from THE HUMANIST, March/April 1990: GIVING THE DEVIL MORE THAN HIS DUE by David Alexander
from THE HUMANIST, March/April 1990:
GIVING THE DEVIL MORE THAN HIS DUE
by David Alexander
(For occult crime "experts" and the American media, anti-satanist
hysteria has become a growth industry.)
"Never attribute to Devil-worshipping conspiracies what opportunism,
emotional instability, and religious bigotry are sufficient to explain."
-Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.
SATANISM is alive and well in the United States. It flourishes in the minds of
a phalanx of Christian fundamentalists, political extremists, bereaved
parents, opportunists, and mentally unstable individuals who have become
self-appointed experts on satanism, occult crime, and devil worship.
These pundits of the puerile have created a lucrative "information
industry" selling what they claim are documented facts through books,
seminars, lectures, and tapes. In reality, what they offer is little more than
fundamentalist Christian dogma, the aberrations of mentally ill individuals,
the misdirected grief of bereaved parents, and the fantasies of self-seeking
opportunists disguised and promoted as scholarship and criminology.
"Satan-mongering" is a growth industry promoting "information" on what is, by
every independent investigation, a nonexistent problem.
Unsuspecting police agencies, news reporters, editors, and producers,
psychologists, psychiatrists, and talk show hosts around the country have
become the unwitting voices of the "new witch hunters." Exploiting the
irrational fear of the superstitious, the credulity of the well-intentioned,
and the media's insatiable appetite for ratings-through-sensationalism, a few
fanatical individuals and their organizations have built an industry of fear
by spreading nonsense as scholarship.
These are some of the conclusions that were reached after an extensive
investigation into satanism and those who profit from it. Entitled "Satanism in
America," the two-hundred-plus-page report is the result of a three-year study
by its principle author and investigator, Berkeley physicist Shawn Carlson,
who led a team of researchers under the auspices of the Committee for the
Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), chaired by Dr. Gerald Larue,
emeritus professor of biblical history and archaeology at the University of
Southern California and the American Humanist Association's 1989 Humanist of
the Year. It is the most exhaustive study of its kind ever undertaken.
The report concludes, in part:
It is now abundantly clear that a small minority of ultra-right-
wing fundamentalist and evangelicals, believing in both the reality
of Satan as a personality and that the Tribulation is at hand, are
responsible for the misinterpretation, the dissemination and in
some instances the outright fabrication of "facts" to support what is
essentially a religious doctrine. These people are not researchers
in pursuit of truth, but crusaders against the Antichrist whom they
believe a priori is living now among us. We submit that people so
deeply committed to this religious view can hardly be counted upon
to render skeptical and well-reasoned critiques about the dangers
of Satanism or occultism in American society.
THE central assertion of all the "experts" is that there is a vast, highly
organized network of devil worshippers in the United States that has
infiltrated all levels of local, state, and federal government, not to mention
society at large. This conspiracy is supposedly responsible for tens of
thousands of kidnappings and child molestations, not to mention the fifty
thousand to two million children--depending upon the "authority" cited--who
are "ritually" sacrificed to the devil each year. These serious accusations, if
true, mean that we are living in a much different country than we all think we
Think about the logistics required to kill two million people a year. A
recent example will pride us with some perspective. Durincg World War II,
millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Poles, and others considered "subhuman" by
the Nazis were rounded up and systematically exterminated. A researcher from
the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles told me that approximately eleven
million people (five million Jews and six million others) were liquidated
before and during World War II. The Nazis ran six major killing centers and
sixteen hundred smaller camps. Researchers estimate that there were over one
hundred fifty thousand people involved in running and servicing the death
camps, from railroad clerks to the guards who ran the gas chambers. It was a
large operation which ran at its peak from 1941 to 1944. It takes a large and
efficient organization to exterminate two million people a year. There was
plenty of evidence available at the end of World War II supporting the horror
stories of death-camp survivors. Could an organization of one hundred fifty
thousand crazed baby- killers--an organization a hundred times larger than
organized crime--exist without any of us catching on? Where is the evidence
for such an operation in this country?
Even the low estimate of fifty thousand "ritual" victims a year is a little
less than the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam during the entire
war. Virtually everyone in the United States over the age of thirty knew
someone who was killed in Vietnam or knows someone who knew someone who was
killed. How many people do you know who have been "ritually" sacrificed?
Moreover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiles statistics about crime
in the United States. If, as some "experts" claim, there are fifiy thousand
unreported "ritual" sacrifice murders being committed, then we must have a
nation of very inefficient police and sheriffs' departments, as that figure is
two and one-half times the twenty thousand murders annually recorded by the
FBI. It is ludicrous to claim that there are an additional fifty thousand
murders being committed without any law enforcement agencies being aware of
The concern over child abductions is also vastly overblown. The
overwhelming majority of child abductions occur within the context of domestic
disputes, with the perpetrator being one of the parents. According to records
compiled by the National Child Safety Council, a branch of the Department of
Justice, the number of children who are kidnapped by strangers is lower than
one hundred per year! Of these, over the past five years, approximately half
the children--less than two hundred fifty--are still missing. While it is very
sad and destructive to a family when it happens, the abduction of children by
strangers is a relatively rare occurrence in the United States.
