Thought witch hunts went out of style with the end of the
17th century? Read the following story and find out about what a
modern witch hunt is. Scary? Then send our government the
message: END THE WITCH-HUNT.
Below is a description of one of Massachusetts most
notorious modern witch hunts along with the addresses of the
governor and the parole board. Remember they work for you (even
if you are not a Massachusetts taxpayer, the feds give them some
of your tax money).
THE RETURN OF THE WITCH HUNTS
(c) Copyright Jonathan G. Harris. Permission is granted to repro-
duce this for non profit use provided this notice is attached.
"I went to that preschool since I was a baby. I even
went there during the first grade after school. I had fun. We
painted and colored," Karen (name changed for privacy), now 16,
describes some happy times that ended when her preschool closed
ten years ago. Her parents have similar memories. The center was
open and they could drop in any time. Her father said that today
Karen jumped with joy at the prospect of visiting Miss Vi; but
visiting the school's seventy year old former owner or her two
children, Gerald and Cheryl, is somewhat difficult today. They
all remain in Massachusetts prisons. The school was the infamous
Massachusetts daycare, Fells Acres.
Many consider the Fells Acres prosecution, which will
be ten years old this September, a landmark for child protec-
tion. Unfortunately, two juries and the media have overlooked
an overwhelming body of evidence that suggests the case is a
complete hoax -- part of the "ritual abuse" hysteria that be-
gan in the 1980s. The result is that for the past seven years
three innocent people have languished in prison.
It was Labor Day weekend of 1984. Gerald and his wife,
Patti, were awaiting the birth of their third child.
Cheryl and her husband, Al, married for scarcely sixteen months
were ready to start their family. Vi was thinking of retiring
and passing the eighteen year old business on to her two chil-
Sunday night the phone rang at a child abuse hot-
line. A mother told the staffer that her son had accused Gerald
Amirault of molesting him in a secret room which had a bed and a
shelf with golden trophies. The boy had attended Fells Acres
for approximately twenty days the previous spring, and had left
in June for summer vacation.
The mother and son told several conflicting versions of the
story. The boy told the police that he was taken to the secret room
on several occasions when his teachers were sick and Gerald took
over the class; but the teachers knew that Gerald never took over
Initially the boy did not know where the secret room
was because he was blindfolded. Another time the room was
at Fells Acres. Finally at the trial the boy testified that he
was driven in a car to the secret room and the magic room
which were in a white house and a brown house.
The mother told the grand jury that every day her son
attended Fells Acres, Gerald removed him from the classroom and
took him to the secret room to molest him. She added that he had
to urinate in cups and drink the urine while his teachers were
"in the room." The mother's testimony before the grand
jury left it ambiguous as to whether this was supposed to have
happened in the classroom or the secret room and which room the
teachers were in. Nobody bothered to ask her to clarify this.
The boy's teachers never saw him removed from the classroom
during nap time or drinking urine.
Police and social workers began interviewing children
and asking about secret rooms. Soon a child accused an uniden-
tified clown, and authorities warned parents to ask their
children about a magic room, a secret room, and a clown.
Accusations arose against Vi, Cheryl, most of the other teach-
ers, and imaginary people such as Mr. Gatt and Abigail
Cooper. By the time the investigators realized there were no
hidden or unused rooms at the school, there were too many magic
and secret room stories. They then decided these rooms were two
classrooms and a bathroom.
The police and DSS made no electronic recordings of the
initial interviews, so it is impossible to evaluate how much the
children were pressured into making accusations; nevertheless,
DSS reports show how investigators subjected the children to re-
peated leading questions and the use of anatomically detailed
dolls with oversized genitals, even though initially the children
said that no abuse occurred and denied the existence of a secret
room. Recently, researchers Maggie Bruck of McGill and Stephen
Ceci of Cornell have demonstrated that these techniques can pro-
duce false accusations by preschool children. Such interviews
themselves are an insidious form of child sexual abuse.
The transcripts of the two trials read like a farce.
Children admitted that they would have forgotten everything had
they not practiced their testimony with their parents. Prosecu-
tors Larry Hardoon and Patricia Bernstein had to re-ask and re-
phrase questions when children responded "no" or "I forget that
one," to abuse questions.
