On Witches and Witch Hunts: Ritual and Satanic Cult Abuse

by Dr. David Lotto, Ph.D

[Copyright 2001 David Lotto. Posted here with permission from the author. Please do not repost or distribute without permission. An earlier version of this paper appeared in The Journal of Psychohistory 21(4) Spring 1994. You may email the author by clicking here.]


Much has changed in the seven years that have passed since this paper was written The peak of the hysterical panic has passed. There has been a dramatic shift in the perception of the public, professionals, the media, and the scholarly community. The skeptical position on the reality of Ritual Cult Abuse, which I have always held, has moved from being a distinct minority position to one held by a substantial majority. The flood of publicity, along with the number of criminal prosecutions involving Ritual or Satanic Cult Abuse, has slowed to a trickle.There is still a substantial minority who believe the bizarre accounts of sadistic, ritual, and satanic abuse given by three and four year olds at day care centersi but this minority no longer has as much influence and impact as it did in the recent past. This episode of hysterical panic lasted from roughly 1983 through 1995. In many ways it was a frightening time. Many innocent people were convicted and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. Although a number of these convictions have been overturned, many innocent people remain in jail.ii Many more have been falsely accused and were forced to deal with the horrors of either legal action taken against them, criminal or civil, or have had to endure investigations conducted by state agencies with enormous power over the course of their lives and the lives of their children.


Allegations of ritual cult abuse (RCA) and Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) have reached near epidemic proportions. In recent years there have been numerous publications in the professional clinical literature containing accounts of memories of such abuse occurring and being reported to therapists.iii A 1991 survey of American Psychological Association members found that over 800 therapists have reported treating cases of ritual or religion related abuse.ivThere have also been a number of popular books and magazine articles reporting on the widespread incidence of this phenomenonv as well as numerous TV documentaries, news programs, and talk shows, devoted to the subject.vi

There are a wide variety of reports from many different sources about the nature of these groups. There are the so-called multi-generational cults in which extended families are said to be devoted to worshipping Satan and raising their children to participate in rituals involving animal and human sacrifices. Young female cult members are alleged to be forced to become victims of group rapes and engage in a host of bizarre sexual rituals. A typical story told by female “survivors” is that they have been, or have witnessed others, being used as breeders for babies who are then used as victims in sacrificial rituals.

Drugs, hypnosis, and various forms of brainwashing and mind control techniques are said to be used regularly by these cults for the purpose of binding reluctant members to the group. Young cult members are allegedly threatened and terrorized with the goal of preventing them from telling anyone about the cult. Post-hypnotic suggestions, including the use of trigger words and symbols, are employed to remind victims of the penalties for being disloyal to the cult.vii

These groups are often said to have prominent and influential members including doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and police. They are both very psychologically sophisticated in their abilities to use mind control techniques, and criminally sophisticated in their ability to not leave any evidence of their illegal activities.viii

One example of many is the account given by Dr. D. Cory Hammond, a respected authority in the field of psychological trauma. In a workshop he presented at a professional conference on ritual abuse in MPD patients in 1992 he told the following tale. It seems that his patients and those of his colleagues were frequently mentioning a Dr. Green or Greenbaum who was in charge of their torture. It seems that the good doctor Greenbaum was a Hasidic Jew who, as a teenager, survived the holocaust by collaborating with Nazi doctors experimenting with mind control in the concentration camps. As Dr. Hammond tells it, Dr. Greenbaum was brought to the United States by the CIA and given free reign to practice his brainwashing and mind control techniques on children in U.S. military hospitals to further the battle against the evil communist menace. He is said to have shortened his name to Green and remains a leader of a secret Satanic Ritual Abuse cult in this country.ix

Other writers describe cults which are more like organized crime groups who are in the child pornography, child prostitution, or “snuff film” business. These groups are said to start or take over day-care centers and nursery schools for the purpose of making films or taking photographs of children to be used in the child pornography trade.x

Groups such as the Process Church, the Ordo Templo Orientis (OTO), and Santeria, or offshoots of these groups, are said to be responsible.xi Journalist Maury Terry claims that both Charles Manson and his “family” and David Berkowitz, the convicted Son of Sam killer, were involved with such groups. The murders they committed are said to have been ritual acts.

There is a group called the Cult Crime Impact Network which estimates that as many as 50,000 human sacrifices a year are being performed by a nationwide covert network of satanic cults.xii

By the mid 1980’s ritual abuse became an accepted and established reality in the professional and law enforcement communities. A key factor that led to this development was the government funded study done under the supervision of lead investigator David Finkelhor, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire. His work was published in 1988 in the book Nursery Crimes: Sexual Abuse in Day Care. The study found 36 cases of alleged ritual abuse. The criteria for including these in their research sample were that the allegations were “substantiated”. The criteria for substantiation were quite weak:

“If at least one of the local investigating agencies had decided that abuse had occurred and that it had happened while the child was at a day-care facility, or under its care, then we considered the case substantiated”xiii The authors accept the reality of what they call “True Cult-Based Ritualistic Abuse”, about which they say: “The hallmark of this type of ritualistic abuse is the existence of an elaborated belief system and the attempt to create a particular spiritual or social system through practices that involve physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.” And “The degree systematic organization to these cults is unclear, but some investigators believe that one or several organizations identified with traditional “satanist” religion have developed a specific policy of using day care to abuse, terrorize, and corrupt children”xiv In 1985 a group of parents of children involved in ritual abuse cases founded the group Believe The Children which became one of the lead lay organizations promoting the reality of ritual abuse allegations. Also in 1985, 2000 child abuse professionals joined the newly founded American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Kee MacFarlane, one of the key figures in the McMartin case, was a director. They started publishing a quarterly journal, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, which published a number of articles claiming that ritual abuse was real.xvSeveral authors have drawn attention to the hysterical nature of the RCA epidemic.xvi Comparisons are made to the European witch hunts of the 15th through 18th centuries, the Salem witch trials, and the persecutions of the McCarthy era. A number of authorsxvii have pointed out similarities between the contemporary allegations of RCA and the accusations made against Christians in Roman times, lepers, Moslems, Christian heretics (as defined by the Vatican), and the infamous blood libel accusation made against Jews.

Similar accusations of the practice of witchcraft involving sexual orgies, sadistic torture, and the slaughter of newborn infants were made in the 1830’s and 1840’s in several books written by supposed former nuns who had escaped from forced confinement in convents. This was at the height of the anti-catholic movement which flourished in response to the Irish Catholic immigration to this country occurring at the time.xviii The best known book of this genre was called The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk. The protagonist claims to have escaped from a convent in Montreal in which such gruesome events occurred with great regularity. Sales of this book in the United States were greater that those of any other book published before the Civil War with the exception of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.xix

The contemporary wave of RCA survivor stories started with the publication in 1980 of the book Michelle Remembers. This book was co-authored by a Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Pazder, and his patient, Michelle Smith. It tells the story of Michelle’s bizarre sexual abuse and torture at the hands of a satanic cult, of which her parents were members, in the 1950’s in Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Pazder divorced his wife and married Michelle whom he had diagnosed as suffering from MPD. The two of them have made numerous television and radio appearances and have frequently spoken at conferences as experts on RCA.

Lawrence Wright has written a lengthy two part article in the New Yorker (Wright 1993) entitled Remembering Satan. The article tells the story of the Ingram family of Olympia, Washington. In April of 1990 the father, Paul Ingram, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing his two daughters, in large part based on his own confession. This confession followed months of questioning by police interrogators, as well as sessions with several therapists and a pastor who knew of and believed in the literal truth of the increasingly fantastic allegations that kept coming from the two daughters in the family. Paul Ingram would enter self-induced trance states in which he would think about situations where he might have been involved in sexual abuse and after some period of time elapsed would “recover” a memory in which he was a perpetrator. Wright convincingly argues that the charges were totally unfounded in reality.

Another example of the harm which can follow from the naive acceptance of unsubstantiated evidence of the existence of ritual cult abuse is described by Robert Black (1992) which tells the story of the so-called “Dawn Raids” which occurred in February of 1991 on an island off the northern coast of Scotland. At seven o’clock in the morning, with no warning nine children from four different families were simultaneously taken from their homes by police and social workers and immediately flown to foster homes on the Scottish mainland.

The authorities had undertaken this elaborate tactical maneuver after becoming convinced that the families of these children were involved in a Satanic Cult headed by the local Church of Scotland parish minister and that no one on the island could be trusted.. The sole source of the accusations were three siblings ages 7, 8, and 9 from a severely dysfunctional family of 15 children on the island who were in foster care because their father had physically and sexually abused them.

The nine children were kept in foster care, without any form of contact allowed from their parents or any other relatives for a total of five weeks. Hundreds of letters and Christmas presents sent to the children were withheld from them because the Social Work authorities felt they contained “trigger words” sent by cult members or sympathizers, These alleged trigger words included brownies, rainbows, love-hearts, and turtles. Finally, a combination of the public outcry and the actions of local law enforcement officials led to the return of all the children to their homes.

A thorough government inquiry was conducted which cost British taxpayers over six million pounds. No evidence of the existence of any cult activity or abuse, other than the unsubstantiated reports of the three children was ever brought forward. No charges were brought against any alleged cult member by any authorities.

The Orkney raids had been preceded eight months earlier by a remarkably similar incident which occurred near Manchester, England. A six year old boy told his teacher stories of bizarre black magic practices including the killing of babies. Seventeen children were removed from their homes, placed in foster care for nine months, and were not allowed parental visits. The parents of the 17 children were accused of being members of a Satanic cult who had ritually sexually abused their children.

As in Scotland, the children were eventually returned to their parents and no charges were brought against the alleged perpetrators. The director of social services who handled the case was forced to resign.

Some of the child protective workers who were involved in the case had recently attended a conference on RCA which featured two American “experts” – Chicago police detective Jerry Simandl and school counselor Pamela Klein. At the conference they had told stories of babies being cooked in microwave ovens. This same story was said to have been “disclosed” by the child who was interviewed by these same workers.xx

Since a good part of the material reported by RCA “survivors” is based on hypnotically induced recall it might be helpful to take a look at what is known about the reliability of hypnotic memory.

There is a good deal of evidence, chiefly derived from experimental studies of hypnotic recall, that memories elicited under hypnosis are unreliable and subject to distortion and falsification. In particular, recall under hypnosis involves an increase in the frequency of confabulation; the construction of a plausible sounding narrative with very little or no connection to actual historical events. The panel established by the Council of Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association (1985) concluded that:

“recollections obtained during hypnosis can involve confabulations and pseudomemories and not only fail to be more accurate, but actually appear to be less reliable than nonhypnotic recall”. (p. 1918) Orne et. al. (1988) in their review article on reconstructing memories using hypnosis conclude: “When the subject has a belief about an incident in the past, but lacks full recollection of the events that occurred, hypnosis may serve as a catalyst to transform this belief into what is experienced as an actual memory. The increased tendency toward fantasy and the decrease in critical judgment, coupled with the conviction that hypnosis will produce accurate recall, may allow the subject to visualize what he or she believes might have happened and to accept the hypnotic visualization as a true memory of what actually occurred.” (p 24) A number of studies have concluded that hypnosis increases the confidence subjects have in the veracity of the memories they recall while hypnotized, whether these memories are true or not.xxiThere is also consensus in the hypnosis literature that hypnosis involves a state of heightened suggestibility. Because of this, being in a state of hypnosis tends to increase the probability that cues from the outside, even subtle cues such as mildly leading questions from the hypnotist are likely to be incorporated into reported memories.xxii

This state of increased suggestibility is particularly strong in individuals who are highly hypnotizable.xxiii

Even without the use of hypnosis there is a good deal of evidence about the unreliability of memories. Of particular relevance is the work of Elizabeth Loftus (Wells & Loftus 1984), a psychologist at the University of Washington who studies memory. In laboratory research she has demonstrated that totally false memories can be implanted and come to be fully believed by subjects, particularly when they are suggested by individuals who are known and respected by the subject.

Steven Ceci, a psychologist at Cornell, has done research on the accuracy of young children’s memory. In one study involving 4, 5, and 6 year olds, their parents were asked to make a list of 10 events, 2 of which happened and 8 of which didn’t. Each child was then asked “has this ever happened to you” about each event on a weekly basis. By the 11th week of this procedure, 56% of the children reported at least one false event as being true. Some children reported all of the fictional events as having occurred. The children frequently elaborated on the fictional events and produced detailed and believable sounding accounts.xxiv

In the situation described in the New Yorker article mentioned earlier, Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist from the University of California at Berkeley who is aware of the possibility that “recovered” memories such as those reported by Paul Ingram are suspect, was able to get access to Mr. Ingram and to perform the following experiment. He suggested a totally fabricated situation in which Paul was present and encouraging his son and daughter to have sex with each other. After some time in which Paul engaged in his usual process of meditating on the suggested events while in a trance state he did in fact “recover” a series of detailed and plausible sounding “memories” which conformed to the suggested scenario.

In 1992 in Philadelphia, a number of parents who had been accused by their children of various acts of sexual abuse formed the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. As of 1994, more than 7000 people have identified themselves as being falsely accused of such acts. Seventeen percent of the accusations involved satanic ritual abuse.xxv

Before leaving the subject of the accuracy of memories we should recall the existence of the phenomenon of screen memories in which two or more distinct events can be blended and are remembered as being part of the same event; or a related but distinct memory with less threatening emotional content can be substituted for the memory of the more threatening event.

Ritual Cult Abuse

There are serious evidential problems with reports of RCA.20 Kenneth Lanning, a supervisory special agent for the Behavioral Sciences Unit at the FBI academy who specializes in the study of sexually victimized children is particularly convincing in this regard. He writes (Lanning 1992): “The most significant crimes being alleged that do not seem to be true are the human sacrifice and cannibalism. In none of the multidimensional child sex ring cases of which the author is aware have bodies of the murder victims been found – in spite of major excavations where the abuse victims had claimed the bodies were located. . . Not only are no bodies found, but also, more importantly, there is no physical evidence that a murder took place.” (p. 130) There have been four large scale studies which have strongly supported the skeptical position on the reality of RCA. The first is the Goodman et. al. (1994) study entitled Characteristics and Sources of Allegations of Ritualistic Child Abuse, which concluded that after investigating 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse they found not a single case in which there was any clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation, that there was a “well organized intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools and committed a series of murders.”The second is the 1994 British study which investigated 84 cases in which satanic abuse had been alleged. Satanic abuse was defined as “. . . rites that include torture, forced abortion, human sacrifice, cannibalism, and bestiality”. No evidence whatsoever was found which supported these allegations. The report concluded that many of the social workers involved in supporting the allegation had taken seminars from American “experts” on ritual abuse.xxvi

The third is by Bottoms et al. (1995), which concludes that there was little convincing evidence that there was any truth to allegations in which there were said to be:

“large numbers of perpetrators and victims, bizarre cult practices, animal and human sacrifices, and diagnoses of multiple personality disorder”. They summarize their findings with regard to allegations of RCA as follows: “We came away from these results sympathizing with skeptics (e.g., Richardson, Best, and Bromley, 1991; Stevens, 1992; Victor, 1993) who believe the “satanism scare” was created, at least in large part, by religious publishing companies, television evangelists, and self-styled Satanism experts, many of whom seem to have been traditionally religious, whose intense worries eventually became communicated to local clergy and parishioners.” The fourth study, Coons (1994), reviewed the records of 29 patients reporting SRA at a dissociative disorders clinic. There was no external corroboration of SRA in any of the cases, despite medical and legal investigations in the one-third of the cases which had either gone to court or been investigated by the police. Patients were thought to have confabulated their memories of SRA after experiencing hypnotic memory retrieval, guided imagery, group work, or therapists interpreting dream material as evidence of actual SRA.In 1992 Dr. Frank Putnam, a leading authority on Multiple Personality Disorder, concluded that with regard to allegations of sexual torture, human sacrifice, and cannibalism: “Despite almost a decade of sensational allegations, no independent evidence has emerged to corroborate these claims.”xxvii

In addition, as of 1996, 12 convictions involving bizarre sexual abuse in day care settings have been overturned in court since 1990 and no new accusations of this type have surfaced since 1991.xxviii

Finally, consider that if this kind of abuse did occur one would expect that there would be a great deal of data available to confirm it. This would include forensic evidence such as bodies, bones, and bloodstains; eyewitness and third party accounts; and testimony from ex-participants and ex-perpetrators who are seeking to relieve their guilt by confessing what they have done. Given the immense media interest in this topic, anyone who could provide convincing evidence that corroborated the details of any of the fantastic stories told by the alleged survivors would stand to make a great deal of money. Newspapers, magazines, and television would all be willing to pay large sums for solid evidence. The fact that none of this has occurred in the now more than fifteen years since such stories have been circulating widely, supports the hypothesis that we are dealing primarily with fantasy, not reality.

In one of the most well-known cases of alleged ritual abuse in a Day Care setting which resulted in a guilty verdict, the Country Walk case in Miami, investigative reporting has cast doubt on the validity of the verdict. In this case, Francisco Fuster, and his 17 year old Honduran wife, Ileana, were convicted of ritual cult abuse. Francisco was sentenced to six life sentences plus 165 years and is currently in prison. Ileana was sentenced to 10 years since she agreed to testify for the prosecution against her husband. This followed several months of incarceration, some of which involved solitary confinement. She was deported to Honduras after serving 3 1/2 years. During her time in jail before the conviction, she was visited at least 34 times by psychologist Michael Rappaport and subjected to many hours of interrogation. Dr. Rappaport himself had done time in Fort Leavenworth military prison for adultery and sodomy with two women he was counseling. Ileana eventually confessed to participating with her husband in numerous acts of sexual abuse with the children. There was no other corroborating evidence, with the exception of the testimony of very young children. In her statement to the judge regarding her confession she said: “I am not pleading guilty because I feel guilty. . . I am innocent of all those charges. . . I am pleading guilty to get all this over. . .” (Cockburn 1993). The prosecuting District Attorney in this case was our former Attorney General, Janet Reno.

In perhaps the most famous of the day care sex abuse trials, in 1984 at the McMartin preschool in California, there were no guilty verdicts. The original source of the accusations, Judy Johnson, who was the mother of a student at the school, was hospitalized and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic about a year after making her initial accusations. In 1986 she died of an alcohol related liver disease.

At McMartin law enforcement agents and others went to extraordinary lengths to find physical evidence which would corroborate the bizarre allegations being made by the children. Hundreds of families were interviewed. Residences, businesses and motor vehicles were searched. Laboratory tests to detect blood or semen were performed on all sorts of items. A team of archeologists dug around the building searching for evidence of tunnels where children said they had been abused. A twenty-five thousand dollar reward was offered, no questions asked, for any pornographic photos of a McMartin child. Nothing was found and the reward remained unclaimed.xxix

In a significant number of the day care ritual abuse cases which led to convictions juries were convinced by supposed medical evidence presented by physicians testifying as experts on child sexual abuse. There were two types of medical findings which were taken to be evidence of sexual abuse: “abnormal” hymens which included membranes of irregular shapes, small tears, bumps, tags, thickening, or openings larger than 4 mm; and the presence of the “anal winking” response, operationally defined as the relaxing of the anal sphincter when stimulated by a Q-tip, or spontaneous relaxation and opening of the anal sphincter when the subject was being prepared for an anal examination.

Another piece of supposed medical evidence that was crucial in obtaining convictions in a number of cases was the finding of the presence of gonorrheal bacteria culture from either vaginal or throat swabs.

All of these findings and signs of sexual abuse have been refuted by subsequent research. There are two key studies. The first is the work of Dr. John McCann published in 1989 and 1990. The research involved genital and anal examinations of a large number of normal, that is, not sexually abused children. The study found an extremely large variation in hymens. All of the signs mentioned above were found to be well within the normal range. More dramatic was the finding concerning “anal winking”. McCann discovered that after spending a few minutes in positions conducive to anal examination almost half of the children demonstrated spontaneous “anal winking”.

In 1988 Dr. W. L. Whittington and his colleagues at the Center for Disease Control analyzed several hundred samples of findings of gonorrhea taken from childrens’ throats and found that over one-third of them were false positives, non-gonorrheal bacteria were present which had been misidentified. Frank Fuster was convicted and is presently serving a life sentence, in part because of a positive gonorrhea throat culture taken from his six year old son. The original sample and culture were discarded long ago.

The process of examining bodies to search for signs of Satan’s influence has a long history. In the European and American witch trials prosecutors conducted thorough searches looking for “Devil’s marks”, often an extra nipple, but including other marks or spots which were taken as the devil’s “suck marks”. These marks were often searched for and found on our around the private parts of the alleged witches.xxx

The most sophisticated clinicians who work regularly with patients who report memories of ritual cult abuse warn of the severe reliability problems with so many of the accounts they hear.21 The vast majority of these patients have been diagnosed as suffering from multiple personality or other dissociative disorders. Ganaway (1989) summarizes his experiences with the uncovering of traumatic memories in MPD patients as follows:

“. . . the therapist should be prepared to encounter a mixture of fact and fantasy. As in psychodynamic psychotherapy with other disorders, the reconstruction of memory is subject to so much defensive distortion as to require the label of narrative truth, or psychical reality, as opposed to historical truth, or fact-based reality. . .This particularly holds true for the highly hypnotizable MPD patients, who additionally are vulnerable to distortion effects from intrusive inquiry or iatrogenic dissociation.” (p. 210) A number of authors have pointed out the widespread exposure in the popular media of this type of material; the spread of information on this topic that occurs between therapists who attend professional conferences and read the professional literature on dissociative disorders and allegations of ritual cult abuse; and the parallel spread of such stories on the increasing number of inpatient psychiatric wards which specialize in the treatment of patients with dissociative disorders.xxxi Estimates of the frequency of RCA among MPD patients run as high as 30% (Lubrano 1993). Estimates of the number of MPD patients in the United States run to 200,000 (Watter 1993), which means there are as many as 60,000 people reporting memories of RCA.The work of Herbert Spiegel on degrees of hynotizability and the behavioral characteristics of highly hypnotizable patients in psychotherapy is of relevance here. Spiegel did most of his work in the 1970’s before RCA and SRA made their appearance in the literature, and before the explosion of the MPD diagnosis.

Spiegel (1974) identifies a pattern of personality traits which he calls the Grade Five Syndrome. These are people who are very highly hypnotizable. He estimates their natural occurrence in the population at just under 5%. Others have suggested that the frequency is somewhat higher, between 5 and 10% of the population.xxxii

These individuals are described as exhibiting a posture of trust that can border on a pathological level of compliance with the wishes and beliefs of those in their environment. They frequently demonstrate trance logic (Orne 1959), which is the capacity to act as if one is unaware of even extreme logical incongruities, and an ease in suspending normal levels of critical judgment. They have highly developed empathic abilities, an expectation of support from others, and are demanding of attention and concern.

Spiegel (1974) describes some of the dangers of working with Grade Five’s in therapy. He reports that that they frequently respond to their therapists’ requests regarding details of a memory by confabulating. He warns that they will take a therapist’s encouragement to search inwardly for answers into an active process of scanning the therapist for cues to what they think of as the “correct” answer.

Ganaway (1989) reports the following data:

“In the first 2 1/2 years as director of a hospital-based dissociative disorders program, the author personally treated or interviewed in consultation a total of 82 individuals who met DSM-III-R diagnostic criteria for dissociative disorders. Of these, 54 (66%) met the criteria for adult MPD. Virtually all the patients in the MPD group also met Spiegel’s criteria for the Grade Five Syndrome.” (p 208) Note that refraining from using overt hypnotic techniques in therapy does not eliminate the problem. As Ganaway (1989) points out: “Each year in doing consultation clinics for the pre-conference workshops at the International Conferences on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States, the author continues to be surprised at the number of experienced therapists who have yet to grasp that they are treating patients who in effect are continually moving in and out of hypnotic trance states, no matter what the therapists’ intent may be regarding the use of hypnotic techniques.” (p. 208) Ganaway (1989) also reports several cases of MPD patients who reported bizarre memories of severe abuse which were found to be fantasies. They were created by one of the alters to serve as a defensive screen preventing more prosaic traumatic memories from emerging during the course of therapy.Ganaway (1989) presents the following clinical vignette:

“Sarah, the host alter in a 50 year old multiple, was shocked when Carrie, a heretofore unknown 5 year-old part spontaneously emerged during a therapy session to relive in vivid detail her participation in a bizarre ritual abuse mass murder on a mountainside not far from her childhood home. . . Two sessions later Sherry, a previously known child alter, spontaneously emerged to confess that, as painful as it was to admit to herself, she had created Carrie to absorb the terror she had felt when her grandmother would read to her murder stories out of detective magazines when baby-sitting.” (p. 211) Similarly, Young et. al. (1991) discuss a patient who: “. . .dissociated into a personality state who cut a pentagram on her forearm and marked her room with cult symbols. Later she had no idea what had happened, but another dissociated personality described a cult member who marked the wall and then cut her. This was experienced as a real external event by the second dissociated personality. . .” (p.185-186) Several authors including Hill & Goodwin (1989) have argued that ritual cult abuse constitutes a modern resurgence of satanic enactments which have a long tradition stretching back into at least the middle ages. Psychologist Richard Noll (1989) points out the evidential problems with the supposed historical record of satanic practices. He quotes the religious historian J. Gordon Melton (1986) who states that: “The satanic tradition has been carried almost totally by the imaginative literature of non-Satanists – primarily conservative Christians, who describe these practices in vivid detail in the process of denouncing them.” (p.76) The British historian Norman Cohn (1975) argues that at least from the second century, unsubstantiated accusations of cannibalism, ritual abuse, and orgiastic promiscuity have been leveled at various minority groups throughout European history.All of this in combination with the fact that so many of these memories are of early childhood experiences elicited from adults who are prone to dissociation during the course of psychotherapy (often under hypnosis) with therapists who strongly believe in the factual existence of the widespread incidence of ritual cult abuse, increase the likelihood that the material produced is highly confabulated.