Here's an additional statistic from the FBI: over two thousand children
are murdered each year by their own parents. Statistically, a child has a
greater chance of being kidnapped or murdered by his or her parents than of
being kidnapped by a stranger or "ritually" sacrificed by devil worshippers.
The evidence offered by the Satan-mongers is primarily the loosely
detailed stories of alleged participants--individuals who often claim to have
been high officials of devil-worshipping "cults" and who assert that they have
taken part in a variety of felonious behavior, including rape, kidnapping, and
"ritual" murder. Coincidentally, these same people have books, tapes, and
seminars to sell about their "experiences" in order to "educate" the
conscientious police officer, the religiously gullible, or the talk-show host
hungry for ratings-through-sensationalism. As anxious as they are to get their
stories out to a credulous public (and to sell their books and tapes), these
born-again hucksters are strangely reluctant to provide details (names, dates,
locations, and so forth) to any law enforcement agency or to assist them in
any way in investigating their allegations. Police agencies that have tried to
investigate these claims have run into a stone wall.
AN understanding of this social phenomenon is not possible without examining
some of the personalities involved.
Michelle Smith is the author of _Michelle_Remembers_, one of the seminal
books in the current hysteria over satanic conspiracies in the United States.
Smith had an alcoholic father who abandoned the family and a passive, distant,
alcoholic mother who died when Smith was fourteen. After a miscarriage in
1976, Smith began her second round of psychiatric sessions and, under
hypnosis, recalled her abuse and mistreatment as a child at the hands of a
"satanic" "cult." She claims to have witnessed numerous paranormal happenings,
including an actual visitation from Satan incarnate, and she describes satanic
rituals, implements, and ceremonies in some detail. Unfortunately, experts on
the occult insist that what she ascribes as sacred to satanists is completely
inconsistent with satanism and devil worship.
As for bringing Smith's tormentors to justice, it should be relatively easy
to identify them, even years later, since the members of this "cult" reportedly
cut off the middle fingers of their left hands as a sign of obedience to the
Prince of Darkness. Unfortunately, no independent evidence has surfaced to
corroborate any of the claims made by Smith. Her therapist, Dr. Lawrence
Pazder, became so involved with his patient that Smith eventually divorced her
husband and married Dr. Pazder, who was the coauthor of _Michelle_Remembers_.
"Lauren Stratford" claims that as a child she suffered "ritual" abuse at the
hands of her parents' devil-worshipping group and that later she bred babies
for sacrifice to Satan. In her book _Satan's_Underground_, "Stratford" recounts
having witnessed a miraculous healing by Satan as well as several other weird
paranormal happenings; no evidence, however, is offered to support her claims.
"Stratford" is also strangely inconsistent about exactly how many babies she
bore for sacrifice. During an appearance on "Sally Jessy Raphael," "Stratford"
claimed to have given up one baby for sacrifice, but on "Oprah" she upped the
number to three.
"Dr." Rebecca Brown and her patient "Elaine" have appeared on "Geraldo" to
discuss their experiences with satanism. Brown and "Elaine" have cowritten two
books, _He_Came_to_Set_the_Captives_Free_ and _Prepare_for_War, both published
by Jack Chick Ministries, an outfit which specializes in fundamentalist tracts
and lurid, anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon comic books. In _Prepare_for_War_,
Brown lists a number of "doorways" to satanic power and demon infestation.
These include fortune tellers, horoscopes, fraternity oaths, vegetarianism,
yoga, self-hypnosis. acupuncture, biofeedback, fantasy role-playing games,
adultery, homosexuality, judo, karate, and, of course, rock music, which is
identified as "a carefully masterminded plan by none other than Satan
himself." This book has been recommended as a serious reference in law
enforcement training material. With all of the problems modern police agencies
have to face, one would not think that "demon infestation" would be high on
"Elaine" whose real name is Edna Moses, claims to be a former high
priestess of a satanic "cult" who was "rescued" by "Dr." Brown, a self-
proclaimed "satanic 'cult' detoxifier" who has allegedly "rescued" over
one thousand satanists. According to Chick Ministries, both of these women
are "available to assist with interpretation of signs and symbols, to answer
questons, or be of assistance should you have an emergency need in the
'rescue' of a Satanist"
What Geraldo Rivera, ace investigative journalist, and Jack Chick have not
told you---or did not bother to find out---is that "Dr. Rebecca Brown" is the
defrocked Indiana physician Ruth Bailey, who had her medical license removed
by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana for a number of reasons. Among the
board's seventeen findings are: Bailey knowingly misdiagnosed serious
illnesses, including brain tumors and leukemia, as "caused by demons, devils,
and other evil spirits"; she told her patients that doctors at Ball Memorial
Hospital and St. John's Medical Center were "demons, devils, and other evil
spirits themselves"; and she falsified patient charts and hospital records.
The board's report states that:
Dr. Bailey also addicted numerous patients to controlled substances
which required them to suffer withdrawal and undergo detoxi-
fication, and that she self-medicated herself with non-therapeutic
amounts of Demerol which she injected on an hourly basis.
A psychiatrist appointed by the board to diagnose Bailey described her as
"suffering from acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or
Refusing to appear before the board, Bailey moved to California, changed
her name to Rebecca Brown, and began working with Jack Chick. Despite this
questionable background and the fact that she has been denounced by numerous
Christian ministers, Brown continues to appear on talk shows and at police
training seminars spreading her nonsense.
PAT Pulling is the founder of Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD).
First published in 1974 and translated since then into a host of languages,
"Dungeons and Dragons" is the most popular of the fantasy role-playing games.
These games are sophisticated versions of "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and
Indians"; they are vehicles through which adolescents and adults can exercise
their imaginations. Since 1974, there have been over five hundred different
fantasy role-playing games introduced into the market.
Pulling founded BADD after her son, Irving "Bink" Pulling II, committed
suicide. Pulling blames her son's death on playing Dungeons and Dragons and on
a curse placed on him the the game's leader or "dungeon master" a week before
his suicide. In her book, The Devil's Web, Pulling states that there were no
indications her son was troubled and that she had no warning of his impending
suicide [which she later contradicts herself in a talk-show].
Pulling appears on talk shows and advises police departments on teenagers
who play fantasy role-playing games. In her Interviewing Techniques for
Adolescents, she offers the following profile of teenagers who are potentially
suicidal or who are "headed for an involvement with Satanism": adolescents
between the ages of eleven and seventeen, from all walks of life, from
middle-class to upper-middle-class families, over or underachievers,
intelligent, creative, or curious. Some are rebellious, some have low
self-esteem, some are loners, and some have been abused physically or
sexually. Untortunately, this is hardly an exclusive list, as one or more of
these criteria could be applied to every teenager in the country.
She also states that fantasy role-playing games are the number two method
used by satanists to seduce children, right after "Black Heavy Metal Music."
Other methods of recruitment include: "obsession with movies and videos which
have occult themes, collecting and reading/researching occult books,
involvement with 'Satanic "Cults,"' through recruitment; and some are born into
families who practice 'satantic "cult" "rituals."'"
Among her many suggestions for the police officer interviewing a troubled
adolescent is to ask if he or she "has read the Necronomicon or is familiar
with it." This advice betrays Pulling's lack of skills as a researcher. The
Necronomicon does not exist. It is the fictional creation of H. P. Lovecraft,
the popular fantasy-horror pulp writer of the 1930s. The book, described as
having been written in blood on parchment made from human skin by the mad Arab
Abdul Alhazred, was supposed to contain all sorts of ghastly occult lore;
those who read it went insane. Since 1978, several clever promoters have
produced books called The Necronomicon. Most are gibberish; one version
repeats its Romanized Arabic text every ten pages, the author having assumed
that the majority of readers would never wade through more than ten pages of
his nonsense. Needless to say, none of these books is an authentic occult text
written by a mad Arab in human blood; they are simply moneymaking schemes
capitalizing on a notorious name.
In her capacity as "occult investigator," Pulling has made a number of
outrageous charges that she fails to support with evidence. In an interview in
the Richmond, Virginia, News Leader, Pulling estimated that "about eight
percent ofthe Richmond population was involved in Satanic worship at some
level." This number, called "conservative" by Pulling, comes to about
fifty-six thousand people---more than the number of Methodists in the area, as
the interviewer was quick to point out. Pulling then attempted to correct
herself, arguing that she had meant the number of people actively involved in
"the occult," whatever that distinction may mean.
Pulling's profile of potential recruits or victims is as flawed as her
statistics. She claims that virtually any child between the ages of eleven and
seventeen is a candidate for seduction into satanism. Furthermore, this
seduction supposedly takes place at times when a parent is least likely to be
present. Therefore, if you have an intelligent child from a good background
and he or she is out of your sight, the child is open to recruitment by
satanic "cultists" who, according to Pulling, are everywhere.
Pulling's main claim--that her son was driven to suicide by playing
Dungeons and Dragons without having exhibited any earlier signs of trouble--is
contradicted by statements she made which were published, oddly enough, by one
of the Satan-mongers who supports her work. Larry Jones is the founder and
director of the Cult Crime Impact Network, Inc. (CCIN), and publishes File 18
which is directed toward law enforcement agencies and the clergy. Jones's
organization is housed in the Trinity Fellowship Church in Boise, Idaho. There
is nothing obective about his newsletter, as its stated position is: "The only
true and lasting solution to 'Devil-worship' or Satanic involvement is a
personal encounter with true Christianity and with the central figure of that
faith, Jesus Christ."
Jones published a transcript of a lecture Pulling gave in 1986 at the North
Colorado/South Wyoming Detectives' Association Seminar in Fort Collins,
Colorado. Pulling stated then--but not in any of her own publications or
subsequent interviews--that several weeks before his death, her son had been
displaying "lycanthropic" tendencies such as running around the backyard on
all fours and barking. Pulling was also quoted as saying that, within the
month before her son's death, nineteen rabbits he had raised were inexplicably
torn apart, although no loose dogs were seen, and a cat was found disemboweled
with a knife. Other sources indicated that Bink was despondent over "fitting
in" at school and had written "Life Is a Joke" on the blackboard in one of his
classes. Shortly thereafter, he shot himself in the driveway of his home.
