The Hard Facts About Satanic Ritual Abuse
By Bob and Gretchen Passantino
An edited version of this article first appeared in the winter 1992 Christian Research Journal
WARNING: Because of the horrific nature of these reports, some of this
article may be disturbing to readers. Every attempt has been made to deal
with the subject objectively and with circumspect language.
A young teenage girl, impregnated during a satanic ritual, is forcibly delivered of her nearly term
baby, forced to ritually kill the child and then to cannibalize its heart as cult members watch. Another girl,
a small child, is sealed inside the cavity of a disemboweled animal and "rebirthed" by her cultic captors
during a ceremony. A preschool class is systematically sexually, emotionally, and physically abused by part
of a nationwide, nearly invincible network of satanic pedophiles and pornographers. A young girl is
thrown into an electrified cage with wolves and ritually tortured to deliberately produce a "wolf
personality," part of her multiple personality disorder (MPD).
These are a few of the thousands of horrifying stories circulating throughout the nation and
abroad. Some true believers (see SRA glossary)
in this phenomenon say there are more than 100,000 "adult survivors" who
have entered therapy and "remembered" these horrible abuses. Others more than double the number.
These terrifying accounts are tied to the current public concern about stranger abduction of children, said
by true believers to number in the thousands annually. True believers say the conspiracy is almost
invincible, covers the nation (if not the world), and involves key power players in the courts, education,
politics, religion, and society.
True believers provide unconditional support to alleged adult survivors whose therapeutically
recovered "memories" typically indict their elderly parents for heinous crimes including murder,
cannibalism, sexual torture, incest, and bestiality. Some bring their cases to law enforcement, hoping for
criminal prosecution. Some obtain restraining orders barring their parents from seeing them or their
grandchildren. Some cut all ties with family and disappear. Some begin new lives as television and radio
talk show guests, sharing their gruesome stories coast to coast during after school television time. Almost
all are in the midst of long term intensive therapeutic counseling, many are involved in dozens of
psychiatric hospitalizations and almost daily therapy sessions and support group meetings. Small children
are sometimes snatched from their parents' custody on the whisper of a suspicion that the parents may be
involved in satanic ritual abuse (SRA).
True believers among therapists, alleged adult survivors, law enforcement, journalists, and
Christian leaders unanimously call for everyone to believe the stories, to change the justice system so
recovered "memories" alone can convict in criminal court, and to rise up against this nearly invincible
If it is true, such reactions are to be expected. If it is not true then families are being destroyed,
truth is being ignored, biblical standards of evidence and testimony are being thrown away, "survivors" are
being trapped in long term destructive therapeutic situations, and Satan is getting more credit than he is
due. In this article we move beyond the sensationalism and emotionalism to take a serious look at satanic
ritual abuse (SRA) stories.
The History of SRA Reports 
Until the early 1980s, law enforcement, the media, religious researchers, and sociologists
recognized four main categories of contemporary satanism: (1) teenage self-styled or dabblers; (2) adult
self-styled; (3) religious or public; and (4) small group. The idea of a widespread, almost invincible,
multi-generational satanic conspiracy was not entertained any more seriously than ideas of UFO abduction
However, during the early 1980s, a variety of factors combined to produce a rich fertilizer for the
growth of SRA reports.
First, cohabitation and divorce rates skyrocketed, producing fragmented family units, single parent
families, "blended" families, and many families with no daytime adult supervision. This provided pressure
toward dysfunctional individual family actions (neglect, abuse, incest, etc.). It also provided the setting for
manipulative intrafamily actions (custody disputes, child abandonment, spouse and even child accusations,
Second, the mental health community underwent shifts in perspective and membership from that
of the instructors and nurturers of society to a general feeling that mental health professionals should
reflect and explain society as it was to their clients. This was a shift from intervention to reaction, leaving
many mental health professionals with inadequate critical apparatus to test their clients' sometimes
inaccurate perceptions of reality. The concept of counseling also broadened considerably, collecting under
its opened umbrella licensed therapists, social workers, lay counselors, peer counselors, support group
members and leaders, and pastoral counselors, as well as the traditionally included psychiatrists and
psychologists. This diminished the minimum requirements for professional training and allowed for a
wide diversity of belief and practice.
Third, increased interest in women's rights issues and in religious activism caused a greater
awareness of and vigorous opposition to both pornography and physical and sexual child abuse. While
women's rights advocates and activist evangelicals frequently opposed each other's goals and beliefs, on the
issues of pornography and child abuse they united in a concern for protection of victims. This heightened
interest generated special interest groups and experts who, usually with the best of intentions, still needed
to find a depth and breadth of danger to warrant large commitments of time, legislation, and funding.
Fourth, a significant segment of American evangelicalism developed a complex satanic end times
view, combining the 1970s "deliverance" ministries with "rapture" theology. While the end times
speculators of the 1970s pointed primarily at Israel as a sign of the imminent rapture, the speculators of
the 1980s also emphasized the rise of destructive occult activity as a sign of the imminent rapture. In Mike
Warnke's testimony of his purported former involvement with satanism, The Satan Seller, he claimed that
in 1965 he led a group of 1,500 satanists in a desert area of Southern California, and that he was "part of a
deep and widespread organization, operating not only in the U.S., but all over the world."
Each of these four developments, (1) family disintegration, (2) mental health community diffusion,
(3) activist opposition to victimization, and (4) evangelical expectation of increasing occult activity,
provided the nutrients for the development of SRA reports in the 1980s. The first publicized case was that
of Michelle Smith, an emotionally dysfunctional woman who with her therapist (and later husband)
discovers what they identified as previously repressed early childhood memories of horrible physical and
sexual abuse in a bizarre secret satanic cult whose members included her immediate family. No
corroborative evidence was obtained, said Michelle and Pazder, for a variety of reasons: (1) by its very
nature, a conspiracy's activities are secret and unknown, (2) the cultists planted disinformation such as
wrong dates along with the real experiences Michelle remembered, (3) the almost invincible cult destroyed
the evidence, (4) some of the very people to whom Michelle could turn for help were involved in the
conspiracy. Nevertheless, Michelle and Pazder say that his therapeutic expertise is able to determine that
Michelle's story is true. Almost all of the subsequent SRA stories have followed the same pattern sparked
by The Satan Seller and developed in Smith and Pazder's book, Michelle Remembers.
The typical SRA story displays uniform essential elements, whether or not the story is "discovered"
by a therapist, social worker, or parent, and whether or not the victim is an adult or a child.
The Victims. The common adult victim is a white woman between the ages of twenty-five and
forty-five with a previous history of non-specific psychological problems, often a history of suicide attempts,
and who is either intensely religious (usually evangelical or charismatic Protestant), or who comes from an
intensely religious background or exposure. The typical adult victim is highly suggestible, intelligent,
creative, and well-learned if not well educated. The victim first seeks counseling help for a seemingly
unrelated problem. From our own conversations with dozens of alleged adult survivors, we feel
comfortable in affirming that the vast majority of them sincerely believe their stories, although sincerity
cannot determine a story's veracity.
Child victims are much less clearly identifiable, although most are well motivated to please adults,
intelligent, and loyal to the supportive parent. Perhaps this is because children's disclosures of SRA almost
always follow questioning by worried parents or mental health workers. It is interesting to note that often
the supportive parent has characteristics in common with the typical adult victim. If the child is disclosing
SRA caused by an immediate family member, it is typically in a divorce or separation situation where the
accused is the non-supportive parent or one of the non-supportive parent's relatives.
The Victimizers. Typically the victim's immediate family members are the perpetrators (even if
the victim may see his or her family as former victims who have turned to victimization because of their
own trauma). When the immediate family is not involved (as in many of the children's stories but almost
none of the alleged adult survivor stories), caregivers in regular custody of the victim are the perpetrators
(preschool teachers, day care workers, parents in divorce situations, etc.). The hypothetical psychological
profile of the SRA perpetrator contradicts the most common features of known physical and sexual
abusers, psychotics, sociopaths, pornographers, and serial killers, leading one to doubt that such an abuser
SRA Abuse. The abuse includes emotional (terrifying threats, deliberate heightening of fear, etc.),
physical (beating, cutting, etc.), sexual (incest, mutilation of sexual organs, etc.), and spiritual (threats that
God won't forgive, Jesus is defeated, etc.).
The ritual elements of the abuse are always satanic or occultic. Common features of satanic
ceremony folklore such as the black mass, human sacrifice, drinking of blood, and satanic symbols are
common, although victims typically cannot reproduce the intricacies of occult ritual beyond what is
commonly available in general bookstores or what they have heard from other victims or therapists.
SRA Disclosure. Usually adult SRA stories are disclosed in a therapeutic setting. The adult
victim generally begins therapy for a seemingly unrelated problem such as a sleep or eating disorder,
depression, or marital difficulties. During the course of treatment either the therapist or the client will
raise the possibility of repressed memories of SRA. With sensationalistic reports of SRA scattered
throughout the media, there is hardly a client or therapist who has not heard of SRA and its horrors.
At first the client may deny a past history of SRA, or may not remember anything, or may have fragments of
almost meaningless images of SRA. After long term, intensive therapy with a therapist committed to
believing the client no matter what the client discloses, the alleged adult survivor will gradually piece
together a complex personal SRA history. Usually the therapist decides that the repression was facilitated
by a dissociative state, multiple personality disorder (MPD). After more long term, intensive therapy and
support group involvement, including "abreacting," or "reliving" each of the traumatic "memories," the
client may become emotionally well.
The child who discloses an SRA story almost always does so at the prompting of a parent or
mental health professional. Most frequently such disclosure comes after frequent, prolonged questioning.
Most often the perpetrator is identified by the child as a non-family member regular care giver, such as a
day care worker. When family members are accused, they are most likely grandparents of the spouse
other than the one reporting the abuse, or a parent or step-parent estranged from the family.
Accusations against public officials, entertainment personalities, neighbors, or other more distant adults usually come
only after the case has been sensationalized and the child has been questioned incessantly about "the
others." Children are much less likely to be diagnosed with MPD. The common presumption is that they
are terrified to tell, not they have repressed their memories of SRA.
Those who suspect they are victims of SRA, or suspect their children may be victims, are urged by
true believers to seek support and affirmation from therapists, friends, support groups, and family members
who believe them unconditionally. Whether the stories are true or not, this reinforcement and isolation
from critical thinking intensifies the victims' beliefs concerning SRA.
The SRA Conspiracy. The common SRA story includes strong commitment to a conspiracy theory
of history. That is, the victimization is not seen as the isolated depraved action of a psychotic or
sociopathic individual. Instead, the victimization is part of a widespread, multi-generational, nearly
omnipotent satanic conspiracy involving thousands or even millions of people, many in the very highest
levels of society, government, law enforcement, religion, and even mental health institutions. We have
heard SRA stories accusing famous televangelists, police chiefs, FBI agents, the Pope, CIA leaders, U.N.
members, millionaires, philanthropists, pastors, teachers, school principals, psychiatrists, and others. Such a
conspiracy theory accomplishes two very important objectives: (1) it accounts for the absolute lack of
corroborative evidence of SRA; and (2) it allows for commonly accepted assumptions to be adduced in
support of its existence.
SRA Conspiracies and Evidence.
When SRA stories first surfaced in the early 1980s, first with
Michelle Remembers and then in 1983 with the McMartin preschool case in Southern California, then the
Bakersfield, California and Jordan, Minnesota cases, many journalists, law enforcement personnel, and
mental health professionals tended to believe that SRA existed, at least hypothetically. We know horrible
people do terrible things to others, that people often conspire, that there are satanists, and that abuse
within a ritual context sometimes happens. However, when dozens of stories turned into hundreds and
then thousands of stories, none of which produced a single piece of corroborative evidence, some former
believers became healthy skeptics. San Francisco police officer Sandi Gallant has qualified her former
credulity, saying, "our largest problem is that we live in a negative environment that breeds negative
behavior [and] has little to do with spiritual beliefs."
Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth Lanning, of the
FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, has investigated over 300 SRA reports and has yet to find corroborative
evidence. While still affirming his willingness to look for and find such hypothetical evidence, Lanning
points out the problems inherent in the SRA conspiracy theory:
Any professional evaluating victims' allegations of ritualistic abuse cannot ignore
the lack of physical evidence (no bodies or physical evidence left by violent murders), the
difficulty in successfully committing a large-scale conspiracy crime (the more people
involved in any crime conspiracy, the harder it is to get away with it), and human nature
(intragroup conflicts resulting in individual self-serving disclosures are likely to occur in
any group involved in organized kidnapping, baby breeding, and human sacrifice).
Corroborative evidence: what it isn't. True believers, as we already stated, offer four main
"proofs" for SRA: (1) all conspiracies are secret and unknown; (2) evidence against a story is evidence that
a satanist planted false evidence; (3) only a conspiracy such as true believers describe has the capability of
destroying all the evidence; and (4) the very people who should be fighting this are part of it. To this can
be added (5) the firm belief that only therapists can tell that victims are telling the truth; (6) children
(whether physiologically children or the fractured child personalities of an MPD client) don't lie about
such horrible things and no one would make up these horrific tales; (7) accused perpetrators' refusal to
confess show the depths of depravity to which they have descended; (8) non-determinative evidence
validates the conspiracy (what a true believer calls an abuse scar a skeptic calls an appendix operation
scar); (9) individual occult-related criminal acts validate the whole conspiracy; and (10) the conspiracy
explains the abduction of thousands of children each year.