Alternate Explanations

Ganaway (1989) suggests a number of possible explanations for the large number of ritual cult abuse reports which have been emerging from these patients. One is that these accounts are essentially screen memories for other traumatic events whose content is derived from internally generated fantasy influenced by the satanic stories and images which have permeated the mass market media. MPD and other dissociative patients would then create an entire world of cult figures who in turn manufacture pseudomemories of ritual cult abuse which feel like real memories to the main parts of the personality.Young et. al (1991) make a similar suggestion saying:

“It is also possible that these patients have developed a powerful satanic metaphor for conveying and explaining other forms of severe abuse actually suffered during their childhoods.” (p. 185) Kluft (1997), in reflecting on his extensive clinical experience in working with patients who have reported ritual abuse, describes a number of motives he has found in patients reporting fictionalized cult abuse experiences. He argues that such pseudo-memories serve a variety of defensive functions in the course of treatment, protecting the patient from more anxiety inducing material related to the more prosaic forms of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse they may have suffered at the hands of loved ones. He also mentions reaction formation to the patient’s own aggressive or sadistic impulses as well as the expression of narcissistic, exhibitionist, or grandiose wishes.Similarly, Ganaway suggests another mechanism for the creation of a satanic abuse scenario in which more ordinary forms of abuse, usually within a family, are transformed by a child into something which satisfies grandiose wishes. In the typical RCA report the child is in a very special position, the singular focus of a great deal of attention from powerful and important adults. The child has been singled out to endure special punishments and humiliations.

Ganaway also claims that there is a massive amount of networking among both patients and therapists in this country who are exchanging information and cross-validating each other’s material concerning ritual cult abuse. He goes as far as to say:

“This media blitz has reached the point where complex multiples not contaminated by the expectation of finding hidden satanic ritual abuse may soon become the exception rather than the rule.” (p. 212)

Psychohistorical Considerations

If it is true that the vast majority of RCA and SRA reports are substantially false, then two questions arise. The first is why so many people, including respected psychotherapists and scientists believe these tales to be true; while the second would be what personal, group, and cultural fantasies and wishes are being expressed by both the “victims” and those who believe their stories.Let’s start with the therapists in their offices or working on psychiatric units where patients are reporting these “memories”. Psychotherapists are taught and encouraged to take an empathic stance toward clients. When a client presents this type of material along with a strong wish to be believed, the therapist often feels that to take any stance other than believing the client, or at the very least, suspending their disbelief, would constitute an empathic failure. The therapist’s fear is that to not believe, or even to doubt, will be experienced by the client as a symbolic re-enactment of the alleged original traumatic event. This is particularly true for clients who relate experiences of telling their stories to others who did not believe them.

In addition, if the clients, as is frequently the case, report some symptom relief and express gratitude for the therapist’s help, when the therapist does take this believing stance, it tends to strengthen the idea that the reported trauma is real. The clients may well experience symptom relief, but this may be due to other mechanisms. For example, clients’ anxiety and guilt may be reduced by feeling that now, at last, there is an explanation for the origin of their troubles. They were helpless victims of abuse and therefore bear no responsibility for their suffering. Ambiguity and uncertainty are banished while guilt vanishes.

Another error to which therapists are prone is that of taking the client’s production of realistic sounding details as evidence for the reality of the event being described. The problem is that specificity and plausibility are just as characteristic of confabulation, in fact sometimes more so, as they are of truth.

We have good evidence that trauma, particularly if it is severe, leads to a variety of psychological symptoms and syndromes. However, the vast majority of therapists rarely have direct evidence about the nature of the original childhood trauma available to them. Most of the time therapists work with adult clients who are in considerable distress in their current lives. The information presented by the client about the past is, in most situations, about events that happened long ago and is subject to a variety of distortions. It is very easy for therapists to fall into the trap of falsely making the inference that since trauma leads to certain symptoms, that the existence of these same symptoms indicates that trauma has occurred. Possibly, but there are other possibilities as well.

It is quite easy for the therapist to slide into a stance where the severity of present symptoms is taken as strong evidence for the existence of severe trauma, even in the absence of any other evidence that trauma occurred. The therapist can thus easily come to expect, predict, and even, directly or subtly, suggest to patients that there must have been some severe trauma in their past even if they have no conscious memory of such an event or events.

The Contextual Argument

Psychotherapists and others who have come to believe in the literal reality of the stories of ritual and satanic cult abuse that they hear from their patients or other alleged victims, often justify their belief in the context of their knowledge of the prevalence of sexual abuse and the historical record of the many forms of sadistic and abusive acts that have occurred. The reasoning goes something like this: We have learned, particularly over the last 20 years, of the existence of so much cruel and abusive treatment of children, and we also know of such a wide range and frequency of examples of man’s inhumanity to man – the holocaust, genocide, wartime atrocities, mass murders, etc., so why shouldn’t we believe in the existence of organized cults who do the kinds of things described by the “survivors”? Particularly when the people who are telling us these things obviously believe them to be true, are not attempting to perpetrate a fraud for financial gain, are able to provide realistic sounding details of their experiences, and there are many of them telling somewhat similar stories, apparently independently of each other.Citing evidence that some, or even most, of the stories are not true doesn’t really seriously challenge the believer since, in a significant portion, there will be no conclusive evidence demonstrating they are untrue.

However, there are other contexts into which these stories can be placed. Throughout history there has always been a significant number of individuals or groups who report having experiences which are largely creations of fantasy. Just to name a few of the many such experiences, consider the reports of “close encounters of the third kind” with UFO’s and their occupants, particularly the recent wave of UFO abduction reports as well as the reports of close encounters with all sorts of mythological beings including elves, fairies, jinns, goblins, incubi, succubi, vampires, werewolves, witches, angels, devils, Christ, the Virgin Mary as well as a host of other supernatural entities both benign and malicious.

Most of these entities have the decency to stay outside of their victims’ skin. Not so with legions of demons, gods, spirits, ghosts, or other creatures who are said to take possession of their hosts, sometimes without invitation.

Then we have the go-betweens who pass messages from other realms to this one. They used to be called mediums but in their New Age incarnation they are known as channelers.

Then there are those who have privileged access to other dimensions such as the astral travelers, and their cousins who have Out of Body Experiences; and those with special powers to affect the material or human world by moving things around or casting spells; or those whose powers allow them to penetrate the usual boundaries of space and time, individuals who are gifted with extra sensory perception or who are capable of prophecy or divination.

Those who report such experiences, like reporters of cult abuse experiences, for the most part, obviously believe their experiences to be true, are not perpetrating a fraud for financial gain, can often provide realistic sounding details and there are a large number of them who tell somewhat similar stories, apparently independently of one another.

Fantasy Analysis

Moving on to the second question mentioned earlier, namely, what personal, group, and cultural fantasies and wishes are being expressed through this material. Starting on the individual level, we know that finding an external agent to blame for the pain and misfortune of one’s life involves the mechanisms of projection and projective identification.If we recognize the operation of projective processes then the next question becomes what is the unacceptable material that needs to be projected. In RCA a helpless victim is at the mercy of evil and powerful people. These people do invasive, intrusive, sometimes sadistic, and often sexual things to the victim’s body for their own, somewhat unfathomable, purposes. So we might hypothesize that the core experiences or wishes which need to be projected are those in which being intruded on and controlled by powerful others, who have their own agenda, are operative. The core affect states seem to be helplessness and fear along with rage, anger, and a desire to restore or reverse the power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator.

This sounds very much like a description of the experience of a child growing up in a household with narcissistic parents. Parents who are busy, powerful, and very much involved in their own affairs – while only periodically focusing intense attention on their children. This mode of child rearing, as described, for example, in Alice Miller’s work, is, unfortunately, becoming almost normative in our times. In its more severe forms children are treated, to use Kohut’s term, as self-objects by their parents. Parents who suffer from their own narcissistic difficulties use their children as extensions of themselves for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing their own self-esteem, with minimal consideration being given to their childrens’ needs. A pattern of parental self-absorbtion along with an alternation between indifference and intrusive acts toward the child is characteristic of this style of child rearing.

Thus the victims may be expressing a psychological truth of their childhood – that they were controlled by powerful beings who sometimes did intrusive and sadistic things to them while being preoccupied with their own pursuits which were quite alien to those of their children. The stories in which prominent community figures and people of power and authority are said to be leaders in the cults are perhaps transferential representations of this type of childhood experience.

If we focus on the abusive aspects of these reports, we might guess that there are sadistic wishes implicated. When the tales of abuse involve children, as is most often the case in RCA, then impulses to hurt children, and even infanticidal wishes become candidates for material in need of projection.

Focusing on the victim’s helplessness and powerlessness might lead us to think about wishes to submit to the will of a powerful other.

Abused children are a subset of a larger class of individuals who are currently receiving a great deal of attention from many quarters. I am speaking of all of those who have been or claim to have been victims of abuse. Within psychology and psychoanalysis theories of psychopathology in which trauma plays a major role have become very popular over the last several years. The Diagnoses of PTSD, MPD, and now DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), all of which are said to have traumatic etiologies, are being made much more frequently.

I am suggesting that one of the most powerful aspects of the group fantasy under consideration here involves a strong identification of ourselves as victims; like the abused child, the battered wife, the woman exploited by the patriarchy, the victim of racism, the poor person who is exploited economically, the target of violent crime, or the holocaust survivor we see ourselves as victims of evil forces which are beyond our control.

This, of course, raises the question of why there is so much resonance in the group with the role of victim. There are no doubt as many answers to this question as there are hardships, injustices, and causes of general unhappiness in the world today. Many of these sources of victimization have been with us for a long time but when looking at the emergence of a new group fantasy it makes sense to pay attention to social and economic factors which are newly arrived on the scene. A leading candidate would have to be the rapidly growing sense of economic insecurity which we are currently hearing so much about. We are being downsized, not just economically but also in terms of our self-image and expectations for the future. There is profound disappointment and anxiety pervading the group, certain formerly comforting fantasies we shared as Americans are in the process of being shattered. We can no longer believe and take comfort in the expectation that the nation and its people are growing stronger and wealthier – moving up in the world. We can’t continue to realistically expect that things will be getting better for us as we get older, and perhaps more importantly, we can no longer believe that things will be better for our children than they have been for us. As Barbara Ehrenreich tells us, we are suffering from the “fear of falling.”xxxiii We are the victims of the new global capitalism where a few get richer while most become poorer.

The identity which the last two generations of Americans has shared, what might be called the American Imperial Consciousness – a grandiose national self which has never been defeated in war (at least until Vietnam), has never been invaded or occupied (since 1812), and is the wealthiest and most militarily powerful country on the planet, is at risk. As Edward Herman has said recently, the cold war National Security State has been replaced by a state of national insecurity.xxxiv

Psychohistory teaches us that in times and circumstances like these we create a poison container to externalize and hold our bad feelings. We look for a scapegoat which can be blamed for our troubles and then attacked so that we no longer feel helpless. With the end of the cold war we have lost the poison container to which we had grown accustomed from just after the end of WW II until a mere few years ago. With the demise of our favorite enemy, the communist evil empire, we are adrift and badly in need of a suitable container which can safely hold our toxic products.

One of the leading professional proponents of the reality of RCA, the psychiatrist Bennet Braun (Braun & Sachs 1988), has actually said, in reference to Satanic Cults:

“We are working with a national-international type organization that’s got a structure somewhat similar to the Communist cell structure, where it goes from local small groups to local consuls, regional consuls, district consuls, national consuls and they have meetings at different times.” (audio tape #IVd-436) Child abusing cults are only one of the poison receptacles that are being created to contain the badness we feel in and around us. We also have the creation by the right wing paranoid elements of our group of an evil “new world order” which is seen as the source of all that is not right with the world. We also have a resurgence of fundamentalist religions which undertake purity crusades against homosexuals, secular humanists, feminists, and anyone else who does not fit their specific definition of an upholder of the appropriate “family values”.A major component of the cult abuse accusations, along with much of the current focus on all forms of sexual abuse, centers on the theme of incest. Most of the sexual abuse reports involve father-daughter (or father surrogate – daughter surrogate) interactions. The typical cult abuse report involves either actual families or family-like groups with parental figures (who are usually, but not always, male) cast in the role of perpetrator. Father symbols, such as powerful or prominent community members, are often said to be leaders of the cult.

If one of the main functions of a group fantasy is the creation of a poison container, or, to use the language of psychoanalysis, an object for projective identification, in which we place our own unacceptable parts and products, then we must conclude that both incestuous impulses and the defenses against them are on the rise at this time.

One hypothesis to explain why there might be this kind of upsurge in incestuous wishes, along with the taboo against them, might lie in the stress which the basic family unit is experiencing at this time. The contemporary climate of economic insecurity threatens the ties that bind families together. As the family loses, or becomes anxious about the possibility of losing, its economic power due to current economic conditions, this outer reality stimulates a parallel inner process. The incest taboo is the symbol, par excellence, of the cohesion of the family so that when the family and its values are threatened from the outside, both incest fears and wishes are stimulated.

Another marker of the strengthening of the incest theme is the right wing campaign trumpeting the need to preserve “family values”. The right wing is an invaluable source of data for psychohistorians since it can be counted on to express the group’s fears, prohibitions, and punishments, acting as the group’s disciplinarian. Gays and lesbians are being scapegoated and sexual purity crusades are gaining strength as in the anti-aids and anti-abortion movements, both of which can be seen as in the service of maintaining the traditional roles and power relations within the family.