It is clear that Bink Pulling was a seriously disturbed young man whose
behavior could be interpreted as demonstrations of great rage and frustration.
Yet his mother continues to insist she had no warning that her son was
Contrary to Pulling's claim, there is no independent verification from any
respected authority that fantasy role-playing games contribute in any way to
teen suicide. Dr. S. Kenneth Schonbert of the Albert Einstein College of
Medicine in New York conducted an in-depth study of over seven hundred
adolescents who had attempted suicide. Not one case indicated that any
role-playing game was a reason for their attempt. The Associated Gifted and
Creative Children of California conducted a survey of all major American
cities in which coroners were asked to review the psychological autopsies of
adolescent suicides. Not one case indicated that Dungeons and Dragons or any
other role-playing game was a contributing factor. The Centers for Disease
Control in Atlanta released its own report which found no compelling evidence
that suicide was more prevalent among teens who played Dungeons and Dragons.
Finally, the American Association of Suicidology in Denver, Colorado, a widely
respected source of information on teen suicides, agrees that the evidence
shows role-playing games are not a significant cause of teen suicide.
MAURY Terry is the author of The Ultimate Evil: An Investigation of America's
Most Dangerous Satanic 'Cult' (he also supplied an introduction for Pat
Pulling's book). In his book, Terry attempts to link mass murderers Charles
Manson, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, Henry Lee Lucas, and several others into
a nationwide satanic conspiracy of immense proportions. Terry "documents" his
thesis through egregious leaps of logic, bits of oddly interpreted "evidence,"
and the highly suspect testimony of such "experts" as David Balsiger, who will
be discussed in a moment.
Terry creates implausible connections---for example, between the Son of Sam,
the Process Church of the Final Judgment, and the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).
Since the [Son of Sam] letters contained so many clues, I went back
to them and to other Berkowitz writings with which I was now
familiar. Doing so revealed definite connections to Process-like
terms. For instance, Berkowitz has written he needed a "messenger
on earth"; and messenger was a Process rank---as were "father" and
"master" The Borelli letter contained the phrase "honour thy
father" using the British spelling of "honor." The Process was
founded in Britain, as was Aleister Crowley's OTO chapter.
Additionally, the Breslin letter said: "Now the void has been
filled"; and the "bottomless void" was definitely Process
terminology. That letter's return address, in part, said "Blood and
Family"; and the Process had referred to itself as "the family"
Obviously, Maury Terry has not been exposed to much training in logical
thinking or rational investigative techniques. His theory is conspiracy
"reasoning" at its best.
Terry's lack of logic was not without a price. The California-based Ordo
Templi Orientis brought a defamation suit against him. The New Tork Law
Journal for June 24, 1988, reports:
Defendants, publisher and author of a book expounding the theory
that a nationwide Satanic 'cult' is responsible for numerous
notorious murders in recent times, were sued for defamation by an
organization the author alleged was part of the Satanic network.
The court refused to dismiss the action, finding that the
allegations in the book, reiterated by the author in two television
interviews, gave rise to a cause of action if plaintiff could
substantiate the facts averred in its complaint.
The case was settled out of court with an undisclosed sum of money paid to
the OTO, as well as an agreement to strike all references to the OTO in future
editions of the work.
The allegations against the Process church in Terry's book were copied
virtually verbatim from a now-obscure book, The Family, published shortly
after the Manson murders. The author of The Family lost a defamation suit
brought against him by the Process church; part of the settlement included
striking all reference to the Process church from future editions. So much of
the book was based upon these false allegations that it wasn't possible to
remove them all and still have a book. The Family subsequently went out of
print. Terry has not been sued by the Process church because it no longer
exists; thus, he is able to reprint with impunity material which has
previously been judged inaccurate and libelous.
David Balsiger, one of the "experts" cited in Terry's book, is coauthor
with Les Jones and Mike Warnke of The Satan Seller, a book that purports to be
Warnke's "confession" as a former priest of a devil-worshipping 'cult' (Warnke
also claims to have been a high-ranking member of the IIluminati). Warnke's
credibility--such as it is--is severely damaged by his refusal to identify his
former co-conspirators. Throughout The Satan Seller, he maintains that the
members of his former 'cult' are involved in rape, animal mutilations, and drug
smuggling. Yet, despite his newfound born-again beliefs, Warnke has yet to
supply law enforcement agencies with names, dates, or any other evidence
necessary to assist them in investigating his claims. It's interesting to note
that the first edition of The Satan Seller was published in 1972--before the
appearance of the first "satanic victim" Michelle Smith--and contains no
mention of child abduction, child sacrifice, or child pornography rings.
Warnke himself admitted on "The 700 Club" that he had no knowledge of the
child sacrifices that other "survivors" talked about. Now he claims that devil
'cults' murder two million children a year.