Many children claimed that they were removed from their
classes and that they told their teachers that they were going
to the magic room. No teacher had heard of such a room until the
beginning of the investigation. Various children also
described attacks or molestations by clowns, robots, and a
lobster. No teacher ever saw anyone dressed as a clown except
for Hicko, who performed magic at birthday parties. Supposedly,
Miss Vi fed a child a frog that quacked like a duck; Miss
Cheryl killed animals and buried their blood in the sandbox,
leaving not a trace of evidence; and someone tied a naked boy to
a tree in front of the all of the teachers and pupils.
Parents testified on how Fells Acres converted
their darlings to monsters. Every problem -- nightmares, bed
wetting, overeating, undereating, temper tantrums, jealousy,
sex play, lying, clinginess -- became a symptom of abuse.
Without any scientific basis, Psychiatrist Renee Brant justi-
fied this interpretation and introduced psychiatric jargon
-- rescue fantasies, transference, and displacement -- to
make palatable to the jury the children's stories of molesta-
tions by imaginary people and assaults in the presence of their
Prosecutors also introduced pediatric gynecologist Sara
Jean Emans to satisfy the juries' and the public's need for
"physical evidence" of the abuse. She told one jury that the
vulvitis, an irritation and inflammation of the female geni-
tals seen in three of the girls, is a "significant finding" in an
evaluation for sexual abuse. This testimony was admitted
in spite of the fact that one of these girls had not been at the
school for eighteen months at the time Emans had examined her.
When due to rubbing from abuse, such irritations generally heal
within three weeks. She further added that it was unusual to
see three girls from the same school with the condition, even
though the gynecology book she co-authored states that the
condition is common and usually due to hygiene problems.
Recently New Jersey freed Kelly Michaels, who was con-
victed under similar circumstances. Their supreme court recog-
nized that suggestive interviews of children combined with the
failure to record them and unscientific psychological tes-
timony similar to Dr. Brant's violate our right to due process.
In other states, the spirit of the Salem witch hunt remains
alive. Not only have our courts upheld all convictions, but the
parole board keeps Cheryl and Vi in prison because they will not
confess. Gerald will not even be eligible for parole until he has
spent twenty years in prison.
Many in the psychiatric community make snide remarks about
the experts who tried to warn the jury about how the outrageous
interviews prevented any reliable information from being obtained
from the children. Meanwhile, Dr. Emans, Dr. Brant, and the
prosecutors continue to hold conferences boasting about the success
of their "do any thing to obtain a conviction" approach to justice.
As long as this injustice stands, it will be a model for others
to follow, once they have found another victim.
Important addresses: write these people to tell them END THE
WITCH HUNT and free Gerald, Cheryl, and Vi.
Shiela Hubbard, Chair Governor William Weld
Massachusetts Parole Board Room 360, Statehouse
27-43 Wormwood Boston, Massachusetts 02133
Boston, Massachusetts 02210
Give the victims your moral support, and let the know where you
Violet Amirault Gerald Amirault
Box 9007 P.O Box 565
Framingham, MA 01701 Billerica, MA 01821
witchhunt information center: anonymous ftp to liquid.mit.edu
cd to /pub/witchhunt
fells: a more detailed description of this case
who_are_e7: description of largest modern witchhunt in the US and
other ritualistic abuse witchhunts.
About the author and sources:
Jonathan G. Harris is an assistant professor of chem-
ical engineering at MIT (affiliation mentioned for identification
purposes only). He also follows "fringe science." and as
part of this interest has studied the ritual abuse controversy
for over a year. The information in this article comes primari-
ly from transcripts of Gerald Amirault's trial and Cheryl
LeFave's and Violet Amirault's trial and some DSS and police
reports from the Fells Acres investigation. Also used were ap-
pellate court decisions; a friend of the court brief on behalf
of Kelly Michaels written by Professors Stephen Ceci and Maggie
Bruck; interviews with several people involved in the case.
"Karen"(alias) is a sixteen year old girl who attended Fells
Acres from when she was a baby until it closed in September
of 1984. Her name has been changed to protect the family's
privacy. The interview was carried out with the parents' consent
Documentation of any facts stated here can be provided upon re-
Jonathan G. Harris
Dept. of Chem Eng., MIT Rm 66-450
Cambridge, MA 02139
email: firstname.lastname@example.org ----------