Robert D. Hicks in his book, _In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult_, Buffalo (NY
Robert D. Hicks in his book, _In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and
the Occult_, Buffalo (NY): Prometheus Press, 1991 (ISBN: 0-87975-604-7).
Hicks looks at the role of "cult cops" in establishing and supporting
the rumors of a vast Satanic conspiracy which (according to proponents
of the theory) is responsible for up to 50,000 human sacrifices a year
in the United States, involves people in the highest levels of
government and civilian life, and recruits new members through heavy
metal music and roleplaying games such as _Dungeons & Dragons_.
He also looks long and hard at the stories told by "Satanic abuse
survivors," mostly women and children, who tell lurid stories with
similar details to social workers, psychotherapists, and talk show
audiences, despite the lack of physical evidence to support these
claims. He points out the massive amount of networking that goes on
between "Satanic abuse survivors" and within the group of
psychotherapists that deal with them, and that new details will often
show up in patients' stories shortly after the psychotherapist hears
of them at a conference or through a newsletter, suggesting that
people with "multiple personality disorders" (who make up the majority
of Satanic abuse survivors) are especially susceptible to hypnotic
suggestion, and that the hypnotists may be implanting some of the
details the patients recount.
He dissects the McMartin Pre-School case and several other, where,
after leading interviews conducted by both police and non-police
agencies, children claimed to have sexually abused or to have taken
part in "Satanic" rituals (hundreds in the McMartin case). In the
pursuit of convictions, contradictory evidence was ignored, the lack
of supporting evidence was overlooked, and children denying abuse were
talked into confessing abuse.
Hicks examines the "Matamoros Death Cult", where "Satanic" sacifices
were carried out by drug smugglers in order to obtain divine
protection for their activities, and discusses the impact of the media
coverage on the general public's knowledge and understanding of
minority religions such as Santeria and Palo Mayombe, Voudoun, and
Wicca and other pagan and neo-pagan religions.
Finally, he looks at some of the reasons that Satanic cults and ritual
crimes are being touted by the police and the media as the
explanations for otherwise "unexplainable" crimes, including the rise
in fundamentalist Christian activism; subversion myths, where concerns
about perceived breakdowns of social order are expressed by stories
("urban legends") which assign blame to an Other, which allows the
rest of the community to feel solidarity; and "moral" or "rumor
panics", where a "deviant" event leads a community to perceive
evidence of a larger conspiracy, and to demand action by authorities.
The heart of the argument in favor of belief in a vast Satanic
conspiracy is the stories of the "cult survivors" and the media
coverage of the subject. The lack of evidence to support this theory
is used as evidence _for_ it -- the Satanic conspiracy is supposedly
so sophisticated and so powerful that it rarely leaves evidence, and
is in a position to cover up any that is found.
Hicks argues that the practice of police agencies attributing crimes
to "cult" activity often interferes with their ability to find the
actual causes of the criminal activity. Cult cops appearances in the
media and as paid speakers or guests at local community meetings adds
to the likelihood of "moral panics" occuring and "urban legends" being
told as "true stories", and contributes to a hostile attitude towards
new religious movements, and, especially, towards the religious
practices of minority groups.
The figure of 50,000 victims of human sacrifice annually is one
that seems to be generally accepted by the "cult cops"; Hicks
attributes it to Deputy sheriff Larry Dunn, with support from
survivor Jacquie Balodis, who says, "devil worshipers sacrifice
50,000 humans a year, mainly transients, runaways, and babies
conceived solely for the purpose of sacrifice." (p. 58, from an
article by Melissa Berg, "Satanic Crime Increasing? Police,
Therapists Alarmed," _Kansas City Times_, March 26, 1988.)
The "FBI report" some posters have mentioned may actually be an
article by Kenneth V. Lanning, Special Supervisory Agent, Federal
Bureau of Investigation, "Satanic, Occult, Ritualistic Crime: A Law
Enforcement Perspective," _Police Chief_, 46, no. 10:62-83 (1989).
As others have noted, the 50,000 figure is unbelievably large.
The FBI's _Crime in the United States_ reported 20,045 total
murders in the U.S. in 1990, down from 21,860 in 1980. By
comparison, there were 62,000 reported residential robberies in
1990. Are we really supposed to believe ritual murder is nearly
as common as residential robbery?
If these 50,000 really include a substantial number of babies
bred for sacrifice, the numbers don't show it. There were
4,041,000 recorded live births in 1989, and only 40,000 deaths of
infants under 1 year old, so 50,000 deaths would mean an
unnoticed doubling of the infant death rate, or concealment of
more than 1% of all pregnancies leading to live birth.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank