1960s

5. Smith and Padzer, pp. 22-23, Communion, p. 54.

6. For this claim on ritual abuse see: Mulhern and victor; for a similar claim for abductions see: Bullard, Thomas E., ‘Hypnosis and UFO Abductions; a troubled relationship’, in Journal of UFO Studies, 1, 1989, pp 3-40.

7. Laibow, quoted in Conroy, Ed., Report on Communion, Morrow 1989; Wilson, ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Experience Anomalous Trauma (EAT): similarities in reported UFO abductions and exposure to invisible toxix contaminants’, Jornal of UFO Studies, 2, 1990, pp.1-18; Ring, Kenneth and Rosing, Christopher, ‘The Omega Project: a psychological survey of people reporting abductions and other UFO encounters’, Journal of UFO Studies, 2, 1990, p.82. Ring and Rosing, while admitting that their data cannot resolve the empirical status of abduction experiences suggest that a psychosocial explanation is the most likely.

8. Passantino, Gretchen and bob, and Trott, John, ‘Satan’s Sideshow’, Cornerstone, 18: 90, 8 December 1989, pp.24-28.

9. See particularly Kalcik, Susan, “…like Ann’s gynaeocologist or the time I was almost raped”, personal narratives in ‘Women’s Rap Groups’ Journal of American Folklore 88, 1975, pp3-11. About twice as many women as men are willing to admit an abduction experience, although hard data on this are laking. See Ring and Rosing, p.65.

10, See my ‘Abduction’, in Hand, Wayland, The Encyclopedia of AmericanFolk Beliefs and Superstition, University of California Press.

11. ‘The Varieties of Alien Experience’, The Skeptical Inquirer, 12,3, Spring 1988, pp. 263-269. See also, Hufford, David, The Terror That Comes in the Night, University of Pennsylvania, 1982.

12. Missing Time, pp. 145-175

13. Streiber, Transformation, Avon, 1988, pp.242-244

14. Nevada Aerial Research group, The Leading Edge, November 1990, p.26. One suspects that garlic too might be effective.

15. Klass, p. UFO Abductions, a Dangersour Game, Prometheus Books, 1988, p.194

16 – 19. These referenves to be confirmed.

20. Starkey, Marlon, L. The Devil in Massechusetts, Anchor, 1969.

21. An Alien Harves, Linda Moulton howe prods., 1989, pp247, 371

22. See: Adams, Thomas A., ‘The Cult Connection’, Stigmata, 11, 1980, pp10-13, and Kagan, David and Summers, Ian, Mute Evidence, Bantam 1983.

23. A useful introduction to this crusade is: Best, Joel, Threatened Children, University of Chicago press, 1990.

24. Czubala, Dionizjusz, ‘The Black Volga’. Foaftale News, 21. 1991. See also: Stilo, Guiseppi, and Toselli, Paolo. ‘Gli Arcchiappa-bambini e l’Ambulanza Nera’, Tutte Storia, 1,1, March 1991, pp9-11. The same story was circulating in Southern italy in November 1990.

25. See: Campion-Vincente, Véronique, ‘The Baby-Parts Story’, Western Folklore, 49, 1990, pp.9-25; and Stevens, Phillip,’The demonology of Satanism’, The Satanism scare.

26. The Study of American folklore, 3rd. edition, Norton, 1986, p.258

27. Routledge and kegan Paul, 1982.

28. Ankarloo, Bengt, and Henningson, Gustav (eds.). Early Modern European Witchcraft, Centres and Peripheries, Clarendon Press, 1990.

29. Encounters, Macmillan, 1989.

30. See: Rogo, D. Scott, the search for Yesterday, Prentice-Hall, 1985.

31. UPI release, October 1984; Portoland (ME) Press-Herald, 27 November 1985. These cuttings were made available to me by the kindness of CHILD Inc., Sioux City, IA., America’s leading advocates of childrens’ right in the face of genuine religious abuse, mainly committed in the name of recognised religions.

32. FOAFtale News, no. 17, p.12.

33. FOAFtale News, n0. 15, p.7

An Alien Vice: Human Sexuality and the Pornography of Abduction. Part Two. David Sivier

Part Two

Evolutionary psychology suggest such men have an attraction for women because of the advantages they offer them and their children as strong protectors and providers. The negative aspect to this is that there are women who are attracted to violent, domineering men. It is unfortunately a sad fact that such women tend to move from one such bully to another and may even block and frustrate action taken by the police or social services on their behalf by taking their lover’s side. There is absolutely no need to claim, as Eve Frances Lorgen in her `Alien Love Bite’ article for MUFON has done, that the tortured, abusive relationships of many abductees have their origin in their rape and abuse by aliens. [13] It is too close, too similar, to the experiences of the victims of real human abuse on Earth to be coincidental. Its origins lie instead in the brutalised psychology of abused and dysfunctional individuals, rather than in putative invaders from the stars.

That great ufological pretender George Adamski met a number of vivacious extraterrestrial women on his interplanetary travels.

Then there is the question surrounding the abduction scenario itself. Why should apparently healthy individuals fantasize about such a traumatic event? While the apparent scenario of intergalactic explorers gathering and examining specimens from Earth lends itself to themes of abduction and medical examination, there are other forms the contact narrative could take. Real interstellar explorers would be more likely to recover
and dissect a recently deceased corpse, like the human explorers in Gregory Benford’s SF novel Across the Sea of Suns, or break into the anatomy facilities of university medical departments or teaching hospitals. As a sexual fantasy, there’s similarly little apparent need for such abusive, violent imagery. That great ufological pretender George Adamski met a number of vivacious extraterrestrial women on his interplanetary travels and even as late as 1975 Elizabeth Klarer could recount her intimate relationship with an alien spaceship captain. Nor is Klarer an isolated example of a consenting, romantic relationship between human and alien. At roughly the same time Marvel was running a short-lived strip based firmly on the then emergent mythology of alien abduction and hybridisation, it was also publishing Starlord, a superhero comic whose main character was the half-human child of an Earth woman and a crashed alien starship captain.

These benign fantasies, however, are far outnumbered by the countless films, short stories and novels about alien invaders descending to carry off human females, and occasionally males, for nefarious breeding purposes. Of course, rape as one of the most horrific forms of human violence exerts a powerful fascination for the human psyche. It can be depended on to sell newspapers and ‘true crime’ books, magazines and television series. Part of its fascination stems from disgust and a desire to protect and avenge the traditionally most vulnerable part of the population. There is, however, a strongly atavistic element to these fears.

Marriage in many technologically primitive societies is frequently by abduction. The Amerindians of Tierra de Fuego sought their wives in this way. Although many such cultures now have elaborate rules concerning betrothal and courtship, among the Kagora and Kadara tribes of northern Nigeria, for example, ‘(a)ll secondary marriages begin with wife abduction’. [14] Nor are they isolated examples. Similar abductions of women for wives also occurred in First Nation North American, Celtic, Papuan and the earliest formative period of the Graeco-Roman cultures of antiquity, to name but a few. Although western concepts of warfare no longer encompass the abduction of women for marriage, tragically rape and the sexual abuse of the female, and sometimes male population occurs with disgusting regularity amongst the world’s armed conflicts. In the relatively stable West which has not experienced war for over fifty years, the abduction phenomenon may express deep fears of the forcible appropriation of the tribal gene pool by an aggressive other produced through millennia of tribal and personal competition for women.