Trying to disprove a negative. In addition to these ten methods of support for SRA conspiracy
theories, true believers often demand that doubters disprove their theory. That is, the investigator is
required to adduce overwhelming, unequivocal evidence that the conspiracy can't possibly be happening or
else the true believer will consider his own view vindicated. This matches the absurdity of a man, charged
at random, having to prove he didn't kill a murder victim last January 24. Fortunately, our justice system
is based on the premise that one is innocent until proven guilty. In the same manner, the more reasonable
theory should be adopted unless there is overwhelming evidence in favor of the more sensationalistic. The
"evidence" in favor of SRA conspiracies is negligible, not overwhelming.
Logical examination of each of these ten "proofs" quickly reveals their fatal
flaws. While conspiracies are certainly secret, they cannot continue to exist and function in society without
leaving a trail. For example, the FBI may not have known how extensive the Mafia's network was until
years of painstaking investigation and the confessions of some members, but the Mafia left plenty of
physical evidence in the form of bodies, bullet holes, arson cases, beatings, and a host of other illegal
activities. No one has found Jimmy Hoffa's body, but at least there is evidence that he existed.
Statistically, such an invincible secrecy is impossible. Let's say there are 100,000 adult survivors. They
represent only a small subgroup of the conspiracy. They are the ones who were not killed, who eventually
escaped the control of the cult, who got into therapy, who "remembered" their abuse, and who then were
willing to tell about it. If we peg the average number of abusive events per survivor at fifty (a conservative
figure), that would give us 5,000,000 criminal events over the last fifty years in America alone. And not a
shred of corroborative evidence?
Contrary evidence. There are several problems with the second "proof." Evidence against a story,
if gathered professionally and examined objectively, is just that: evidence against a story, not evidence for
the story. Offering only one explanation for contrary evidence is committing an either/or (disjunctive)
fallacy. For example, if an alleged adult survivor's story of being an only child is contradicted by proof that
her older sister lived with her until she was a teenager, the true believer would have us believe the
contrary evidence can only be explained as evidence for victimization -- perhaps the victim was so
traumatized she repressed memory of her sister, or perhaps the satanists deliberately manipulated her
memory. The true believer totally ignores the much more likely alternative that the SRA conspiracy
scenario is as untrue as the only child memory. Without evidence, suspicions of tampering with the
evidence are groundless.
Missing evidence. The third argument, a variation on the second, falls into the same either/or
fallacy: the true believer admits only one possible reason there is no evidence -- obviously, only a
conspiracy as big as the SRA stories could destroy everything. However, in reality there are at least two
possible reasons there is no evidence, and one is that the theory is not true. The facts of the case do not
change, one's presupposition determines how he will interpret the non-evidence. This is not a proof, and
certainly not evidence. It is a subjective belief.
Paranoia. The fourth argument, accusing those who disagree as co-conspirators, stretches the true
believers' credibility, and without some warrant for such charges, it dwindles to paranoid name calling.
Lanning described this vulnerability well, saying,
Paranoid belief systems are characterized by the gradual development of intricate,
complex, and elaborate systems of thinking based on and often proceeding logically from
misinterpretation of actual events. It typically involves hypervigilance over the perceived
threat, the belief that danger is around every corner, and the willingness to take up the
challenge and do something about it. Another very important aspect of this paranoia is
the belief that those who do not recognize the threat are evil and corrupt. In this extreme
view, you are either with them or against them. You are either part of the solution or
part of the problem.
Ph.Deities. The fifth way true believers attempt to support the SRA conspiracy theory betrays a
niave and inappropriate trust in authority, if not self-aggrandizement on the part of true believer
therapists. Therapists do not have some sort of omnipotent visionary power to determine who is
recounting reality and who is ascribing reality to fantasy. As one forensic psychologist joked to us, "they
sound more like Ph.Deities than therapists!" It amazes us that Christians like Hal Lindsey and Johanna
Michaelsen, who previously gave strong support to Christian psychotherapy critics like Dave Hunt, now tell
us Christians can't necessarily discern truth regarding Satan, but secular psychotherapists using directive
therapy can. Psychologists Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield point out the danger in placing blind
trust in the discernment of therapists:
The believers in the satanic conspiracy who . . . see themselves as having the
special power to discern abuse and reach into children and adults who deny being abused
to discover the truth are, in fact, claiming a special, magical power and knowledge not
available to the rest of us. The claim to esoteric knowledge not available to ordinary folk
has been the hallmark of magical claims and cultic righteousness since the days of the
Greek mystery religions and the early Christian heresy of Gnosticism.
Children do not always tell the truth. The sixth claim, that children (or childlike MPD
manifestations) don't lie about abuse gained popularity during the early 1980s as part of the child
protection movement. This belief is heavily promoted by many of the most vocal child protection
advocates, even though some, such as UCLA psychiatrist Roland Summit, admit that there are no
controlled studies to validate this.
