Adult "Survivors" tell horrific tales of ritual child abuse but the
evidence is missing. Rosie Waterhouse reports.
THE MAKING OF A SATANIC MYTH
[Rosie Waterhouse, Independent On Sunday, 12.08.90, p8]
ON A PSYCHIATRIST's couch at the Fort Royal Medical Centre in
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, in September 1976, after a
miscarriage and 200 hours of therapy, Michelle Smith began
After 22 years she unearthed and re-lived deeply buried memories of
her past. From the age of four Michelle had suffered appalling sexual,
physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a coven of Satanists,
including her own mother.
In bizarre black magic ceremonies she witnessed debauchery, murder,
the sacrifice of babies, the mutilation of animals and the drinking of
unspeakable substances including blood. The power of God was her
Michelle and her therapist Lawrence Pazder went to the VAtican to
alert the church about previously unheard dangers to children from
Satanic cults worldwide. To warn the world they wrote Michelle
Remembers, published in 1980 and in Britain, by Michael Joseph the
Last week, at a conference on incest at a hospital in Harrow,
north-west London, an Englishwoman who claimed she had been the victim
for 16 years of ritual abuse by Satanists, told delegates that human
foetuses were being killed and eaten by members of "Satanic sex
Sue Hutchinson said that in the past six months she has dealt with 10
helpline calls a week from fellow survivors of Satanic abuse. Some of
the 50 cases she was counselling involved cannibalism.
Women had told her how babies were induced before they were due, and
sacrificed. Children were hung up by their feet and suspended over
electric saws. They suffered all forms of sexual abuse including rape,
buggery, and bestiality.
Ms Hutchinson's horrifying claims were supported by several speakers
at the fourth international conference on Incest and Related Problems
which took place over three days at Northwick Park Hospital. It
received a great deal of publicity.
Vera Diamond, a Harley Street psychotherapist who co-organised the
conference, said several children had been killed during Satanic
rituals. Afterwards she told this newspaper she had treated 20 adult
survivors of ritual abuse.
Norman Vaughton, a psychotherapist from Nottingham - where the biggest
child abuse investigation in Britain last year led to the imprisonment
of nine adults for incest and cruelty - said that there were an
estimated 10,000 human sacrifices a year in America, most of them
"foetuses that have been bred specially".
Newspapers reported that figure without any qualification. A couple of
police officers present asked for corroborative evidence. But they
accepted Satanic child abuse was probably happening in Britain, albeit
on a small scale.
Over the past two years the British public has been hearing more and
more about this new phenomenon as social workers, psychiatrists,
therapists, the NSPCC, voluntary groups and churches all report a
growing number of cases of Satanic, ritual abuse.
But are these Satanic abuse survivors' stories fantasy or fact? Are
children in Britain being sadistically abused and tortured by witches
and Satanists in covens?
Are teenage girls being used as "brood mares", made pregnant and the
foetus aborted so it can be sacrificed,m and in some cases eaten?
More and more child care specialists are telling us yes. But an
investigation by the Independent on Sunday has found that nobody has
produced evidence to support these claims.
There have been police investigations across the United States, in
Canada, the Netherlands, and now in Britain.
They have produced no evidence. No bodies, no bones, no covens, no
underground tunnels, no animal carcasses, no bloodstains. Nothing.
Just the occasional court case where the pretence of supernatural
powers was used to obtain silence and submission.
There is, of course, no question that some children are sexually
abused by adults. But why have an increasing number of professionals,
police officers, charities, including the NSPCC, and clergy come to
believe that there are covens of witches killing children and
Because children have described seeing horrors they surely could not
have invented, and because exactly the same stories have been told in
Our investigations have revealed that the Satanic abuse myth
originated in the United States. It has been spread largely in
fundamentalist Christian circles, and it is now accepted as fact by
many psychotherapists and police officers.
The allegations began to surface only after the publication of the
book Michelle Remembers. The co-author and psychiatrist Dr PAzder, who
has since married Michelle, began organising "Satanic Cult Crime"
seminars across the United States for therapists and the police.
In the United States, Satanic cult panics began spreading and, from
1984 to 1989, 100 people nationwide were charged with ritual sex
abuse. Of those, about 50 were charged and half convicted of child
abuse with no evidence other than the testimony of children, parents
and experts explaining how children behave when they have been
traumatised. No evidence of Satanism was found in these cases.
In other cases the allegations were dismissed as the worst outbreak of
mass hysteria since the Salem witchhunt at the end of the seventeenth
century. (During the course of the Salem trials, 141 people were
arrested as suspects, 19 were hanged and one was pressed to death.)
In 1987, in the small town of Oude Pekala in the Netherlands, 100
children eventually told stories of Satanism and pornography. No
corroborative evidence was found and the police concluded it was a
case of mass hysteria. So how did the Satanic child abuse myth spread
and cross the Atlantic to Britain?
In the United States, Robert Hicks, an analyst with the criminal
justice department in Virginia who is writing a book on so called
Satanic cult crime, blames "a loose network" of therapists,
fundamentalist Christians, serving and ex-police officers and also the
media for "perpetuating the myth". He told us: "There were no such
stories before the publication of Michelle Remembers."
Dr Sherrill Mulhern, an anthropologist from the University of Paris,
who has studied self declared Satanic abuse survivors, said: "Michelle
Remembers crystallised the Satanic abuse legend among
"Adult therapists began networking with one another and with child
therapists. I think the majority of adult survivors' accounts are the
result of the interaction between the therapist, the patient and the
surrounding Satanic cult stories.
"The proponents of the rumour say all the survivors, adults and
children, are saying the same thing. This is a paranoid reading of the
Kenneth Lanning, of the National Centre for the Analysis of Violent
Crime at the FBI Academy in Virginia, wrote in a journal last October:
"The law enforcement perspective cannot ignore the lack of physical
evidence. Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the
American people should not be frightened into believing that babies
are being bred and eaten, and that 50,000 missing children are being
murdered in human sacrifices.
"Satanic and occult crime has become a growth industry; speaking fees,
books, videos, prevention material, television and radio appearances."
Since the publication of Michelle Remembers, hundreds of women in the
United States, many of them psychiatric cases undergoing therapy, have
begun remembering Satanic abuse from their childhood. Some are writing
books, others are travelling the country addressing conferences, and
many are telling church congregations how they were "saved" from Satan
by dedicating their soul to God.
Such a book was published in Britain in 1986. Delivered to Declare, by
Gabriele Trinkle, published by Hodder and Stoughton, tells how she was
sold to Satan as a six-month-old baby, subjected to depraved sexual
abuse and witness to the sacrifice of babies.
The book was lent to this newspaper by a Church of England vicar from
the Dulwich area of south-east London. It was to help to explain the
story he had just related of the survivor of Satanic abuse who was
sitting beside him.
Feeling suicidal last New Year's Eve, the woman telephoned the vicar
and asked for help. She has lived with the minister and his family
ever since. She suffered terrifying nightmares, and after eight months
of gradual revelation she has come to believe - and so does the vicar
- that she was initiated into a black magic coven in south-east London
and dedicated to Satan in a ritual when she was a six-week-old baby;
married to Satan when she was 11; raped by several members of the
coven and also by demons; and witness to the sacrifice of animals and
babies. Some of these murders and depravities happened in a public
park. Nobody noticed them (and this the vicar at first found hard to
believe) because, she said, the power of Satan was so string he was
able to make them invisible.
Another British survivor is Audrey Harper, who describes herself as a
former high priestess, who turned to Christ and now tours the country
warning of the dangers of the occult. She now says she knows of 60
other survivors like herself in Britain.
Ms Harper began helping the Reachout Trust, a fundamentalist Christian
charity run by Maureen Davies, a former nurse from Rhyl in North
Wales. it is dedicated to helping people who have been involved with
the occult and had begun to encounter other survivors of ritual abuse.
Most are "born again" Christians.
The Reachout Trust sends out literature it receives from America on
how to spot ritual abuse. Maureen Davies is consulted by police
officers and social workers and has lectured at police training
colleges and to church groups. last year after setting up a helpline
for survivors, she was invited to lecture in America with Larry Jones,
a policeman who runs a newsletter on Satanic crime for Christian
police officers in the US.
Information in Britain is also circulated by the Evangelical Alliance,
which represents a million Christians in Britain.
The proponents of stories about Satanic abuse clearly believe it
exists and dismiss suggestions that it is merely a myth, arguing that
lack of physical evidence is simply because all traces are carefully
One case frequently cited by proponents of the Satanic abuse theory
happened in Nottingham. In 1988, two social workers in the city were
encountering a particularly vile case of incest involving nine adults
and 23 children who had been taken into care.
According to Christine Johnston, a senior social worker, and Judith
Dawson, the team leader, the children began telling bizarre stories
which they could not understand. They called in Ray Wyre, a former
probation officer who runs a clinic in Birmingham for sex offenders.
He gave them a list of "Satanic indicators", a profile of signs and
symptoms used by American police officers which he told the
Independent on Sunday he was given by Pamela Klein, a Chicago social
worker who lectures on Satanic abuse.
Wyre had other literature on Satanic abuse from the United States,
where he had first studied child abuse in 1984. He had picked up some
of the material himself on a visit in 1988; other information he had
Mr Wyre says the social workers initially asked him if he knew
anything about witchcraft because the children were writing strange
things in their diaries. he said he told the social workers and foster
parents the sort of things said by children who had been ritually
Mr Wyre studied for three years in the early 1970s at a Baptist bible
college in Birmingham to become ordained as a minister, but chose
probation work instead. He said his former beliefs were not relevant
to his work with sex offenders.
Ms Johnston and Ms Dawson also contacted Dr Russell Blacker, a
consultant psychiatrist who is secretary and founder of the
Association of Christian Psychiatrists. "They didn't know where to
turn," he said.
Dr Blacker, based at a Cornish hospital, believes in the power of
exorcism and says he also counsels adult survivors of Satanic abuse.
In March 1989 he organised a conference on the subject.
In September 1989 at a conference in Reading Ms Johnston and Ms Dawson
first made public their belief that the Nottingham children, whose
abusers had been jailed, had been victims of Satanic abuse. But the
police could find no evidence.
A joint inquiry team of police and social workers was set up by the
chief constable of Nottingham and the chief executive of the county
council. In an unpublished 650-page report, obtained by Central
Television in Nottingham, the team found no evidence of ritualistic
The report says most of the evidence arose as a result of therapeutic
methods. For instance, one member of the team said, limited choice
questions included "you killed three or 30 babies?"
The report concludes: "We are all aware it is easy to criticise with
the benefit of hindsight. However, we are concerned that two years
later an unshakable belief in Satanic ritualistic abuse appears to
have developed which could easily lead into a modern day witchhunt, as
has happened in the US."
* quotation ends *