The victims of these abductions, following Herodotus’ claim that ‘no young woman allows herself to be abducted if she does not wish to be’ [15] – a statement apparently on a par with some of the idiotic comments about rape by the more senile judges – are not necessarily merely passive victims. In Ona Fuegian society, for example, ‘it was not considered proper for a new wife, whether a young girl or mature woman, to give herself away too cheaply. On the contrary, she would frequently put up a good fight and, on his next appearance, the bridegroom might have badly scratched face and maybe a black eye as well.’ [16]

Despite risking a beating or worse from their new husbands, abducted wives `were wooed and made much of, to prevent them from running away’, [17] which, as Bridges himself noted in Tierra del Fuego, many did. If the abduction phenomenon represents a fantasized expression of deep human fears of tribal raiding for wives, then its incorporation into female sexual fantasies may represent a kind of sexual Stockholm Syndrome, in which those abducted women remaining with their new husbands saved themselves from further violence at the hands of their abductors by developing feelings of love for them. It may also be a female response to the curious mixture of violence and genuine love in this particular form of male sexuality. This process is clearly exemplified in Ann Carol Ulrich’s novel, Intimate Abduction, advertised in the August/ September 1991 issue of UFO Universe under the by line ‘What happens when you fall in love with your abductor’. [18] It’s possible that this is one of the dafter and more dangerous popularisations of the abduction phenomenon, but I doubt it. There’s so much other obnoxious trash to choose from.

Another point to be made regarding the abusive content of the abduction is that a large proportion of romantic fantasies feature women as victims. Whether these are the classic formulae of adventure stories, in which the hero must rescue the heroine from the vile schemes of her enemies, or the heroines of ‘weepies’ like Love Story, who as often as not die young, the tragic heroines of classic romance are nearly all victims. There may be a biological component to this. There is evidence to suggest that women are neurologically more inclined to depression than men, just as there is evidence that women are more prone to UFO abductions and demonic experiences because of the greater development of the left hemisphere in the female brain. [19]

On the other hand, the lower status traditionally afforded to women, the relatively limited career and educational opportunities offered to them, and social conventions that emphasize emotional display may constitute concrete social influences creating the greater incidence of depression amongst women. Regardless of the precise social or biological reasons, it is clear that some women do feel they can only achieve attention, dignity, and possibly drama and excitement through some tragedy. The abduction experience appears to fulfil those needs.

If the imagery of abduction phenomenon shares a common origin with much conventional pornography and sexual fantasy, its literature diverges sharply from much modem erotic literature, at least in apparent intent. First of all, regardless of their content, most erotic fiction presents itself as fantasy. There are one or two pieces of dire porn which make spurious claims to reveal the hidden secrets of a particular milieu, but much of it is honest about its fictional nature. Moreover, such material is written explicitly with the reader’s sexual enjoyment and arousal in mind. Indeed, Hite and Friday’s books can be considered celebrations of female sexuality as much as an investigation of it.

The opposite is the case with abduction literature. It’s not writ-ten to celebrate such contact. Indeed, the events described are traumatic and the percipients explicitly wish them to stop, or that they had never begun in the first place. A few may consider they have established a meaningful rapport with creatures from another world, but this is very much a consolation prize after the trauma of abuse and violation they have experienced, and continue to experience. Far more than science fiction, it is a literature of warning: that we are powerless before our violators, from whom we can only expect more abuse and torment. Their might be an additional message urging us to care for the environment, and adopt a more pacifistic, spiritually enlightened lifestyle, but the explicit message is that the human race is being collectively raped while our military and political leaders stand by and collaborate. Fear the stars. Fear your government. Trust no one.

In actual fact, in this respect the abduction literature is fulfilling one of the social roles accorded to pornography, though that of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries rather than late 20th – early 21st. To the modern reader, one of the most bizarre features of the clandestine literature of pre-revolutionary France is the seemingly incongruous mix of pornography and political message. Amid tales of sexual debauchery and the systematic abuse of the lower orders by the royal family and aristocracy, the genre also featured the exploits of sexually and politically liberated heroines whose nocturnal and diurnal adventures were interspersed with lengthy expositions of political philosophy. The result can read rather like Karl Marx would, if he had written for Playboy instead of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

De Sade’s lengthy and tedious descriptions of just about every cruel and abusive act imaginable are interspersed with equally lengthy and tedious expositions of revolutionary philosophy

The most obvious example of the genre are the turgid works of the Marquis de Sade, in which lengthy and tedious descriptions of just about every cruel and abusive act imaginable is interspersed with equally lengthy and tedious expositions of his revolutionary philosophy. Again, the central character of at least one of his works, Justine, ou la Philosophie dans le Boudoir. is female. A woman abused and humiliated by the aristocracy, she becomes an abuser herself, gaily killing and torturing her servants with the same cruel abandon her noble guardians did to her, justifying her cruelties with philosophical arguments on the superiority of the truly liberated individual to conventional slave morality. As a moral philosophy, it predates Nietszche by almost a century. It might have influenced him too. though there is an important difference. Nietzsche always maintained that his writings were a gedankenexperinrent: ‘I write for people who like to sit and think, no more’.

This politicised porn was not a break from established tradition either. From the seventeenth century onwards, pornography fulfilled a distinctly political function, as a scurrilous vehicle by which the disaffected attacked established authority. One of the most notorious 17th century pornographers, Ferrante Pallavicino. has been described as ‘an angry young man, who in his short life lambasted the hypocrisies of society, the Roman Catholic church, particularly the Jesuits, tradition and the idea of religious belief in general. He paid for his critical stance by being beheaded at Avignon in 1644.’ [20]

After Cromwell’s victory in the Civil War, the Puritan was satirised as a hypocrite and sexual pervert, who ‘crept to brothels, where his special predilection was for flagellation or even sodomy.’ [21] The essentially passive role of the male Puritan in this pornography links it to the descriptions of abuse recounted by male abductees, which may also have undercurrents of homosexuality. Male Puritans were so caricatured, not just because of their supposed hypocrisy in stressing marital fidelity and chastity, but also as a reaction to much of the feminist activity within the English Revolution. The sectarian milieu boasted a number of strong-minded, charismatic and influential women and Puritanism as a whole was rather more egalitarian than the rest of English society. As a result, Puritan women, especially the preachers, were vilified as promiscuous, adulterous termagants, who abused and cuckolded their husbands.

The rape and homosexual abuse of male abductees may also stem from deep antifeminist sentiments, including the fear of female sexuality. Certainly the Far Right political milieu which has most vociferously supported it has a distinct antifeminist orientation and is strenuous in demanding a return to more traditional gender roles. After the Restoration, much pornography was written in the form of scurrilous satires directed against leading politicians such as Rochester, Dorset and Sedley, who were politically aligned with the Whig opposition in the 1670s.