In addition, one of the major problems with accurately discerning SRA stories is that psychological
models used to understand the dynamics of regular child abuse are superimposed on alleged SRA victims
without demonstrating that such a transference is valid. Another Summit maxim, the "child sexual abuse
accommodation syndrome," asserts that children who have been abused characteristically are reluctant to
disclose and often recant their stories. Summit and other therapists even use the accommodation
syndrome to determine whether or not a child has been abused. This may have limited validity in an
incest situation in an intact family, where revelation of a child's victimization may cause the removal of the
perpetrator from the family and recriminations from other family members. However, as Coleman notes,
it is worse than useless "in cases in which the perpetrator is a non-supported outsider or a non-custodial
parent accused by the custodial parent." No one wants to minimize the pain, trauma, and terror that
child victims of any kind suffer, but to impose an abuse syndrome indiscriminately on children who have
not been abused victimizes them rather than protects them.
It is considered more incredible that someone would "make up" or "lie" about unbelievable ritual
abuse than that such abuse actually occurred. Some true believer therapists have developed variations of
this idea, such as psychiatrist Bennet Braun's "rule of five": if he hears the same kind of abuse story from
five different clients who have no known common association, he accepts the story as authentic. Such a
fallacy of credulity, however, ignores both the complexity of possible reasons one could believe and/or tell
a story that is not true and also the reality that some SRA stories have been shown to be false.
Clients who unknowingly told false stories have been reported. Causes are often broadly described
as directive therapy. Often the controversial practice of hypnotism is used, sometimes with clearly false
results. Several experts, including one of the nation's leading specialists in MPD, psychiatrist George
Ganaway, and leading hypnosis expert, psychologist Nicholas Spanos, have linked high suggestibility (of
which hypnotizability is an indicator) to MPD and alleged adult survivor SRA stories.
Sometimes inadvertent hypnosis or self-hypnosis can have tragic consequences, such as the Paul Ingram case, in which
a parent accused of SRA by an adult daughter succumbed to intensive interrogation, pastoral pressure, and
subtle hypnotic cues; and then through self-induced hypnosis "remembered" the SRA so he could confess
and plead guilty in criminal court! Memory idiosyncracies can play a crucial part in false stories, too, as
noted by leading memory expert psychologist Elizabeth Loftus and others.
Some false stories are produced with the cooperation of the client, including cases of factitious,
simulated, or malingering dissociative disorders. One of the most interesting cases of factitious disorder
is chronicled by Philip M. Coons in his "Factitious Disorder (Munchausen Type) Involving Allegations of
Ritual Satanic Abuse." In this case, the client made a mini-career out of traveling cross-country, supported
by different SRA support groups and admitted to in-patient facilities where she remained until her ruse
was discovered and she moved on.
Denial does not prove guilt. The seventh reason true believers cite is a variation of the fourth
reason. Accused perpetrators are given a non-lethal form of the same kind of guilt or innocence test given
to suspected witches during medieval times: If the witch didn't confess once charged, that proved he or
she was unrepentant and should die; if one did confess, the rightly deserved punishment was death.
Today's true believers don't kill those they accuse, but they leave them with no way to affirm their
innocence -- a protestation of innocence becomes a tautological "proof" of guilt.
Non-determinative evidence. True believers sometimes attempt to find corroborative evidence.
Often they refer to amorphous "files full of evidence," but are unable to cite any single piece of evidence.
Sometimes they refer to always unidentified "officials" who have seen their evidence and advised the
victims to keep quiet or risk death from the avenging cult.
Sometimes they cite ambiguous or non-determinative evidence. Lauren Stratford impressed
Johanna Michaelsen when she identified a local site as a place where she had participated in rituals,
claiming no true believer had confirmed that site to her before. Such knowledge proved to Michaelsen
that Stratford's SRA story was true. On the contrary, it only proved Stratford pointed it out. Perhaps she
heard about it from someone else and forgot or lied about knowing; or made a lucky guess; or picked up
Michaelsen's subtle body language and inadvertent verbal cues. And even if she did point out a site
without prior knowledge, that doesn't validate her whole life story.
In a telephone interview with us, Dr. James Friesen, a Christian therapist and author of the
popular Uncovering the Mystery of MPD, told us he had corroborative evidence to support an SRA story.
A woman claimed she had been impregnated through SRA and given birth to a child later used in a
human sacrifice. Her family had no knowledge of her ever giving birth. This woman's gynecologist
confirmed that she had given birth at some time in the past. This only proves she gave birth, it doesn't
prove the circumstances of the pregnancy or birth or the fate of her child.