As for David Balsiger, Warnke's coauthor, he has quite a stake in the
current anti-satanist hysteria. Balsiger owns and operates Writeway Literary
Associates of Costa Mesa, California, which publishes his Occult Activity
Profile, Witchcraft/Satanism Ritual Calendar, and Occult-Satanic Homicide
Clues. He also publishes and distributes Jack Roper's Analyzing Occult
Activity Supplement and the Occult Investigation Slide Training Series, aimed
at the law-enforcement market. Balsiger has also written a number of
"nonfiction" books, including In Search of Noah's Ark, and is closely
affiliated with the Christian ultraright. His Presidential Biblical Scorecard,
Candidates Biblical Scorecard, and Family Protection Scorecard all rate
political candidates according to Balsiger's version of "biblical principles."
His other activities and associations read like a shopping list for members of
the extreme political right.
I'll let Father Richard Woods of Chicago's Loyola University Theology
Department have the last word on Balsiger and Warnke and their shared fantasy.
Father Woods observes in his scholarly book, The Devil:
Purporting to be a veridical account of a young man's meteoric rise
to power in a vast Satanic conspiracy and his abrupt fall from
"grace," The Satan Seller would be an incredibly bad novel. But
although he was a drug-drenched and paranoid speed-freak with
delusions of grandeur during the events narrated, Warnke (and his
ghostwriters) assure us that the incidents occurred "absolutely as
described." Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
GERALDO Rivera must be included in any list of Satan mongers because his
production company, the Investigative News Group, produced the television
special "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground," broadcast by NBC on
October ,5, 1988. This program, watched by more people than any other
television dccumentary in history, was distinguished by its almost total lack
of credible information; it substituted sensationalism and hype for accurate
investigation and scholarship. "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground"
was cited by a New York sociologist as contributing to the escalation of a
rumor panic in upstate New York.
Rivera often devotes his daily talk show, "Geraldo," to the topic of
satanic crime, using as "authorities" many of the personalities investigated
in the aforementioned CSER report. In one typical program, Rivera opened the
show with the following statement:
Satanic 'cults!' Every hour, every day, their ranks are growing.
Estimates are there are over one million satanists in this country.
The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secret
network. From small towns to large cities, they've attracted police
and FBI attention to their satanist "ritual child abuse," child
pornography, and grisly satanic murder. The odds are this is
happening in your town.
With that introduction setting the tone, Rivera paraded a number of
well-known Satan-mongers before his audience, with nary a critical question
asked of the lot. He began by interviewing three parents whose children were
allegedly molested by satanic day care workers. One parent mentioned that,
while her child had been in therapy for some months, she did not realize the
'ritual'-satanic aspects of her child's abuse until she attended a seminar that
educated her in this subject. Only after the mother attended this seminar did
the stories of child sacrifice and other horrific details begin to surface.
Unfortunately, Rivera did not pursue this, leaving his viewers in the dark as
to what seminar this woman attended and who had organized it.
Rivera then introduced "Elaine" (Edna Moses, already profiled), "for
seventeen years a high priestess of a satanic 'cult' that 'governed' five
states." Elaine was shown in profile, behind a screen--a theatrical device
designed to validate Elaine's fear of retaliation from her fellow satanists
and thereby heighten her credibility. Elaine rattled on about her life as a
high priestess in a satanic conspiracy bent on ultimately ruling the world.
She contended that "ritual child abuse" was designed to make the recruitment of
children into satanism easier when they were older and stated, "It is
terrifying to think that over two million are missing in this nation right now
and that a number of them have been murdered, maimed, or are in satanic 'cults'
practicing satanism today." As we have already seen, that statement is without
a shred of credible evidence to back it up. Rivera did not question it at all.
Next came "Dr." Rebecca Brown (the defrocked Dr. Ruth Bailey), whom Rivera
introduced as the author of He Came to Set the Captives Free and the person
who helped get "Elaine" and over a thousand others out of satanic 'cults.'
Rivera asked Brown about her methods of "detoxing" a 'cult' member. One of
Brown's suggestions was for the cultist to "get out of state, change your
name, and disassociate yourself totally from the area you were." As we have
seen, Brown took her own advice--only in her case the area she disassociated
herself from was Indiana after the Medical Licensing Board declared her
incompetent as a physician and questioned her mental stability.
Brown informed the audience that there have been numerous attempts on her
life. Rivera questioned her on her relationship with the authorities. She
responded, "I have a very distant relationship with the authorities because my
job is to bring people out, not turn them in to the police. However, I do work
with police and FBI pretty extensively. If I know of someone who is not
willing to stop what they are doing, I'll be the first one to tip the police
off." These conflicting statements were not explored by Rivera at all.
At the end of the program, Rivera provided his audience with the address of
a post office box in Chino, California, for those who wanted to obtain
information about Brown's book. A check with the post office showed that the
box was rented to Chick Publications or Chick Ministries (the records are not
precise), yet no mention of the connection between Brown and the extremist
Chick Ministries was made by Rivera.
Rivera also introduced several other "experts" on the show, including Maury
Terry and Detective Kurt Jackson of the Beaumont, California, Police
Department. Jackson affirmed the existence of a vast, organized conspiracy of
satanists intent on world domination. According to Jackson, the conspiracy met
in Mexico City in 1981; information about its plans was supposedly intercepted
by a fellow law enforcement official.
What Jackson was obliquely referring to was the notorious "WICCA letters."