From the Henrician reformation onwards, another favourite target of satire was the Roman Catholic church. The Catholic clergy were subject to the same accusations of hypocrisy and sexual licence as the Puritans of the Interregnum, including sexual cruelty. Several were based on real scandals, such as the excesses of the Borgian popes, and Cornelius Adriaensen in Bruges. Adriaensen was the founder of a secret order among the women of Bruges, who were persuaded to meet him in secret, undress, and be chastised for their sins. The order was eventually betrayed to the local authorities by two unwilling novices, Betteken Maes and Celleken Pieters. Although Adriaensen fled Bruges in 1563 and died in Ypres in 1581, his exploits were still making the rounds as late as 1688, when he appeared as the anti-hero of the ballad The Lusty Fryar of Flanders. The sadistic abuse of the orders ‘sisters’ is an obvious parallel to the female abductees abuse at the hands of the Greys and secret government. Needless to say, child abuse was also the standard staple of these vicious attacks. The vicious anti-Catholic book An Anatomy of the English Nunnery in Lisbon alleged that the bones of the nun’s illegitimate children were kept hidden in a place in the wall of the convent garden. Sadly, this libel is not confined to previous centuries. In Jack Chick’s pathologically anti-Catholic ‘Christian’ comic, Alberto, the same assertion is made of the murder and concealment of the remains of the illegitimate children born to monks and nuns.

During the 19th century much low literature, even if not exactly pornographic, fulfilled much the same function. These frequented chronicled the adventures of pure, virtuous women victimised and abused by members of the nobility with cruel or vicious tastes. Although not necessarily socialist or even politically radical, this type of literature did demonstrate the sharp alienation of certain sections of the contemporary urban working class to the aristocratic order.

For example, one passage of contemporary literature with an immense appeal to its largely illiterate audience of costermongers, described the heroine’s imprisonment within specially designed armchair, from which sprang manacles and steel bands. Naturally, the heroine possessed ‘glowing checks, flashing eyes and palpitating bosom’ and her manacles and steel bands were ‘covered with velvet, so that they inflicted no positive injury upon her, nor even produced the slightest abrasion of her fair and polished skin’. The reader of this particular lurid passage noted the galvanising effect it had on his audience. “Here all my audience … broke out with – “Aye! that’s the way the harristocrats hooks it. There’s nothing o’ that sort among us; the rich has all that barrikin to themselves.” “Yes, that the way the b—– taxes goes in,” shouted a woman.’ [22]

The literature of alien abduction, like this antiquarian porn, performs exactly the same social function: it documents and promotes an increasingly radical alienation from the state. Like their predecessors of previous centuries, the leaders and senior bureaucrats of the modem state are engaged in a massive campaign of victimisation and exploitation. They may, with the exception of the royal family, no longer be the aristocratic seigneurs of the ancien regime, but the bourgeois politicians and mandarins of Whitehall and Washington still fulfil the same functions within this particular pornographic discourse. They are cruel and sadistic abusers, intent on perpetuating some even more secret, hideous conspiracy. It’s this aspect which allows the abduction hysteria to blur and merge seamlessly with the recovered memory scandal into one gigantic conspiracy theory.

As is to be expected from conspiracy material of this type, at the heart of the Monarch programme are the allegedly Satanist royalty of Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain and Britain.

The works of Hopkins, Mack, Jacobs and Streiber are of a type, and an influence on, the equally bizarre narratives of Cathy O’Brien and her deprogrammer, Mark Phillips. O’Brien’s memories, as recorded by Phillips, are about her programming and abuse as a sex slave for a series of American presidents and senior political figures as part of the Monarch mind control programme. As is to be expected from conspiracy material of this type, at the heart of the Monarch programme are the allegedly Satanist royalty of Denmark, The Netherlands, Spain and Britain, Nazi and Italian scientists working for the US military after the War and, of course, our old friends the Illuminati. Despite the lack of any documentation for all this aside from O’Brien’s testimony to Phillips, it’s been enthusiastically taken up by certain elements in the American extreme Right.

It’s discussed extensively in Contact, the magazine of the dubious revelations of Hatonn, a 9 1/2 foot tall reptilian from the Pleiades, who utters his tedious comments and daft insights through Doris Ecker. [23]  Hatonn, or Ecker, declared sometime ago that there really was a Jewish plot to enslave gentiles, like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and that Flying Saucers were built by the Nazis. Ecker’s has connections with Bo Gritz, one of the leading figures in the American militia movement, and has clearly influenced Texe Mars and David Icke. Unfortunately, O’Brien is not the only victim of memory obsessed with the alleged reptilian nature of the royal family and their rapacious thirst for human blood. There’s also Arizona Wilder and Christine Fitzgerald. Unsurprisingly, Fitzgerald also claims to have been a friend and confidante of Princess Diana for about nine
 years. [24]

The great concert by Jean-Michel Jarre marking the Millennium at the great pyramid of Giza, according to Marrs, wasn’t harmless entertainment, but a ploy to divert attention from Masonic rituals conducted by former President Bush and the British royal family to usher in the Age of Horus. [25] Marrs cited as his authority for this ridiculous statement David Icke, already notorious for including holocaust denial material and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in The Robots’ Rebellion and later tomes.

There is, however, a profound difference between the political use of this type of material and the politicised porn of the 18th century. The heroines of the ancien regime’s pervy books were spirited, liberated women adopting an active role in support of democratic, libertarian ideals. The right-wing conspiracist of the latter fin de siecle may claim to act in the name of democracy and liberty, but their ideals are distinctly authoritarian.

Liberte, egalite, fraternite were the watchwords of the French revolution, but this has long since departed from the far Right. All Marrs and his fellows offer is religious and racial intolerance. The women narrating this discourse are entirely passive. They have no role except as the victims of the new political elite. In this it mirrors the worst of Restoration pornography, which was expressly misogynist. Within its discourse, `women … are frequently epitomised as their sexual organs.’ [26]

While this is undoubtedly influential in the development of the image of the cruel and debauched aristocrat, it also attests to the perennial antifeminist use of much pornography, especially that involving violence, in reducing women to objects. The violently misogynist pornography of the Restoration came after the feminist upheaval of the English revolution, during which women became preachers, left their husbands for other men, and which increasingly stressed mutuality, companionship and affection within marriage in the theology of the more progressive and radical of the sectarians. This was in sharp contrast to the traditional, medieval conception of matrimony as a social contract for the procreation of children in which the female partner was firmly subordinate to the male. The modem narrators of such tales of perversion and exploitation are no different. The Gnostic knowledge retailed by Icke claims to set people free, but its narrators remain located firmly in their delusionary bondage. As self-professed victims, it’s not surprising that they claim kinship with Princess Diana, who since her death has arguable become the most powerful image of feminine suffering in the late 20th century.

The parallels between the abduction literature and pornography, in both form, content and social function, are too close to be disregarded.

These differences aside, the parallels between the abduction literature and pornography, in both form, content and social function, are too close to be disregarded. Regardless of its alleged intention to inform, rather than arouse, contemporary abduction and close-encounter literature is the modern equivalent of late 18th and 19th century gothic and Decadent erotica. Describing it as such is one thing. Dealing with it is another.

At the societal level, the masochistic elements of the abduction fantasy are profoundly contrary to contemporary trends. Most of the heroines of popular science fiction in recent years, for example have been active, even aggressive figures: Buffy, Xena, and Ripley of the Alien movies, to name but a few. Even the mass merchandising launched on the back of the abduction craze tries to play down the victim’s passivity. One of the t-shirts advertised in one of the less discerning magazines described its central image of a woman surrounded by her alien captors as ‘their willing victim’, presumably in an attempt to avoid the accusation that they were encouraging rape. It’s almost as if the percipients, or their hypnotists and interrogators, were wilfully and perversely trying to retreat from their more active role into a more traditional discourse of feminine victimhood and passivity.