Individual occult related crime. True believers almost invariably point to sensationalistic crimes of
great tragedy and violence as though they prove the SRA conspiracy. Loner self-styled satanist Richard
Ramirez does not fit the SRA profile at all, but true believers mention him along with Sean Sellers, a self-
styled teen satanist who killed his parents; Ricky Kasso, a teen drug dealer and self-styled satanist who
killed a friend and then committed suicide, and the Matamoros drug ring murders committed within an
African-Caribbean occultism, Palo Mayombe. None of them fit the SRA pattern in any way. During our
telephone interview with Jim Friesen, he said he would send us news clippings citing evidence in support of
his SRA theories. The clippings, none of which substantiated SRA claims, included crimes like these.
Missing statistics for missing children. The last support most true believers use is some variation
on the idea that the SRA conspiracy explains a number of socially accepted ideas, signified here with the
example of the commonly held assumption that there are thousands of missing children each year. The
SRA conspiracy theory accounts for this phenomenon: the children are sacrificed in satanic rituals! Dr.
Al Carlise estimates 40,000 - 60,000 people are killed in satanic rituals yearly. Other true believers cite
smaller numbers, but still in the tens of thousands. And yet, when statistical studies are done concerning
missing children, we find the truth does not fit the SRA conspiracy model. In fact, the vast majority of
children reported missing each year are accounted for within a twelve month period, leaving fewer than
300 unaccounted for after one year. The majority of missing children either are taken by non-custodial
parents in custody disputes or are runaways. Debbie Nathan summarizes,
Research into claims about mass kidnappings likewise deflates the hype: A
recently released Justice Department study finds that almost all missing children are
teenage runaways or throwaways. The typical kidnapping is committed by a divorced
parent who has lost custody. As for stranger-abductions, the Washington D. C.-based
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children currently lists about 240 children
missing in the entire country. Still, much of the American public is convinced that
molesters, sadists, kidnappers, and pornographers are major threats to our kids.
Certainly to a parent whose child is missing, the size of the problem is immaterial, the grief is real, and the
suffering is deep. But it is wrong to confuse compassion for an individual with a blind acceptance of false
statistics in a futile effort to support an SRA conspiracy theory.
At least as damaging are the increasingly common false reports of child sexual abuse, sometimes
fueled and supported by inadequate test methods, over zealous medical and mental health professionals,
and needlessly concerned parents. Drs. Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield summarize the tragedy
of false reports concerning children and SRA:
To treat a child as if satanic abuse were real is to teach that child that the world
is filled with evil, that powerful forces can hurt us and destroy us and we cannot stop it. It
is to train a child to distrust others, to believe in the most macabre, disgusting, and
horrifying events. It is to train a child to live in an irrational world in an irrational
manner and so steal from the child the ability to live a life of reason and logical coping
skills. It is to reify a child's most terrifying fantasies and force a child to grow into an
adult whose world remains at the level of a constant night terror. It is to run the risk of
training a child to be psychotic, not able to distinguish between reality and unreality. It is
to irrevocably and likely irretrievably damage a child and induce a lifelong experience of
There is no evidence that SRA stories are true. There are alternate hypotheses that more
reasonably explain the social, professional, and personal dynamics reflected in this contemporary satanic
panic. The tragedy of broken families, traumatized children, and emotionally incapacitated adults is
needless and destructive. Careful investigation of the stories, the alleged victims, and the proponents has
given us every reason to reject the satanic conspiracy model in favor of reason and truth.
The Bible tells us we serve the God of truth (Isaiah 65:16). Paul tells us to test everything,
clinging only to what is good (2 Thessalonians 5:21-22). He commends the Bereans for testing what he
taught by God's Word, what was known to be true (Acts 17:11). Peter warns us by example not to be
seduced by cunningly devised myths (2 Peter 1:16). God commands us not to bear false witness against
another (Deuteronomy 5:20). Matthew 18:15-19 warns us not to bring any accusation of sin against a
fellow Christian without evidence and witnesses. God's judgment against those who do evil is according to
truth (Romans 2:2). Should our judgment be based on fallacies, non-evidence, subjectivism, and worldly
wisdom? Let us be committed to compassion for victims and biblical judgment for victimizers, but let us
not become victimizers by faulty judgment and false accusations. With sound wisdom and biblically based
discernment, we need have no fear of a monolithic satanic conspiracy:
You will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.