From the right wing we also have an intensification of both negative and positive feelings toward authority. Paranoid rage is directed at a shadowy but powerful new world order, while submitting to the authority of religious and/or political leaders is encouraged and idealized; hate the government but love God. This can be seen as another sign of increasing anxiety and insecurity in the group as we search for someone to blame for, as well as someone to protect us from, the troubles that threaten to engulf us.

In addition to the victims there are other players involved in the drama. With RCA there are the therapists, child abuse specialists, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and others, who have become the moral crusaders in the campaign to stamp out the cults and prosecute the alleged perpetrators. Unfortunately, they too may be giving expression to sadistic and infanticidal wishes by means of persecuting and prosecuting innocent individuals by accusing them of criminal abuse. We now have a small army of investigators and experts interrogating children about what intrusive sadistic and sexual acts have been done to them. We have physicians conducting physical examinations of children including internal gynecological exams and swabbing throats to look for venereal diseases.

The belief in the existence of an identifiable group of evildoers provides a convenient and effective projective screen, poison container, or scapegoat, into which individuals and groups can project their own unacceptable impulses. There is also the added benefit of then being able to attack and attempt to annihilate this, now externalized, evil group.

The attraction and power of this type of mechanism is hard to overstate. Believing in the existence of the evil cults diminishes anxiety levels by reducing uncertainty and ambiguity. The mystery is solved – we now know who is responsible for what is wrong with our society. Where there were questions and unknowns, there are now answers and clear truths.

In creating the sexually sadistic and murderous cult, we have manufactured an ideal receptacle in which to deposit our unwanted incestuous stew, a powerful evil entity which acts out our worst fears and most unacceptable wishes. We manufacture an epidemic of incest, a world filled with sadistic parental figures who molest children. We may well also have an increase in real child sexual abuse as there are always those who are willing to take on the role of group delegate and act out the forbidden impulses, but it is far safer and easier to act out in imagination rather than in reality where the risks of being caught and punished are so high.

One of the reasons the creation of poison containers is such a tempting and effective way of dealing with our unwanted impulses is that it not only provides for the vicarious experiencing of forbidden feelings, safely distanced because it is someone else who is doing it, but it also allows us to vicariously satisfy our need for punishment for having these kinds of thoughts. Cults and child molesters can be pursued and prosecuted – the evil can be confronted, fought, and defeated – the guilty parties can be caught and punished, convicted in courts of law and sentenced to jail. And we need experience no discomfort at all for it is they who carried out their heinous crimes and need to be punished, not us. In addition, to the extent that we identify with the child victims we get the secondary gains of sympathy and protection from criticism as we become the beneficiaries of the prohibition against “blaming the victim”.

Moving to the group and cultural levels we might start with the observation that a 1990 Gallup poll found that 55 to 60% of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil. This figure is up considerably from a 37% positive response to the same question in 1964 and a 50% response in 1973.xxxv

The devil seems to enjoy a greater degree of popularity in the United States than in Europe. The same question asked in 1990 yielded a positive response rate of 17% in France, 21% in Great Britain, and 25% in Germany.xxxvi

The work of the sociologists and folklorists who study rumors, rumor panics, urban legends, and outbreaks of mass hysteria is also relevant to understanding the current epidemic of cult abuse reports.xxxvii

A rumor is a collectively shared story which is believed by a large number of people despite the absence of any clear evidence which would substantiate it. Rumor panics, as in the classic H. G. Wells War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938, are a form of rumor in which a situation of extreme danger is described which generates a widespread fear reaction. Urban legends, such as the tale of the alligators living in the New York City sewer system, are another variant of the rumor genre. Mass hysteria occurs when large numbers of individuals or whole communities come to believe a rumor panic, such as in the Salem witch trials.

The sociologist David Bromley has identified one form of rumor or urban legend which he calls a “subversion myth”. Such a myth involves the naming of a dangerous threat to society, the identification of a group of conspirators who are creating the danger, labeling the means by which the conspirators manipulate and control their victims, and the course of action that needs to be taken to thwart the evil. Bromley adds that these kinds of myths gain a high degree of plausibility because of the testimonials given by victims or former members and the widespread media exposure they get in family magazines, TV talk shows and documentaries, and tabloid newspapers.

Pernicious rumors of this sort proliferate in times of uncertainty, stress, conflict, and crisis. They are one way the group expresses its anxiety about whatever current events are disturbing it. The contemporary satanic and ritual cult abuse epidemic clearly fits into this domain of rumor panic and subversion myth.

The sociologist Victor (1993) has suggested that the current epidemic of RCA accusations in day care centers involves a projection of parental guilt about abandoning their children to the care of strangers.

When trying to answer the question of why these tales are so prevalent at this time it would be difficult to underestimate the importance of the media in the transmission and spread of information and rumor. The current popularity of RCA on the talk show circuit, in the large circulation popular magazines, and mass market paperbacks is historically novel. When there is this kind of media exposure the culture becomes saturated in a largely unconscious manner. Often, we do not focus directly on the information – we don’t sit and watch an entire Oprah or Geraldo – it’s more likely that we would hear a commercial for the show as we’re sitting flicking channels on the remote. These are the kinds of events, when they become repetitious, that permeate the cultural unconscious and become a dominant aspect of the group fantasy. They lay the groundwork that makes the tales of SRA plausible and believable to those who hear them and allows those who are most vulnerable and impulsive, to act out the group fantasy, by reporting that they are the victims of these bizarre practices.

With regard to the spread of these beliefs within certain circles of the psychotherapeutic community, there are some very clear and direct lines of transmission. In 1984, the First International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States was held in Chicago. Since then, this conference has become a yearly event. There are also regional conferences sponsored by the same organization as well as numerous other conferences, seminars, and workshops in which RCA and SRA are either the main focus or are given a significant amount of attention.

The frequency of these professional gatherings as well as the percentage of time devoted to RCA and SRA at them had been steadily increasing from 1984 through 1994. At the 1986 Multiple Personality/Dissociative States International Conference, there were 9 papers dealing with SRA, all of which treated patients’ reports as literal truth. A survey of conference participants indicated that 25% of their patients were reporting SRA or RCA. By 1989 20% of the scientific program, in addition to a full day post-conference workshop, were devoted to SRA and RCA.xxxviii

For those who can’t attend these conferences and workshops personally, proceedings are available on audio cassette.

Workshops and seminars on RCA and SRA given by “cult experts” frequently start off with an acknowledgment of the lack of material evidence corroborating patient reports, but then go on to present a wealth of material about satanic cults including descriptions of how they are organized, the techniques they use, and the terrible things they do. There are often slide presentations with reproductions of patients’ drawings, satanic graffiti, and satanic paraphernalia, all of which is designed to lend credence to the objective existence of satanic cults which engage in evil behavior.

On the Confusion of Tongues

One of the more unfortunate results of this whole controversy is the rancor generated in the therapeutic community between the believers and the skeptics. In the rapidly expanding area of working with victims of trauma we have therapists who see patients, the vast majority of whom are clearly victims of all too real traumatic events including sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, domestic violence, and a variety of other violent and destructive events in their lives resulting either from man-made or natural causes.When these therapists hear others talking about not believing someone’s report of abuse, they see denial and the further traumatization of the victim.

Most often patients who have actually experienced trauma have clear and continuous memories of events. Their memories are consistent with other things that are known about their histories and their accounts are usually coherent, both internally and externally consistent, and believable.

The skeptics are talking about different kinds of situations. Most often these patients, upon entering therapy, have no or few memories of their trauma. The memories they do have are often hazy and not clear.

Another factor which distinguishes these memories from those of real trauma victims is the weird, bizarre, unusual, and unbelievable nature of the memories, which characterize the vast majority of those involving SRA, RCA, along with those reporting UFO abductions.

For the most part, the two patient populations are non-overlapping. There are, however, some significant exceptions, gray areas where the two groups do overlap. This is the territory of the False Memory Syndrome and recovered memory controversies

To close, I would like to briefly address some of the more frightening and dangerous aspects of these phenomena. We have seen that in the cases in England and Scotland, the Country Walk and McMartin preschools, the tragedy of the Ingram family in Olympia, as well as many others not mentioned here,xxxix there are some very real victims, innocent of any wrongdoing, who have suffered traumatic consequences from being caught up in a net of hysterical accusations. Numerous other situations in which families are torn apart and individuals have experienced enormous pain and suffering after being falsely accused are being brought forward.

Unfortunately, the therapists, law enforcement officials, child protective workers, and some psychohistorians who are too eager to believe the outlandish tales told by their patients bear some degree of responsibility for the harm which has resulted in the rising level of belief in these accusations. One might say the same of those in the field who, while not professing to be committed believers, are at least quite open to the possibility that such reports, even the more outlandish ones, are literally true. One is stretching the meaning of neutrality to maintain this type of “agnostic” stance in the face of mounting evidence that there is no corroboration for the reality of these events.


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Terry, M. (1987) The Ultimate Evil. New York, Bantam Books.

van der Kolk, B. & van der Hart, O. (1989) Pierre Janet and the Breakdown of Adaptation in Psychological Trauma. Am. J. of Psychiatry. 146(12), 1530-1540.

Victor, J. (1993) Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Chicago, Open Court.

Watters, E. (1993) Doors of Memory. Mother Jones, Jan/Feb, 24-77.

Wells, G. & Loftus, E. (1984) Eyewitness Testimony: Psychological Perspectives. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Whittington, W. et al. (1988) Incorrect Identification of Neisseria Gonorrhoeae from Infants and Children. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Vol. 7, #1: 3-10.

Wright, L. (1993) Remembering Satan. New Yorker. May 17 & 24.

Young, W. (1988) Observation on Fantasy in the Formation of Multiple Personality Disorder. Dissociation. 1(3), 13-20.

Young, W., et. al. (1991) Patients Reporting Ritual Abuse in Childhood: A Clinical Syndrome. Report of 37 Cases. Child Abuse & Neglect. 15, 181-189.

i  For example see Noblitt & Perskin (2000)

ii  Nathan & Snedeker (1995) dedicate their book Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt, to the 57 individuals still incarcerated as of 1995 who have, in their judgment, been wrongly convicted of crimes involving ritual abuse.

iii  Reports mostly from patients diagnosed with MPD or other less severe dissociative disorders are given in Braun (1986, 1989), Braun & Sachs (1988), Gould (1987), Finkelhor et. al. (1988a), Kelley (1988), Kluft (1988), Terr (1988), Young (1988), Putnam (1989), Young et. al. (1991), and Sakheim & Devine (1992).

iv  Watters (1993)

v  Books include Kahaner (1988), Lyons (1988), Johnston (1989), and Raschke (1990). For a recent magazine piece see Ms. Jan/Feb 1993.

vi  For example “Satanism” – Oprah Winfrey Show, 9/86.”Satanic Worship” – Oprah Winfrey Show, 2/88. “Satanic Breeders: Babies for Sacrifice” – Geraldo, 10/88; “Baby Breeders” – Sally Jesse Raphael Show, 2/89. “Devil Babies” – Sally Jesse Raphael Show, 7/91. “Investigating Multiple Personalities: Did the Devil Make Them Do It” – Geraldo, 9/91.

vii  See Braun (1988), Beere (1989), Greaves (1989), Hammond (1989), & Young (1989).

viii  See Hicks (1991) and Sakheim & Devine (1992).

ix  See Victor (1993) p. 294-295.

x  See Terry (1987), Finkelhor et. al. (1988a, 1988b) and Kahaner (1988).

xi  See Terry (1987) & Jenkins & Maier-Katkin (1991).

xii  Hicks (1991).

xiii  Finkelhor et. al. (1988a) p. 13.

xiv  ibid. p. 61.

xv  Nathan & Snedeker (1995) p. 135.

xvi  See Noll (1989, 1990), Gardner (1991), Hicks (1991), Matzner (1991), Richardson, et. al. (1991), Baker (1992), and Victor (1993).

xvii  See, for example, Dundes (1991) & Showalter (1997)

xviii  Victor (1993).

xix  ibid. p. 80-81.

xx  ibid. p. 118-119. See Nathan (1991) for court cases involving accusations of RCA between 1984 and 1989.

xxi  See Laurence & Perry (1983), Orne et. al. (1984), Pettinati (1988), Sheehan (1988).

xxii  See Orne et. al. (1984) and Pettinati (1988).

xxiii  See Spiegal & Spiegal (1978) & Pettinati (1988).

xxiv  Goleman (1993).

xxv  Wright (1993) & Jaroff (1993).

xxvi  Nathan & Snedeker (1995) p. 301.

xxvii  See Hacking (1995) p. 117.

xxviii  Nathan (1996) p. 96 &126.

xxix  Nathan & Snedeker (1995) p. 116.

xxx  ibid. p.79.

xxxi  See for example Finkelhor et. al. (1988a), Lyons (1988), and Lanning (1989).

xxxii  For example see Ganaway (1989) and Victor (1993).

xxxiii  Ehrenreich (1991)

xxxiv  Herman (1996)

xxxv  See Morgan & Hilgard (1975) & Frankel (1990).

xxxvi  Gallup & Newport (1991).

xxxvii  See Erikson (1966), Brunvand (1984), Balch (1989), Carlson & Larue (1989), Hicks (1991), and Victor (1993) .

xxxviii  Mulhern (1991).

xxxix  See, for example, Nathan & Snedeker (1995), Victor (1993) p. 335-361, Black (1992), Cockburn (1993) & Wright (1993).

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