WICCA is supposedly an acronym for the Witches International Coven Council (no
one seems to know what the "A" stands for except that it is necessary to make
the acronym work, the word "Wicca" being the correct terminology for the
earth-spirit-based religion vulgarly known as "witchcraft"). WICCA is supposed
to have met in Mexico City in 1981 to draft a plan for world domination. The
source of this material seems to be Dave Gaerin, a deputy sheriff in the San
Diego County Sheriffs Department. Gaerin reported his "discovery" of these
letters in an issue of Exodus, a magazine published by a fundamentalist
ministry in San Antonio, Texas. The original article described the "decoding"
of these documents, without explaining what that term meant. The CSER research
team was unable to locate anyone other than Deputy Gaerin who has ever seen
the original documents.
The WICCA letters are clearly modeled alter the notorious "Protocols of the
Learned Elders of Zion" and are taken seriously only by those who know nothing
about occult history and witchcraft. In the WICCA letters, the occult word
magic is spelled without the "k"--something that would never be done by anyone
actually involved in the occult. Even those who support the notion of an
international satanic conspiracy have called the WICCA letters ludicrous.
In all fairness to Rivera, it should be noted that the pressure of
producing a daily talk show is tremendous and that talk show staffs often do
not have the time or the interest required to thoroughly check credentials.
Talk shows do not present facts and validated information; rather, they are
"infotainment," shows loosely designed around interview or magazine formats
presenting information as entertainment. These shows are never to be given the
same credibility as the nightly network news or national news magazines such
as Time and Newsweek. However, even with this understood, one would think
that, given the scope and seriousness of the allegations made by these people,
some checking would have been done. This is especially true in the case of
Rivera's NBC special, "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground," since
enough time and money certainly were available for adequate research. Of
course, with adequate research, there would have been no sensational program,
as research would have shown the problem to be nonexistent.
Talk show hosts have a tremendous influence on the public. Geraldo Rivera,
Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Oprah Winfrey, as well as their
counterparts in a host of smaller markets, all have a loyal and trusting
following. Clearly, this trust is not always merited.
ONE final Satan-monger of note is that grand old man of conspiracy theory and
perennial presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche. Currently serving time in
federal prison for his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, LaRouche
blames his problems--- and those of much of the world--- on communism, drugs,
rock music, humanism, role-playing games, homosexuality, and the New Age
movement, which he believes are all part of an international conspiracy
to usher in the "New Dark Ages."
LaRouche's organizations publish The New Federalist and Executive
Intelligence Review. Their current resident "authority" on occultism is Bruce
Director, who tours the country addressing church and community groups under
the auspices of the Executive Intelligence Review News Service (EIRNS). His
connection with LaRouche is not publicized.
LaRouche also founded the Schiller Institute, which publishes Save Your
Child's Life. This pamphlet makes several astounding and absurd claims about
witchcraft and satanism, cites false and alarmist statistics, and urges its
readers to ban occult books from libraries, close down stores which sell
occult or New Age paraphernalia, and stop the sale of rock music in their
cities. A second LaRouche pamphlet, "Is Satan in Your Schoolyard?", is
distributed by Sue Joyner, a "former occultist" and founder of Watchmen Alert
to Cultic Harassment (WATCH), a ministry to witches and satanists. The cover
of the pamphlet has a photo of "Satanist Robert McNamara, the former president
of the World Bank" and charges that the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the
Divine in New York City "happens to be one of the major centers for the spread
of Satanic sexual violence in North America."
LaRouche has formulated an inventive connection between his current legal
problems and Wicca, which he wrongly holds to be a form of devil worship.
Judge Williams of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
has ruled that Wicca is a legitimate religion which should be recognized in
Virginia prisons; this same federal district court is presided over by Chief
Justice Albert V. Bryan, Jr., who was the judge in Larouche's trial. In
addition, Judge John Butzner of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld and
expanded the Wicca ruling; Judge Butzner also happens to be the person who
denied LaRouche's petition that he and his codefendants remain free on bail
pending their appeal. LaRouche also maintains that Mary Sue Terry, the state
attorney general of Virginia who prosecuted his case, "announced that she was
a drug pusher." (In fact, Terry merely stated publicly that she supported
Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke's campaign to de-criminalize drugs.)
TO be accurate, there is organized religious satanism in the United States. It
is a small but legitimate minority church, its size and belief structure
having nothing to do with its right to exist under the Constitution. The main
satanic church, the Church of Satan, was founded in the mid-1960s by Anton
Szander LaVey, a former circus animal trainer who was at one time best known
for keeping a lion on the back porch of his modest Richmond District home in
San Francisco. LaVey is the author of The Satanic Bible, which has reputed
sales of over half a million copies. In the book, LaVey rejects the Christian
versions of both God and the devil.
A natural showman, LaVey plays his role well, shaving his head, dressing in
sinister clothing, and calling himself "the Black Pope." He has become the
main focus of attention for many unenlightened Christian writers who never
bothered to read what he has written and therefore have no idea what he
believes in. This ignorance has resulted in endless free publicity in markets
that LaVey would never have been able to penetrate on his own. His best
advertisers have turned out to be well-intentioned Christians writing to
"protect" the public.