- Some stories are chronicled in such books as Truddi Chase's When Rabbit
Howls (New York: Jove Books, 1987), James G. Friesen's Uncovering the
Mystery of MPD (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1991), Robert
S. Mayer's Satan's Children (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1991),
Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder's Michelle Remembers (New York:
Congdon & Lattes, 1980), Judith Spencer's Suffer the Child (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1989), and Lauren Stratford's Satan's Underground
(Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1988; Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing
- See, e.g., Friesen. A good reference in response to SRA stories is James
T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David G. Bromley, The Satanism Scare (New
York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991).
- Bob Larson, who hosts a nationally syndicated Christian radio talk show,
claims that there are "several hundreds of thousands" of adults who "remember"
such horrible abuse.
- Some say that between 40,000 and 60,000 persons per year are ritually
murdered (statisic attributed to Dr. Al Carlisle of the Utah State Prison
System by Jerry Johnston [The Edge of Evil (Dallas: Word Books, 1989)]
- Whether the true believer uses the term conspiracy, a synonym such
as "infiltration" (as Bob Larson uses), or no term at all, the assumption is
- Three notable cases where dozens of children were taken from their parents
before there was any corroborative evidence to back up suspicions were in
Bakersfield, California; Jordan, Minnesota; and in England.
- The phenomenon of SRA reports is of relatively recent origin. The various
aspects are often ambiguous, open-ended, and/or complex. In addition, most of
the constructive professional dialogue on the subject has appeared in papers
presented at conferences, articles in professional journals, and newspaper
articles. Little has been discussed in book form.
(see SRA Bibliography)
- Space limitations preclude discussing a history of Satanism here. The
reader is referred to Bob and Gretchen Passantino's When the Devil Dares
Your Kids (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1991), 34-38. A
description and history of witchcraft is on pages 50-55.
- Further information on on the types of contemporary Satanists is
available in Craig Hawkins's "The Many Faces of Satanism," Foward,
Fall 1986, 16-22.
- For further information on this aspect of SRA development, see the journal
Child Abuse and Neglect; Debbie Nathan, "The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax,"
The Village Voice, 12 June 1990, 36-44; Ralph Underwager and Hollida
Wakefield, "Cur Allii, Prae Aliis? (Why Some, and Not Others?)," Issues in
Child Abuse Accusations3,3:178-93; Jeffrey Victor, "The Satanic Cult Scare
and Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse," Issues in Child Abuse Accusations
3,3:135-43; Wakefield and Underwager's "Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce and
Custody Disputes," Behavioral Sciences and the LAW (in press); and
Sherrill Mulhern, "Ritual Abuse: Creating a Context for Belief," Laboratoire des
- For further information on this subject, see John Johnson and Steve Padilla's
"Satanism: Growing Concern - And Skepticism" (Los Angeles Times, 23 April
1991) and Jeffrey Victor's "The Spread of Satanic-Cult Rumors" (Skeptical
Inquirer [14 Spring 1990]:287-91).
- See Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham's
(New York): St. Martin's Press, 1991), Joel Best's "Missing Children, Misleading
Statistics" (The Public Interest, 84-92), Lee Colemans's "False Allegations
of Child Sexual abuse" (Forum, January-February 1986, 12-22), and the
journal Issues in Child Abuse Accusations.
- For further information on this development in end times theology, see
Gary DeMar's Last Days Madness (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt,
Publishers, 1991), especially chapters eight and nine.
- Mike Warnke, The Satan Seller (Plainfield, NJ: Logos Books, 1972),
- The vast majority of alleged adult survivors fit this general profile,
although occasionally there are male vicims, younger women, ethnic minority
members, and so forth.
- See George Ganaway's discussion of this in "Historical versus Narrative
Truth: Clarifying the Role of Exogenous Trauma in the Etiology of MPD and its
Variants." Dissociation 2, 4:205-20.
- See, e.g., Wakefield and Underwager, "Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce
and Custody Disputes."
- A fascinating study of this is in Martha Rogers's "Evaluating an Alleged
Satanic Ritualistic Abuser: What We Don't Know," Issues in Child Abuse
- Many details closely follow descriptions in Anton LaVay's The Satanic
Bible (New York: Avon Books, 1969), The Satan Seller, Michelle Remembers,
and other popular books found in general bookstores. It sometimes is possible
to follow particular details as they spread from one victim through a support
group or therapist to other victims (see, e.g., Victor's "The Satanic Cult Scare,"
- In our three years of extensive research into SRA and alleged adult survivors,
the fully well adult survivor is rare to nonexistent.
- While it is true that questioning often begins with a general troubling
complaint by a child such as "My teacher touched me funny," that is not
considered a disclosure of an SRA story.
- See, e.g., Underwager and Wakefield's "Cur Allii, Prae Aliis?"
- Remeber, the individual or samll group engaging in criminal abuse is not
indicative of SRA, in which widespread conspiracy is an essential part of the
- E.g., loner Satanist abuse, sexual fondling in a Roman Catholic confessional,
or repeated nonreligious abuse in a prescribed manner, location, or sequence.
- Kenneth V. Lanning, "Commentary on Ritual Abuse: A Law Enforcement View or
Perspective," Child Abuse and Neglect 15 (1991):171-73.
- See our article on Lauren Stratford's Satan's Underground entitled
"Satan's Sideshow," issue 90,26-28.
- This fallacy is discussed in our book Witch Hunt (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 113-16.
- Kenneth V. Lanning, "Satanic, Occult, Ritualistic Crime: A Law Enforcement
Perspective," The Police Chief, October 1989.
- Coleman. See also Jerome Cramer's, "Why Children Lie in Court," Time,
4 March 1991, 76; Wakefield and Underwager's "Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce
and Custody Disputes"; and Debbie Nathan's "False Evidence: How Bad Science
fueled the Hysteria over Child Abuse," LA Weekly, 7-13 April 1989, 15-18.
- Coleman, 12.
- Reported in Diane S. Lund's "Psychiatrists Debate the Extent of Ritual Abuse,"
The Psychiatric TImes, April 1991, 54-55. Often true believers believe
Braun's Rule of Five is misrepresented. However, Braun confirmed his view
essentially as stated in a phone interview with our frequent coauthor, Jon Trott.
- See, e.g., Phillip Coon, "Iatrogenic Factors in the Misdiagnosis of
Multiple Personality Disorder," Dissociation 2, 2:70-76; George Ganaway,
"Historical versus Narrative Truth," and Ganaway, "Alternative Hypotheses
Regarding Satanic Ritual Abuse Memories" (presented at the ninety-ninth annual
convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, 19 August
1991); Jon Trott, "Satanic Panic: The Ingram Family and Other Victims of
Hysteria in America," Cornerstone, issue 95,9-12; Ethan Watters, "The
Devil in Mr. Imgram," Mother Jones, July/August 1991, 30-68; and
Glenna Whitley, "The Seduction of Gloria Grady," D Magazine, October 1991,
- The best data on the use of hypnosis subtly directing client response is
detailed in Nicholas Spanos et. al, "Secondary Identity Enactments During
Hypnotic Past-Life Regression: A Sociocognitive Perspective," Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 61, 2:308-20.
- Ganaway, "Historical versus Narrative Truth."
- Nicholas P. Spanos, John R. Weekes, and Lorne D. Bertrand, "Multiple
Personality: A Social Psychological Perspective," Journal of Abnormal
Psychology 94, 3:362-76; and Spanos et. al, "Secondary Identity Enactments."
- The psychological aspects of the case are chronicled in Richard J. Ofshe's
"Inadvertent Hypnosis During Interrogation: False Confession Due to Dissociative
State; Mis-identified Multiple Personality and the Satanic Cult Hypothesis"
(Department of Sociology, University of California [Berkeley], in press). The
entire case, now on appeal, is discussed in Trott, "Satanic Panic," and
Watters, "The Devil in Mr. Ingram."
- See Loftus and Ketcham; Beverly Beyette, "Not-So-Total Recall," Los Angeles
TImes, 10 September 1991; Pat Brennan, "Bad Memories Can End Up in Court,"
Orange County Register, 24 March 1991; Lawrence W. Daly and J. Frank
Pacificl, "Opening the Doors to the Past: Decade Delayed Disclosure of Memories
of Years Gone By," The Champion, December 1991, 43-47; and Irene
Wielawski, "Unlocking the Secrets of Memory," Los Angeles Times, 3 October
- See Susan S. Brick and James A. Chu, "The Simulation of Multiple Personalities:
A Case Report." Psychotherapy 28 (Summer 1991):267-71; Cramer, "Why Children
Lie in Court"; and Ganaway, "Alternative Hypotheses Regarding Satanic Ritual
- Philip M. Coons, "Factitious Disorder (Munchausen Type) Involving Allegations
of Ritual Satanic Abuse: A Case Report," Dissociation 3, 4:177-78.
- U.S. Representative Paul Simon (not to be confused with Senator Paul Simon
of Illinois) told the House a "conservative estimate....50,000 children (are)
abducted by strangers annually" (Nathan, "The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax," 36-44).
- A careful analysis of missing children statistics is in Best's "Missing
Children, Misleading Statistics," 84-92.
- Nathan, "The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax," 39.
- See especially Nathan's "False Evidence," and "Sex, the Devil, and Day
Care," The Village Voice, 32, 39:25-26.
- Underwager and Wakefield, "Cur Allii, Prae Aliis?" 3, 3:190.