As traditional masculine roles and status is challenged by feminism, it’s a role which an increasing number of men feel compelled to accept. Their apparently active role in the rape of female abductees is illusory. As meat puppets under the control of the Greys’ telepathic will, they themselves are passive objects of lusts and desires not their own. Their experience as traumatised prisoners in their own bodies, passively observing while something else rapes and abuses through their flesh could represent a fantasticated form of alienation from their own sexuality in which the morally censorious superego, impressed with feminist suspicions of male sexuality, tries to distance itself from the appetites of the flesh by projecting its actions onto a rapacious, omnipotent other. It may also represent a form of the terror of losing control which habitually assault many obsessive-compulsives.

Although obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterised by the intense compulsion to perform repetitive, ritualised acts, usually to ward off some threatened disaster, it may also take the form of obsessive ruminations in which the sufferer speculates obsessively on what would happen if he lost control and performed some abhorrent, usually violent or sexual act. Cases from the 19th century include that of a man who surrendered himself to the police, fearing that he was about to murder his sister. The man stated firmly that he was devoted to her and that she was more precious to him than anything else in the world, yet he feared being overtaken by a violent, pathological mania which would result in her destruction. More recent examples include a woman who sought medical help after imagining that she was eviscerating her husband while gutting fish, for the same reason as the above Victorian gentleman. She feared that she was about to lose control, and give in to a savagely irrational urge to harm the person closest to her. Of course, it could also be that the reports of rape by ‘turned off’ males are projections of the aggressive elements of the investigators’ personalities which produced the confabulations of abuse and rape within the abduction narrative.

The psychological trauma and distancing of the human puppets in this part of the scenario could be a form of passive resistance, in which the male abductee attempts to shrug off the role dictated for him by the investigator. Regardless of the precise cause for this retreat into passivity, it represents an attempt to evade the danger of responsibility for one’s own actions, something of which the percipient, female or male, can be absolved through their status as victim. It’s clear from these fantasies’ content that many of the percipients are uncomfortable with their sexuality. One solution may be for health professionals to reassure those vulnerable to such false memories that their sexuality is a normal, natural part of their psychology. It goes without saying that care should be taken not to encourage socially unacceptable forms, such as paedophilia, or where the percipient may act out extreme sadistic or masochistic fantasies.

A change in the broader discourse of pornographic narratives could be beneficial as well. Although much pornography is misogynistic, it was not always so. The School of Venus, published in English in 1680, which took the form of the sexual education of a young girl, Fanchon, by the older and more experienced Susanne, has been described as being ‘not a piece of escapist pornography but a realistic glimpse of sexual happiness’ in contrast to ‘the neurotic and sadistic pornography of the last two centuries.’ [27] Human nature may not be as biologically fixed and determined as the evolutionary psychologists consider. Contrary to the predictions of the sociobiologists, it now appears ‘that promiscuous women can be perfectly happy and enjoy it, and that well-paid female executives have abandoned the old, supposedly hard-wired female preference for men with resources.’ [28]

It may be that as society changes a more female-friendly form of pornography will once again emerge. In this context even the abduction narrative may be altered for the better under the influence of porn. One anonymous female correspondent to the Fortean Times Hierophant column noted the display of ‘an alien probe’ in one of New York’s sex shops. ‘While reluctant to road-test the implement in question, she did confide that she now feels significantly less alarmed at the prospect of abduction.’ [29] This could be seen either as the further contamination of women’s sexuality by the misogyny of much contemporary sexual discourse, or as women subverting this misogyny by appropriating it for their own sexual amusement. I prefer the latter.

For most abductees, I would suggest, much could be done by simply reassuring them that their sexual or emotional problems do not stem from abuse by aliens. It is with this object in mind that the above essay was written.

It should be incumbent on all researchers to challenge and submit claims of abduction and sexual assault by aliens to close scrutiny; any published investigative material on abduction should be subject to the ethical constraints informing the publication of medical material

At the level of ufology, it should be incumbent on all researchers to challenge and submit claims of abduction and sexual assault by aliens to close, searching scrutiny. If possible, any published investigative material on abduction should be subject to the ethical constraints informing the publication of medical material. Most contemporary accounts of alien abduction are published by amateur investigators with little or no formal, recognised medical training, in a form designed to be populist and accessible. With the exception of sex manuals and other material written by doctors, gynaecologists and obstetricians with a view of encouraging people to enjoy a more fulfilling sex life, most sexological material written by academics is strongly antaphrodisiac. It’s dry, clinical, considered and as about as erotically arousing as a tax form. And rightly so: the material is written to inform, not arouse. Its writers and researchers are also under the strict supervision of ethical review boards.

One American academic who runs a course investigating human sexuality and body language was reported in the pages of the Telegraph’s Sunday supplement over a decade ago as insisting that her students take an oath to prevent them abusing their knowledge. This was after one of her students used the insights in the course to summon a strange man to her side from the other side of an airport bar and then ignored him for the rest of the evening. To the ethical researcher, the dignity of individual human beings far outweighs the possible value of his research or its publication. Any abduction material should therefore be subject to the same process of peer review, professional ethical codes, and published using the same deliberately anodyne discourse. Failing this, I would suggest that it should not be published at all. And none of it should be aimed at children.

In the meantime, if you’re stuck in Waterstones facing a long and boring railway journey and your literary choice is either something by Mack, Hopkins, Jacobs et al, or the latest bonkbuster from Jilly Cooper, I’d go for the Cooper. It’s probably better written, doesn’t claim to be anything more than a work a fiction. and there’s usually a happy ending, something which rarely occurs in the context of abductions.

References

13. See Lorgen, E. F. The Alien Love-Bite January 1999, cited in McCluer, K: ‘Dark Ages’ in Fortean Times, no. 129, p.39
14. Smith, M. G. ‘Differentiation and the Segmentary principle’, in Douglas, M and Kaberry, P. M. Man in Africa. Tavistock Publications, 1969, p.154.
15. De Selincourt, A. trans. Burns, A. R. Herodotus, The Histories. Penguin, 1972, p.42
16. Bridges, L. Uttermost Parts of the Earth Century, 1948, p.359.
17. Bridges, op cit., p.223
18. Beckley, T. G. ed. UFO Universe, vol. 1 no.4, p.63
19. See Schnabel, J. Dark White, Penguin, 1995, p.276
20. Thompson, R. op. cit., p.34
21. Thompson, R. op. cit., p 41
22. Mayhew, H. Mayhew’s London. Bracken books, 1984, p.67
23. See Fritz Springmeier, ‘Project monarch: How the US Creates Slaves of Satan’, in Parfrey, A. Cult Rapture, Feral House, 1995, pp.241-248
24. McClure, K. ibid. p.31
25. See The Sentinel (Arizona) of 15/11/99, reproduced in Victor Lewis-Smith’s ‘Funny Old World’ column in Private Eye, 24 December 1999, p.24
26. Thompson, op. cit., p.26.
27. Thomas, D. quoted in Thompson, op. cit., p.26
28. Burne, J. ’Just desserts for jealousy’, review of Buus, D., The Dangerous Passion; Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love or Sex, Bloomsbury, 2000, in Financial Times, Weekend June 3-4,  page V.
29. ‘The Hierophant’, Fortean Times, no. 117, p.61.

Satanism Update. Roger Sandell

From Magonia 46, June 1993

 
Since Magonia last looked at the Satanism panic, there have been no new cases of the Rochdale or Nottingham type in Britain. However, the official report on the Orkney allegations has appeared. Unfortunately this throws little light on the Satanism allegations, while accusing the social workers involved of failing to follow official guidelines, an approach which is not very enlightening. The allegations made in US and British Satanism cases – of mass murder of children by large organisations – are so unprecedented and extraordinary that if they were true it would scarcely be surprising if those dealing with them found current official guidelines unhelpful. Consequently, to ignore such matters as the reality of the accusations, as the Orkney report did is, as Richard Ingrams perceptively pointed out in his Observer column, like issuing a report on claims that the fire brigade broke into a house and seized the occupants without investigating if the house was on fire or not.

A more enlightening approach might be to identify the persons who have been responsible for introducing the concept of Satanic abuse and challenging them to produce their evidence. A recent unofficial study of the Orkney case (1) devotes one chapter to this issue. It alleges that one of the social workers involved was a member of the Orkney Christian Fellowship, an evangelical group obsessed with anti-Satanism, who had themselves earlier attracted the suspicion of parents when teenagers had returned from one of the Fellowship’s summer camps in a disturbed state after allegedly speaking in tongues. One also wonders if the origins of the case might not owe something to the 1970s British film The Wicker Man which depicts a Scottish island whose inhabitants are members of a pagan cult. For the most part this unofficial study concentrates simply on the personal experiences of those involved. Perhaps the official Home Office study announced at the time of the Rochdale case, and due out this October (1993) may have more to say on this aspect.

An interesting sideline on recent US anti-Satanism is provided by Alex Cockburn in the New Statesman, who reports that President Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno was the prosecuting DA in the Fuester case. This was a highly dubious trial from several years ago, in which a woman accused of child abuse received a light sentence in exchange for denouncing her husband as a Satanist. Cockburn also refers to recent claims by the San Francisco police’s Ritual Abuse Task Force that Satanists have been introducing chemicals into the air-conditioning system of their offices to make them tired and listless. Hysterical contagious illnesses leading to claims of mystery poisoners, such as the Phantom Gasser of Mattoon panic in 1944, are a well-established tradition, and their appearance here emphasises the similarity of the anti-Satanist panic to other forms of mass irrationality.

This similarity is also underlined by recent revelations of the highly dubious practices of some child abuse survivor counsellors that have recently been discussed in Britain in the right-wing, morally conservative Sunday Telegraph (26 January 1993) and in the US in the leftist, feminist monthly Mother Jones (January 1993). It is important to clarify the points at issue. It is undeniable that many victims of child abuse only feel able to discuss it openly many years later. However, this is not the point at issue here. Both the cases narrated in these articles involve people who consulted therapists for psychological problems, and were then induced to recall previously unknown memories of sexual abuse involving Satanic rites dating from the first few months of their lives.

The Mother Jones article quotes the sceptical opinions of a number of psychologists, some of whom, interestingly, are now explicitly comparing such cases to reincarnation and UFO abduction memories . One psychologist points out that the implied rationale of such tales – that totally accurate memories of all our experiences are hidden in the brain awaiting discovery – is very dubious.

It is worth discussing in this context the recent wave of celebrity child abuse stories familiar from tabloid papers and US television talk shows. It should be noted that not all these claims fall into the same category. LaToyah Jackson, the pop-singing sister of Michael Jackson, tells a comparatively mundane story (and her brother’s much publicised eccentricities seem consistent with a traumatised childhood). By contrast, former Beach Boy Brian Wilson tells a story, denied by other family members, that only emerged after counselling by a dubious therapist; and Roseanne Arnold, star of the Roseanne TV series, claims to have suddenly recalled her childhood of abuse only a few months after writing an autobiography paying tribute to her parents. Interestingly, both Arnold’s and Wilson’s stories feature bizarre scatological practices, a detail frequently occurring in Satanism stories.

According to Mother Jones some of those who have undergone survivor therapy have now repudiated their alleged memories, and no doubt we shall at some time hear of a court case against a therapist. With the American UFO abduction field collapsing into recriminations and increasingly weird claims, ufologists would be well advised to abandon hypnotism and regression for their own safety as well as the health of their subjects.

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Reference

1. Black, Robert. Orkney: A Place of Safety, Cannongate Press, Edinburgh, 1992

From Evidence Of Abuse To Abuse Of Evidence. Roger Sandell

Published in Magonia 38, January 1991, a special issue largely devoted to the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare

A few months ago the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) endorsed stories of satanic abuse in a press conference highly publicised in the national press (a position from which it appears to be trying to back down). Such claims were featured prominently at a national conference on child abuse held this summer, attended by police, psychiatrists and social workers. A number of children have been taken into care in a case in Rochdale that the parents claim involves false allegations of satanism. Most surprising of all, Beatrix Campbell, a well-known feminist and radical journalist, has endorsed such claims in a TV documentary and articles in the New Statesman and the Communist Party publication Marxism Today. In order to examine what is going on it is best to take the questions arising one at a time.

First of all: are there any satanists? The stereotype that is being presented, of groups in highly civilised societies who kidnap and murder children as part of sinister rites, is a very old archetype. As far back as first-century Rome the Catelline conspirators were said to have sealed their plans with an oath on the body of a murdered child. Since then similar stories have been told about the early Christians, medieval heretics, the Knights Templar, and the victims of the witch mania. Such accusations against Jews occur repeatedly in medieval history and apart from their revival in Nazi Germany were also prominent in the 1905 Russian pogroms (in this context it is striking that the emergence of ritual abuse stories in Britain has coincided with the revival of such claims in literature produced by British neo-Nazis). (1)

However, Jews, Templars, etc. were certainly not imaginary in spite of the fabricated stories told about them. With satanists and witches the position is more complex. The revival of witchcraft in the twentieth century can be traced to the writings of Dr Margaret Murray who argued that the victims of the witch trials were practitioners of traditional paganism, surviving as a widely popular religion until at least the seventeenth century. Although this view has found little favour with serious historians it has exercised a big influence over popular accounts and stories about witches. In all probability it inspired the writings of Gerald B. Gardiner who in the 1940s and 50s claimed to be the high priest of a surviving coven, of whose rituals he gave guarded descriptions in his book “Witchcraft Today”. (2)

Gardiner’s work seems to have inspired the whole proliferation of modern witch groups, with a variety of different features. To judge by some elements of the (presumably self-devised) rituals he describes, Gardiner seems likely to have been a flagellant sado-masochist for whom witchcraft served as an element of sexual theatre. Other witch groups have simply served to confer some historical element to vague pantheist beliefs; while since the 1960s others have been explicitly based on the idea of witchcraft as a feminine religion worshipping a mother goddess and preserving the memory of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women victims of male inquisition – an idea which makes the involvement of the feminist Beatrix Campbell in promoting fear of witchcraft highly ironic.

While the terms witchcraft and satanism have generally been used interchangeably in recent controversies, the record concerning satanism is somewhat more confused. Many aspects of modern occultism owe a large part of their origins to the occult revival in late nineteenth-century France. In particular to the spectacular hoaxes of Leo Taxil, the author of such works as “Satan in the Nineteenth Century”. Taxil attracted large amounts of publicity in 1890s Paris with his claims to be a renegade Freemason, revealing the true secrets of how Masons worshipped Satan, who in his turn manifested himself at Lodge meetings.

The clergy and political right took Taxil seriously enough to buy his books and attend his meetings in large numbers, and to subscribe money for him to rescue “Helen Vaughan”, a young woman he claimed was under threat of human sacrifice from the satanic Masons. They were seriously embarrassed when Taxil confessed his hoaxes, which parallel closely some more recent anti-satanic claims. (3) (A recent figure very reminiscent of Leo Taxil is the confidence trickster Denley Mainwaring-Knight who a few years ago was sent to prison for having defrauded several clergymen and wealthy church-goers out of large sums of money by claiming he needed it for his crusade to expose a satanic ring led by Lord Whitelaw.)

It is not clear whether Taxil was responsible for the vogue among the clerical right of the period for believing that their enemies were directly inspired by Satan or whether he played on already existing beliefs, but such beliefs were not confined to France. In Czarist Russia, the notorious anti-semitic forgery “The Protocols of Zion” first appeared as an appendix to a work on the coming of the Antichrist by Sergei Nilius, a religious mystic. The anti-semitic Russian “Black Hundred” gangs of 1905 took St Michael slaying the dragon from the Book of Revelations as their emblem, a device later copied by the Romanian Fascist iron Guard.

An important part in moving satanism from such obscure milieu to public consciousness has undoubtedly been the novels of Dennis Wheatley, whose fictions clearly owe something to the world of French right-wing clerical anti-semitism. His heroic fighter against satanism is the Duc de Richelieu, a French aristocrat, and his satanic foes are quasi-political figures engaged in fomenting revolution. Michael Goss has pointed out that one Dennis Wheatley novel, “The Haunting of Toby Jugg” concerning a youth who gradually realises that his foster parents’ strange fancy-dress parties are witchcraft rituals, strikingly resembles satanic abuse tales.

Once a stereotype has been established there are those who seek to live it out as a means of profit or self-publicity. In the case of satanism the pioneer of this was Aleister Crowley, who compensated for a childhood spent in a Plymouth Brethren household obsessed with the Antichrist, by spending much of his life titillating the popular press with hints of orgies, human sacrifice and black masses. The black mass, though central to many popular images of witchcraft, played little role in the witch-trials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and seems to owe its origin to eighteenth-century tales of the Hell Fire Club and similar groups. It did not emerge into its present stereotype until the nineteenth-century French anti-satanic scares, and its present predominance as a stereotype of witchcraft appears to be due once again to Dennis Wheatley, and to the 1950s book “The Satanic Mass” by T.F. Rhodes, a work full of misinformation. (4)

The most prominent recent imitator of Crowley has been Anton Sandor LaVey, a Californian (of course) self-publicist who founded the Church of Satan in the 1960s. Since then he has frequently been featured in the press for activities such as demanding the US Government appoint satanist chaplains for his followers in the armed forces. Many modern anti-satanist books contain lurid accounts of LaVey’s activities. In addition, satanism seems to be a popular theme for pornography. Antony Summers and Steve Dorrell’s book on the Profumo affair refers to orgies with a satanist theme taking place in London in the early 1960s. (5)

So much for the origins of modern witches and satanists. Are they abusing children? There is nothing inherently improbable in the idea, since sexual exploitation of disciples is a recurring theme in the more cultist and leader-oriented varieties of religion. Among many examples of this are the careers of Ron Hubbard and the Bhagwan Sri, the recent sexual scandals around US evangelists, and the child sexual abuse practised at the evangelically run Kincora Boys’ Home in Northern Ireland. The Independent on Sunday, a newspaper that over the past few months has shown a commendable readiness to examine satanic abuse claims in a serious and critical manner, has found that in the past decade some six or so self-proclaimed satanists have been found guilt in British courts of sex offences against children, a figure which should be set against the thirty or more Christian clergymen found guilty of similar offences in the same period. However, the facts in the cases bear as little relation to what is being alleged by anti-satanist crusaders as the reality of village charms and curses bore to the tales told at witch trials. The cases concerned involved single individuals and the forms taken by the abuse differed little from what is commonly reported in other child sex-abuse cases.

By contrast the idea of ritual abuse, as being put around by its proponents, involves mass ceremonies with elaborate rituals at which babies and other children are habitually sacrificed. This is apparently present to a degree that permeates all society. According to Gordon Thomas, the author of the widely available recent book “Enslaved”, there are 100,000 satanists in Britain who include senior police officers and Salvation Army members. At American seminars claims have been made that 50,000 human sacrifices take place every year in the USA – twice the FBI figures for murders of all types.

What evidence is produced in support of these claims? At seminars “experts” claim to have anonymous informers who tell tales that bear suspicious resemblance to long-established apocryphal stories. The NSPCC press statement included an anonymous claim of a sacrifice at which a dead baby was cooked in a microwave, a claim that pretty clearly derives from a US rumour concerning a baby-sitter who puts a baby into a microwave while under the influence of LSD.

The Nottingham case, which was the subject of Beatrix Cambell’s “Despatches” programme provides a lot more detail in support of such claims than is generally given, but merely succeeded in underlining the problems with such evidence. Briefly, the case centres on a group of children on a Nottingham housing estate, members of an extended family, several of the adults of which were in 1988 sentenced to prison for a variety of child sexual abuse offences. Under the subsequent care of foster parents some (but not, sceptics claim, all) of these children started to tell strange tales and exhibit curious phobias. Foster parents and social workers deny claims made in an official enquiry into the case that they were involved in prompting the children. But it seems fairly clear, even from Beatrix Campbell’s account, that a fair degree of selectivity has been needed to fit them into supportable claims of satanic abuse. Some stories featured not only witches, but sinister Santa Clauses and clowns (sinister clowns seem long-established figures in urban legends; Loren Coleman has recorded several such cases in America). One child was apparently afraid to take a bath because the water might contain sharks, an idea that can hardly be based on real experience.

Beatrix Campbell attempted to produce evidence in support of the idea of satanic abuse. This included a visit to Woolaton Hall, where children were claimed to have told of being abused (an aspect of the story that only seems to have been hinted at in published accounts is suggestions that “powerful people” were involved). No mention was made of the fact that the Hall is now a museum rather than a stately home, but the camera lingered over a statue of a satyr and a mural of signs of the zodiac, features that could be found at many old houses. A tunnel leading off a local cemetery, apparently a popular resort of prostitutes, tramps and glue-sniffers, was found to have an “altar” (a small alcove in fact), signs that candles had been lit, and vague scratchings on walls that were claimed to be “satanic signs”, even though they included a cross and a CND emblem.

Regular Magonia readers may have been struck by the resemblance all of this seems to bear to the hunt around various stately homes and old paintings for clues to the treasure of Rennes le Chateau, or Andy Collins’s psychic questing, in which mysterious messages and artifacts guide Collins and his followers as they travel the country to do battle with the spirits of long-dead magicians, and it is certainly hard to take it any more seriously. (6)

What really happened in Nottingham remains obscure, since most media descriptions have given little basic information such as an account of evidence given at the trial of family members. It is certainly quite possible that the abuse carried out involved the watching or making of pornographic videos with a witchcraft theme, or threats to children that the “bogeyman” or similar figures would punish them if they told anyone what was happening. The abuse may have involved drugs, or left the children so traumatised as to be unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. However, the proponents of the satanic stories seem to have attempted to conceal major problems. One child’s story as recounted by Beatrix Campbell describes having her stomach cut open – something which would presumably leave scars. The satanic rituals, including mass chanting and human and animal sacrifices are said to have occurred in a council house on a large estate, without attracting the attention of neighbours. Proponents are fond of pointing out that there are many ways of abusing children that go unpunished because of the difficulty of proving them in court. This is probably true, but child abuse of the type alleged in Nottingham hardly comes into this category, since it involves claims of sacrifice of babies, of whose birth one would expect some record, and the use of costumes and ritual equipment, some of which one would expect to have turned up in the normal post-arrest search of a suspect’s house.

So where are these stories coming from? The genesis of the popular fears of satanism can be traced back to the late sixties and early seventies. The counter-culture of the period saw a revival of occultism and similar beliefs,and the Manson gang case exposed the more sinister side of the cultist beliefs that this might lead to. The early seventies, with Watergate, US defeat in Vietnam and the 1973 Middle East War followed by energy crisis, led to a more general climate of uncertainty.

It was against this background that the revival of fundamentalist Christianity began. Its earliest manifestation, Hal Lindsay’s best-selling paperback “The Late Great Planet Earth” was marketed to resemble the occult paperbacks of the period, but came with a new message. (7) US weakness was a sign of apocalyptic times. Changes in social customs and the rise of occultism were the work of Satan. Moves towards European union were preparing the way for the coming of the Antichrist. Middle East crises were the first signs of Armageddon. Similar messages were the themes of the 1970s wave of films about Antichrist and satanism, such as “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” series, which centred on the theme of satanically possessed children, expressing the feeling of many parents that, as a result of the cultural changes of the sixties, their children were beyond their understanding.

As well as books and films these ideas began to express themselves in the field of rumour. The wave of mysterious mutilations of cattle led to tales not merely of alien landings and sinister government experiments, but to stories of secret groups of satanists. Other anti-satanist rumours began to proliferate. The story that the Proctor and Gamble “Man in the Moon” trademark represented Satan became so widespread as to constitute a major embarrassment to the company. (This rumour, incidentally, is very reminiscent of the belief of Sergei Nilius that trademarks resembling stars were sinister signs of Jewish control.)

The book “Michelle Remembers” by Lawrence Padzer, a Canadian Catholic psychiatrist, was published in 1980. (8) He described how a patient, Michelle Smith, a young woman with a disturbed family background (whom he married after publication of the book) was hypnotically regressed. She told how, at the age of five, she had been consecrated to Satan in a series of ceremonies involving sexual abuse, human sacrifice and ultimately the appearance of Satan. Dr Padzer amplifies the story with a series of fantasies of his own. The Church of Satan is an organised body centuries old with its headquarters in Geneva. Satanic priests can be recognised because their middle fingers are cut off (a claim later anti-satanists appear to have dropped, presumably because it could easily be checked).

Followers of the abduction debate will be well aware of the controversies concerning the use of hypnotism. Although it seems possible that Michelle’s story was triggered by some suppressed memory of more mundane abuse as a child, many of the details closely parallel UFO abduction claims. She remembers being tied down on a table surrounded by strangely garbed figures. Ointments were smeared over her, her body cut, and blood drained out. At the climax, when she describes Satan wrapping his tail round her, a mysterious mark appeared on her neck. A photograph of this resembles some of the marks that are claimed as evidence in UFO abduction stories. It seems likely that had Michelle approached Budd Hopkins instead of Lawrence Padzer she would have been cited as one of his abductees.

Similar experiences and half memories crop up in other contexts. The book “Operation Mind Control” by Walter Bowart, seeking to prove claims of mind-control experiments by the US Government, includes the testimony of various former US soldiers who tell of abductee-type gaps in their memories. One involves an ex-soldier who claims to have a curious memory of standing in a room with others and watching while a robed man (described as “an Arab” in the context, but had the frame of reference been different could equally well have been a satanic priest) beheads another soldier. The witness claimed that this was an experiment to see if he had been reduced to a state too passive to intervene, but could just as well be described as a human sacrifice.

While US anti-satanist beliefs are spread on two different levels, both as popular rumours, and by “experts” at seminars, so far in Britain it is largely confined to the latter level and has not achieved a wider public resonance. While professionals have been influenced by US reports (largely, one suspects, unaware of their more bizarre aspects) popular fears and rumours have recently focused not on satanism but on the equally strange wave of reports and tales of attempted abductions of children by “bogus social workers”. (9)As a result, while some US allegations have involved individuals respected in their communities, the two major British allegations, at Rochdale and Nottingham, have involved working-class people living on council estates.

Whether these tales will have as wide an impact in Britain as in the USA remains to be seen. According to the Independent on Sunday some evangelical groups are running counselling organisations in which people suffering from a variety of traumas are told that these result from suppressed childhood memories of satanic abuse, in a manner strongly recalling the equally dubious activities of some UFO abduction researchers. According to the IoS one woman has committed suicide while undergoing this counselling.

There are other possible developments. The establishment of satanic abuse stereotypes may lead to real-life abusers being influenced and copying such reports (something which may already have happened). Another possible future development may be a political scandal in which a prominent politician is accused of being a satanist (already some American fundamentalists have accused George Bush on the basis of his membership of the Yale University secret society, Skull and Bones).

Satanic abuse stories and abduction reports may move closer together: Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” has made the theme of sexual abuse, hinted at in many abduction cases, explicit. One American satanism case has involved tales of a “mystery aeroplane” used to fly children from a day-care centre to rituals in a desert.

What is clear is that ufology and the abduction stories throw considerable light on a matter of social importance. However, this fact will probably play little role in future developments as a result of the low status and seriousness that is usually assigned to such reports, and the uncritical attitude those who collect them take to their own data.

Notes and references:

  • 1. A comprehensive work on the history of the great European witch-hunt is Europe’s Inner Demons by Norman Cohn (Paladin, 1976). Cohn is also the author of Warrant for Genocide, a study of the Protocols of Zion forgeries. Both books are highly recommended.
  • 2. Gardiner, Gerard B. Witchcraft Today, Rider, 1954
  • 3. For a fuller account of the remarkable career of Leo Taxil, see: Webb, James. The Flight from Reason, Macdonald, 1971
  • 4. Rhodes, T.F. The Satanic Mass, Rider, 1954
  • 5. Summers, Anthony and Dorrell, Stephen. Honeypot: The Secret World of Stephen Ward, Weidenfeld, 1987
  • 6. For a typical account of ‘psychic questing’, see for instance Andrew Collins’s The Black Alchemist, ABC Books (i.e. Andrew Collins), Leigh-on-Sea, 1988
  • 8. Lindsay, Hal. The Late Great Planet Earth, Marshall Pickering, 1987
  • 9. Smith, Michelle and Padzer, Lawrence. Michelle Remembers, Michael Joseph, 1981, originally published in New York, 1980
  • 10. Recently, some police investigating the ‘bogus social worker’ cases have suggested that some incidents may have been caused by local ‘vigilantes’ checking out families they suspected of cruelty or abuse following previous highly publicised cases of alleged negligence by official social workers.

SEE ALSO: ‘Somewhere a Child is Crying“, by Peter Rogerson, and The Lessons of Folklore by Michael Goss from this special edition of Magonia

Somewhere a Child is Crying; The Satanic Ritual Abuse Scare. Peter Rogerson

Issue 38 of Magonia (January 1991) was mainly devoted to analysing stories of alleged satanic child abuse and their links with UFO abduction reports.


Over the past year there have been allegations that children in Britain have been sexually abused as part of “satanic” rituals. In particular, in a case in Nottingham where several adults have been imprisoned after being found guilty of abuse, and in Rochdale, where a number of children have been taken into local authority care after allegations of abuse were investigated by social workers. In neither case was evidence for the alleged “ritual” aspects of the abuse introduced into the court proceedings, and in Nottingham the police have gone out of their way to deny “satanic” allegations. The British cases have followed on from a wave of similar reports in America, although in America the accusations have usually been made against child-care workers rather than parents.

Most of this issue of Magonia is given over to looking at these allegations, and the context, both historical and contemporary, in which they are made. We are obviously not attempting, at a distance and without full knowledge of the evidence, to pass any sort of judgement on the cases, nor are we seeking to deny in the Nottingham case that the children involved have been very seriously abused (the Rochdale cases have not yet come to criminal prosecution). However, we do find disturbing parallels between what is being alleged and the way these allegations have been treated, and the type of material we are dealing with as ufologists and folklorists – particularly when we examine the abduction cases. Some researchers, including Rima Laibow, a professional psychologist, have already hinted at links between UFO abduction reports and incidents of childhood abuse. Both social workers, and increasingly, it seems, anomaly researchers, are dealing with severely traumatised people, adults and children. It is important that both groups should be aware of what the other is uncovering. It is clear that ufology, particularly abduction research, is becoming a very serious matter indeed. - John Rimmer

SOMEWHERE A CHILD IS CRYING
Peter Rogerson

It is twenty years since I began my association with MUFOB/Magonia. Looking back at some of my comments in my very first article Apocalyptophilia written as 1970 turned into 1971, I get a vague sense of deja-vu… or was it precognition? In it I wrote: “It seems like the rational universe described by 19th century positivism… is fading. Horrors long buried in the recesses of the mind surge out, obliterating all reasonable critical faculties… There has been an unprecedented rise in superstition, nightmares known only from obscure Latin tomes translated by Monatgue Summers emerge to inspire terror across the land… It seems that society is almost ready for the reappearance of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder general.”

He and she have come. It doesn’t matter really whether we are listening to Budd Hopkins or Beatrix Campbell or Janet Dawson, or dozens of other voices. The message is the same. If people say it happened to them you’ve got to believe or you are a heartless monster who is prolonging their pain. How can you be blind and deaf to this distress and agony. Thus was Rebecca Nurse, an innocent woman of Salem, condemned. After the jury, using their last gasp of common sense had acquitted her, the accusers went into another fit: How can you be blind and deaf to the pain? So they changed their verdict and hanged her.

The child satanic abuse fear and the abduction fear are the most visible but not, I suspect, the only manifestations of the “great fear” of our times: that of the Secret Victim. “Michelle” remembers being abused by a satanic cult, “Cathie” remembers being abused by the greys. Candy Jones remembers being abused by the CIA. In other times people remember being abused by Gipsies, Jews, monks and nuns, Mormons, fairies, demons and, yes, Christians.

Testimony can so easily be shaped. Foster parents in Nottingham interpret childrens’ tales in terms of “what happened to them before we got them”. Childrens’ real parents can interpret these tales in quite different fashions; one being reincarnation. The childrens’ stories recounted in Peter and Mary Harrison’s “The Children That Time Forgot” recount the same motifs as the Nottingham children: detailed knowledge of places they should not know about, descriptions of traumatic events, unexplained phobias. One particular piece of evidence identical to the satanic abuse testimony is that of J.T. of Dagenham. Barely two years old, J.T. compulsively draws witches saying “that’s me when I was a witch”, and “when I lived before I used to drink blackbird’s blood”. She “remembers” the sacrificing of a sheep, draws a group of people around a fire in the centre of which is a naked baby. How long today before that little girl got taken into care?

C.E. claims he was a German pilot and walks around goose-stepping; his mother comments on his strange eyes. A.D. of Rochester “remembers” being a corpse in a grave, and being a ghost haunting the churchyard – this is revealed as his mother walks him past the churchyard. Other childrens’ fantasies are seen as evidence of ante mortem existence.

We can see that, for example, past lives, possession, haunting and abuse can all provide reasons for forbidden knowledge, for a failure to act like a “real child should”. Indeed, the past-life motif may well be a modern version of the changeling motif.

The stories of the “phantom social workers”, the strangers who know everything, who appear out of nowhere and disappear after acting in a strange irrational manner, more than echo the motif of the Men in Black. None are caught, no car number plates are recorded. Another MIB-like motif occurred on the “Points North” regional TV programme when “Sarah”, an alleged satanic abuse victim, told her psychiatrist that “they” were visiting her house. So he goes out on to the moors to investigate, but before “they” arrive he is called away by his bleeper. When he gets to his office it is “Sarah” on the line: “they” have called her and told her to “get that interfering bugger off the moor”. “She could not have known I was there”, says the psychiatrist. “”They” can read my mind, anticipate my every action”, says “Sarah”. Her actions are similar to those of crash-retrieval witnesses, who give anonymous testimony, even though their identity would be obvious to their supposed oppressors. In both cases, going completely public with the maximum publicity would seem to be the safest thing to do.

The motif of the Secret Victim is timely because it represents the rationalisation of why “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”. It is not because of any great failing in society or ourselves, but is the result of “them”. It is in many ways comforting to believe that people’s lives are ruined because of events that happened in some unchangeable history, that the victim is being punished for their past lives’ misdeeds, or that abuse is perpetrated by inhuman, soulless greys, or by those so anti-human and different from ourselves that they eat their own babies. It helps us forget that most child abusers are not “monsters” but everyday boring people like ourselves. It helps us forget that sexual abuse is just one of the innumerable abuses of both children and adults going on in the world. helps us forget the children starving to death because the gangsters and drug-pushers the superpowers imposed on them make them grow cash crops rather than food for their own subsistence; forget the kids stolen by the juntas; forget the kids shot down by the police in the name of tidiness for the decent and respectable; forget the kids dragged up in squalid bedsits; forget the kids roaming the motorways at midnight; forget the kids victims of their scrap-heap parents’ terminal despair; or that Joseph Mengele was a “decent and upright man”. Forget that for children born in years before this one, the threat of annihilation abused their lives.

While it is not very likely that flesh and chlorophyll aliens are taking people from the farms of Kentucky, or sheep being slaughtered in the council houses of Nottingham, we cannot hide from the existential terrors which have been moulded into these nightmares, by which people struggle to express “the worst thing there is”. Beneath the surface of the green fields and regimented terraces, there may indeed be a bottomless darkness and wounds no social worker or therapist can, or should, seek to bind.


 

Also in tghis issue of Magonia: Michael Goss, The Lessons of Folklore, and Roger Sandell, From Evidence of Abuse to Abuse of Evidence 


 

Some sites concerned with the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare:

 


 

More SRA pieces:
From Evidence of Abuse to Abuse of Evidence / The Lessons of Folklore