There are several other, smaller satanic churches and worship groups within
the United States, but the total combined membership of organized satanic
churches has been authoritatively put at well under one thousand. No member of
any of these groups has ever been implicated in any "ritual crimes." Moreover,
LaVey's much-maligned Satanic Bible directs the believer not to engage in any
antisocial acts; LaVey specifcally singles out criminal acts against children,
drug abuse, and harming animals as things that are absolutely forbidden by his
Yet, thanks to the hysteria generated by the new witch hunters, millions of
dollars and countless work hours are wasted by police agencies in attempts to
investigate a nonexistent criminal phenomenon. Inaccurate information supplied
by these supposed authorities at police seminars on satanic crime has caused
well-intentioned but misled police officers to see occult or ritualistic
aspects to crimes where none exist.
This is especially true in reports of satanic or "ritualistic child abuse."
According to Inspector Sandi Gallant of the San Francisco Police Department,
fewer than one hundred credible reports of "ritual child abuse" have been filed
nationally over the past five years. None of those accused were members of any
satanic church or identified devil-worshipping 'cult.' Only a fraction of those
reports resulted in convictions. Of those cases that did result in conviction,
the majority occurred in day care centers and involved a single pedophile or
pornographer who, working alone, used "ritualistic" trappings to frighten
children into participating and keeping silent. As the CSER report states:
Some allegations of "ritual child abuse" are frivolous. Child abuse
allegations can be a powerful weapon in a custody dispute. This,
coupled with the fact that interrogation techniques for abused
children are highly experimental and have dubious results, makes it
even more important that "ritual child abuse" cases be handled
carefully and with a healthy amount of skepticism.
It is not as simple as "believing the children" or not, as some would have
it. Unfortunately, this aspect of the issue is far too complex to go into in
detail in this article. There are organizations such as Victims of Child Abuse
Laws (VOCAL), a group of adults falsely accused of child abuse, with many
cases on file in which children were coached, threatened, or--through their
own malice--chose to lie. This is a dimension of the child abuse problem that
requires much more investigaton and research by competent professionals.
In a "standard" child abuse case, victims are often required to repeat
their story as many as thirty times to a variety of strangers. When the abuse
takes on "ritual" or occult trappings, the child has to retell his or her story
upwards of ninety times, often being paraded on television to recount the
horrors of the experience again and again in order to substantiate some
individual's or group's position on satanism. For "the greater good," the
child is made to relive the incident over and over, possibly compounding the
damage and further postponing any sort of psychological healing.
MOST of the "experts" investigated by the CSER are either fundamentalist
Christians or have received most of their information from fundamentalist
Christians. Their simplistic approach echoes their religious beliefs: anything
that is "occult" is necessarily satanic. Minority religious groups such as
Wiccans, Neo-pagans, Santeros, and native Americans have all been accused of
practicing devil worship. In other words, if it isn't Christian by the
fundamentalists' definition of Christian, it is automatically satanic.
Congress has not been free of the taint of this irrationality. Senator
Jesse Helms recently proposed an amendment to a Senate bill that would have
eliminated tax exemptions for any religion that "has as a purpose, or that has
any interest in the promoting of Satanism, or 'witchcraft' provided 'Satanism'
is defined as the worship of Satan or the powers of evil and 'witchcraft' is
defined as the use of powers derived from evil spirits, the use of sorcery, or
the use of supernatural powers with malicious intent." This means, I suppose,
that, if you get your supernatural powers from some other source and do not
use them maliciously, you can operate a tax-exempt organization. The question
that begs to be asked is: "If I have supernatural powers--from whatever
source--why would I care if I had tax-exempt status or not?" Presumably, if
the Helms amendment became law, those Christian groups that occasionally pray
for the death of selected Supreme Court justices would have their tax-exempt
status removed. In my opinion, Senator Helms is to representative democracy
what Howdy Doody is to brain surgery.
Minority religions are being persecuted for no other reason than that they
appear different and, by some definitions, "satanic." Both psychological and
physical damage is being done in highly localized "rumor panics" that are
occurring across the country. Fed by inaccurate and often sensationalized
reporting by local media, these situations are quickly capitalized on by the
This past Halloween in Tustin, California, for example, a number of cats
were found mutilated. Investigators from Orange County Animal Control
concluded that increased construction in the nearby foothills had caused a
loss of habitat for coyote prey. Coyotes were being forced to invade the urban
setting and prey upon cats, the condition of the cats' bodies clearly
indicating predator attacks.
A tiny group of "true believers" saw the mutilation of the cats as evidence
of "ritual" satanic activity and refused to accept the initial conclusion of the
animal control officers. The county was forced into an expensive, in-depth
investigation expending hundreds of work hours and tens of thousands of
taxpayers' dollars to make certain that no "ritual" satanic cat mutilations were
taking place. Ron Hudson, chief of Field Services of Orange County Animal
Control, told me that, in the interests of full objectivity, the office had
all of the mutilated cats submitted to a necropsy by a veterinarian. Over one
hundred animals were examined, after which it was duly announced that the
evidence was consistent with the animal control investigators' initial
conclusion--- that coyotes were preying on the cats.
This was, of course, ignored by the local extremists who exploited the
situation by bringing in one or two outside "experts," forming an
organization, instituting citizen patrols, and offering a reward for
information leading to the arrest of the "satanists" who were perpetrating
this atrocity. Although Orange County Animal Control acted promptly and
properly, the county taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the hundreds of
additional work hours needed to address the rumor panic brought about by a
handful of people who believed that satanists were operating locally.
To date, cats killed by coyotes are still being found, but since it is no
longer Halloween the media have little interest. It was a perfect Halloween
story and received plenty of air time, with the animal control office's
correct explanation only occasionally being included--and, even then, the
reporter often ended the piece by saying "Regardless of which side you
believe...." This is a predilection of the news media that is often overlooked
by the general public: the journalistic device of giving equal weight to
differing opinions in the interest of "fairness", even when one or more of the
opinions have little or no basis in fact. It is easier for the reporter to
report all views than to dig for the truth. This disposition of the media
creates in the minds of the viewing or reading public the impression that all
opinions have equal weight, when often they don't. lnllammatory groups such as
those discussed here.frequently consist of five or six people who are savvy
enough to call a press conference and little else. This sort of reporting does
not inform the public and does more harm than good.
The CSER report offers several recommendations to those interested in
investigating satanism or supposed occult crimes:
* Consult only credible experts. Avoid those who tell "survivor" or
"breeder" stories unless and until their allegations are borne out
by law enforcement investigations. Seminars on occult crime
featuring these people should be avoided. The CSER report provides
a list of experts whose information was found to be reliable and
* Do not rule out talking to practitioners of the occult. Most
occultists are law-abiding citizens and are quite willing to aid
the police. Occultists are no more likely to protect one of their
own than Catholics are likely to protect a fellow Catholic, and so
* Concentrate on the central aspects of a crime and treat any occult
trappings as peripheral. Do not go after larger conspiracies on
general principle; do so only if the evidence in the case directly
suggests such a conspiracy is involved.
* Whenever possible, actively inform the public about the truths and
myths of "satanic" crime. Critical investigation is more easily
carried out in an atmosphere free of hysteria.
From the evidence provided in the CSER report, we can come to several
* There is no vast, organized satanic conspiracy in the United
* Tens of thousands of children are not being "ritually sacrificed"
* The organized satanic groups that exist in the United States are
small, legitimate minority religions which are protected by the
U.S. Constitution. All of these groups expressly forbid murder,
child abuse of any kind, and the "ritual" harming of animals.
* "Ritualized child abuse" exists only on a very small scale. The
ritual trappings are used as a tool to scare the victim into
silence and are not part of some religious service.
* Criminal acts attributed to satanists or devil worshippers are the
acts of individuals or small groups of three or four people who are
not associated with other such groups. These self-styled
"satanists" usually make up their own rituals and use devil worship
to justify their antisocial behavior.
* Devotion to Satan or some evil force by individuals who commit
antisocial acts is a symptom of their mental illness--not the
cause of their behavior. Those "satanic" murderers who have been
investigated have turned out to be individuals whose hatred of
society, was manfested in devil worship and antisocial behavior-- not
caused by it.
* For a variety of reasons-- including religious fanaticism, mental
illness, bereavement, and outright opportunism-- a small number of
people continue to perpetuate an industry of fear on a credible
public to no good end.
Finally to fully understand this contemporary social phenomenon, we have to
turn to history and the themes of traditional folklore. In his research on the
great witch hunt in Europe from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries,
historian Norman Cohn discovered a single enduring paranoid theme: that
somewhere in the midst of the larger society there lurks another
society-- small, well-organized, and clandestine-- that threatens the existence
of the larger society and is addicted to inhuman practices. Cohn found that
this was a recurrent myth throughout human history. Ironically, this myth
first appeared during the second century and was directed against the early
Christians. It had its antecedents in earlier anti-Jewish polemics. Its most
infamous recent appearance was in Nazi Germany, where it was used against the
Jews. Its latest incarnation is the current wave of anti-satanist hysteria
promoted by fundamentalist Christians and others with their own secret agenda.
These modern-day witch hunters are distinguished by their use of modern
communications technology to spread ancient foolishness.
As should be obvious by now, this article is in no way to be construed as
an endorsement of belief in satanism. As an ethical humanist, I deplore the
exposition of all nonsense, regardless of the label attached to it. However,
this is a religiously and philosophically pluralistic society in which many
belief systems are allowed to exist and flourish, no matter how disturbing
those beliefs are to some. This is the price that must be paid if society is
to remain free. The best answer to nonsense is good people continuing to speak
out against it.
David Alexander has made his living as a professional magician, mentalist, and
private investigator. He is currently the owner of Centerline Press, a small
book publishing company.
The primary source for this article was Satanism in America by Shawn
Carlson, Ph.D., and Gerald A. Larue, Ph.D., with Gerry O'Sullivan, April A.
Masche, and D. Hudson Frew; special appendices by Kenneth Lanning, Robert
Hicks, and Michael Stackpole. The report is available from Gaia Press, Box
466, El Cerrito, CA 94530, for $12.95 plus $1.50 postage.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank