THE PROCESS IS… conversation and contention, for your attention Sat, 06 Feb 2016 02:02:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 There is a network of delusional witch-hunters in the mental health profession, and we must stop them Sat, 06 Feb 2016 01:54:37 +0000 By Lucien Greaves

Thursday, May 08, 2015, multimillionaire Manhattan socialite, Gigi Jordan, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the manslaughter of her eight-year old autistic son, Jude Michael Mirra.  

Jordan never denied that she had intended to kill her child by way of forced pill overdose five years previous in a New York City hotel. To her troubled mind, the forced pill overdose was a “mercy killing”, preserving the child from the inevitable horrors he was to suffer at the hands of an unseen, yet omnipresent, Satanic cult conspiracy.

Warning signs of Jordan’s dangerous state-of-mind had been clear for years. Jordan expressed deeply paranoid, irrational fears that the cult was actively tracking her every activity while ritually abusing Jude into a state of trauma-induced cognitive disability (he was, in fact, severely autistic).


Jude Michael Mirra

Many questioned what, if anything, was true in Jordan’s suspicious, delusional allegations. However, few questioned the competence of the therapists and other experts whom Jordan had consulted, who failed to recognize Jordan’s dangerously delusional state, failed to balance her fantastical beliefs with critical inquiries, and even apparently encouraged and cultivated her most deranged and deadly convictions. Oddly, even when reporting on the trial, journalists seemed entirely blind to evidence of professional incompetence, the influence that sanctioned pseudoscience seems to have played in Ms. Jordan’s destructive beliefs.


A Delusion of Conspiracy  

Ms. Jordan contacted the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in 2008 with a bizarre, sprawling and disjointed tale of Ritual Abuse and constant, unshakeable surveillance. She was detained, on an emergency basis, for a mental health evaluation. Jude was taken into custody.

“I couldn’t make sense of what she was saying,” special agent Bruce Dexter would later testify, “She was jumping around to different topics, different areas. It was a very convoluted story.”[1]

The stories Ms. Jordan would tell of her son’s suffering at the hands of a Satanic conspiracy were indeed convoluted. By her own telling, she never left the boy’s side, yet she would report that Jude communicated to her (not that she witnessed) that he had been made to receive electric shocks to his genitals, forced “to drink blood, kill animals and have sex with several babysitters and close relatives.”[2]

Before arriving in Wyoming, specifically for the purpose of reporting the Satanic cult crimes to the investigators, Jordan travelled with Jude to various locations across the nation, staying in hotels, relocating at a moment’s notice in an attempt to throw Jude’s pursuers from their trail. Having contacted the Wyoming office in advance, Ms. Jordan was met by Law Enforcement at the airport. Jude, the agents noted, was without socks or underwear on his person, nor did Jordan’s luggage contain any fresh clothes for the boy. The agents were further alarmed by the copious amounts of unlabeled medications Jordan carried for Jude’s seemingly ad hoc “treatment” regimen.

Physical examination would yield “no evidence of sexual assault of any kind”[3]. More discrediting to Jordan’s claims, however, was the fact that Jude, the alleged source of the abuse allegations, appeared to have very little verbal skills with which to communicate the allegations at all.

Against medical advice, Ms. Jordan was released “of her own recognizance” after her emergency mental health evaluation, following which the Court considered evidence indicating that Jordan presented an imminent danger to her son. Clearly not at all convinced of Ms. Jordan’s sanity, or Jude’s safety in her care, the Court also didn’t feel that the legal burden of evidence was met to justify placing Jude in foster care.

“I’m sure the time will come when recriminations are made saying somebody in authority should have seen this coming and acted to prevent it,” the District Court Judge in Wyoming stated presciently when remitting the child back to his mother’s care. “That’s what’s on everybody’s minds here. That’s the elephant in the room that nobody talks about.”

Citing “improper” criticisms directed toward those who failed to prevent the Virginia Tech mass shooting, perpetrated by an openly disturbed student, the Court preemptively apologized for Jude Michael Mirra’s murder, stating, “Our system doesn’t work that way. You don’t go arrest somebody because you’re afraid they might do something. Those are made after the fact looking back, and I think we’re dealing with a situation like that here.”[4]

Just under two years later, on February 03, 2010, Ms. Jordan checked into the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan with Jude, after hours of aimless cab rides throughout New York City. Late at night, while the boy slept, Jordan crushed about 20 Xanax pills and 40 Ambiens into a mixture of vodka and orange juice that she then forced down the 8-year old’s throat while sitting atop him “using enough force to bruise that boy on the face, the nose, the chest,” according to the prosecution.[5]

Media reporting on the case almost universally focused on the superficial narrative: the shocking tragedy of a millionaire mother, desperate and delusional, driven to the most unthinkable act of crime. Ms. Jordan had, some 20 years previous, started a successful home health care service upon which her affluence was built. The recriminations against “somebody in authority”, fearfully predicted by the Wyoming District Court, never manifested. Troublingly, nobody asked, following the murder, why Jordan’s dangerous mental state, so obvious to Law Enforcement untrained in Psychology, could have seemingly escaped the notice of the mental health care professionals whose services Ms. Jordan had retained.


Facilitated Communication

Jude was 7 years old when Florida-based “trauma therapist” Carol Crow diagnosed him with Multiple Personality Disorder (more recently known as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]). It’s a diagnosis that is problematic even in ideal therapeutic settings, as the condition enjoys no scientific validation and is largely viewed as discredited. In Jude’s case, however, such a diagnosis is further complicated in that it was arrived at by analysis of the boy’s own self-reports — reports he was clearly unable to convey in reality, but that were manufactured in his name via “facilitated communication”.

Facilitated Communication (FC) is defined by Oxford’s Dictionary of Psychology [6] as “A teaching method and therapeutic technique in which facilitators or partners help people with severe developmental disabilities to communicate by providing sufficient manual guidance to enable them to convey messages through a keyboard, a picture board, or a speech synthesizer.” This method “often appears to reveal unexpected literacy and a far higher level of intellectual functioning than the person was believed to possess, but single-blind studies and double-blind studies have revealed that disabled people are unable to respond intelligently to stimuli that are unseen by their facilitators and that the facilitators unwittingly control the responses.”

Over 20 years ago, scientific debate concerning FC was already quite settled. In 1995, the journal American Psychologist published a paper titled A History of Facilitated Communication [7] noting that, “Controlled research using single and double blind procedures in laboratory and natural settings with a range of clinical populations with which FC is used have determined that, not only are the people with disabilities unable to respond accurately to label or describe stimuli unseen by their assistants, but that the responses are controlled by the assistants.” The authors were blunt in their conclusion: “FC is a pseudoscientific procedure serving antiscientific ends.”

Convinced that her child’s apparent autism was actually a grossly improbable psychophysiological response to traumatic sexual abuse, Ms. Jordan believed she could facilitate Jude’s articulate cries for help. Helping guide Jude’s hand over a computer keyboard or Blackberry device, Jordan would “assist” him in producing typed conversations. As one witness testified, a nurse and forensic interviewer attempted communication with Jude and determined that his alleged typed responses were fully attributable to Jordan, and “not at all in any way, shape, or form Jude.”

“[Jude] was, basically, very lethargic and not even looking or paying attention to what was going on, and Miss Jordan was guiding his hand on the buttons to push on the laptop computer.”[8]


Multiple Personality Disorder

The theory behind Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now rebranded as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is that some traumas, particularly childhood sexual traumas, are so horrific and incomprehensible that memories of their occurrence are “repressed”, relegated to some dark corner of the mind, outside of immediate consciousness where they develop new, alternate, or “alter” personalities of their own. Intuitive as this might now sound in a culture wherein this premise has served as a well-worn dramatic plot device, none of it stands up to scientific scrutiny. While proponents of DID theory currently like to claim that the condition lies somewhere on a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) spectrum, Dr. Richard McNally, Professor and Director of Clinical Training at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology, points out, “[t]he hallmark of PTSD is involuntary, intrusive recollection of traumatic experiences,” [9] not selective, protective amnesia.

And while evidence for the existence of “repressed” traumas — often alleged to stem from long-term episodic extreme childhood abuse — is dubious at best, there is still no reliable evidence that DID even results from childhood trauma. [10] [11] The “evidence” cited to support the claims of DID’s relationship to child abuse comes primarily from self reports of the DID-diagnosed.

But if the memories of abuse have been “repressed”, how can one report upon something that they have entirely redacted from their minds? Often, hypnosis and other memory retrieval techniques are employed to draw forth what is presumed to be accessible in the subconscious mind. Unfortunately, this digging about for “repressed memories” can serve to create false memories that almost always conform to the assumptions held by the therapist. (With this in mind, Dr. Numan Gharaibeh, staff psychiatrist at Danbury Hospital, CT, suggests that “a DID diagnosis causes memories of childhood sexual abuse,” [12] rather than the other way round.) False memories can be cultivated into deeply-held convictions, even when those memories are extremely bizarre and improbable. Hypnotism has been employed to “regress” subjects into “remembering” their own births, or even confabulated past lives. It is primarily recovered memory narratives that are responsible for the modern folklore of alien abduction. (“Abductees’” false memories, in fact, are measurably as traumatic as memories of real, corroborated traumas, which gives some idea of the gross, unforgivable incompetence that therapists employing suggestive memory retrieval techniques in search of childhood sexual abuse are party to.) [13]

It was, in large part, the recovered memory testimonials of individuals being treated for Multiple Personality Disorder that sustained an embarrassing modern witch hunt known to sociologists today as the “Satanic Panic”. Spanning a period beginning in 1980 and declining into obscurity after the mid-90s, this bizarre moral uproar saw a temporary mainstreaming of hysterical conspiracist claims related to Satanic Ritual Abuse and cultic criminal networks secretly working toward the destruction of all societal moral order. Daytime talk show hosts, from Oprah Winfrey to Geraldo Rivera, regularly, and entirely uncritically, aired Satanic abuse “survivor” stories, despite a complete absence of corroborating evidence. It was a literal witch-hunt. Lives were ruined, families torn apart, decades of innocent lives wasted away in prison cells, and much of this, beyond any sensible doubt, was urged forward by incompetent therapists hypnotically probing their clients for revelations of repressed abuse.

The obvious parallel to the Salem witch trials has often been noted, but as one recent historical account points out, “[a]fter the panic died down in Salem, however, there were apologies and reparations,” […] “[n]o such apologies followed [the Satanic Panic], and there hasn’t been much in the way of reparations either. […] Of the many hundreds of people who were investigated [during the panic], some 190 were formally charged with crimes, leading to at least 83 convictions. Undoing these convictions proved to be a slow, halting, and very painful process.” [14] 

Despite being thoroughly and completely discredited by law enforcement, scientists, and journalists, the conspiracy theory of Satanic Ritual Abuse as an intentional, DID-creating trauma-based mind-control program, still holds currency among certain professionals in mental health care, and many of the mental health professionals who were instrumental in fomenting panic in the 80s still hold strong to their methods and theories today.

Though the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) is carefully presented as a scientifically sanctioned “professional association organized to develop and promote comprehensive, clinically effective and empirically based resources and responses to trauma and dissociation,” [15] it remains the final, largest refuge for conspiracist mental health professionals still invested in DID theory and irrational, absurd, fully debunked notions of Satanic mind-control plots. [16]

While most of what the ISSTD publicly presents attempts to defend “recovered memories” and seeks to legitimate dissociative multipicity as a naturally-occurring response to trauma, the organization also maintains a “Ritual-Abuse/Mind-Control Special Interest Group (RA/MC SIG)” dedicated to furthering “dialogue, knowledge, research, and training on the etiology, evaluation, and effective treatment of trauma and dissociation in clients reporting histories of ritual abuse or mind control.” [17]

The first of three contacts listed for the ISSTD’s “RA/MC SIG” is one Ellen Lacter, a San Diego-based Clinical Psychologist with bizarre beliefs in Satanic conspiracies and government mind-control.

It was to Ellen Lacter that Gigi Jordan took Jude in search of validation for her delusional and paranoid fears. Unsurprisingly, it appears she found it.


Ellen Lacter

In 2008, Ellen Lacter filed a Suspected Child Abuse Report [18] to the Child Welfare Services agency in Santa Barbara, California. The report was dated April 02, only one day after the Emergency Shelter Hearing had taken place. In the report, she stated:

“Gigi Jordan, mother of a boy, Jude Jordan (DOB: 07/13/2001), reports that Jude has recently (since early, 2008) disclosed to her that Emile Tzekov (Jude’s biological father who has relinquished his parental rights) abused him (Jude), including penetration, anal penetration (unknown if digital or penile), forced ingestion of feces, putting needles under his fingernails and in the webs between his fingers, choking him, and needle-pricking his chest and legs. Jude has suffered developmental delays and medical conditions that may be a direct effect of this alleged abuse.”

In a follow-up correspondence with the agency, Lacter noted, “The police questioned Ms. Jordan and did not believe her disclosures. They placed her on a 72-hour hold in Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Behavioral Unit, and placed her son with Family Services.” However, “the hospital released Ms. Jordan on her own recognizance prior to her scheduled hearing of 4/1/2008, apparently having assessed her as credible and sane.”

In reality, Ms. Jordan had been released against medical advice, nor was she adjudged either credible or sane. As shown above, the Court very explicitly expressed grave concern for Jude’s safety in his mother’s care, while explaining, seemingly apologetically, that they did not meet the legal burden necessary to take Jude from her custody. A psychologist and licensed forensic examiner who assessed Ms. Jordan stated at the hearing that Jordan seemed to hold “a fixated focus that presented itself as almost delusional that had a paranoid realm to it,” [19] and he expressed concern for Ms. Jordan’s degeneration into a “full-blown delusional system with paranoid ideation.” [20]

Ms. Lacter, however, seemed to see none of Ms. Jordan’s apparently obvious delusional paranoia, even as Ms. Jordan spoke of an omnipresent Satanic cult conspiracy. How is this possible?

Lacter explained in her report, “Ms. Jordan first contacted me, having found me through my website on ritual abuse (, concerned that ritual abuse might explain her son’s behaviors and the disclosures he had begun to make, Jude’s behaviors and disclosures, reported by Ms. Jordan, were consistent with that of other victims of ritual abuse. Ms. Jordan retained me to provide her with consultation to help her to keep her son safe and to help him psychologically.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.38.33 PM (1)

Screenshot from Ellen Lacter’s website

A look at Ellen Lacter’s website clearly reveals that she would be the last person to disabuse anybody of paranoid delusions related to Satanic conspiracies.

On the homepage of, one finds a wealth of information related to “mind control”, “ritual abuse”, Satanic cults and “Witchcraft Abuse”. Her recommended reading list contains such heady titles as, Other Altars: Roots and Realities of Cultic and Satanic Ritual Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder; and apocalyptic titles such as, Mind Control, World Control. Her site also includes instructions for ordering a book titled, Thanks for the Memories, The Truth Has Set Me Free, by Brice Taylor, one of the most outrageous tales of conspiracist delusion ever penned. Both Ellen Lacter and Brice Taylor have presented at annual conferences for an organization known as S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-control And Ritual abuse Today). S.M.A.R.T. conferences discus such pressing current mental health issues as dissociative disorders brought on by Freemason, Illuminati, and Satanist ritual abuse activities, as well as government mind-control plots. When I attended a S.M.A.R.T. conference in 2009, I noted a sales booth offering a “more advanced species of tinfoil hat,” [21] baseball caps lined with a metallic fiber weave meant to block electromagnetic transmissions. I also observed a speaker by the name of “Royal”, at all of about forty years of age claim that she was a personal slave to nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

“My experience with Mengele”, Royal explained in a lecture (the gist of which was that Satan uses abortion as a means of traumatic mind-control), “involved much of the trauma-based mind control involving core programming (such as End-Time programming) that is connected to the global take over. He used the Psychic/Spiritual dimensions using, what I have come to call ‘demonic harmonics’, which involves using musical tones and quantum physics to open up portals into the spiritual realms. I also have core programs set up that were created using abortions as a means to develop them and more.” (It’s also worth noting that a current member the ISSTD’s Board of Directors, Adah Sachs, was presenting at this carnival of lunacy.) [22]

In Thanks for the Memories, Brice Taylor claims to have recovered memories, following an automobile accident, which revealed to her a hidden past of government mind-control in which she was programmed to act as a sex slave for distinguished people of power. According to Taylor, the late comedian Bob Hope acted as her primary keeper during her enslavement, in which time she was made to provide carnal comforts to world leaders and famous entertainers, from Elvis Presley to Neil Diamond. Among Taylor’s rambling list of absurd claims is the charge that she was made to participate in the filming of dolphin porn directed by Sylvester Stallone, for the amusement of then-president Ronald Reagan:

“Another auxiliary project, one that brought in proceeds, was dolphin pornography. Dolphin porn was filmed in Malibu and in the dolphin tanks at Point Mugu. It was convenient because they had cages already built and so the dolphins could be housed there for use almost anytime. [Ronald] Reagan really loved the dolphin stuff. He watched a porn video of [my daughter] Kelly and I with a couple of dolphins. During the viewing he smiled, patted my leg and said, “I’ll be with you later.” He wasn’t into sex with children and didn’t have sex with my daughter. When the film was over he said, “Watching you do underwater ballet is beautiful, but seeing you with the dolphin is out of this world!” He laughed and looked up, like he was seeing a missile or shuttle launch. Lots of dolphin porn was filmed. I believe Bob [Hope] gave copies of it to Prince Charles, Prince Phillip and Margaret Thatcher, who is a lesbian.” [23]


But if one were to conclude that Ms. Lacter were a New World Order conspiracist, she points out, in one interview, that she doesn’t believe in the lunatic theory of some single, all-powerful force of evil conspiring to rule the world: “I believe that there are a number of different organized groups that all have the agenda of ruling the world. There’s the Satanic network, and I don’t believe that that is all networked, there’s the witchcraft network,” etc. [24] In fact, “They” are everywhere, and they are all masters of trauma-based mind-control.

Taylor_Brice_-_Thanks_for_the_memoriesBy Lacter’s reckoning, “there’s probably well over a thousand children being abused horribly in cult practices here [in San Diego] and I don’t think San Diego is worse than any place else.” [25]

Naturally, these cults revel in infant sacrifice, sometimes going after babies that are in utero to satiate their bloodlust: “[…] they’ll force the delivery early so seven or eight months gestation and that baby will be sacrificed and then that person will be programmed [by way of mind-control] to believe that she just had a miscarriage,” [26] however, Lacter continues, “a lot of the children who are sacrificed in rituals are brought in from third world countries.” This, apparently, explains the lack of evidential corroboration for Lacter’s outsized claims of ritual sacrifice activity.

In fact, there is no credible evidence for Lacter’s claims at all, only the “recovered memories” of mistreated clients in DID therapy, and the lunatic claims of her associates, like Brice Taylor. But the absence of evidence, according to Lacter’s extremely deluded narrative, is merely evidence of the insidious power these cults wield. Having established themselves at every level of society, They secretly manipulate the unwitting public to prevent the truth of their existence from surfacing: “Most of the perpetrators of the most organized abuse never get arrested and they raise their kids to have jobs in law enforcement. They raise their kids to have jobs in child protective services and the District Attorney’s offices, etc. So they have their own network established in the institutions to erase records to disbelieve these reports. They have a very organized never-let-it-come-out campaign.” [27] Naturally, the media has been infiltrated as well: “The most organized groups have raised some of their children to be reporters who definitely write articles saying none of this is true, these therapists are crazy, these survivors are victims of their therapists putting memories in their minds. So the media is very influential and is one of their main ways of keeping the truth from being exposed.” [28]

Perusing Lacter’s material, one gets the distinct sense that she has never been approached with a claim too deranged or schizophrenic for her to doubt the teller’s sanity: “Ritualistically abused children and adults are usually misdiagnosed for years as psychotic and delusional, due to their reports of hearing voices and extreme state of fear. The voices belong to dissociated personalities and to spirits and demons they perceive as having been attached to them during ritual ceremonies.”

This is the therapist that Gigi Jordan sought for consultation when apparently at the height of her paranoid delusions of Satanic cult persecution; Ellen Lacter, who, acting under licensed professional mental health sanction, purveys conspiracist notions to the potentially mentally vulnerable. Had Gigi Jordan put her trust into a sane, rational, mental health professional at this critical time in this tragic story, perhaps Jude might still be alive today.

And it gets worse, the shame upon the mental health profession is more profound still; Ellen Lacter can occasionally be found speaking at professional conferences for mental health professionals in which her convoluted conspiracism enjoys peer acceptance. She is but one in a fringe community of therapists, social workers, and counselors, who presume to see evidence of Satanic mind-control in their susceptible clients. It is not uncommon that such conspiracy-based conferences, purveying theories of Satanic abuse, government mind-control, and recovered memory therapies, offer Continuing Education Units to licensed attendees in the field of mental health care.

Lacter is very guarded about her practice, and she did not reply to my inquiries regarding the services she provided in keeping Jude “safe” and “helping him psychologically.” It is my contention, however, that the very licensure of one as flagrantly deranged, mentally incompetent, and in obvious need of psychiatric care as Ellen Lacter is herself, is indicative of a system of mental health care that is in desperate need of massive reform.


Frank Putnam

A psychologist and licensed forensic examiner for district court at United Medical Center Behavioral Health Services testifying at the 2008 Emergency Shelter Hearing described the Facilitated Communication Jordan used with Jude. “I guess [Jude] has an arm that is somewhat flaccid, and [Jordan] was able to [facilitate his typing], and he was able to point to certain things on the keyboard, and she was able to piece together some potential [responses].” [29] A doctor from a Children’s Clinic who examined Jude in 2008 didn’t equivocate when asked whether or not Jude was capable of cohering the complex thoughts required in relaying the narrative of sadistic Satanic abuse being attributed to him: “No. He cannot respond to direct questions.” [30]  

During the 2014 trial of Gigi Jordan for the murder of Jude, prosecutors also pointed to the extreme unlikelihood that an 8-year old boy (much less an autistic boy with communication deficiencies) could possibly possess the vocabulary and spelling abilities that were present in his alleged communiques; words like “aggressively” and “sadistic”. [31]

There was, in fact, no question at all that “Jude’s” statements, including the narrative of victimization at the hands of a Satanic cult conspiracy, were derived from Facilitated Communication. Nonetheless, an expert witness for the defense, Frank Putnam, MD, a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Psychiatry from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center,

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, submitted an Expert Witness Report to Jordan’s counsel that directly contradicted the established facts. According to Putnam, “There are a number of statements in therapists’ records and affidavits attesting to the witnessing of Jude’s independent use of a texting device to communicate with others.” [32][Emphasis added]

In an appearance on the Dr. Phil Show, Putnam went further. “Jude was able to communicate what had happened to him using the texting. I’ve seen this kind of texting with a number of children now. I’m quite struck. Even though they may not be able to speak and many people assume they must be in some ways mentally retarded or challenged that they often can text at very high levels of language.” [33]

But what exactly is Putnam talking about? What does he mean when he refers to “this kind of texting”? Is he referring to “facilitated” texting and, if so, why does he claim Jude could text independently? And why is it that Putnam failed to mention the element of Facilitated Communication at all? Does he deny that FC was being used at all, or is he claiming that there were occasional instances of independent texting?

I asked Dr. Putnam some time ago, via email, if he could elaborate upon his comments related to Jude’s alleged independent typing, but he never replied. I also posed another poignant line of inquiry within the same email asking if he didn’t feel that Ms. Jordan’s “perception that her son was being abused by a Satanic conspiracy helped motivate her to kill him?” And, if so, “would it not be accurate to say that a medical professional who failed to realize and relay to Ms. Jordan that her perception of her communication with her son was inaccurate (and thus allowed her to create a delusion of Satanic abuse allegations) is complicit (by way of incompetence) in the murder itself?”

Of course, Putnam could only be considered something of an accessory after the fact, as he provided his mystifying analysis of Jude’s alleged communications after the murder took place. But, if Putnam was looking to obfuscate the facts of the crime, he was likely at least as motivated to defend the diagnosis of DID and its narrative of extreme abuse as he was motivated to keep Jordan out of prison. In his report, Putnam describes himself as an “authority on child and adolescent dissociative disorders,” and under “professional organizations” on his CV, we see listed the ISSTD. Putnam was the ISSTD’s recipient of their annual Cornelia Wilbur award in 1990 “for outstanding clinical contributions to the treatment of dissociative disorders.” (Cornelia Wilbur was the psychiatrist who we now know conspired to manufacture a false narrative of Multiple Personality Disorder for her famed client known as “Sybil”.) [34] In 2013, Putnam was recipient of the ISSTD’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

With no physical medical evidence to support the claims of Jude’s sadistic sufferings, Putnam attempted to match the self-reports allegedly typed by Jude to possible psychological symptoms of traumatic abuse. This necessitated that Putnam both reject Jude’s diagnosis of autism — attributing his cognitive difficulties instead to psychological trauma — and accepting the alleged self-reports attributed to Jude as legitimate communications from the boy. In rejecting the autism diagnosis, Putnam pointed to atypical features in Jude’s autism symptoms concluding, “it is highly probable that some of Jude’s unexplained and unusual medical problems were unrecognized injuries from physical and sexual abuse.” However, as another doctor noted, in recognition of Jude’s positive response to steroid treatments, “most cases of autism are not immune-mediated. There are however, rare cases of autism, variants of autism that are immune-mediated.” [35] Jude, it seemed, was one of those cases, nor could any idiosyncrasies in Jude’s symptoms change the unlikelihood that he’d suffered the tortures claimed, for which he remained physically un-scarred.

Apparently desperate for at least the appearance of some type of physical corroboration to support the extreme abuse claims, Putnam embarrassingly noted dental abscesses Jude had received treatment for in 2004, stating that they “could well have been the result of being made to eat feces, an abuse Jude that [sic] reported to several individuals […]”


A Need for Reform

Another regular ISSTD annual conference presenter, Bessel van der Kolk, submitted expert testimony intended to describe how trauma could manifest itself in ways that could look like autism. The court excluded his testimony, but there is a certain audacity to a man like van der Kolk submitting expert testimony at all. Back in 1996, while being deposed as an expert, defending recovered memory veracity and legitimacy, van der Kolk’s testimony was excluded after attorney Christopher Barden revealed severe problems in a research paper van der Kolk used to support his position. A graduate student, who had collected van der Kolk’s data, had been expelled for scientific dishonesty in falsifying data. Merely removing the student’s name from the list of co-authors, van der Kolk’s paper remained otherwise unrevised.

However, as Barden pointed out,

“The questions that eliminated van der Kolk were not so much questions about his old researchers or testimony in the Hungerford case but rather his shocking ignorance of his own profession. It is amazing to me that van der Kolk had been deposed and cross examined by dozens of lawyers over many years and not one ever asked him to specify the limitations on the testimony of experts included in the AMA and ethics codes. Not one lawyer ever asked him to discuss the differences between the concepts of reliability and validity. Not one lawyer asked him to discuss the actuarial prediction vs. clinical prediction research. Not one lawyer assessed his knowledge of testing, psychological measurement, the cross-cultural history of “dissociative phenomena” or other relevant matters (note for example, van der Kolk’s stunning errors in discussing Greek literature). Not one of these attorneys engaged him in a dialogue about his own research methods including how he assessed the reliability and validity of his own measures and procedures. Not one of these attorneys apparently asked him about the Coping and Resiliency research literatures and not one even discovered that his old mentor was Bruno Bettleheim — new believed to be one of the great frauds in psychology in the 20th Century. Van der Kolk’s failure to answer these basic and critical professional questions about science, methodology and history doomed his credibility as an “expert” in this field and he knew it the moment those questions were asked.” [36]


The Satanic Temple's Grey Faction is dedicated to fighting professional mental health pseudoscience and Satanic Panic hysteria

The Satanic Temple’s Grey Faction is dedicated to fighting professional mental health pseudoscience and Satanic Panic hysteria

It is exasperatingly disappointing that in all this time nothing has changed. Harmful and discredited theories are being put forward by the same unwavering individuals, to the detriment of mental health care consumers, to the detriment of the mental health care profession, and with occasional tragic consequences. Indeed, given the consensus among scientists, it would appear that only a “shocking ignorance” of advances in memory research and cognitive science could account for the dogged persistence of discredited DID therapies and repressed memory retrieval techniques. It is an outrage that a pseudoscience-based organization such as the ISSTD (much less an organization like S.M.A.R.T.) can offer Continuing Education Units while propagating conspiracy theory. Fully debunked by empirical studies, the use of Facilitated Communication by a licensed therapist to arrive at a psychiatric diagnosis should, at the very least, cause for revocation of professional licensure. Obvious public displays of paranoid delusion, such as those expressed by Ellen Lacter, should, at the very least, cause for revocation of professional licensure and mandatory psychiatric evaluation. The fact that Ms. Jordan, harboring paranoid delusions, could have her delusions supported and affirmed by licensed mental health professional is a monstrous mental health scandal.   

The facts are these: an 8-year old autistic boy was diagnosed with a debunked psychiatric disorder. The diagnosis was arrived at by discredited methods. The professional pseudoscientific assumptions surrounding the boy’s “treatment” likely contributed to paranoid delusions in his openly disturbed mother, who ultimately killed the boy in order to spare him from the horrors of a nonexistent threat. While the boy’s mother now serves a prison term for her crime, the worse-than-incompetent “professionals” who not only failed to prevent her from committing the murder, but may have actively fed the paranoid delusions that acted as her rationale for the deed, remain unapologetic and without censure. It is my contention that proper professional mental health intervention may well have prevented this woman from murdering her son. The fact that her filicidal delusions could be reinforced by mental health professionals should be cause for outrage and reform.

Please consider signing and sharing this petition to have Ellen Lacter’s Psychology license reviewed by the state of California:


  1. Exhibit P, page 9
  2. McKinley, James C. At Murder Trial, Gigi Jordan Testifies About Abuse She Believed Son Suffered. New York Times, 15 Oct. 2014.
  3. Exhibit P, page 16
  4. Exhibit P page 73
  5. Nazaryan, Alexander. Autism, Murder and a Women on the Ledge. 14 Oct 2014
  6. A Dictionary of Psychology (Oxford Quick Reference), Oxford University Press; 3 edition (April 1, 2009)
  7. Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A., & Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. American Psychologist, 50, 750-765.
  8. Exhibit P page 17 -18
  9. McNally, Richard J (2003). Recovering Memories of Trauma: A View From the Laboratory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 32-35.
  10. Piper A, Merskey H. The persistence of folly: a critical examination of dissociative identity disorder. Part I. The excesses of an improbable concept. Can J Psychiatry. 2004;49(9):592-600.
  11. Piper A, Merskey H. The persistence of folly: critical examination of dissociative identity disorder. Part II. The defense and decline of multiple personality or dissociative identity disorder. Can J Psychiatry. 2004;49(10):678-683.
  12. Gharaibeh N: Dissociative identity disorder: time to remove it from DSM-V? Curr Psychiatry 2009;31:30–36.
  13. McNally, R.J., Lasko, N.B., Clancy, S.A., Macklin, M.L., Pitman, R.K., and Orr, S.P. 2004. Psychophysiological responding during script-driven imagery in people reporting abduction by space aliens. Psychol. Sci. 15:493 -497.
  14. Beck, Richard. We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s. Public Affairs, 2015 (pg. xxi)
  15. Website for the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), (retrieved 20 Jan, 2016)
  16. Mesner, Douglas; Rivera, Sarah Ponto. Where the Witch-hunters are: Satanic Panic and Mental Health Malpractice. 2015,, (
  17. Website for the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), (retrieved 20 Jan, 2016)
  18. Exhibit N
  19. Exhibit p page 61
  20. Exhibit p page 64
  21. Mesner, Douglas, Report from the S.M.A.R.T. Ritual Abuse/Mind-Control Conference 2009, Part 1
  22. ISSTD Board of Directors, 2015, (retrieved 20 Jan, 2016)
  23. Taylor, Brice. Thanks For The Memories … The Truth Has Set Me Free! The Memoirs of Bob Hope’s and Henry Kissinger’s Mind-Controlled Slave. Brice Taylor Trust, 1999
  24. Dr. Ellen Lacter on Ritual Abuse and Helping the Victims & Survivors – Interview With Vyzygoth, YouTube, (2:15)
  25. ibid (1:37)
  26. ibid (50:30)
  27. ibid (26:34)
  28. ibid (27:27)
  29. exhibit p page 58
  30. exhibit p page 42
  31. Sanchez, Ray; Remizowski, Leigh. New York businesswoman guilty of manslaughter in son’s death. CNN. 05 Nov. 2014.
  32. Exhibit S page 5
  33. Dr. Phil Show. Death on 5th Avenue: Millionaire Mom Accused of Murdering Son Speaks from Rikers Island. CBS, aired 31 Oct, 2014
  34. Nathan, Debbie. Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Multiple Personality Case. Free Press, 2012
  35. Exhibit E page 2
  36. Mesner, Douglas. Bessel van der Kolk, Scientific Dishonesty & the Mysterious Disappearing Coauthor.,
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Where the Witch-hunters are: Satanic Panic and Mental Health Malpractice Tue, 06 Jan 2015 18:10:32 +0000 3b46053r

This piece was written in collaboration with Sarah Ponto Rivera



Where the Witch-hunters are: Satanic Panic and Mental Health Malpractice

By Douglas Mesner and Sarah Ponto Rivera


“I have met many demons, devils, evil characters, representatives of Satan, and Satan himself in my MPD [Multiple Personality Disorder] work.”

— Colin Ross, MD, 1994

Past President, International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)

“I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational satanic cults.”

— Richard Kluft, MD, 2014 Past President, ISSTD

It is with an ironic sense of disdain that we can now look back upon the day-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 80s and 90s, with its imaginary conspiracy of pedophilic Satanic cult activity, and remark that one of its primary instigators was a devout Catholic. A foundational text for the “Satanic Panic”, as it came to be called, was co-authored by the pious psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder who, with his client-turned-wife, Michelle Smith, wrote of Smith’s alleged early ritual abuse at the hands of a secret Devil-worshipping society. Michelle Remembers (1980), billed as a true story and humored as such within the talk-show circuit of the time, was a ludicrous supernatural horror story in which both Christ and Satan made dramatic guest appearances. The senseless, confabulatory ramblings upon which the “facts” of the book were constructed, were gleaned from hypnotic regression sessions, in which Pazder claimed Smith had recalled horrific events that had previously been “repressed” deep within her unconscious mind.

It doesn’t take any lofty credentials in psychology to whiff some air of projection in Catholic claims, that yet persist, against their imaginary enemy’s loathsome proclivities. And while the Satanic Panic witch-hunt extended well beyond the Catholic Church, and beyond political boundaries — even at times finding its paranoid claims prosecuted, without credible evidence, in the hallowed halls of secular “justice” — one can still easily sense that same guilty projection in all of the twisted, grotesquely detailed child abuse fantasies of that era. In passionate tones of moral outrage, self-appointed occult crime authorities and Ritual Abuse experts gathered at informational meetings and conferences to revel in sadistic child abuse tales, similar in transparent latency to angered pulpit-pounding outcry against the “homosexual agenda”.

Those who remember the more laughably dated ideas that arose from the panic — e.g. the demonization of Dungeons & Dragons as a gateway to secretive underworld depravity, or the fear of insidious ‘backward masked’ subliminal calls to suicide and Satanism in popular music — will find it hard to believe when we say that the Satanic Panic is still alive and well… in fact it’s never gone away. But this is the case. The Satanic Panic never died, it just faded from mainstream attention. Many of the old purveyors still propagandize to insular, dedicated groups and, in another twisted irony, they mostly spread their delusions in the name of mental health itself.

Just last year, an eating disorders clinic known as “Castlewood”, in St. Louis, MO, settled four lawsuits brought against them by former clients who claimed that during the course of their “treatment” at the center, they had been led to believe that they had repressed memories of traumatic abuse, including that of the ritualistic, Satanic kind. The author of these delusions, it was claimed, was one Mark Schwartz, co-founder and former clinical co-director of the facility. In 2004, on his Curriculum Vitae, Schwartz listed “Dissociative Disorders” as one of his “Clinical Specialties”. Where one finds “Dissociative Disorders”, one tends to find a belief in the mythic “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD), now rebranded as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID). And where one finds this alleged disorder, one invariably finds notions of concealed, “repressed” trauma, and therapies devised to draw forth hidden memories from the unconscious. Where one finds such therapies, one finds the most hysterical subcultures of conspiracist delusion imaginable.

Just a few years ago, in 2012, Satanic Ritual Abuse charges against a family in Missouri were eventually dropped, with the prosecutor, Kellie Wingate Campbell stating to the Associated Press, “Whether or not I believe the allegations is an independent question from whether or not I believe I can prove each and every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.” Clearly she felt she could not. What Campbell failed to mention is that many charges were already disproven when alleged physical evidence, including buried bodies, failed to manifest in a massive excavation of the family’s property. Medical records subpoenaed from the accusers also failed to provide record of alleged injuries that the Judge himself noted “would have certainly required critical care.” Also left unsaid was that the accusations were the result of the accusers’ “recovered memories”.

The accused, financially ruined by legal fees, and stigmatized by the accusations, can never recover from the episode. Campbell, of course, need have no fear of being so much as reprimanded for prosecutorial misconduct. Even Lael Rubin, the prosecutor in the seminal Satanic abuse daycare case of McMartin Preschool — the longest, most expensive case in American history, marred by false testimony and concealed exonerating evidence — escaped any official censure. Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General who, as District Attorney, fought hard to keep a clearly innocent victim of the hysteria, Gerald Amirault, in prison for 18 years, just barely lost a bid for Governor in the most recent election.

The perpetrators and purveyors of the Satanic Panic, who destroyed countless lives and families, never experienced justice for their cruel stupidity, and many of them still operate with smug impunity exactly as they did during the height of the hysteria.

Just a year ago, Nov. 26th, 2013, a former day-care worker named Fran Keller was finally released from prison after 21 years spent for crimes she could not possibly have committed by any reasonable interpretation of reality. With no physical evidence to support the accusations (which included claims of graveyard rituals, cannibalism, and medically undetected limb transplants) Fran, and her husband, Dan, were convicted on the most dubious of child testimony drawn from coercive and incompetent interrogations by zealous witch-hunters. The children were ignored when they claimed they were not abused at all (as happened even in testimony) — and the impossibility of the claims was dutifully ignored as irrelevant to claims of a greater truth.

Dr. Randy Noblitt’s expert testimony was instrumental in the conviction of the Kellers. Noblitt, an old-school anti-Satanist buffoon of the subliminal message-divining kind, explained away the lack of physical evidence by invoking the conspiracy’s magnitude: police officers and other officials were involved in the cover-up. The children had been systematically traumatized as a means to brainwash them into repressing the memories. Following the trial, Noblitt revealed in an interview that he had caught Mr. Keller using vague hand signals in an effort to communicate to secret fellow Satanists in the jury.

In a letter to the Court on behalf of the Keller’s eventual successful appeal, Associate Professor Dr. Evan Harrington, of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology noted that “the world portrayed by Dr. Noblitt is one in which thousands of cult abusers have infiltrated respectable society, and specifically daycare centers, in order to operate a clandestine subculture engaged in massive levels of felonious criminality, all based on mind control triggered by secret handshakes and hand signals.” The letter, bearing signatures of support from various esteemed social and behavioral scientists, concludes by stating that Noblitt’s “opinions have been scientifically discredited, and are not shared by the vast majority of clinicians and researchers within the field of psychology.”

But where is Randy “L’il Knob” Noblitt today, now that social conditions aren’t nearly so amenable to the tin-foil hat Torquemada whose doctoral thesis was on The Celestial Concomitants of Human Behavior, more colloquially known as Astrology? He’s a professor of Clinical Psychology at Alliant University where his faculty profile lists his primary expertise as “Cult and ritual abuse”, and among “courses taught” we find “Ritual Abuse” as one of but three.

L’il Knob could be found in attendance at last month’s conference of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), “an international, non-profit, professional association organized to develop and promote comprehensive, clinically effective and empirically based resources and responses to trauma and dissociation and to address its relevance to other theoretical constructs.”

Despite its inclusion in the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), DID doesn’t enjoy general support among psychiatric professionals as a legitimate disorder. Before its publication, the DSM-V task force received a letter signed by top psychiatrists, urging them to remove the condition from the manual. Dr. Allen Frances, task force chair of DSM-IV, lamented the continued inclusion of DID in the DSM, referring to the disorder as “complete bunk” in a 2013 Wall Street Journal interview. Nonetheless, it remains.

The ISSTD struggles to maintain the appearance of an “empirically based” outfit, despite zero scientific support. Retrospective surveys of the DID-diagnosed are quantified into statistics, and presented as evidence of the condition’s legitimacy. Bad data is used, and good data is abused. In his 2003 book, Remembering Trauma, Dr. Richard McNally of Harvard University meticulously debunks primary DID literature. The actual substance of his findings are dutifully ignored by the faithful.

Some among the ISSTD utilize treatments insurance companies won’t even cover, leading therapists like Sebern Fisher (MA, BCN), to recommend creative billing. (“Stop recording…” Fisher demanded at the conference before confiding to the audience, “I bill psychotherapy code…I don’t want that on the record. …There’s a code for biofeedback, assisted psychotherapy, which no insurance company acknowledges.”)

Su Baker (MEd), also speaking at the recent ISSTD conference, recognizes that DID is quickly being recognized as a simple renaming of the debunked MPD, so she recommends easing new minds into the concept through courses in “complex trauma”. “We can’t use the word dissociation… So we use complex trauma knowing that down the road you lead people into the dissociative field and the way of thinking about that.”

Colin Ross, an ISSTD past president and recipient of their “Distinguished Achievement Award”, has devised standardized interview schedule to make DID sound ‘sciency’. With the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (DDIS), according to Ross, one can say, “Well, I made a clinical diagnosis and I confirmed it,”… “And so, in the United States, that is a little bit […] legally protected.”

Ross fully understands the importance of legal protection. In Manitoba, he was accused of malpractice — the worst case of medical malpractice one expert witness claimed to have ever seen — by a former patient, Roma Hart. She claimed Ross had instilled her with bizarre and perverse delusions, including the belief that her family was involved in a Satanic crime-ring, and that Hart herself had been forcibly impregnated by extraterrestrials, even birthing a hybrid infant. Overmedication brought Ms. Hart to the precipice of death on several occasions. Ross relocated to Texas where almost identical claims were brought against him by one Martha Tyo. The hospital settled, and Ross now runs his own research foundation “to further the understanding of psychological trauma and its consequences.”

In 2008, Ross beclowned himself by claiming he could demonstrate “paranormal” eye-beams, measured in EEG. When it was pointed out (by a real scientist) that his readings were merely picking up artifact from blinks and muscle movement, Ross agreed, though he continued to insist his eye-beams were real.

The DDIS contains a series of questions related to “Supernatural/Possession/ESP Experiences/Cults” which, if authored by anybody but Ross, one might reasonably assume to be an attempt to measure delusional beliefs. However, given Ross’s history, and the history of “dissociative disorder” studies in general, it’s not outrageous to wonder if the supernatural claims are taken at face value.

In 2012, a book entitled 22 Faces carried a forward by Ross and an endorsement from ISSTD past president Joyanna Silberg. Marketed as the “true story” of a woman who recovered memories of Satanic abuse, the book was an absurd tale of superstitious paranoia. In it, the protagonist experiences ESP, demonic possession, is abused by levitating Satanists, and is ultimately saved by way of divine intervention when Jesus himself intercedes on her behalf. Silberg writes that she and her peers “are all too familiar with the kinds of crimes and disorders described in 22 Faces.”

And this is where today’s Western, somewhat secularized, witch-hunters currently reside: among psychology’s pseudoscientific fringe; feeding delusion to the mentally vulnerable behind the protection of therapist-client privilege, and under the guise trauma therapy. While they revel in their disturbed pornographic fantasies of child-rape and extreme abuse, they proclaim their critics to be demented defenders of pedophilic assault. They co-opt the narrative of victim’s rights to conceal their absurd conspiracy theories from criticism and scrutiny. To question the validity of DID, or even the reality of a Satanic conspiracy, is — according to this defensive ploy — to question the very existence of child abuse itself. In this way, actual victims of abuse are used as human shields to defend our modern inquisitors as they engage in the most outrageous and under-investigated mental health scandal of our time.

Between the two of them, the authors have attended conferences, seminars, and workshops, spanning Recovered Memory subcultures from Alien Abduction support groups, Ritual Abuse seminars, Past-Life regression sessions, and ISSTD lectures. As they sift through their findings and transcribe their audio, the results will be posted at They hope to bring reform to the Mental Health field, and promote general awareness of Recovered Memory quackery.

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Mental Health Malpractice Cover-up. Castlewood Treatment Center seeks to purchase plaintiff gag-order. Sun, 10 Nov 2013 00:59:35 +0000 As revelations of a major Mental Health Care scandal come to light, a malpractice settlement threatens to conceal the issue from scrutiny once more.

money talks - EditedOn November 21, 2011, the first of four disturbingly similar malpractice lawsuits was filed against Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC. Among the allegations, a former client of the St. Louis based eating disorders clinic, Lisa Nasseff, claimed that “under the influence of various medically prescribed psychotropic medications” she was “negligently hypnotized” and coerced into believing that, among other things, she “was a member of a satanic cult and that she was involved in or perpetrated various criminal and horrific acts of abuse.” Leslie Thompson, Brooke Taylor, and Colette Travers all followed suit, each also alleging the cultivation of traumatic delusions while undergoing treatment at Castlewood, particularly under the care and supervision of one Mark Schwartz and his (then) wife Lori Galperin. The stage was set for an intense legal battle when, according to KMOV 4 in St. Louis, “Castlewood denied implanting false memories in the women and called the allegations bizarre.”

Indeed, the allegations are bizarre, but not atypical in the world of conspiracy theory-driven psychotherapy surrounding the mythic diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder [MPD] (now rebranded as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID] in the American Psychiatric Association’s [APA] Diagnostic & Statistical Manual [DSM]). Though lacking in empirical support, and despite indications to the contrary, the persistent theory maintains that certain conditions of psychological malaise are evidence of past trauma, even (in fact, especially) when the client has no conscious memory of those painful presumed events. Compartmentalized in “repressed” segments of the mind, these traumas are said to develop into isolate “personalities” independent of the client’s core self. Only by bringing the traumatic memories to full conscious assimilation can the client then be rid of the manifestations of distress these subconscious recollections provoke.

This theory of “traumatic repression” therapy is a well-worn fictional plot device, similar to the slapstick theory that the only cure for head injury-induced amnesia is another good whack to the head… and just as dangerously ill-advised. Less generally known is the fact that such “therapy” is only distinguishable from mystical past-life regression sessions in narrative content, and identical “memory” retrieval tactics have provided the “evidentiary” basis for alien abduction claims. In fact it is well recognized, outside of the insular subculture of MPD/DID, that “recovered memories” are almost entirely worthless insofar as historical veracity is concerned. More often than recalling actual real-life events, clients subjected to Recovered Memory Therapies tend to confabulate false narratives that bear a striking resemblance to the presuppositions of trauma held by the therapist.

Despite their professional veneer, organizations like the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD) — The primary proponents of DID theory today — still have no reliable method for discerning accurate recovered memory recall (if such a thing exists at all) from false memories created in therapy (a phenomenon that certainly exists). And while evidence continually amasses that such therapy is harmful and serves to instill clients with deeply-held delusions, the ISSTD still lacks in empirical support for “traumatic repression”. Worse, the organization abounds with conspiracy theorists still apparently invested in a paranoid delusion of secretive Satanic cult abuse. Just last year, at the ISSTD’s annual conference, they hosted a lecture by two deranged witch-hunters, Ellen Lacter –whose website contains helpful information about demonic possession as well as ludicrous advice, such as, “Pray a perimeter of protection against everything of witchcraft.” — and Valerie Sinason, a mocked British therapist famous for scenting Satan’s evil designs behind almost everything she comments upon. This year’s ISSTD conference will feature a lecture on advanced hypnosis by Richard Kluft, a panic-monger who dismissed the FBI’s Lanning Report — the result of investigation into once-prevalent claims of a Satanic cult conspiracy — as a “bullshit cover-up” for its conclusion that the “conspiracy” was but a delusional creation of a moral panic… a moral panic that Kluft himself played no small role in instigating.

As a journalist documenting the continued problem of Recovered Memory Therapies I have collected literally hundreds of hours of interviews with people oppressed by false memories cultivated in irresponsible and unscientific treatment. I have spoken at length with heart-broken families torn apart by false — sometimes even impossible — allegations of revealed past abuse. I have documented individuals who came to recognize that their “recovered memories” were indeed false memories, as well as individuals who hold to bizarre and implausible beliefs revealed in the course of treatment. New cases come to my attention with distressing regularity, though this problem continually escapes general recognition. The problem has persisted due to both the spinelessness of the APA and relevant licensing oversight boards, as well as a legal climate that allows for, essentially, cover-up. Countless cases of malpractice have been filed only to find the plaintiffs paid a large settlement out-of-court, bound to an agreement that they will never disclose the facts of their case to the public-at-large. The accused therapist often leaves the institution where the offense occurred, or is silently removed from staff, free to move relatively untarnished to another facility where the same practice is taken up.

With the minor media sensation that surrounded the initial filing of claims against Castlewood, many hoped that the issue would finally see the main-stream light of day, making its way to a full trial. Disappointingly, I received news last night from a reliable source that it appears all four Castlewood litigants appear ready to settle for a hefty sum, with gag orders, “within the month”. I certainly hope this does not come to pass, and with that in mind, I address the below to plaintiffs Lisa Nasseff, Leslie Thompson, Brooke Taylor, and Colette Travers.

What you should consider before accepting a buy-off with a gag-order attached

They are buying your silence. But they can’t ensure the silence of anybody else. Your gag orders will not only ensure that you refrain from criticizing or exposing your treatment at Castlewood under the care of Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin, but it will ensure that you can’t speak in your own defense on the matter. The Castlewood case has become one of great interest to those concerned with the ongoing “recovered memory” controversy. You will silently watch — legally gagged — as the tale is revised, selectively redacted, and turned toward your own personal slander. The DID faithful, as is typical in their self-serving exercises in Cognitive Dissonance, will feel vindicated in their speculation that you all are merely opportunists who conspired to collect a massive payoff. The fact that you accepted payoff will be construed a evidence in and of itself that money was the only real motivating factor behind your lawsuits to begin with. Schwartz and Galperin, Recovered Memory Therapy advocates will happily point out, were not found guilty of anything at all. Once the papers are signed and the payoffs are distributed, this whole episode — despite the happy tale you are surely currently being sold by self-interested lawyers — will not go away. It will haunt your names constantly, and you’ll be powerless to ever set the record straight, to let your own cases be fully known.

They are making you complicit. When the same outrages are committed against more Mental Health consumers — as they inevitably will be so long as delusion-harboring organizations like the ISSTD are allowed to offer continuing education credits for conspiracy theory-based seminars — you’ll be powerless to lend your voices in support. Further, you’ll know that you might have prevented their suffering if you had not failed to force Schwartz and Galperin face the allegations against them. You’ll know that you might have helped bring reform to a broken system had you persisted in seeking Justice… rather than accepting a payoff for silence.

Both Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin have comfortably relocated to Malibu — Avalon Malibu Treatment Center — where nothing is preventing them from returning to the exact same “therapeutic” techniques they employed at Castlewood. Avalon Malibu Treatment Center (headed by CEO Jeff Schwartz, alleged to be Mark Schwartz’s own brother) seems entirely unconcerned about, and dismissive of, any questions or requests for assurances that the events alleged to have occurred at Castlewood will be safeguarded against in their own facility. They have entirely ignored the inquiries of at least two journalists (including myself). If you fail to seek Justice, Schwartz is free to continue the exact type of therapy you allege to have caused you such horrific distress. Make no mistake, in taking a settlement you enable this.

You are denying justice to those who are unable to seek reparation through litigation. Since the beginning of the Castlewood case, I have personally spoken with families who claim to have lost their daughters to delusions instilled in them during the course of Mark Schwartz’s “therapy”. During treatment at Castlewood, it is alleged, these girls “learned”, through “recovered memories”, that they were abused as children, and that their parents were either the direct perpetrators, or complicit in, the crimes against them. The allegations are identical to the claims you have brought against Castlewood. Unlike yourselves, however, these girls have held fast to their false memories, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. The shattered remains of their unjustly accused families find themselves unable to sue for malpractice, not being direct recipients of the therapeutic maltreatment themselves. They look to you to see that Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin face Justice. They are left, again, with less than nothing if you agree to settle.

Your lawyers aren’t necessarily your friends, and they could probably do better. They may be perfectly happy to take the money and run, and their consciences aren’t likely to be distressed when the same crimes are perpetrated against new potential legal clients. The arrangement of a settlement-with-gag-order strikes me as, in all likelihood, the most convenient path of least resistance for them. Divorced from any sense of Justice, this is simply a business transaction in the legal world. Don’t let the lawyers convince you that this is the only way. Just today, I was in contact with a former recovered memory therapy victim past ISSTD president Bennett Braun. She wrote to me that, “with excellent attorneys, I took a quite generous settlement agreement containing no gag order.” and she emphasized that she would “definitely advise” against a gag order. I know many others who aren’t as lucky, and it is to their eternal regret that they ever collected a settlement and accepted a gag-order before justice was served. They are left to watch the careers of those who victimized them carry forward untarnished, continuing to practice and promote harmful therapies.

Are you truly resigned to a life of the same?

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Dr. Randy Noblitt, Satanic Limb Transplants, and the Music of Mind Control Fri, 12 Jul 2013 07:42:12 +0000 To be fair — when considering the “expert” qualifications of the perpetually panic-stricken Dr. Randy Noblitt — one should take into consideration that the man’s doctoral thesis was, in fact, a work of Astrology. However, in a career made notable for unsubstantiated hysterical claims involving a preternatural conspiracy of Satan’s minions, his dissertation upon the Celestial Concomitants of Human Behavior may possibly be the most lucid work in Dr. Noblitt’s unquestionably disreputable bibliography.Mammoth thing Mind Control

I feel it important to make note of his dubious beginnings so one might recognize that this tin-foil hat Torquemada never, at any point in his professional career, seems to have become unhinged… he never exhibited a firm grasp of reality to begin with. Thus, when reading the barrage of lunacy attributed to “Little Knob” below, the question isn’t: where did this professor of Clinical Psychology at Alliant University go wrong?, instead, the question should be: how is it that this man ever became a professor of Clinical Psychology at all? And, worse, How is it that his testimony, as a man of Science, was considered favorably in a situation where personal liberties were at stake?

In 1992, at the height of a social hysteria now commonly referred to as “the Satanic Panic”, Dr. Noblitt — believing he could disentangle the coercive subliminal sounds of secret demonic code within popular music, as well as decrypt the hidden meanings behind seemingly mundane occurrences — testified for the prosecution, as an “expert” in the field of “ritual abuse”, against one Fran and Dan Keller, a couple accused of engaging in child abuse at their home-based day care center. With no physical evidence to support the accusations (which included claims of graveyard rituals and medically undetected limb transplants) the couple was convicted on the most dubious of testimony. The children themselves — ignored when they claimed they were not abused at all (as happened even in testimony) — were led by coercive and incompetent interrogations to produce claims of abuse which are nearly impossible to credit [see footage and analysis of one such interrogation embedded below]. Noblitt’s own fantastical testimony, of course, was no more credible than Noblitt himself.

21 years later, the Kellers still sit in prison, their case on appeal.

Dr. Evan Harrington, Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, wrote the below letter [following the embedded videos] — on behalf of the Kellers’ recent appeal — to the 14th District Court in Travis County, Texas, outlining the absurdities, shoddy methods, and scientific ignorance demonstrated by Dr. Randy Noblitt, concluding, “His opinions have been scientifically discredited, and are not shared by the vast majority of clinicians and researchers within the field of psychology.” The letter, bearing signatures of support from various esteemed social and behavioral scientists, reveals a disturbing portrait of Dr. Noblitt as a delusional man obstinately oblivious to any and all facts that serve to disconfirm his paranoid theories. The letter is a damning indictment against the institutions that would recognize such a clearly problematic character for an “expert”. The letter further raises grave doubts regarding the credibility of Alliant University, where Dr. Noblitt serves on faculty, still purveying the irrational narrative of a long discredited, thoroughly debunked hysteria.

The Power of Suggestion: Video interviews of Frances Keller and psychology professor James Wood, by The Austin Chronicle

Dr. Randy Noblitt explaining in a flat humdrum tone (while occasionally giggling) how Satanists utilize music in their mind control tactics.

[Note: The following letter has been altered from the original in that — although the information is relatively easily found elsewhere — I decided to remove the telephone numbers and email addresses of the signatories.]


In Regards to the Expert Witness Testimony and Qualifications of Randy Noblitt, Ph.D.

Evan Harrington, Ph.D.

 Dr. Randy Noblitt’s expert testimony was instrumental in securing the convictions of Fran and Dan Keller at their criminal trial in 1992. Specifically, Dr. Noblitt gave credence and claimed empirical support for the children’s involvement in such hard-to-hide activities as murders and dismemberments, grave robbing, airplane flights, and kidnappings. Dr. Noblitt testified that these were typical behaviors associated with so-called cult ritual abuse. With the promise of empirical support, Noblitt’s expert testimony encouraged jurors to believe the accusations despite the many outlandish elements associated with the actual charges.

The signers of this document present the court with evidence that Randy Noblitt, Ph.D. is not qualified to serve as an expert on the topic of “ritual abuse” or recovered memories and that such testimony lacked any empirical support at that time. This Letter to the Court has been written with the intent of illustrating the reasons why Dr. Noblitt is not qualified. Certainly, the points made below illustrate that it is highly unlikely that any court in the country would today permit Dr. Noblitt to testify today on the topic of “ritual abuse.”

1. The Scientific Status of Theories of Satanic Ritual Abuse. At this point in time, and even in 1992, virtually no mainstream psychologists would accept the theories of ritual abuse that Dr. Noblitt puts forward.

At trial, Dr. Noblitt testified about the existence of cults using ritual abuse and of organized satanic networks engaged in wide-ranging criminal enterprises including child abuse. The picture painted by Dr. Noblitt in his testimony at trial is one where criminal cults are common across the United States, and that these alleged cults typically engage in torture and murder of both adults and children. Furthermore, Dr. Noblitt opined that these cults are experts in a form of mind control or brainwashing in which victims are so heavily traumatized that they develop total and complete amnesia until the victim enters therapy and recovers the memory. His descriptions of these cults involved rape, murder, torture, grave robbing, and ceremonial animal and human sacrifice.

Furthermore, he alleged that these activities took place at churches, involved police officers and other professional individuals. Lurid media coverage of this issue at the time additionally invoked the specter of widespread cannibalism. In order to explain the lack of physical evidence for these outrageous crimes, Dr. Noblitt explained to the jury that these cults will frequently lead their victims to believe in something preposterous, so that if they ever told of their tortures the stories would involve elements that would be so far-fetched that the victims would necessarily be disbelieved. This, according to Dr. Noblitt, was done intentionally by the cults as part of the mind control programming in order to discredit their victims.

In an interview shortly after the trial in a local newspaper, Dr. Noblitt was described as having been the prosecution expert witness in many ritual abuse cases, including the Keller case (Dickinson, 1993). He stated in that interview that Dan Keller, while in court, used a mysterious hand signal to mind-control people within the courtroom. Further, he asserted that cults use severe torture on victims and that all memory of the torture is repressed. In a direct quote from this news article, Dr. Noblitt stated: “I believe they use a technique of mind control unknown in legitimate psychology. It’s akin to hypnosis, created through abuse…the state of shock is so severe that it sends the victim into a deep trance state. Then cult members use different signals or triggers…” to control the victims.

In his 1995 book, Dr. Noblitt went into more detail regarding Dan Keller’s mysterious hand signal: A reporter had given Dr. Noblitt a videotape of Mr. Keller appearing in court, where Mr. Keller appeared to hold his fingers briefly in the form of a letter “C”. When interviewed by the reporter, Dr. Noblitt opined for the television audience that Mr. Keller had attempted to use mind control in the courtroom in an attempt at jury nullification, just in case any secret Satanists were on jury (see Noblitt & Perskin, 1995, pp. 150-152). Relatedly, in 1996 I heard Dr. Noblitt speak at another conference. In his presentation, Dr. Noblitt stated that he uses the MMPI test to diagnose ritual abuse (the MMPI is a standardized test that has never been approved for this use), and stated that in his clinical practice he has uncovered “secret cult handshakes” and that he uses these special handshakes with his patients in order to “access” buried cult-mind-control-programming. He uses the information gleaned in this way as evidence for the existence of ritual abuse cults. Furthermore, he stated that he “strokes people’s faces to access the ritual abuse victim’s [memories] and make them dissociate”. At this point, he said, “if they give you a different name, this is scientific evidence for dissociation.” In summary, the world portrayed by Dr. Noblitt is one in which thousands of cult abusers have infiltrated respectable society, and specifically daycare centers, in order to operate a clandestine subculture engaged in massive levels of felonious criminality, all based on mind control triggered by secret handshakes and hand signals.

To be clear, at the time of the trial the hypothesis outlined above was considered to be a fringe belief held by a small number of clinicians, who believed these things solely because of the statements of their patients – not because of any physical evidence that had surfaced. By the time of the trial there had been highly skeptical journalistic essays about ritual abuse (e.g., Nathan, 1990,1991; Rabinowitz, 1990), criminologists had written articles debunking the ritual abuse hypothesis (e.g., Jenkins & Maier-Katkin, 1991), social anthropologists had traced causal pathways explaining the issue as a social panic purveyed by moral entrepreneurs (e.g., Mulhern, 1991; Victor, 1991). In summary, outside of a small band of psychologists interested in multiple personality disorder, the field of psychology was at that time generally dismissive of claims of ritual abuse.

Prior to 1992, psychologists had offered skeptical accounts of certain types of memory claims, and certainly had offered viable alternative explanations of memory errors that could explain ritual abuse allegations. The breadth of coverage by experimental psychologists is beyond the scope of this Letter, but it is fair to say that by 1992 a substantial body of published research existed regarding errors in adult memory (e.g., Loftus & Ketchum, 1991) and with regard to the suggestibility of children (e.g., Ceci, Ross, & Toglia, 1987; Ceci, Toglia, & Ross, 1990).

In a study I recently conducted (Harrington, Stone, & Guss, 2011), I collected a sample of 118 abnormal psychology textbooks spanning the years 1886 to 2011. Abnormal psychology textbooks are very useful in gauging the level of acceptance within the field of psychology for any issue related to mental health, and they serve as a training instrument which all new members of the profession must be exposed to within their required college courses. This sample of textbooks included 29 texts dating from 1980 (the beginning of the ritual abuse panic) to 1992 (the time of the Keller trial). Of these 29 texts, not one contained a reference to ritual abuse. In contrast, all of the texts covered the topic of multiple personality, and 97% covered the topic of child sexual abuse. This definitively illustrates the fact that “ritual abuse” or “satanic ritual abuse” was NOT accepted within the mainstream psychological community at the time of the trial of Fran and Dan Keller. Had it been accepted, it would have been covered in abnormal psychology textbooks.

Perhaps most importantly, at the time of the trial the 43-page report on ritual abuse by FBI Special Agent Kenneth Lanning was available, having been released in January, 1992 (see also Lanning, 1989, 1991). Lanning, a member of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, served as a consultant in numerous cases of alleged ritual abuse. The “Lanning Report” described his detailed review of hundreds of such cases. The cases described by Lanning involved human sacrifices and cannibalism, and seemed to come directly from Dr. Noblitt’s repertoire of ritual cult concepts. As Lanning described it, believers in the ritual cult hypothesis asserted that satanic ritual cults murder some 50,000 people each year in the United States, yet leave no evidence of the crimes because of their advanced expertise and organizational skills. However, unlike Noblitt, Lanning ultimately concluded that there was no legal-level evidence for the alleged ritual cult abuse claims. Lanning suggested that it is up to the mental health community to determine why these individuals believe in things that have not happened. As Lanning stated: “For at least eight years American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating the allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is little or no evidence for the portion of their allegations that deals with large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies. Now it is up to mental health professionals, not law enforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don’t seem to have happened” (Lanning, 1992, January, p. 40). Lanning’s conclusions were widely available within the field at the time, as they were published in multiple locations, including the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. Any psychologist interested in the topic of ritual abuse at the time of the Keller trial would have been aware of Special Agent Lanning’s failure to find any corroboration for ritual abuse claims. An explanation for Dr. Noblitt’s failure to reference this important work in his trial testimony perhaps stems from the fact that believers in satanic ritual abuse had concluded that FBI Special Agent Lanning was himself a satanic high priest (Bottoms & Davis, 1997; Lanning, 1992), in part because the report had a red cover.

In light of the critiques regarding ritual abuse accusations that were available in 1992, coming from multiple disciplines (including law enforcement), and in light of the lack of general acceptance within the field of psychology proper (as shown by the total absence of the topic in abnormal psychology textbooks), it is bewildering why Dr. Noblitt opined at trial that there was little controversy regarding ritual abuse (p. 147 of his testimony).

Further, at pages 158-159 of his testimony, Dr. Noblitt described attending a conference where most attendees raised their hands in belief at the existence of ritual abuse, which he used as evidence of general acceptance of his ideas. The problem with this scenario is that the conference described by Dr. Noblitt was one that specialized on the very issue he was polling. A similar result could be obtained if a political pollster went to a rally for candidate X and asked how many people supported candidate X – it would not be surprising if everyone raised their hands, and an honest pollster would refrain from using this as evidence that the majority of eligible voters also supported candidate X.

Another area of knowledge that was available at the time of the Keller’s 1992 trial involved the relationship of multiple personality disorder and ritualistic abuse. For example, Nicholas Spanos (1996), a highly respected researcher in the field of hypnosis and memory, argued strenuously that multiple personality was a social construction, and that claims of satanic ritual abuse could be entirely explained through the ordinary mechanisms of social influence and cognitive psychology. Much of the research cited Spanos was available in journal articles prior to 1992. His book lists 74 published articles where he was first author; 58 of these articles were available before 1992, and this body of research clearly called into question the veracity of claims of multiple personality, demon possession, hypnotism, and ritual abuse as well as providing a plausible alternative explanation for these wild claims.

In conclusion, Dr. Noblitt stated in testimony at trial that there is little controversy about his descriptions of ritual abuse. This statement was not factually true in 1992, and is less true today. Dr. Noblitt’s expert testimony did not represent any type of consensus within the field of psychology, but rather represented a fringe group of therapists who specialized in treating patients who believed they had been ritually abused. This is reflected in a survey that was conducted contemporaneously with the trial, but which was not published until later (Bottoms & Davis, 1997; Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, 1996), in which the researchers surveyed clinicians who were members of the American Psychological Association regarding clinical experiences with patients who believed they had experienced ritual abuse. Only 13% of the sample had “seen” an adult case of ritual abuse, but a far more telling statistic was that the overwhelming majority of ritual abuse cases were seen by only 2% of their respondents, who averaged hundreds of such cases. When asked about actual evidence in any of their clients’ cases, in only a handful of cases did the clinicians report that evidence existed to support the allegations, and in these instances the “evidence” was “usually ‘scars’…one respondent wrote ‘scars on right hand’” (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, 1996, p.23). The authors of this study concluded that a small minority of therapists were involved in massive numbers of ritual abuse cases, and that there was an overwhelming lack of evidence to support these claims. These data strongly support the view that, in the early 1990s, although psychologists tended to believe their clients’ ritual abuse claims when they encountered them, psychologists’ activities in treating ritual abuse was relegated to a fringe, and that therapists’ belief in ritual abuse was based primarily on stories provided by patients in therapy.

In order to provide additional evidence about the unscientific and unaccepted views of Dr. Noblitt, I described a conference hosted by Noblitt in 1995 (see Harrington, 1996) for a full description. This article has been submitted in full to the court by Keith S. Hampton, Esq. The conference took place in March, 1995, and I attended this conference as a participant observer in order to learn about the beliefs of the individuals within the ritual abuse psychotherapeutic community.

The major impression after leaving the conference was that the entire event is best characterized as having been anti-scientific. Normally, at academic conferences, presenters give different views about issues and provide data, which are interpreted. In the behavioral sciences, this is accomplished through experimentation and debate over the meanings of results of those experiments. The scientific enterprise proceeds largely through attempts to discredit hypotheses (see, e.g., Daubert v Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, 1993), and in this way we see which hypotheses can withstand the test of skeptical scrutiny. Then, with sufficient replication and variation in tests and methods, a hypothesis or theoretical perspective may be endorsed by the relevant scientific community at large. Much of this scaffold of the scientific enterprise was described by Karl Popper in The Logic of Scientific Discovery, which dates to 1935. In spite of epistemological differences between philosophers, this outline has remained quite useful, and forms a portion of the logic behind the Daubert ruling. Contrary to this scientific approach, the milieu at the conference hosted by Dr. Noblitt can best be described as paranoid and anti-scientific. At no point did the conference presenters attempt to seriously engage with their critics, but rather they simply resorted to ad hominem attacks on all who disagreed with the ritual abuse perspective. Dr. Noblitt went to great lengths to accommodate the holocaust deniers, representatives of the American militia movement, and charlatans who claimed that they had been mind-controlled (as described in the self-published books they were selling). However, at no point during this entire conference was there any effort to critically and scientifically address the very real and very numerous criticisms of the ritual abuse hypothesis that had accumulated by 1995. All manner of preposterous claims regarding ritual abuse were permitted, and any skepticism, no matter how bland, was met with a clearly aggressive social response (see my 1996 article for details). Far from being a scientific conference, this was a conference at which zealots and true believers pushed their views on others. To me, the most disturbing aspect was certainly the fact that mental health patients were encouraged to attend and learn of the threat posed by satanic ritual cults, cults that were in fact nonexistent.

2. Since 1992, there is an enormous scientific literature to explore the generation of beliefs and statements about ritualistic abuse. In the intervening years, literally hundreds of professional journal articles and books have been published either criticizing the ritual abuse hypothesis (as exemplified by Dr. Noblitt), or exploring how false memories may be generated in adults and children. It is fair to say that at the current time, belief in ritual abuse within the psychological community is at an all-time low. Abnormal psychology textbooks today sometimes cover the topic, but they do so in a skeptical light as an example of false memory (e.g., Alloy, Riskind, & Manos, 2005, who incredulously described a woman who alleged attending 850 satanic ceremonies involving crimes such as infanticide). The research by highly regarded psychologists Gail Goodman and Bette Bottoms was instrumental in stemming the satanic panic within the professional psychological community. After conducting several surveys, which were funded by a grant from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, their research team concluded that religion-related abuse (such as deprivation of medication on religious grounds, or injury during exorcism) was an important issue for society to face (Bottoms, Shaver, & Goodman, 1996), but that virtually no legal-standard evidence existed for claims of ritual abuse, and such claims were likely the result of false memories (Bottoms & Davis, 1997). Furthermore, Bottoms and Davis (1997) argued that conferences (of the type hosted by Dr. Noblitt) were a likely vector or pathway in the genesis of these false memories (cf., Mulhern, 1991). At the time, the research team was considered impartial in the sense that they had no stake in the ritual abuse controversy and they had extensive experience in research on child abuse.

Other very notable scientists have also critiqued the concept of ritualistic abuse, by presenting empirical evidence. For example, Harvard psychologist Richard McNally opines that the evidence that some people develop false memories is overwhelming, and “the strongest evidence comes from the strange saga of satanic ritual abuse” (2003, p. 259), which he also describes as “extravagant” (p. 258). The work of Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at UC Irvine, is equally impressive. Rather than exploring the quality of memories of traumatized individuals as McNally does, Loftus produces in the laboratory false memories in her participants for a variety of life events, some of which are highly incredible. A number of developmental psychologists (e.g., Bruck & Ceci, 1995; Poole & Lindsay, 1995) have shown how commonly-used interview techniques can bring children to make very bizarre statements that sometimes seem ritualistic in nature. In conclusion, it is fair to say that the scientific psychological community today does not endorse the types of beliefs about ritual abuse expressed by Dr. Noblitt.

3. Dr. Noblitt’s belief in ritualistic abuse continues into the 21st Century. Dr. Noblitt’s staunch beliefs expressed in 1992 were not abated by the tide of history and science. This reflects the possibly that his testimony was based on an unchangeable belief that was immune to arguments of logic and science. This does not make for a reliable expert witness.

In an article written by Noblitt, dated 2007, located on an internet web site ( (downloaded January 31, 2013), Dr. Noblitt offered an expanded version of a paper he presented in 1998. An examination of this article reveals that Noblitt fails to be aware of or to acknowledge many important scientific advances in understanding of the nature of recovered memories or ritual abuse accusations. His article contains a lengthy list of convictions obtained in ritual abuse cases, many of which involved accusations by children in day care settings. Although the cases are not identified by name, but rather by location, many of the cases can easily be matched to the high-profile trials at those locales. For example, the Kelly Michaels trial is readily identifiable within the list. Although the conviction in the Kelly Michaels case was reversed (in part for testimony similar to that given by Dr. Noblitt in the Keller case – testimony regarding using behavioral indicators as diagnostic of abuse), the case is retained in Noblitt’s analysis as a true ritual abuse case. He additionally fails to note the amicus brief of concerned social scientists, describing the suggestibility of children, that had been entered on behalf of Kelly Michaels, and which was subsequently published as a journal article in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (Bruck & Ceci, 1995). The amicus brief was prepared by developmental psychologists Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci, and signed by 45 social scientists, representing the fields of developmental, social, experimental, and clinical psychology. In fact, while Dr. Noblitt goes to some length in describing child victims of ritual abuse cults, he does not cite a single critic regarding the suggestibility of children.

In the same article by Noblitt (2007), he stated: “it has never been shown that people who report ritual abuse are particularly suggestible.” In contradistinction to this assertion, individuals with recovered memories of child abuse have been found to be more suggestible (Clancy, Schacter, McNally, & Pitman, 2000; Geraerts, Smeets, Jelicic, van Heerden, & Merckleback, 2005) and to exhibit a tendency for poor source monitoring of information (McNally, Clancy, Barrett, & Parker, 2005). This illustrates a misreading or ignorance of recent research on clinical characteristics of those with recovered memories.

To cover one last example, again from the same paper, Dr. Noblitt cites a journal article by Dr. Bette Bottoms and her colleagues (described earlier in this document), with regard to the prevalence rates for clinicians believing their patients’ accounts of ritual abuse. As is typical of believers in ritual abuse, Dr. Noblitt selectively uses the information obtained by Bottoms and her colleagues by citing only the parts of their work related to prevalence of clinical encounters with alleged ritual abuse victims. Dr. Noblitt failed to mention that the paper specifically highlighted: (1) the lack of evidence for ritual abuse allegations, (2) the importance of social transmission of these concepts from therapist to client, (3) the general lack of skepticism evidenced by clinicians who encountered ritual abuse cases, and (4) the research team’s general conclusion that there is an overall lack of support for ritual abuse claims. Interestingly, Dr. Noblitt has self-published an edited volume (Noblitt & Noblitt, 2008) in which this same error is made by four different contributors: They cite the work of Dr. Bottoms and her colleagues as support for the existence of ritual abuse, when in fact their research demonstrated lack of support for ritual abuse. In this Topsy-Turvey world of pseudoscience, anything goes.

In 2007, Dr. Noblitt made a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, titled Use of Sodium Amytal in Psychological Diagnosis and Treatment. In a text accompanying the presentation, Dr. Noblitt describes “my own clinical experience conducting over 200 sodium amytal interviews” with patients who had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorders. The use of sodium amytal as a memory retrieval tool is highly controversial. As far back as 1994, Piper reviewed twelve published studies on the use of sodium amytal interviews, and concluded that there was substantial evidence of memory distortion, sometimes involving gross distortions of factual material. Furthermore, evidence exists that sodium amytal is highly suggestive (and addictive). In a number of court cases, memories refreshed by amytal were found inadmissible (e.g., Ramona v. Ramona, 1997) because it contaminates memory. The fact that Dr. Noblitt has frequently used a technique that is considered dangerous in both medical and legal circles, and that he has apparently used it on individuals suffering from dissociative identity disorder, is deeply disconcerting. This may very well fall into the purview of psychological treatments that cause harm (Lilienfeld, 2007).

In conclusion, Dr. Noblitt has demonstrated that: (1) he is uncritical of anyone whose views coincide with his own, (2) he is dismissive of “gold standard” scientific research that disconfirms his views, and (3) he misrepresents the scientific findings of others in an effort to advance his own agenda. These three points constitute an approach that is antithetical to the scientific accumulation of knowledge. Aspects of his clinical practice illustrated here further demonstrate that his beliefs and therapies fall far outside the mainstream of psychology and may have harmful effects for patients and others whom he considers to be victims of cult ritual abuse. His views are fringe views which only impede the efforts of the trier of fact, and may actually be overly prejudicial if presented to a jury.


Evan Harrington, Ph.D. March 18, 2013

Associate Professor

Research Ethics (IRB) Committee Chair, Chicago Campus

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology


Please refer to following pages for the list of social scientists in agreement with this Letter

We, the undersigned list of concerned social and behavioral scientists, agree that Dr. Noblitt’s views regarding ritual abuse, as illustrated in his trial testimony as well as his writings and speeches, as represented in this letter, are deeply problematic for the reasons outlined above. His opinions have been scientifically discredited, and are not shared by the vast majority of clinicians and researchers within the field of psychology.

David F. Bjorklund, Ph.D.
Editor, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Department of Psychology
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Maggie Bruck, Ph.D.
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
550 North Broadway Suite 204
Baltimore, MD 21205
Terence W. Campbell, Ph.D., ABPP
Diplomate in Forensic Psychology
Private Practice
Stephen J. Ceci, Ph.D.
H. L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Frederick Crews, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of English
University of California at Berkeley
636 Vincente Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94707
Author of The Memory Wars (1995)
Mary deYoung Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI 49401
Elke Geraerts, associate professor
Institute for psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences,
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Burg Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
David S. Holmes, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of Kansas, Lawrence
Lawrence, KS 66045-7556
Mark L. Howe, Ph.D., CPsychol, FBPsS
Associate Editor, Developmental Review
Editor: Memory
Chair in Cognitive Science
Department of Psychology
City University, London
Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB United Kingdom
Professor Michael E. Lamb Ph.D
Department of Psychology
University of Cambridge Free School Lane
Cambridge CB2 3RQ, United Kingdom
Editor, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law
Richard A. Leo, Ph.D., J.D.
Professor of Law and
Dean’s Circle Research Scholar
University of San Francisco
15 Ashbury Terrace
San Francisco, CA 94117
Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Emory University
Associate Editor, Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Psychology and Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
36 Eagle Row
Atlanta, GA 30322
D. Stephen Lindsay, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Victoria
P.O. Box 3050 STN CSC
Victoria, B.C. V8W 3P5
Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor
Psychology & Social Behavior
Criminology, Law & Society
Cognitive Sciences
School of Law
University of California, Irvine
2393 Social Ecology II
Irvine, Calif. 92697-7080 USA
Kamala London, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Toledo
2801 W Bancroft St Toledo, OH 43606
Steven Jay Lynn, Ph.D., ABPP (Clinical, Forensic)
Distinguished Professor, State University of New York
Inaugural Editor: Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and
Practice (APA)
Psychology Department
Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY 13902
Bradley D. McAuliff, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
California State University, Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8255
Associate Editor, Law and Human Behavior, journal of the American Psychology-Law
Richard J. McNally, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Harvard University
1230 William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-2044
Amina Memon C Psychol FBPsS
Professor of Psychology
Royal Holloway University of London
Egham Hill
Surrey TW20 0EX
Harald Merckelbach, Ph. D.
Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience
Maastricht University, Maastricht
PO Box 616 6200 MD The Netherlands
Timothy E. Moore, PhD, C Psych
Associate Editor, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice
Professor and Chair Department of Psychology
York University
Glendon College, York University
2275 Bayview Ave.
Toronto, Ontario Canada M4N 3M6
Debbie Nathan
Investigatory Journalist
Co-author (with Michael Snedekor) of Satan’s Silence
680 W. 204th St. #5B
New York, NY 10034
Richard J. Ofshe, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Socoiology
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-1980
Yael Orbach, Ph.D
Adjunct Scientist
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Loren Pankratz, Ph.D.
Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Oregon Health Science University
Kristine A. Peace, Ph.D.
Experimental Forensic Psychology
Assistant Professor and Honours Advisor
Department of Psychology
Grant MacEwan University
City Centre Campus, Rm 6-329H, 10700 – 104 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4S2
Harrison G. Pope Jr., M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Director, Biological Psychiatry Laboratory
McLean Hospital
Belmont, MA 02478
Russ Powell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Grant MacEwan University
City Centre Campus, Rm 6-329H, 10700 – 104 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4S2
J. Don Read, Ph.D.
Director, Law and Forensic Psychology Program
Law and Psychology Area Coordinator
Simon Fraser University
RCB 5246-8888 University Drive
Burnaby BC, Canada V5A 1S6
James T. Richardson, J.D., Ph.D.
Foundation Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies
Director, Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies
Director, Judicial Studies Program
Mail Stop 311
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557
Susan P. Robbins, Ph.D., LCSW
Associate Professor
University of Houston
Graduate College of Social Work
110HA Social Work Building Room 201
Houston, TX 77204-4013
Nadja Schreiber Compo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Co-Director Legal Psychology Graduate Program
Florida International University
University Park Campus
Miami, FL 33199
Matthew H. Scullin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
The University of Texas at El Paso
500 West University Avenue
El Paso, TX 79968
Carol Tavris, Ph.D.
Social psychologist, writer
Co-author (with Elliot Aronson) of Mistakes were made (but not by me)
and (with Carole Wade) of two leading textbooks in psychology
Editorial board, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Association for Psychological Science
1847 Nichols Canyon Road
Los Angeles, CA 9004
Jeffrey S. Victor, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
State University of New York
Jamestown Community College
Jamestown, New York, 14701
Elaine F. Walker, Ph. D.
Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Editor, Psychological Science in the Public Interest
Department of Psychology
Director, Development and Mental Health Program
36 Eagle Row
Emory University
Atlanta, Ga. 30322
Amye Richelle Warren, Ph.D.
Patricia Draper Obear Distinguished Teaching Professor
Department of Psychology
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Charles A. Weaver, III, Ph.D.
Professor Director of Undergraduate Studies
Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience
Baylor University
One Bear Place 97334
Waco, TX 76798-7334
James M. Wood, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, TX 79968



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Noblitt, R., & Noblitt, P.P. (2008). Ritual abuse in the twenty-first century: Psychological, forensic, social, and political considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers.

Piper, A. (1994). Amytal interviews and “recovered memories” of sexual abuse: A note. IPT Journal, 6. Retrieved from:

Poole, D.A., & Lindsay, S. (1995). Interviewing Preshoolers: Effects of nonsuggestive techniques, parental coaching and leading questions on reports of nonexperienced events, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 60, 129-154.

Rabinowitz, D. (1990, May). From the mouths of bases to a jail cell: Child abuse and the abuse of justice: A case study. Harpers, 280, 52 – 63.

Ramona v. Ramona (1997, 57 Cal.App.4th 107)

Victor, J.S. (1991). The dynamics of rumor-panics about Satanic cults. In J.T. Richardson, J. Best, & D.G. Bromley (Eds). The Satanism scare (pp. 221 – 236). New York: Aldine DeGruyter.


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Sean Sellers: The Devil and Death Row Fri, 21 Jun 2013 23:48:51 +0000 Sellers interview

Shortly before his death by lethal injection, Sean Sellers would express deep annoyance that so many people still insisted upon making such a big deal of the 3 murders he had committed — two of them his own parents, the other a convenience store clerk named Robert Bower. “I’m amazed at the self righteousness I still encounter from people who don’t even know me,” Sellers wrote in his journal, February 1, 1999, two days before death. “People,” he addressed his future readers, “for one moment, get your eyes off my own sins and look at your own. You want to harp on something that happened 13 years ago. Thirteen years! If you didn’t know Robert Bower or Mom and Dad then it doesn’t even affect you. It’s so easy to appear righteous next to a murderer, but here are two facts in the Kingdom of God: First of all, I repented of those sins 13 years ago soon after they happened, and I’ve been serving God ever since. And second of all, it isn’t ME you have to compare yourself to, it’s God’s holiness. Don’t look at my sin and think yourself clean, look at GOD!” [1]

Only sixteen years of age at the time of his crimes in 1985, Sellers remains the youngest criminal sentenced to death in the United States since the reinstatement of the Death Penalty in 1976. That troubling fact, along with his ostentatious jailhouse conversion, made him an instant cause célèbre for anti-Capital Punishment activists, and a poster boy for apocalyptic crusaders who saw in him a confused and helpless by-product of uniquely troubled times.

During his incarceration, and up till his execution, Sellers regularly gave interviews and appeared on high-profile daytime talk shows, lending the credibility of Death Row testimony to the irrational moral panics of the time. Blond-haired, baby-faced and articulate, Sellers became a celebrity case study in the presumed deleterious effects of modern culture upon malleable youths. He offered the convincing image — thoroughly exploited by tabloid media — of a normal boy perverted by unseen dark and deceptive influences outside of his understanding or control.

For 13 years, the harried Sellers was aggravated by inquiries seeking reasons for his actions. The truth was, after the swarms of experts, self-interested cons, conspiracy theorists, and mental health professionals got through with him, Sellers himself was probably as little qualified as anybody to divine his own motives.

Dungeons & Dragons and Satan   

According to testimony, it was a mere homicidal curiosity that motivated Sellers to “see what it feels like to kill somebody”. In September of 1985, he had acted upon this impulse when he shot and killed Bowers with a .357 magnum.

Sellers would oscillate between different reasons for this brutal act as his defense tactic would shift, and depending on which audience he was addressing. In one version, he would claim that it was an act of revenge — the victim had denied a sale of alcohol to an under-aged friend, and had been particularly rude in his refusal. In another telling, Sellers would explain that the murder was committed as a natural outgrowth of his commitment to Satanism at that time; This twisted religion demanded (and he was powerless to refuse) that he break all ten of the Ten Commandments, including, of course, “Thou shalt not kill.” In yet another version, Sellers was utterly unaware that he had committed murder at all — he was completely amnesiac for the whole sordid affair — and found himself shocked and confused that such savagery could have possibly overtaken his senses.

Six months after the convenience store slaying remained unsolved, Sellers shot and killed his mother and stepfather as they slept. His reasons for this were just as unclear. Claiming amnesia for this crime as well, Sellers would nonetheless also claim to know his motive: his mother disapproved of, and was attempting to keep him separated from, his new girlfriend. Alternately, of course, the rigorous demands of Satanic worship were again to blame. Sellers would expand upon the Satanism claim turning it into nothing short of a classic devil-made-me-do-it defense, alleging to be possessed of a demon when the murders took place. Through occult rituals, Sellers claimed to have had invited a demon, named Ezurate, into his body. These claims, while seemingly mutually exclusive, would also eventually blend into one confused narrative in which Sellers, overcome by Satanic influences, committed murder outside of his conscious awareness, recalling the deeds and mundane motives only after deep introspection and spiritual conversion to Christianity.

Reflecting on his early incarceration and alleged amnesia, Sellers stated, “I thought I would be [set] free because I didn’t think I was guilty. But when I got the death penalty, I wanted to know why,” he said. “I kept meditating and thinking, going back in time and then forward again bit by bit. When I hit a blank spot, I forced myself to remember. I think now I was two people—Sean and Ezurate.” [2]

Unconvincingly, Sellers’s legal counsel argued that an “addiction” to the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D & D) had “dictated his actions and disconnected him from any consciousness of wrongdoing or responsibility.” [3] Dungeons & Dragons, according to this narrative, had led Sellers to Satanism. Satanism, if not Satan, drove Sellers to murder. Sellers had been lured into the depraved world of the occult, his young mind warped and confused by the twisted practices of some hidden fanatical society. Dungeons & Dragons had proved a gateway into a world of ritualized, anti-human, criminal activities. It was a poor attempt at a more secular version of Sellers’s own demonic possession claim.

It was a weak defense, to say the least, but in a matter of life-and-death, many otherwise rational advocates for Sellers’s continued existence were willing to indulge whatever exculpatory “evidence” his defense might cite. Human Rights advocates, horrified that Sellers was facing execution for a crime he’d committed as a juvenile, weren’t about to call bullshit on any efforts toward removing Sellers from responsibility for his actions.

Geraldo and the Satanic Panic

Sellers’s eagerness to blame Satan for his crimes drew forth hordes of evangelists, self-proclaimed “occult crime” experts and public paranoids bent upon establishing Sellers’s story as irrefutable proof of the elusive Satanic Cult threat. Throughout the 1980s and into the 90s, sensational tabloid media embraced a conspiracy theory of organized Satanic cult crimes for which Sean Sellers promised much-needed first-hand testimony and validation. Long after the Satanic Panic had been debunked as a hysterical creation of opportunistic liars and delusional paranoiacs, various talk show hosts, including Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera, still paraded the Sean Sellers story as a real-life cautionary tale demonstrating Satanism’s insidious and corrupting power to turn normal, intelligent teens into reckless and brutal killers. Sellers, they warned, was just one of countless youths to be soured by a codified doctrine of Evil.

The problem, of course, was that there was no such doctrine to speak of. Sellers himself described his “Satanism” as a personal amalgamation of randomly incorporated disparate interests and disciplines, including his training with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

“I combined all I had learned into a single philosophy,” Sellers wrote: “The structure of D & D and CAP, the discipline and training of Zen and Ninjutsu, and the ideals, concepts, and ritualistic practices of satanism […]” [4]


Illustrations from Jack Chick’s famous proselytizing “Chick Tracts”

The Satanism Sellers claimed to be drawing from was that of Anton Szandor LaVey’s Satanic Bible penned in 1966. However, Sellers’s ad hoc “philosophy” clearly had as little to do with LaVey’s religio-atheistic celebration of “rational self interest” as it did Zen, or any of the other component parts he credited. Nowhere in his Bible did LaVey exhort readers to break the Ten Commandments, nor were his rituals contrived as channeled communions with supernatural beings… rather, LaVey’s rituals were meant to be enacted as cathartic psychodramas. Further, LaVey didn’t believe in Satan as a conscious entity, but regarded “Satan” as a symbol for one’s inner self and motivating desires. Satan, to LaVey, was not a depersonalizing, subjugating force, but the exact opposite.

In fact, Sellers’s obsession with learning the Art of the Ninja — with it’s focus on stealth assassination — could more plausibly have been inspirational in the murders he committed (However, hysterical suspicions of secret, prowling ninja hordes were absent from talk show discourse at the time). The only organized Satanic practice Sellers spoke of was one he himself attempted to assemble — a dysfunctional kid’s club he named “the Elimination”.

Nonetheless, on his now notorious Halloween television special, Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground, aired in 1988, Geraldo Rivera would present Sean Sellers as living proof that “a nationwide network of Satanic criminals exists”.

“Whether a Satan exists is a matter of belief,” Rivera began after the opening montage, “but we are sure that Satan-ism exists. To some, it’s a religion, to others it’s the practice of evil in the Devil’s name.”

After exploring the disastrous influence of “heavy metal music”, attempting unsuccessfully to fit unrelated crimes into a common narrative, and intrepidly digging through abandoned urban hang-outs to reveal “satanic” graffiti, Rivera introduced a shackled Sean Sellers, via satellite, from prison, to the viewing audience.

“Sean is a kid who murdered his mother, murdered his stepfather, murdered a convenience store clerk…”, Rivera explained to the viewing audience.

Then, turning to the broadcast of Sellers, “what did Satanism have to do with it, Sean? What did Satan, do you feel, have to do with, first, your murder of that convenience store clerk?”

Sellers: “Satanism was… well, the murder was because… it was a, um… how do I say this so that you can understand it? — It was a sacrifice to prove allegiance to Satan… to prove my hatred toward society and everything…”

Geraldo: “Well, hatred toward society is one thing, Sean, but how does Satan make you commit murder?”

Before Sellers could answer an off-screen voice abruptly interjected on Sellers’s behalf, and the camera panned back, awkwardly, revealing a well-dressed morbidly obese man sitting by Sellers’s side. Geraldo introduces him as “Tom Wedge, an expert in Satanism who is with Sean in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.”

Tom Wedge: “Well, Geraldo, Sean in that particular situation — uh, Sean Sellers — he had broken every one of the Ten Commandments except ‘thou shalt not commit murder’, and after he worshipped before the altar and asked for power from Satan, he went out to do this. Technically, it was a human sacrifice.”

Rivera asked none of the obvious questions that may have been asked by anybody truly concerned that Sellers might have been part of a larger network… such as, perhaps, was there a larger network? Whose idea of Satanism was this? Who were they? Where were they? Could they be directly implicated in the murders Sellers had committed?

Also, why had Wedge answered for Sean? Why was he there? Was he merely using the occasion as a shameless platform for self-promotion (having himself authored a book about Satanic cult crime), or was he, in fact, coaching Sellers?

Apparently undisturbed by such questions, Rivera dismissed Sellers, continuing with his presentation of more and more nebulous revelations of presumed Satanism. He returned to Sellers toward the end of the program — with Tom Wedge suddenly conspicuously absent — again failing to ask him anything productive or meaningful, allowing Sellers to advertise his glorious redemption. “There is no other way out of Satanism except through Jesus Christ,” Sellers declared with an air of martyrdom and the moral authority of a repentant sinner. Sellers knew exactly where he had gone wrong, and only wanted thereafter to prevent other young people from traveling that same savage road.

dd5“Do you believe in the Devil?” Rivera asked mysteriously, suggesting that he hadn’t really been listening to anything Sellers had said.

“I believe in the Devil,” Sellers replied, “but I don’t worship the Devil. I’m a Christian. I stand up boldly and proudly and proclaim my faith in Jesus.” And then, to reiterate, “There is no way out of Satanism except through Jesus Christ.”

Sellers was clearly speaking of a supernatural Satan while Rivera was pretending to be exploring a real-world issue of Satanism… a Satanism that is presumably practiced regardless of the existence, or nonexistence, of an entity of that name. And this was not a mere difference in semantics for which the facts would remain the same regardless of the context in which they were approached. Sellers was claiming to believe that he had taken his inspiration from Satan himself, where Rivera was inappropriately attempting to fit him into a story about a hidden network of Satanists.

As unimpressive and unbelievable as Geraldo Rivera’s Satanism special was, it nonetheless helped further fuel the credulous anti-Satanism uproar of the time. Sellers was soon receiving fan mail and drawing the support of those who were touched by his dramatic conversion story. He became the topic of a book, Devil Child — the cover shamelessly splashed with a bold “AS SEEN ON GERALDO” — which expanded upon the claims of a ubiquitous, world-wide Satanic society. Without providing a source for their claims, the authors wrote:

Those who choose to believe that Satanic practitioners do not inhabit their town or city, do not shop in their grocery marts, do not occupy the car in the passing lane, might take note of some figures. In 1976 the number of active Satanists in the U.S. numbered nearly half a million. By 1985 that figure almost tripled. No community is untouched. No boundary is uncrossed.

Who, then, are these Satanists who invade our protective spiritual armor? They are business professionals, politicians, even priests. They deliver your mail, cut your hair, pump your gas.

They are your children. [5]

Theories of Satanism, Secular and the Superstitious

Sellers himself would publish a book, Web of Darkness, with the help of a woman named Mary K. Haynes, who was moved to reach out to Sellers following his appearance on the Geraldo Rivera show.

Haynes, too, used Sellers’s story to promote the conspiracy theory of a Satanic cult underground, presenting Sellers as an unwilling laborer in their mafia-like operations. “He didn’t think there was a way out of it,” Haynes claimed in an interview, “The Satanists told him there was no way he could get out. They said they would kill him if he tried,” she stated, in direct contradiction to Sellers’s own account of an independently derived Satanism.

According to Haynes, Sellers and his family went to several religious leaders to try to help him out of the occult, but to no avail.

“He finally gave up trying to get out. He decided to invite demons into his body, but he felt like they wouldn’t come. He held a ritual with another Satanist to ask the devil what he needed to do, and the devil told him he needed to make a sacrifice,” Haynes said. [6]

In his book, Web of Darkness, Sellers summarized his life and crimes in one brief chapter before shifting to a highly generalized discussion of an Occult Conspiracy. Druidism, the Illuminati, Freemasonry, and the New Age Movement are all but parts of “Satanism”, which “began after the flood of Noah in the city of Babel.” Sellers explains that the primary text used by biblical-era Satanists was known as The Necronomicon. However, he concedes, “[t]here is evidence to support the contention that the Necronomicon is a hoax — an imaginative book put together by [horror author] H.P. Lovecraft enthusiasts.” But this doesn’t matter, because “the book’s ideals are completely evil and people, especially teenagers, have taken the book seriously enough that its rituals and practices are being performed in many places. Thus, hoax or not, […] Satan uses this false worship to accomplish his goals.” [7]

Here again, Sellers underscored the divide between a secular theory of satanic cult crimes and a supernatural occult conspiracy. The supernatural perspective is unconcerned with tangible evidence of a Satanic doctrine. From a supernatural viewpoint, Satanism holds an inherent, not subjective, value. Sellers reached Satanism by way of an idiosyncratic path, but regardless of Sellers’s own theory of Satanism, there could be only one Satanism in practice. Satanism is a conduit by which Satanists channel the intent of Satan. Benign Satanisms — according to the supernatural perspective — simply can not exist. Theological interpretations of a compassionate Lucifer… the LaVeyan creed of law-abiding “rational self-interest”… these can only be artifice. Through deception, Satan insidiously inserts himself into the lives of the naive, leading them inevitably to criminal depravity… whatever the claims, or even beliefs, of “Satanists” themselves might be. It’s magical thinking, no more enlightened than a belief in the spiritual corruption of the left-handed. It is the primitive illogic of the affrighted witch-hunting mob, to which Geraldo directly appealed.

The conspiracy theory of a Satanic cult criminal network — still alive and well in certain paranoid subcultures today — was, is, and always has been, the product of pure superstition. It is a superstition that has given occasional rise to characters like Sean Sellers, or Satanic serial-killer Richard Ramirez, who both attached themselves to a pre-fabricated framework — the idea of Satanism constructed by the hysterical anti-Satanists themselves — to express their individual rejection of social norms and/or cultivate an air of mysterious horror around them. “Satanism” is merely a convenient label which offers no real understanding of their personal defects, struggles, or subjective experiences… and it further obfuscates understanding by implying their actions to be driven by membership within a larger Satanic society who collectively share, and silently endorse, their criminal psychopathy.

Multiple Personalities and the Occult Conspiracy

Swarmed by conspiracy theorists and self-aggrandizing crusaders, Sellers was never guided toward any possibility of constructive introspection, reality-based confession, or even away from delusion. The situation wasn’t improved in 1992, six years after his trial, when three physicians, secured by Sellers’s appeals attorneys, attempted a scientific quantitative measure of Sellers’s psychological construct by way of electroencephalogram (EEG) testing. The results, it was claimed, proved conclusively that Sellers suffered from the condition of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Despite there being no diagnostic criteria for determining MPD (or any other psychiatric disorder) by way of EEG [8], these alleged results were often described as “incontrovertible”, even by the judges who eventually denied Sellers’s appeal. Writing for the United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, three judges produced the following opinion, establishing themselves as unfit for their stations from start to finish:

“Although troubled by the extent of the uncontroverted clinical evidence proving petitioner suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, now and at the time of the offenses of conviction, and that the offenses were committed by an “alter” personality, we are constrained to hold Petitioner has failed to establish grounds for federal habeas corpus relief. Even though his illness is such that he may be able to prove his factual innocence of those crimes, we believe that he must be left to the avenue of executive clemency to pursue that claim.”

The statement is flawed on every level. First, the idea that an appeals court would conclude that evidence of “factual innocence” was not their problem to consider is staggering. But beyond that, the very idea of Multiple Personality Disorder is itself no more credible than Sellers’s own Devil-made-me-do-it defense, dressed up in cheap scientific-sounding jargon. In fact, the disorder, as a naturally occurring condition, has no basis in science whatsoever, despite a subculture of therapists and clinicians who have lobbied successfully for its continued inclusion in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM). It’s this therapeutic subculture — Multiple Personalities “experts” and their clients — that today still retains the remaining bulk of true believers in the idea of a Satanic cult conspiracy, and it should have been no surprise that the disorder would eventually work its way into the mythological defense of Sean Sellers.dd6

Typically, it works the other way round — a person diagnosed with Multiple Personalities undergoes treatment whereby he or she “recovers” “memories” of being involved in Satanic cult practices. Wherever one finds the pseudoscience of MPD (now known as DID — Dissociative Identity Disorder) delusions of conspiracy are never far behind. The theory of Multiple Personalities holds that past traumas of abuse often prove too horrific for the mind to consciously cope with, and are thus relegated to repressed compartments of the mind which take on lives — personalities — of their own… unbeknownst to, and intermittently superseding the consciousness of, the victim. In the case of Sean Sellers, the worst the defense could say of his childhood was that he was moved around a lot, making it difficult or impossible for him to develop close interpersonal relationships. After the MPD diagnosis, however, his childhood was reconstructed into a narrative of severe abuse and forced depravity. Amnesty International, arguing for Sellers’s clemency, reported in 1998:

Violence was apparently approved of and practised in Sean Sellers’ family. His mother and stepfather always carried guns whenever they travelled. One of his uncles would take him hunting and try to teach the young boy to step on an animal’s head and pull on its legs to kill it. Sean Sellers later recalled to a psychiatrist how he saw his uncle put an axe on a wounded racoon’s head and pull on its legs until the head tore off. The young boy was frequently called a ‘wimp’ by his uncle and chastised by his stepfather for refusing to take part in these violent acts.

At his future trial for murder, the jury would be left unaware of any of these details of his childhood.” [9]

Given the nature of repression, the fact that these details went unremembered previously was to have been expected. MPD therapy typically focuses on these presumed repressed traumas, attempting to draw them to conscious realization by way of hypnotic regression or other methods. “Memories” recovered in this fashion have the remarkable tendency to not only match the therapist’s own expectations, but also to be entirely false — though, tragically, those who surface them can often become quite convinced of the memory’s legitimacy. These recovered memory therapies are the same methods by which experts in “abductology” retrieve “memories” of extraterrestrial abductions of human subjects, and this is the same “science” by which past lives are revealed to subjects who are regressed to pre-birth existences. In fact, there is no method by which a therapist can reliably distinguish between a true recovered memory (if such a thing exists at all) and confabulatory delusion.

The Passion of Sean Sellers

Sellers’s unfortunate parents suffered a type of double death. First, by way way Sean’s puzzlingly unceremonious “ritual murder”, and later as their memories were revised and defamed through new “insights”. The logic was circular: MPD “proved” that Sellers had been abused, and “recollections” of abuse in turn confirmed MPD to be the logical diagnosis. By 1998, Sellers had a dedicated fan club, the Friends of Sean, who embraced the narrative of Sellers the abused child. The ex-husband of one of the Friends of Sean, in a 2011 essay, recalls an Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OCADP) meeting his (then) wife dragged him to just months before Sellers’s execution:

There had been a clemency hearing, and Sellers’s step-siblings had testified against him. He had killed their father in cold blood, and they had never accepted his so-called conversion to Christianity. The OCADP folks sat around and discussed, with typical liberal venom, what awful people Sellers’s step-siblings were. They then went on to talk about what a bad mother Vonda had been, and what an asshole step-father Lee had been, and how they had pretty much deserved what they’d gotten.” [10]

There was a certain dissonance, it seems, with the OCADP in that they couldn’t simply oppose the Death Penalty entirely, and in all cases — as they claimed to — but apparently needed to exonerate the convicted of wrongdoing as well. And all of this, of course, ignored the unquestioned innocence of Robert Bowers, as well as Sean’s own earlier testimony expressing fondness for his blameless victims. However, at this point, Sellers’s dedicated flock — whom he addressed in monthly newsletters in which he would impart spiritual wisdom to those who lacked the insights he had gained — saw in Sellers a model of Christian virtue… not in spite of his previous depravity, but because of it.

Sellers, at times, seemed to revel in the senseless savagery of his past deeds, but only to underscore the miracle of his redemption — from “Child of Satan [to] Man of God” (as the dust-jacket of his book, Web of Darkness, would state it). When asked in interviews what he did after shooting his parents, Sellers gave a similar answer multiple times, “I laughed. I giggled a hideous giggle. I just stood there and giggled as I watched the blood pour from my mother’s head. I felt… relief. I felt this big burden come off of my shoulders, like at last I was free.” [11]

In a certain backward, religious rationale, Sellers’s own crimes made him a martyr…


 After the mid-nineties, fears of a Satanic cult conspiracy gave way to reasoned investigations, debunking it for the mob hysteria that it always was. Against expectations, even Geraldo, in 1995, publicly denounced the witch-hunt, flatly admitting that “many innocent people were convicted and went to prison” based on false “recovered memory” testimony [12]. Sean Sellers’s Satanism regained its proper context as a tale of individual homicidal confusion. Nobody had conspired to covertly author Sellers’s actions. Retrospective analysis of his defense — with its attributions of subliminal, soul-destroying powers latent within Dungeons & Dragons gameplay — became embarrassingly dated and more obviously ridiculous. Sellers’s true mental condition had never been competently diagnosed or explored.

dd21With nothing resolved, no sensible answers obtained in 13 years of inquiry, and in the face of international condemnation, Sellers was strapped to a gurney on February 04, 1999, to die by lethal injection. He addressed his onlookers with muted spite: “All the people that are hating me right now and are here waiting to see me die, when you wake up in the morning, you’re not going to feel any different. You’re going to hate me just as much tomorrow as tonight,” he stated in parting words that his attending stepsister would later describe as “arrogant.”

“When you wake up and nothing has changed inside, reach out to God, and He will be there for you. Reach out to God, and He will heal you. Let Him touch your hearts. Don’t hate all your lives.” [13]

At 12:17 a.m. Sean Sellers departed from the living, and the United States joined a short, ignoble list of countries that have sanctioned the execution of a juvenile since 1990 — the other 5 being Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. And while the European Union, various dignitaries, and celebrities would openly comment upon this state of affairs disparagingly, none would confront the more disturbing questions that the Sean Sellers case would present in regards to the health of our enlightened civility… Namely, the question of witch-hunts, and how the fear of supernatural criminality could have encroached a generalized panic into our informed public, finding an audience within the hallowed halls of secular law. How does a debunked, delusion-creating diagnosis manage to retain, even today, a presence in an allegedly science-respecting Psychiatric manual? How did conspiracy theory overshadow and obscure every aspect of the Sean Sellers story, even as secular authorities sought to piece it all together?

A fading Death Row celebrity, Sellers drifted from public memory almost as quickly as his ashes were spread, as according to his wishes, in a Colorado woods… an insignificant footnote in American True Crime history… Already the relic of a mocked and discredited moral uproar… the product of uniquely troubled times… a disturbed killer further perverted by self-interested and deceptive influences outside of his understanding or control.

1. Sellers, Sean. “Journal of Sean Richard Sellers: Monday, February 1.” 1999. (

2. Green, Michelle. “A Boy’s Love of Satan Ends in Murder, a Death Sentence — and Grisly Memories.” People Magazine. 01 Dec 1986. vol. 26 no. 22.

3. 135 F.3d 1333: Sean Richard Sellers, Petitioner-appellant, v. Ronald Ward, Warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary,respondent-appellee. United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit. – 135 F.3d 1333 Feb. 4, 1998 (

4. Sellers, Sean. Web of Darkness. Victory House, Inc., 1990 (pp. 28-29)

5. Dawkins, Vicky L. and Nina Downey Higgins. Devil Child. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1989 (pp. 2)

6. Uzzel, Tonie. The Occult: Deaths attributed to occult activity. The Bonham Daily Favorite. 6/19/1991

7. op cit. Sellers, p. 40

8. Electroencephalography — used to measure electrical activity along the scalp in an effort to map brain activity.

9. Amnesty International USA: Killing Hope: The Imminent Execution of Sean Sellers. (December 1998)

10. Frazier, Tony. “Sean Sellers was a Murdering, Narcissistic Douchebag, and I’m Glad He’s Dead”. (

11. Satanism Unmasked Sean Sellers: retrieved 04/17/2013

12. From the December 12, 1995 CNBC program Wrongly Accused & Convicted of Child Molestation

13. Clay, Nolan. “Sellers Hellbound, Family Says”. The Daily Oklahoman. February 05, 1999











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Mark Schwartz, accused of malpractice, removed from Castlewood clinic staff Sun, 26 May 2013 05:12:20 +0000 Castlewood Center

Castlewood Treatment Center. Photo: ABC News

The bizarre nature of the lawsuits created a minor, short-lived sensation among the national press at the times of their filings. The first, dated November 21, 2011 — Lisa Nasseff vs. Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC. — alleged to gross malpractice suffered while undergoing “treatment” at the St. Louis eating disorders clinic. To quote directly from the suit:

“defendant carelessly and negligently hypnotized plaintiff at a time when she was under the influence of various psychotropic medications and said hypnotic treatment directly caused or contributed to cause the creation, reinforcement, or increase in plaintiff’s mind, of false memories including the following:

a) Plaintiff suffered physical and sexual abuse;
b) Plaintiff suffered multiple rapes;
c) Plaintiff suffered satanic ritual abuse;
d) Plaintiff was caused to believe she was a member of a satanic cult and that she was involved in or perpetrated various criminal and horrific acts of abuse;
e) Plaintiff was caused to believe that she had multiple personalities at one time totaling twenty separate personalities.”

By November 09, 2012, four total lawsuits had been filed, all of a similar nature, all of which are still yet to go to trial. The allegations claim that among the false memories cultivated under the influence of Castlewood’s systematic narcosis “therapy” are disturbed, traumatizing delusions of ritual murder. No doubt, such “memories”, even when recognized as delusions, must exact a severe emotional toll, nor could the intentional cultivation of such delusions be considered anything but malpractice.

(The four lawsuits represent only some patients who now recognize their “memories” of abuse as false. Numerous families — some having started an online support network under the name of Castlewood Victims Unite — claim that they may have forever lost their daughters to false memories of Ritual Abuse that have caused them to withdraw from contact, and reason, entirely.)

But how could such delusions be cultivated in the course of treatment for eating disorders, and for what purpose? According to the allegations, it seems, the theory at Castlewood is (or was) that eating disorders signify outer manifestations of inner repressed traumas of abuse.

“Repressed”, of course, is to say that the patient does not consciously remember the traumatic event(s). Treatments based on these assumptions always seem to rely on bringing these presumed traumas out into conscious scrutiny. This, we are told, is the only way to neutralize them… the only way to end the outer symptoms these hidden traumas are believed to cause.

Is it credible to think that the co-founders of Castlewood, Mark Schwartz and his wife Lori Galperin — both internationally recognized experts in eating disorders, and both implicated in the suits — could have been reckless enough to lead vulnerable and medicated patients to cultivate absurd delusions of satanic cult abuse, or is something else going on?

In fact, wherever the idea of “repressed memories” and multiple personalities rears its ugly, debunked head, unhinged “memories” of imagined abuse are never far behind. Throughout the 80s and 90s, internationally recognized experts in trauma and dissociation (such as Richard Kluft and Colin Ross) promoted a deranged conspiracy theory of satanic cult abuse based upon accounts that had been “recovered” by their clients. Multiple investigations debunked the narrative of these accounts entirely, and it became quite clear what was really going on: an irresponsible and unscientific therapeutic practice was being employed to encourage vulnerable mental health consumers to confabulate memories of abuse — and then, in many cases, further encouraged them to insistently believe them. These confabulations, not-so-remarkably, had an enormously high probability of validating the therapist’s assumptions, regardless of how improbable those assumptions may have been.

In parallel to the satanic ritual abuse scare (now known to sociologists as the “Satanic Panic”) the exact same theories of memory retrieval brought us the mythology of alien abduction. Believing they had developed a check-list of probable symptoms of extraterrestrial contact that had subsequently been concealed from memory, “abductologists” used the same techniques employed by multiple personality specialists to draw forth elaborate narratives involving interplanetary visitors.

Interestingly, some professionals of abductology have found, in their probing explorations of their clients’ concealed “memories”, that the extraterrestrials are here to help us — they occasionally intervene in our affairs, but only on our behalf, and with unconditional benevolence and love. This contrasts heavily with narratives revealing a nefarious plot of oddly anal-centric human vivisection and exploitation. Why the discrepancy? I have personally sought out and interviewed a number of the top names in alien abduction research with this very question. In every instance, the answer has been the same: the other guys are doing the therapy wrong. They are interpreting “screen memories” improperly, or they are interpreting fear of the unknown as malice on the part of the extraterrestrials. Both sides assert that if only the other was to “dig deeper”, they would find the truth.

Incidentally, I attended a lecture, just last month, given by one Richard Schwartz, former member of Castlewood’s clinical staff, and creator of a therapy model, used at the Castlewood treatment center, called Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS asserts that we all have multiple personalities, called “parts”, and by understanding and reconciling these parts, we may find inner peace. Some parts are destructive (suicidal, self-undermining, irrational, etc.) and it is the therapist’s job to find those parts and understand what distresses them individually.

During a Question & Answer segment of Dr. Schwartz’s presentation, I raised my hand:

Q: I worry about the distinction between getting people to recognize naturally occurring “parts” and being blamed [as a therapist] for causing people to contextualize themselves into parts to the point where you’re blamed for [creating] destructive parts. And I know there’s an eating disorders clinic that was using IFS and has lawsuits against it now. I was wondering if they could have done things differently [in their utilization of IFS therapy], or if that’s just a professional hazard?

Dick Schwartz: You know… that one’s a tough one, because what I’ve done — early in my career what I’ve done… The lawsuit’s around false memories — that whole movement’s come back some. Early in my career I had a client who went through all these cult memories. You know, I was really into it. Did some investigating, checked things out. And then, one session, we found a part that was generating all this to keep my interest because I had seen (some interest in her[?]) I’m very, very careful to never lead people toward any kind of… never presume what’s going to come out as they do their own witnessing. Even in ways — when something scary comes out — something like that — [I] say, well, we can’t really know whether this is true or not, but it is what the part needs to show so we’re going to go with it for now and later you can evaluate it, whether it’s true or not. So, it’s not just IFS, but any therapy that goes deep with people will come upon that phenomenon… and not everybody is careful in… those… realms…

Just as with alien abduction, one can always “dig deeper” in the context of IFS so as to re-narrate the entire tale. How do licensed professionals fall for this rubbish? The lecture I attended was delivered to a full-house of professional, credulous rubes in the mental health profession.

In 2009 I attended a “Ritual Abuse/Mind-Control conference” held annually in Connecticut by an organization known as S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-control And Ritual abuse Today). The conference is organized by a licensed Mental Health professional, Neil Brick, from Massachusetts. A vendor booth at the conference was selling electromagnetic-beam blocking hats, and one of the speakers casually lectured us about mind-control and “demonic harmonics”, which “involves using musical tones and quantum physics to open up portals into the spiritual realms.” Brick himself claims to have recovered memories that he was a brainwashed assassin for the satanic cult conspiracy within the Illuminati-controlled CIA. Theories of repressed trauma are used to support the notion that if this type of lunacy can be “recalled”, so too must it all be true.

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) hosts professional conferences where the debunked diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) (now referred to in the American Psychiatric Association’s [APA] Diagnostic & Statistical Manual [DSM] as Dissociative Identity Disorder) is discussed and elaborated upon. Their last conference found a regular speaker from the annual S.M.A.R.T. conferences co-delivering a lecture on “Ritual Abuse”, a slightly euphemistic term for the conspiracy theory of satanic cult abuse.

The task force chair of the 4th edition of the DSM, Dr. Allen Frances, has recently admitted to the Wall Street Journal that MPD/DID is “complete bunk”, yet the diagnosis remains in the current 5th edition, rolled-out only last week, of the revised DSM. This refusal to acknowledge the harmful realities regarding some of their imaginary disorders surely played a role in the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) decision, announced early this month, to abandon the DSM altogether, along with a statement recognizing that “patients with mental disorders deserve better.”

Indeed they do. The APA must bear responsibility for enabling the quackery endorsed by the ISSTD, who must bear some responsibility for lending any credibility to the delusional assertions of S.M.A.R.T.

…And Richard Schwartz’s IFS must bear some responsibility for the allegations against Castlewood… and Castlewood must bear responsibility for Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin.

New evidence suggests that Castlewood is trying to distance themselves from that responsibility as much as possible. Both Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin were recently removed entirely from the Castlewood staff shortly after depositions were taken regarding the malpractice suits. Whether they were allowed to abruptly resign, or were outright fired is unclear at this time.

If the accusations against Schwartz and his wife prove true, let us hope they never practice again… But let us also understand, the problem is far bigger than the both of them, and it is a long way from being resolved.

More on Castlewood, by journalist Ed Cara, can be read here:

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Open letter to Dr. Phil: “a public mental health menace” Sat, 20 Oct 2012 02:02:48 +0000 Dear Dr. Phil,

I write this letter to you with little hope of conveying information of which you were previously unaware. Rather, I write this letter so that the general public may be made aware of what you should already be well aware of, in hopes that they may appropriately measure your credibility following your forthcoming broadcast* related to the topic of an alleged satanic cult conspiracy — an episode which promises to be full of misinformation, delusions, harmful false accusations, and lies.

Specifically, it has come to my attention that you will be airing an interview with Judy Byington, author of a book entitled Twenty-Two Faces which purports to be the true story of one Jenny Hill, an alleged victim of the bizarre and controversial psychiatric condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID] (formerly listed as Multiple Personality Disorder [MPD]).

However dubious the legitimacy of DID, this diagnosis is by far the least of the problems with Byington’s book. Twenty-Two Faces is openly rife with archaic demonologies, and paranoid conspiracy theories being presented as root causes to the disturbances in Ms. Hill’s troubled mind. That Jenny Hill — a former drug addict and prostitute with a history of mental illness — is troubled seems indisputable, but Byington’s book seeks to expose an alleged satanic government plot behind Hill’s mental malaise that is tantamount to speculation upon who, exactly, is beaming voices into the heads of schizophrenics. Such an ignorant approach to therapeutic practice is harmful to mental health consumers, and your endorsement of such can hardly be of any positive value to your viewers.

The broader harm to the public mental health in endorsing a story as laden with paranoid delusion as Twenty-Two Faces — especially insofar as it is a narrative specifically appealing to the mentally vulnerable — should be clear to a doctor of Clinical Psychology like yourself. In fact, as recently as the 1980’s (and extending into the 90s), stories of non-existent satanic cults — upon which Byington has based her unhinged claims — caused a modern witch-hunt now known to sociologists as the “Satanic Panic”. Books foundational to this panic, and thematically identical to Twenty-Two Faces — particularly Michelle Remembers by Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith, and Satan’s Underground by Lauren Stratford — were soundly and thoroughly debunked by investigative journalists. Unfortunately, these debunkings only arrived after sensational talk-shows, promoting these books uncritically, helped create a moral panic that ruined families, resulted in false convictions of satanic crimes, and exploited the most irrational fears of countless mental health consumers. Both of these books are listed in Byington’s bibliography, despite their debunkings, and despite the fact the Satan’s Underground was so thoroughly discredited as to be withdrawn from publication… following which the author changed her name and abandoned her story of Satanic Ritual Abuse to instead pose as a childhood victim of the Holocaust.

Among the supernatural claims put forward in Twenty-Two Faces we have:

  • Prophecy: The protagonist’s birth is foretold by her uncle in exacting detail. Through some other-worldly messenger he is “told” that “this was a special child who would do important things on this earth.”
  • Extra Sensory Perception (ESP): apparently believing that child abuse can prove beneficial to the victim (a position I hope you disagree with), author Judy Byington describes that the protagonist, Jenny Hill, was able to break through certain subliminal barriers, not in spite of, but because of, early humiliations. “In the far reaches of her brain a storehouse of demeaning events evidently opened a door for Extra Sensory Perception experiences to enter.”
  • Divine guidance: desperate and in prayer, Jenny Hill hears “a soft, yet thundering voice”, which urges her to “continue to write down your life experiences, for one day a book will be written.”
  • Levitation: Byington describes a cult “filled with Black Magic, levitation, seances and chanting people”. Jenny Hill is admonished at one point that “[l]evitation and evil spirits weren’t anything to mess around with and certainly not worth the price it [sic] would extract.”
  • Divine intervention: In the midst of a Satanic ceremony in which she is bound to an altar, Jenny Hill is spared from sacrifice by a bare-footed “white-robed male personage, surrounded in a glorious White Light”. (Had this “personage” taken a little effort to arrive just a moment earlier, he could have spared the unlucky girl next to Hill, who is said to have been decapitated… but I’m sure His schedule is as busy as His ways mysterious.)
  • Spirit Possession: Making clear that possession isn’t merely a more primitive cultural interpretation of DID, Byington describes that Hill has suffered both DID and spirit possession, the latter being cured by the prayers of LDS church officials.


Any one of these topics would be a bit much for one episode, and each of these remarkable claims demands remarkable evidence. So what evidence does Byington provide? Incredibly, Twenty-Two Faces seems to rely solely on the “memories of [Jenny Hill’s] multiple personalities and their entries in diaries written since childhood”, as Byington describes in the book’s opening disclaimer. These memories were “repressed”, only recalled later in Ms. Hill’s life in the course of re-integrating her various fractured identities. Setting aside the fact that “recovered memories” similarly serve as the “evidentiary” basis for claims of Extraterrestrial abductions and past life regression, is it appropriate — in your professional opinion as a (former) Clinical Psychologist — to accept such extraordinary claims merely on personal testimony? Do you think it’s appropriate, Dr. Phil, to air fear-mongering claims of an anti-human, ubiquitous secret society on the “evidence” of such an unlikely anecdote?

Even looking past the supernatural propositions, Byington’s book is fraught with inconsistencies, among which we find:

    • Twenty-Two Faces is said to have been constructed from “memories of [Jenny Hill’s] multiple personalities and their entries in diaries written since childhood”, a claim which makes no sense when considering that Jenny Hill is supposed to have been entirely ignorant of the existence of her multiple personalities until having entered psychiatric therapy in later adulthood. How, then, did she account for various unknown individuals writing their own personal, signed entries in her own private diaries consistently throughout her life?
    • Twenty-Two Faces describes that Jenny Hill was oppressed by an unlikely Jewish Nazi who worshipped Satan and was brought to the US from Germany under CIA sponsorship. Ludicrous as this alone is, Byington explains that this over-dramatized villain is careful to conceal his antics from Jenny Hill’s parents — returning her home on-time for supper, making sure her chores are finished before compelling her to return — yet we also learn later that Hill’s parents were in on the whole thing throughout.
    • We are made to understand that Hill begins to experience “lost time” at the age of 4, when her abuse is said to have begun. The lost time is accounted for as episodes during which other personalities took over her consciousness so that Hill might not be troubled with the terrors of the abuse she began suffering at that age. Such episodes, starting at such an early age, would establish an expectation of occasionally lost time, or an acceptance on the part of the protagonist that she had never quite grasped what time is. Not so with Ms. Hill. Not only did she fully grasp the cultural context and broad implications of the depravities that are said to have befallen her at age 4, she is also uncannily aware of the dates and times that eluded her at an age when most children are unable to properly read a clock. Does this match with your own knowledge of childhood cognitive development, Dr. Phil?
    • Hill learns, by means of “recovered memories” that she was raped by her father. She invites her parents to her psychiatric hospital, where she is an in-patient, so that she may accuse him. Apparently heartbroken and outraged, her father storms out. The inconsistency occurs some pages later when it is reported that Hill was saddened to not be invited over for the following Family Christmas.

You should be aware of serious problems with Byington’s book — the inconsistencies, improbabilities, and supernatural propositions — not least because you should be aware of the book’s contents before you endorse such material on your show, but also because I personally reached out to your producers to warn you of them. Your producers were surely also warned regarding Byington’s problematic narrative when in contact with Jenny Hill’s sister, who was also asked to appear on your show along with Mrs. Byington. Apparently, your producers — doing “entertainment” at the expense of good psychology — chose to ignore us both.

The material above covers some problems that any rational person could pick out merely from reading the book, but there are further problems with Twenty-Two Faces that are apparent to anybody who bothers to do a little research:

    • The book carries an endorsement from Robert Kroon, an esteemed former foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. However, Kroon had been dead for over 5 years at the time of Twenty-Two Faces’ publication. Suspiciously, Tate Publishing, the publisher of Twenty-Two Faces, uses a similar endorsement, allegedly from Kroon, on another book published 2 years after his death.
    • Judy Byington has not had a license to practice therapy in around 10 years, yet she explicitly describes continuing to conduct therapy sessions with Jenny Hill only months ago (listen to this interview at 15:45: Judy Byington also offers “therapy” over the phone or via Skype at $25 per session. Do you, Dr. Phil, endorse this type of unlicensed, not to mention grossly irrational, “therapy”?
    • Jenny Hill remains mentally tormented and has a history of bearing false witness. Twenty-Two Faces describes an episode in which Jenny Hill fled from Judy Byington for a time believing that she had observed “the mark of cain” somewhere on Byington, indicated that Byington was involved, somehow, with satanic cults… yet it never seems to have occurred to Byington that any other paranoid claims of Jenny’s may have been rooted in suspicious delusion, rather than fact. In a very telling exchange (that can be read here: Jenny Hill’s sister questioned Byington regarding why it is Byington unquestioningly believes many of Jenny’s unprovable claims, while knowing that Jenny has made various unfounded claims in apparent fits of panicked paranoia: “Did you believe her when she said your husband was coming on to her sexually? I have heard that allegation too many times about other men to take it seriously. […] [H]ow many times has she called you in the middle of the night to come rescue her from some drama only to find her asleep and not knowing she had called or claiming she was being held hostage and you come with police to find her watching TV[?] …” Judy Byington proved unwilling or unable to answer these questions of Jenny Hill’s sister. Was she able to answer such questions of you? Did you even ask? If not, why not? These facts were available to you before you filmed your interview with Mrs. Byington.

I hardly expect to see that you have asked any difficult, yet terribly obvious, questions of Judy Byington in your soon-to-be-aired interview, as Byington’s own website now proudly displays your endorsement:

“Dear Judy,

Thank you for taking the time to come to our show. I wish you great success with your book documenting the life of Jenny Hill and look forward to working with you in the future. God Bless!

Dr. Phil, Paramount Pictures Hollywood”

That this makes you complicit in purveying a delusional conspiracy theory is unfortunate, but hardly disputable. Judy Byington herself makes clear that she considers Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder synonymous with Satanic Ritual Abuse, and you can hardly talk to her about one without addressing the other. To be clear, when Judy Byington talks of multiplicity and dissociative trauma, she is talking about a debunked conspiracy theory of satanic mind-control plots. That you should give such hysterical claims air-time — allowing a conspiracy theory to be presented as a diagnosis — on your widely viewed show is beyond irresponsible. It makes you a menace to the public mental health.

I have no illusion that you will correct your errors, or that you might pull the episode before it airs. Rather, I am simply posting this time-stamped letter to you here — which I will also send to you directly — so that neither you, nor your producers, may possibly claim ignorance in the near future when Judy Byington meets with the critical assault that will inevitably follow when sensible people see fit to read her work. I want it to be perfectly clear, now and in the future, that all the facts were available to you at all times. It is my feeling that your credibility should greatly suffer, and it is my wish that you should soon find yourself as bankrupt financially as you are ethically.


    Acrimoniously yours,

        Douglas Mesner

 *Note, original reports stated that this episode would air October 31, 2012. As of October 27, this episode is not on Dr. Phil’s broadcasting schedule. Hopefully, Phil wises up and pulls the interview entirely, however, yesterday Judy Byington left a comment online that the episode should air “soon”. This open letter has been slightly modified to reflect the sudden uncertainty of the broadcast date.

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Ted Gunderson: Death of a Public Paranoid Wed, 01 Aug 2012 02:29:41 +0000 Former Special Agent Ted Gunderson suspected he would be “taken out” eventually. As a whistleblower disclosing crimes of the highest order, Gunderson would attest to suffering endless harassment and attempts on his life, from operatives entering his home to sneak poisonous liquids into the wall heaters[1], to phone tapping, personal computer hacking, and years of surveillance by “groups and individuals” in ground vehicles, helicopters, and on foot.[2] Agents of his undoing were everywhere. Law enforcement were worse than helpless… they were complicit.

“I just don’t understand it”, Gunderson stated in an interview from “an undisclosed southwestern city” while on the run from his would-be assassins. “I thought they (the FBI) would help me. Instead… they’re trying to destroy me.”

The FBI, Gunderson asserted, was assisting in having him silenced for exposing the collusion between a satanic cult and the United States Army in a high profile triple homicide — ritual murder, by Gunderson’s account — involving a mother and her 2 daughters at Fort Bragg United States Army installation in North Carolina.

It all sounded unbelievable, but what separated him from countless other suspected delusives of the paranoid kind was that Gunderson, a private investigator, himself was a 27 year veteran of the Bureau who had headed three regional offices, serving three directors from J. Edgar Hoover to Judge William Webster. He was, in fact, an impressively credentialed G-man whose retirement party in 1979 had drawn an elite crowd of over 600. His book, How to Locate Anyone Anywhere, included endorsement blurbs from Johnny Carson and even President Gerald R. Ford, who took the opportunity to publicly congratulate Gunderson on “his fine career.”

…Yet, there he was, implicating the Bureau in anti-American — even anti-human — crimes, informing the Associated Press that he had been brutally reduced to “living from a suitcase and associating with criminals in a lifestyle that [was] a stark contrast to his decorated career […]”[3]

Naturally, suspicions were aroused (publicly expressed by associates of Ted’s on various online sites) when it was learned that Gunderson had been declared dead on July 31st, 2011, allegedly from complications related to cancer… and only just under 30 years from the time he revealed that the FBI was trying to have him silenced. Prematurely robbed of his dissenting voice at the age of 83.

…Admittedly, 30 years is long time to wait to have a man silenced. Long enough, in fact, that he should have been able to disclose everything proprietary in that time. And, conceded, 83 is a bit of an old age to claim premature death, especially when the 83 year-old in question did in fact have cancer. But in order to understand the “suspicions” surrounding Gunderson’s death, it is important to understand the whole of the Ted Gunderson story, to appreciate the shadow of fear, the miasma of paranoid discontent that he so actively engendered throughout his life. In the world of Ted Gunderson, every seemingly arbitrary idiosyncrasy, every obscure sign constructed from the random held signification aimed inexorably toward one unifying narrative.

Indisputable though his credentials were, the believability of his accusations against the FBI were routinely diluted by the innumerable bombastic conspiracist claims he would make throughout the years. In his post-FBI career as a Private Investigator, Ted commented on numerous high-profile cases, often — if not always — taking a minority or deeply implausible view, always benefiting from his professional past, never disadvantaged by the sheer number of unlikely or outright impossible conspiracies he subscribed to, never left any the poorer for any instance in which he was grievously and demonstrably entirely wrong (such as in the case of his hysterical bandwagon apocalyptic “Y2K” fear-mongering)[4].

Though his name is virtually unknown outside the hardcore conspiracy fringe, Ted Gunderson will live on in the enduring suspicions he sowed — in each case he explored as a private investigator — of deeper, more sinister plots at play behind-the-scenes. Where hysteria spread, he went to legitimize irrational fears in the FBI’s name. Many of those infected with his paranoia remain, still today, invested in his dystopian vision. Trying to cope in the wake of unfathomable crimes committed in their midst, vulnerable minds gravitated to the delusional narratives Gunderson supported which, while claiming to confront the stark horror of “reality”, offered a comfortably tidy narrative, linear and coherent, where demarcations between Good and Evil are unmistakably clear, and nothing occurs without purpose. In Gunderson’s hands, an infamous murder became the work of Satanists sanctioned by demonic government forces — the confusion created by his investigation still causing for controversy and suspicion. With his late intervention, the debunked McMartin preschool Satanic Ritual Abuse panic is revived for true believers who hold firm to an appearance of tenability founded on Gunderson’s claim that, with the aid of an archaeologist, he had unearthed secret tunnels underneath the site of the school where barbarous, sadistic rituals had been enacted. Gunderson’s investigation of fraud at a credit union in Nebraska predictably revealed a Satanic plot extending to the highest reaches of the government, creating another panic that also retains unshakable believers today.

Gunderson claimed to have personally verified that the U.S. Government knew in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, yet allowed it to happen; he claimed insider knowledge of the truth behind the JFK assassination; 9/11, he was likewise certain, was an inside job… as was the 1993 World Trade Center bombing… as was the Oklahoma City Bombing; Children were being bused to the infamous extraterrestrial holding facility of Area 51 where they have been brain-washed and sold into sexual slavery; musician Sonny Bono was murdered by government hit-men for knowing too much; sitcom actor Gary Coleman, too, was murdered; actor David Carradine? Murdered by transsexual prostitutes… etc., and on and on. Every event, it seemed, was enacted at the behest of some sinister secret committee.

In theory, and at best (if one were to attempt to justify him), Gunderson practiced something of a criminological transcendental metaphysics, seeking the very source of crime itself in each individual crime he devoted his attention to, seeing them all tied to an all-pervasive network of evil. In practice, he was more of a ride-along observer to the shifting paranoid folklore panics of his times put forth by moral crusaders, modern witch-hunters, and outright con-men (and women) who benefited from attaching the prestige of a former G-man’s endorsement to whatever implausible conspiracy narrative they happened to be selling. Everywhere he appeared, in every opinion he spoke, there was attached the “former FBI” stamp of credibility, the idea that Ted Gunderson was a highly trained and specialized crime fighter with an ability to connect seemingly disparate threads of evidence unseen by the common observer.

Sensationalist journalism quoting from him almost universally described Gunderson only as a former FBI man, even long after he had become an obvious caricature, a public paranoid for hire. Ted was still simply a respected former FBI man even after decades of attaching his expertise to the furthest-flung theories of world-wide Illuminati/Masonic/Satanic/Zionist conspiracies. Throughout the moral panic of the 1980s – 1990s regarding Satanic cults thought to be subverting Christian-American lives, he would regularly appear on daytime talk shows warning of the insidious influence of Heavy Metal music and ubiquitous subliminal urgings being silently forced upon impressionable youthful minds. Even as late as 2007, long after any cursory research into his background should have revealed him to be a delirious source of (at best) unreliable information, famed CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper invoked Gunderson’s expertise in defense of alleged “psychic” Sylvia Browne in the face of criticisms presented by professional debunker and skeptical author, James Randi:

Cooper: […] James, you’ve actually called Sylvia Browne a villain.

We spoke to Ted Gunderson, who’s a retired senior special agent in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. He’s worked with Sylvia Browne, and he says — he says he’s worked with her quite a bit. And he said this about her. He says, quote, “I’ve worked with numerous psychics in the past and very few are really on target, but Sylvia Browne is probably one of the most accurate psychics in the country.”

Now, that’s from a former senior FBI official. Are you saying he’s wrong?[5]


Gunderson’s entry into the Federal Bureau of Investigations was inauspicious, his probationary appointment as a special agent in 1951 — at a per annum salary of $5,500 — the result of a seemingly whimsical letter dashed off to the Bureau at the age of 23. (“A friend of mine got a job with the FBI […],” Ted would explain, “I decided if he could do it I could too. Six weeks later, I was in training school.”[6]):


I am under the basic requirement of being twenty-five years of age but most people consider me to be twenty-six or twenty-seven.

If a person has the outward appearance of being twenty-five and can fulfill the many other requirements, why shouldn’t he be considered for a position?

If at all possible, I would like to be considered as an applicant.

Yours very truly,

Ted L. Gunderson

Gunderson’s personnel file reveals a pre-FBI academic record with no background in either Criminology or Law. A graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration[7] from the University of Nebraska, his advisor described Gunderson as “somewhat lazy” during the prerequisite Bureau background interviews, though an assistant professor assured the FBI that Ted was “by no means” lazy… He simply “did not excel”. Ted was an “average” student — “321st out of a class of 478” — working as a ham salesman for Hormel in Dearborn, Michigan, at the time in which he submitted his application letter to the Bureau.[8]

“Selling hams was alright,” Ted reminisced in a 1975 interview while acting as Special Agent in Charge for the Memphis, Tennessee Bureau office, “but I love this job.”

Indeed, the job was good to him, and he had nothing critical to say about the Bureau while in its active employ. Gunderson’s file is full of commendations for his meticulously neat appearance, as well as letters that he himself would routinely send to whomever was acting Director at the time, gushingly complimenting them for their stoic leadership and unwavering fortitude.

Gunderson steadily eased his way up the promotional chain of Bureau command before ultimately acting as Special Agent in Charge for the offices in Memphis, Dallas, and Los Angeles until his retirement in 1979.

Throughout his career, Gunderson was a vociferous defender of the not-always-popular Bureau, acting as their spokesman to media during the Watergate scandal and amid criticisms of unconstitutional counterintelligence activities that took place throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The slick, wavy-haired, broad-shouldered, cigar-chomping Gunderson struck journalists as affable, if abrupt. According to Ted, America had been endlessly besieged by subversive enemies from within. The FBI, it seemed, was the only thing between Us and Them.

Defending the FBI’s use of Civil Liberty violating investigation techniques, such as wiretapping, mail opening, and surreptitious entries, he would claim, “When we had the counterintelligence effort called Cointelpro going in the ‘50s and ‘60s, [these methods] helped break the backs of people dropping bombs everywhere and wrecking millions of dollars worth of property. Extreme tactics were needed if we were to stop them.”

“If [the FBI] had not taken an aggressive approach in the early ‘60s when [revolutionaries] took over the college campuses […] the loss [of life and property] would have been greater than it was.”[9]

Amid the uproar following revelations of the FBI’s clandestine surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King — including placing a bug in the civil rights leader’s hotel room in hopes of catching him committing potentially stigmatizing deeds — Gunderson explained that, here too, the FBI had acted appropriately: “One of [King’s] top advisors had been identified as a communist,” he stated.[10]

Responding to criticisms leveled against the Los Angeles FBI office while under his personal command for its alleged harassment and unconcealed surveillance of a visiting Chinese scholar at UCLA, he tersely informed reporters of their duty to assume any FBI activity to be sanctioned and just. “You just have to take our word for it,” he’s quoted, “If it’s our investigation, it’s a legitimate surveillance.”[11]

Hinting at a conspiracist mindset established prior to his ignoble post-FBI private investigations career, an interview from 1978 reports that “Gunderson said that the element that has wanted to overthrow the government has always been present but that the Vietnam war gave this element a cause. He added that the element still exists today.”[12] In 1977 (and in what would become a recurring theme), he alleged plots against his life, claiming to be the target of death threats from the Black Panthers, as well as a target of hit-men working on the behalf of Soviet spies in New York.[13]

In a letter to the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner published 17 January, 1979, Gunderson seems to have finally over-stepped his professional boundaries in suggesting that the then-current Attorney General Guidelines were hampering investigations, thereby presenting a threat to National Security. This provoked a phone call on behalf of director Webster in which Gunderson was educated upon Webster’s own views on adhering to, and supporting, domestic security guidelines. This in turn provoked a letter to Webster from an impassioned Gunderson, dated 7 February, insisting upon an expansion of investigative latitude: “Individual rights are of the utmost importance,” he grudgingly conceded, “but some of our citizens are going to have their individual rights blasted off the face of the earth if our intelligence community does not gird its loins ‘with the laudable purpose of prevention’ rather than collecting evidence afterwards.” Now, Gunderson was saying, is the time to bring the fight to the Enemy. “I urgently request that you lend an unbiased ear to a field commander who daily witnesses Agent frustration and overcautiousness. These men and women fear they might overstep the guidelines or find themselves powerless to protect their sources from disclosure. Hesitancy is not a historic earmark of a Special Agent of the FBI.”

Clearly unmoved, Webster replied 26 February stating, “I believe at this time we are able to work within [the Attorney General guidelines] and, therefore, no modifications are necessary.”

Just a week and a half later, 06 March 1979, Gunderson announced his retirement.[14]




By Ted’s own account, it wasn’t until his first major case as a private investigator following his retirement in 1979 that he learned “what was going on”.

“I had no idea about the Illuminati [before then]”, he would explain…. “I [didn’t] know anything about Satanism. I read about it in the Bible, of course, but that’s about it…” [15]

The break-through investigation that he refers to was the highly publicized, still controversial Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald case. It was the same ground-breaking investigation that he would later claim had first put him on the FBI’s hit-list.

The MacDonald case was already 10 years old by the time Gunderson became an investigator for the defense in 1980. And today, over 40 years after the crime, there is still bitter and divisive controversy over whether or not Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald himself is guilty of slaying his pregnant wife and 2 daughters in their bedrooms at their home on Fort Bragg, or if — as MacDonald claims — the savage slaughterings were committed by a Manson Family-like cult of narcotic crazed hippies. The facts of the case are generally available, having inspired a best-selling book and television movie, so the details will not be belabored here… Whatever the evidence may indicate of the actual sequence of events in the MacDonald household that fatal night in 1970, Gunderson certainly did little to clear the confusion with his own bizarre “investigation”, instigated at the behest of friends of the convicted MacDonald.

He would claim that he was adamant that he would not have worked for MacDonald if he had found credible evidence of MacDonald’s guilt. But at an hourly rate of $100, Gunderson reportedly decided within 24 hours of accepting the job that MacDonald had been “railroaded”.[16]

His “investigation”, such as it was, focused on a drug-addicted mentally disturbed daughter of a lieutenant colonel, Helena Stoeckley — located in nearby Fayetteville at the time of the murders — who had previously been pointed to as a possible suspect. Interviewed twice about the murders by the army’s Criminal Investigation Division, Stoeckley’s testimony had been deemed worthless prior to Gunderson’s involvement.

Stoeckley had since married and relocated to South Carolina. According to Vanity Fair magazine[17], Gunderson, “[a]cting on this intelligence […] secured MacDonald’s approval to dispatch a Canadian psychic, the notion being that her paranormal powers would put Stoeckley on an airliner. Stoeckley proved resistant, however, even after the psychic told her that she’d ‘fallen in love’ with MacDonald and that the psychic could ‘foresee a beautiful life’ for her—if she aided in clearing his name.”

Upon securing Stoeckley for questioning, according to another former FBI agent assisting Gunderson, there was an “element of duress” in the following interrogations wherein Gunderson resorted to “unethical means and tactics in a very important case”. In fact, his “interview” tactic oscillated between applied duress and promised rewards of lucrative book and movie deals for Stoeckley’s story.

“Assured that she’d be resettled in California with a new house, job, and identity—even a part in the forthcoming movie—Stoeckley signed a statement not only implicating herself in the murders but naming five other killers (later referred to as “Black Cult” members) as well.”[18] Predictably, under Gunderson’s influence, Stoeckley would go into hiding for fear of her life following the confession.[19]

Stoeckley’s story didn’t match with events as MacDonald described them, nor was it corroborated with the available evidence, despite Gunderson’s feeling that it must have been. According to CBS News: “When [Stoeckley] told her story, Gunderson says he believed her. ‘Because she said that she tried to ride the rocking horse in the small bedroom … and she tried to get on it and she couldn’t because the spring was broken.’”:

“Asked why that would be significant, Gunderson says, ‘Because the only people that knew that spring was broken on the rocking horse was the family, the MacDonald family.’

But 1970 crime scene photos, recently obtained by [CBS television documentary and news program] 48 Hours from the Department of Justice, seem to show that none of the springs on the toy horse were broken.”[20]

Worse, Stoeckley’s confession named five male co-perpetrators, all of whom denied involvement, none of whom could be connected to the scene of the crime, and one of whom had an unshakable alibi: he had been in jail on the night in question.[21]

Stoeckley herself would alternate between embellishing upon, and outright recanting, the confession, but this hardly seemed to matter to Gunderson. For the rest of his life he would point to the MacDonald case and the disregarded confession of Helena Stoeckley as evidence of the United States Army’s involvement in a world-wide Satanic cult crimes cover-up. Though Gunderson claimed it wasn’t until the MacDonald case that he was awoken to the presence of Satanic conspiracy, it seems he immediately grasped the magnitude of the situation. The Satanic threat was imperiling the lives, freedom, and very humanity of good citizens worldwide.

Convinced that the FBI had undermined his investigation into the MacDonald murders and was actively working to destroy his reputation, Gunderson wrote a letter to President Reagan in 1985 pleading executive intervention. The President’s counsel forwarded his letter to the Deputy Attorney General advising “no continuing interest in the matter.”[22] In July 1987, Gunderson sent a rather disjointed letter to Arizona Senator John McCain warning of subversive Satanic cult activities with enclosures of documentary proof: a booklet entitled Satanic Cults — Missing Children, and a New York Post article from earlier that same month about former CIA agent-turned-whistleblower, Philip Agee. The Satanists, Gunderson disclosed, were executing “kidnappings […], human and animal sacrifices, illicit drug and other criminal activity […].” The connection to Agee –who was “obviously a turncoat K.G.B agent who should [have been] in prison”, by Gunderson’s reckoning — was clear: “[…] the Soviets are involved to a degree in the Satanic Cult movement in this country.” McCain forwarded Gunderson’s materials to the Department of Justice for investigation. The DOJ’s letter of reply to Senator McCain assured him that, furnished with any evidence of “violations falling within [the DOJ’s] jurisdiction”, they would surely investigate all available leads. However, “the information Mr. Gunderson has provided […] regarding ‘Satanic Cults’ has been in generalities and nothing relating to specific incidents other than the Jeffrey MacDonald case.”[23]

Gunderson contributed heavily to a general moral panic regarding allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse and he inspired localized uproars with allegations specific to certain communities. Such was the case when, in 1989, he boldly alleged on the Geraldo show that Mason County, Washington was the site of a mass burial ground for the bodies of victims of Satanic ritual murder. “They can’t possibly go out there and dig them all out”, Gunderson declared with grave certainty, “because there are too many of them.”

Predictably, these statements were met with particular shock in Mason County itself where a local paper reported that distressed county residents had been calling the sheriff’s department and stopping deputies in the streets “[…] asking if Gunderson knew what he was talking about”. As Gunderson hadn’t bothered to inform local law enforcement of his specific findings, they were keen to learn if in fact he did have any idea of what he was talking about. Asked by journalists, the FBI also stated that he hadn’t reported the allegations of Satanic crimes to them.[24] Contrary to Gunderson’s continuous assertions that Law Enforcement was ignoring the Satanic threat, the Mason County Sheriff’s department did everything they could to either validate or disconfirm his claims. Eager to interview him regarding the specifics of these alleged crimes, the Sheriff’s department asked the Seattle FBI office for help in locating the now unreachable Gunderson.

…But Gunderson was having none of it. “If I turn this over to the wrong law enforcement officials, I could blow the whole thing,” he told one reporter. “This element has infiltrated every level of society […] It’s big, and involves heavy-duty, intelligent people . . . doctors, lawyers, prosecutors, police, airline pilots . . . every walk of life has been infiltrated.”[25]

And there is little doubt that Gunderson must have been convinced that the Mason County Sheriff’s department were “the wrong law enforcement officials” with whom to confide such sensitive details. Only two months prior to his mass-grave revelation, he had been confronted by a Mason County Sheriff, Bob Holter, who advised that because Gunderson had been “associating with known drug-dealers in the Mason County area, and because of the fact that Gunderson has been quite public about his former SAC [Special Agent in Charge] status within the Bureau, he (Holter) felt that the Bureau should be made aware of the situation.”[26] Holter’s subsequent report to the FBI noted that Gunderson “appear[ed] somewhat dishevelled in expensive clothing.”

Perhaps insinuating that his appearance was merely a masterful disguise in service to a deep cover operation, he confided to Holter that he was “involved in some type of clandestine project.”

The fear, according to Gunderson, was that if he revealed his sources they would surely be “silenced” shortly thereafter. As with most intelligence that he cited in his post-FBI career, he learned of the Mason County mass grave through what he described as“various reliable sources”, confidential and unverifiable contacts who feared for their very lives.

Of course, Gunderson too was in mortal danger for his trifling into Satanic affairs. MacDonald murder confessor Helena Stoeckley had been found dead in her apartment in January of 1983 from pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver — a not-so-mysterious death according to the coroner’s report — though Gunderson would be “convinced that she was silenced using one of the many covert, untraceable assassination techniques known to government intel agencies.”[27] One day, he would claim to find a death threat in the form of “13 red roses, 13 chrysanthemums and a three-line typed note on the lawn in front of his apartment.” In a perplexing display of subtlety — considering this “threat” presumably came from a global force of evil actively engaged in concealed mass murders — the note simply read, “Poacher in the grass. Once a cub the lion sees. Shades of death and life.”[28]

Gunderson’s subsequent withdraw into a transient lifestyle in hiding may, in reality, have been motivated by more pragmatic concerns than a paranoia of Satan-worshipping FBI agents on assignment to have him silenced. At the time of his fugitive wanderings, the FBI was in fact investigating him regarding his role in an investment firm, Dekla International Inc., which “defrauded clients by taking advance fees or ‘front money’ to provide loans that never materialized.” Acting as president of the firm, Gunderson worked with two business partners, each of whom had criminal records.[29]


I first called Ted Gunderson in 2004 to ask him about his role in researching a book about a cult claimed to have been responsible for motivating the famous Son of Sam murders of 1976 – 77.[30] I knew very little about Ted at that point and was still naively cowed by his credentials. The book in question was, at best, unconvincing as the author, on little to no evidence, attempted to fit what appeared sloppy and obviously rather unceremonious .44 calibre shootings — motivated by homicidal delusions and personal fetish — into a larger, well-schemed and highly secretive conspiracy. By the final page of this poorly-plotted crime fiction rubbish, I had an extreme deficit of respect for the “journalist” responsible, but I wondered how a former FBI man ended up in the book’s acknowledgments.

Ted recalled finding a vital piece of evidence that suggested cult involvement in the Son of Sam serial homicides. He and the author of the aforementioned tripe had traveled to a victim’s former dwelling, finding a bible had been opened to particular passage. What that passage was exactly, I cannot recall, but it contained a typical sanguinary quote, the likes of which are not too terribly uncommon in the “Good” Book.

Clearly, this was a message.

“But, Ted…” I protested, “this is the Holy Bible you’re talking about!”

“But that’s what they like to do, these Satanists,” Ted explained, “They like to leave little clues, hidden messages.”

It turned out that I had done something Ted’s “journalist” never attempted as far as I could tell; I had actually located and spoken to members of the defunct and maligned hippy-era cult that was said to have inspired these inelaborate alleged ritual killings. I asked Ted if he was aware that a number of the former inner-circle luminaries of this group were now running a rather successful, large no-kill animal shelter in keeping with the prior cult’s own impassioned anti-vivisection stance.

“Well,” Ted opined without missing a beat, “They manage an animal shelter so that they may have animals to use in their sacrifices.”

“How do you know this?” I asked.

“That’s what they do, these Satanists,” Ted again explained.

Gunderson’s “knowledge” was clearly not to be constrained by evidence.


It was following one of his lectures regarding the MacDonald case, according to Gunderson, that somebody from the audience approached him with a book that he would come to credit with opening his eyes to the hidden truth about the “Illuminati”. The book, Pawns In The Game by William Guy Carr (1958), became foundational to Gunderson’s world-view, and he would often cite it as a primary source of documentary evidence for the insidious omnipresent conspiracy at play throughout history, now just at the precipice of realizing its infernal end.

Soon echoing Carr’s own conspiracist world history, he would explain in his lectures how, in 1776, one Adam Weishaupt was commissioned by the House of Rothschild[31] to assemble the Illuminati, whose function was to corrupt society by way of “liberalism”, cultural engineering, economic control, and drug trafficking (among other unholy schemes). The demonology of the Illuminati is fundamental to modern conspiracy lore and exists in a variety of similar narrative forms, Carr’s interpretation being among some of the furthest right-wing and anti-semitic of the lot.

In fact, there was an 18th century society known as the Bavarian Illuminati founded by one Weishaupt, a Jesuit, but the Rothschilds in no way — by any credible history — played any part in it. Nonetheless, the idea of a Jewish connection to the Illuminati is central to the counterfactual Pawns which forwards the notion that the blueprints for the Illuminati’s over 230 year-old plan-in-progress are explicated in the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a 24-point plan for world domination which includes recipes for planned disorder, absolute control of the press and, ultimately, total domination… all by the scheming, and for the benefit, of anti-Christ Jews… or “Illuminati”.[32]

Protocols, as many know, is a vicious historical forgery, false evidence for a Jewish world conspiracy, the etiology of which can, in fact, be traced absolutely to anti-semitic and fictitious tales of non-Jewish origin. Historian Norman Cohn argues that Protocols, a compulsory text of study in schools of the Third Reich, was nothing short of Hitler’s “warrant for genocide”, his justification for attempted elimination of the “Jewish threat”.[33]

According to Pawns, the “Synagogue of Satan” is steadily working ever nearer to a global Luciferian totalitarian nightmare, propelled forward by the propagation of Atheistic materialism into the mass (“Goyim”) consciousness.

Disturbing as the Pawns author’s interchangeable usage of words like “Illuminati” and “Luciferian” with various words for “Jew” (“international bankers”, “political Zionists”) is, certain passages of the book heavily suggest unbalance beyond the xenophobic variety, into the territory of paranoid schizophrenia. Indicating tin-foil hat notions of a mind oppressed by the jumbled chaos of its own thoughts, author William Guy Carr describes his fear that the Devil himself may be broadcasting pure Evil into the “mysterious receiving set” of each human brain:

Undoubtedly many people will ask ‘But how could the Devil inoculate the minds of men with Atheistic and other evil ideas ?’ That question can be answered in this way, If HUMAN Beings can establish radio, and television stations, from which one individual can influence millions of others by broadcasting his opinions on any given subject over the invisible air-waves then why shouldn’t it be possible for CELESTIAL Beings to broadcast their messages to us? No brain specialist has dared to deny that in the brain of each individual there is some kind of mysterious receiving set. Every hour of every day Human Beings are saying ‘I was inspired to do this’, or ‘I was tempted to do that’. Thoughts, be they good or evil, must originate somewhere, from some ‘cause’, and be transmitted to the human brain. The body is only the instrument which puts the dominating thought for ‘Good’ or for ‘Evil’ into effect.”[34]

Aside from using the discredited Protocols, Carr’s book — Gunderson’s conspiracist bible — contains very little in the way of any attempt to cite documentation that would support his so-called research, yet Gunderson would claim that its unconvincing premise is “very well documented”.

At best, Gunderson’s advocating for the veracity of Carr’s unhinged supernatural horror fantasy establishes him as having been a worthless judge upon the validity of historical documentary research, but does it establish an underlying anti-Semitism in his own conspiricist conception of the world? Is it possible that Ted, unlike Carr, saw the Illuminati as a distinct entity — they being the true originators and executors of the plot outlined in Protocols — separated from any notion of Jewish plots? After all, like many conspiracy theorists, Gunderson was quick to draw parallels to the events of his day and those of 1930s Germany, implying that he was at least somewhat at odds with Hitler’s National Socialist antics.

Rhetorical invocations of Nazi evil aside, Gunderson could be found at a 2006 historical revisionist/Holocaust denier conference for the American Free Press/Barnes Review. A post-conference report describes the wine & cheese social where their “old friend” Ted was in attendance, as well as a “Mr. Theo Junker […] former member of the Wiking division of the S.S. who,” the author of the report gushes, “courageously opened a Museum in Wisconsin dedicated to the memory of Adolf Hitler. It was indeed one of the highlights of the conference meeting this courageous patriot who continues to fight the good fight well into his 80’s. God bless you, Herr Junker!”[35]

Ted was deeply respected by the survivalist extreme right — a “true patriot” and one-time presidential candidate for the Independent American Party of Nevada (a Constitution Party[36] affilate) — appearing in their newsletters and on their radio shows with inflated reports regarding important world events, claiming a unique knowledge of each. Government plots against the good people of the nation abound. Enslavement ever imminent… The U.S. Government intentionally poisoning the air with toxic chemical contrails emitted from airliners; the Obama government has “prepared 1,000 camps for its own citizens”, and, “has stored 30,000 guillotines to murder its critics, and has stashed 500,000 caskets in Georgia and Montana for the remains.”

Guillotines, you say?

“Beheading”, Ted explained, “is the most efficient means of harvesting body parts.”[37]

He would continue his conspiracist evangelizing after the MacDonald case (and for the rest of his life) explaining as late as mid-2011 in an interview that the Satanists are “active — extremely active. They sacrifice like 50 to 60 thousand people a year in this country[38], the cult does. They have secret auctions for the children. The list goes on and on…” Explaining this harrowing state of affairs with proper gravity, Ted then rather tactlessly directed his attention to the interviewer, “This is all on my CD that’s available for 35 dollars… want me to give you the address where they can send the 35 dollars…?”[39]

Note: This is the first of a 2-part piece. The second will primarily explore Gunderson’s role in constructing the McMartin preschool Satanic abuse mythology.

A note on footnotes: catalog numbers followed by section number reference FBI files obtained via Freedom Of Information.







[1] From the Current Affair television program, date unknown, quoted in John Earl’s The Dark Truth About the “Dark Tunnels of McMartin” IPT Journal vol. 7, 1995

[2] From but one of Gunderson’s countless affidavits. The content of this one is available at:

[3] Associate Press. “Agent linked to MacDonald now on the run.” Dallas Morning News 3 Jan. 1983

[4] Serrano, Richard A. “Law enforcement officers prepare for the worst as 2000 dawns, authorities stand ready.” Dallas Morning News 17 Dec. 1999

[5] Islam Divided; Psychic Reality Check; Battle Under the Border. Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.

Aired January 30, 2007 – 22:00   ET

[6] Lollar, Michael. “G-Man Parts From Stereotype and City.” unknown newspaper clipping contained in FBI file 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 4 (pp. 155)

[7] Gunderson would typically claim that Economics was his graduating major, but this doesn’t jibe with the official record: 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 1 (pp. 29)

[8] 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 1 (pp. 37)

[9] Purtee, Alex. “Federal Bureau Of Investigation Defended.” The Desert Sun 14 March 1978

[10] 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 5 (pp. 99)

[11] McManus, Doyle. “FBI Chief in LA Attacks Times’ Story on Scholar.” The Los Angeles Times 18 July 1978

[12] Purtee, op cit.

[13] Stump, Al. “FBI Man’s Job Tough, But Not Hopeless Cause.” Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 11 December 1977

[14] 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 5 (pp. 161 – 171)

[15] “Ted Gunderson — The Great Conspiracy Exposed 1/7 PL.” available at

[16] Anson, Robert Sam. “The Devil and Jeffrey Macdonald.” Vanity Fair July 1998

[17] ibid.

[18] ibid.

[19] Associated Press. “Witness: Army Said To Keep Quiet.” The Palm Beach Post 28 Dec. 1980

[20] Josh Gelman. “Jeffrey MacDonald: A Time For Truth.” CBS News 17 March, 2007;contentBody

[21] Associated Press. “Alleged Participant in Jail.” The Victoria Advocate 24 Feb, 1983

[22] 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 6 (pp. 298)

[23] 1172959-000 — 67E-HQ-493471 — Section 6 (pp. 300 — 305)

[24] Associated Press. “Officials doubt report of satanic burial sites”. Spokane Chronicle 3 May, 1989

[25] Wallace, James. “Satanic Cults: Ex-FBI agent fears for sources.” Seattle PI 4 May, 1989

[26] FBI File: 1172959-000—67E-HQ-493471—Section 6, p. 271

[27] Adachi, Ken. “Fatal Justice, The Continuing Persecution of Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald.” 5 Nov., 2005 ( retrieved 2 Jan, 2012

[28] Associated Press. “Former Agent Claims Threats.” The Press Courier 3 Jan, 1983

[29] ibid.

[30] The cult: The Process Church of the Final Judgment. The book: The Ultimate Evil by alleged journalist Maury Terry.

[31] The actual text from Carr’s manuscript told it thus, “Adam Weishaupt, a jesuit trained professor of canon law, defected from christianity, and embraced the Luciferian ideology while teaching in Ingoldstadt University. In 1770 the money lenders (who had recently organized the House of Rothschild), retained him to revise and modernize the age-old ‘protocols’ designed to give the Synagogue of Satan ultimate world domination so they can impose the Luciferian ideology upon what remains of the Human Race, after the final social cataclysm, by use of satanic despotism. Weishaupt completed his task May 1st, 1776.”

[32] Connecting the Illuminati and the “Jewish Threat” is by no means original to Carr. A good history of the evolution of this aspect of the Illuminati folklore is given in Michael Barkun’s “A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America.” University of California Press, 2006 (see chapter 3: “New World Order Conspiracies I: The New World Order and the Illuminati.”)

[33] Cohn, Norman. “Warrant for Genocide: The myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Serif, 2005

[34] Carr, William Guy. “Pawns in the Game.” N.p.  pp. 7

[35] AFP/Barnes Review 06 ( retrieved 31 Dec. 2011

[36] From The Constitution Party’s website: “The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.” … “The U.S. Constitution established a Republic rooted in Biblical law”…

Gunderson ran for office against Republican John Ensign in Nevada’s 1st Congressional District in 1996. Terrifyingly, Gunderson received a full 3% of the votes.

[37] Thomma, Steven. “Secret camps and guillotines? Groups make birthers look sane.” McClatchy Newspapers 28 Aug., 2009

[38] To help give perspective on how remarkable this statement is, consider the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s preliminary data for 2009 which has the estimated total number of homicides in the United States at 16,591. The low end of Gunderson’s estimate puts us at 137 American satanic human sacrifices per day. (National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 59, No. 4 16 March, 2011)

[39] “Ted Gunderson Interview 5-14-2011” available at

]]> 8
Mass Hallucination, Hysteria & Miracles Thu, 12 Jul 2012 17:21:42 +0000

The Apparition by Gustave Moreau

Sound thinking and critical reservations were abruptly cast aside in New Delhi during the early morning hours of September 21st, 1995. Statue idols, it seemed, had taken to drinking milk being fed to them by spoon. By what bizarre urging the first pilgrim to report this phenomenon was compelled to test whether a milk offering would pass the lips of a statue is unclear, but the idea rapidly took hold, devolving into a frenzy. The World Hindu Council hastily declared it a “miracle”, and by noon hopeful herds across North India stampeded to the temples leaving trampled bodies wounded underfoot. Police reinforcements were deployed by necessity to restrain outbreaks among the fevered milk-bearing mobs. Faithful conviction ruled the day.

Some believers may well have been unamused — especially those within the ranks of the afflicted and dying — that the gods had chosen such a valueless display with which to affirm their continued beneficent authority, but it was the science-minded unbelievers who were predictably the least impressed… Nor did it take long to figure out what was really going on. Representatives from India’s Ministry of Science and Technology arrived on-scene to demonstrate that what was being witnessed was simple “capillary action”: The surface tension of the milk created an upward pull upon contact with the surface of the statue before the liquid ran downward in a transparent film, while some was absorbed into the porous stones. To illustrate this, the scientists colored their milk with a dye that remained apparent as it coated the statue. When hysteria regarding milk imbibing statues struck again in 2006, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku, was quoted in the press, “Forget deities. I fed a cup of coffee to a statue of Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first prime minister) right before television cameras,” he said, “Even bricks are drinking milk.”[1]

The 1995 “Milk Miracle” hysteria spread throughout the world within the span of several days and has seen recurrences in the years since, despite the oft-repeated claim that the phenomenon was mysteriously confined within a 24-hour span. Faithful supernaturalists have proved predictably unwilling to abdicate their miracle to non-magical explanations. Nor has the lasting insistence that the Milk Miracle remains a mystery unsolved been confined to willfully credulous Hindus. A widely used college-level World Religions textbook states in its 2011 edition, referencing the 1995 incident: “Scientists suggested explanations such as mass hysteria or capillary action in the stone, but the phenomenon lasted only one day.”[2]

To refer to the statement above as merely misrepresentative may be overly kind. “Scientists suggested explanations” indicates befuddled skeptics groping for generalized answers with which to force the inexplicable into a materialist framework. In fact, scientists did more than “suggest” capillary action, they demonstrated it. And it was never an either/or question between mass hysteria or capillary action — capillary action accounted for the illusion of milk drinking statues, while mass hysteria best described the temple-swarming religious fervor that the misattribution of “miracle” provoked. Both capillary action and mass hysteria were perfectly evident. To state that it could have been either/or further suggests confusion among scientists unable to accept a miracle taking place before their eyes, while also unable to come to a consensus amongst each other as to what might account for what was being witnessed.

More flagrantly misleading still are the countless accounts of the Milk Miracle which claim that scientists dismissed the entire event as a “mass hallucination”. The site, maintained by an outspoken Milk Miracle true believer, Philip Mikas, states:

There are many sceptics and scientists who have tried to explain what happened on September 21, 1995 in terms of science. Some have repeatedly said that this so-called “Milk Miracle” was caused by something as simple as capillary action. Some have tried to attribute it to a case of “global scale mass hallucination or hysteria”. To them, I would like to say this – there are many things that we just cannot explain with our present levels of science and technology. Perhaps, we will need to look into our souls and discover the secret spiritual powers that we all have before we can fully explain such phenomena.

Oddly, among a great many of the sites that treat the Milk Miracle as an unexplained or paranormal phenomenon, the phrase “global scale mass hallucination or hysteria” is offered as a summary of the skeptical position, always in quotes, never with attribution.

And so it degenerates… the actual explanation rejected, marginalized, obscured, and ultimately re-written to the point that numerous bloggers now treat the question of the Milk Miracle as one of mass hallucination versus paranormal activity, weighing the merits of — or elaborating the flaws in — an explanation that never was.

Presenting the scientific attempt at a rational explanation as a snobbish dismissal of mass eyewitness testimony certainly has its advantages to those who wish to maintain that something otherworldly was plainly observed, and arguments against the mass hallucination theory can be found anywhere believers in the improbable attempt to make their case. Thus, throughout the vast blogosphere, lengthy essays can be found heaping derision upon this scientific folly in favor of claims ranging from Sasquatch’s existence, to the reality of extraterrestrial visitations, to Satanic cults conspiring to enslave the Globe… to any number of implausible and bizarre ideas believed by a resolute minority. Almost universally lacking in these tirades against the close-minded “scientific establishment” is any direct citation of an actual argument in favor of the mass hallucination theory, nor is mass hallucination explicitly defined, its meaning presumed intuitively clear.

On the face of it, the idea of any specific event being attributed to “mass hallucination” sounds ridiculous. It suggests a large number of people suddenly, simultaneously, and spontaneously experiencing an intense, shared, detailed, false or grossly distorted shared perception of an event or events contrary to the reality surrounding them. At its most crudely literal, this would have us interpreting the Milk Miracle as an event wherein masses of individuals merely perceived milk disappearing from their spoons, while in actuality it did not; Sasquatch as a sudden unprovoked mental phantom shared amongst unwitting forest explorers; UFOs as but internal synchronized specters projected upon the empty skies.

But is this what “mass hallucination” actually means? And has there ever actually been an anomalous event for which mass hallucination was offered as a scientific explanation? Or — as with the Milk Miracle — is the idea of Mass Hallucination merely a straw man argument meant to paint the skeptical position as both improbable and patronizing?


A search for “mass hallucination” in the American Psychological Association’s PsycINFO — “an expansive abstracting and indexing database with more than 3 million records devoted to peer-reviewed literature in the behavioral sciences and mental health […] covering psychology back to its underpinnings in the 17th Century” — yields a total of zero articles. Of course, this does not bode well as an indication of the concept’s interest among serious researchers.

However, the concept of “collective hallucinations” — first expounded by French polymath Gustave Le Bon in his 1895 classic book on Crowd Psychology, La psychologie des foules (translated into english as The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind) — has a minimal  presence in psychology books related to Mob Mentality and psychological anomalies.

In The Crowd, Le Bon described inflated suggestibility as a general characteristic of human herds. “[…] a crowd [is] perpetually hovering on the borderland of unconsciousness, readily yielding to all suggestions, having all the violence of feeling peculiar to beings who cannot appeal to the influence of reason, deprived of all critical faculty, cannot be otherwise than excessively credulous.”[3] This excessive credulity, according to Le Bon, primes the crowd to accept, as fact ,“[t]he first perversion of the truth effected by one of the individuals of the gathering”, which then becomes “the starting point of the contagious suggestion.”[4] Collective hallucinations then, by Le Bon’s definition, are the outcome of perceptual interpretations colored by suggestions delivered to a crowd in its throes of thoughtless zeal.

The concept is further expanded upon in a book titled Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking by Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones[5]. There, the authors confront the question of — if an event is presumably hallucinated — how do “2 or 200 people manage to coordinate and synchronize their subjective lives?”

“In collective hallucinations, expectation plays the coordinating role. Although the subjective matter of individual hallucinations has virtually no limits, that of collective hallucinations is limited to certain categories. These categories are determined, first, by the kinds of ideas that a group of people may get excited about as a group, for emotional arousal is a prerequisite of collective hallucinations.”

Collective hallucinations, according to Zusne and Jones, are not spontaneous occurrences, and in accompaniment to “emotional arousal”, there is the prerequisite of “spreading imagery”…

“[…] all participants in the hallucination must be informed beforehand, at least concerning the broad outlines of the phenomenon that will constitute the collective hallucination. This may take the form of a publicly announced prophecy, for example, or someone suddenly looking up and saying, ‘Lo, in the sky!’ or words to that effect.”

And while the imagery preceding the event may only contain the “broad outlines of the phenomenon”, it is important to note that, due to the reconstructive nature of memory, the hallucinations themselves need only be broadly similar…

“Once the general type of hallucination is identified, it is easy to harmonize individual differences in accounts. This may take place during the hallucination or in subsequent discussions.”


As examples of collective hallucinations, Zusne and Jones offer several occasions at various locations in Italy where locals reported “moving and bleeding images of saints”.

Also, in 1981, in Yugoslavia, in a village called Medjugorje, a small group of children reported meeting and speaking with the mythical “Virgin” Mary, whereupon some estimated 11 million pilgrims travelled to the childrens’ village. These pilgrims stared into the sky, toward the sun, looking for Mary’s divine form at an appointed time and place. Interestingly, despite their priming, none of them seemed to manage an actual vision of Mary herself. However, they did report anomalous visions, “such as […] crosses in the sky, double suns”, and some reported “being able to stare at the setting sun without eye damage.”[6]

Similar to the Medjugorje incident, the famous Fatima apparition of 1917 was a mob reaction to reports made by 3 Portuguese children who claimed to have been visited by the ghost of Mary. Here again, reports were less-than-impressive as far as presumably synchronous specific subjective events are concerned. The children, it is claimed, saw the Virgin, while some of the crowd reported seeing the sun “dancing” in the sky, radiant colors, or the sun approaching the Earth… Others still saw nothing at all.

Of course, the sun did not make any aberrant movements that day, as witnessing astronomical observatories could attest. The same sun, visible to much of the world, appeared to be following its daily routine everywhere but where expectations for a miracle found faithful pilgrims looking to the sky in anticipation of something extraordinary.

In both Medjugorje and Fatima, observers were staring into the sunlit sky. Joe Nickell (author and Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry [CSI]) explains, “several eyewitnesses of the October 13, 1917, gathering at Fatima specifically stated they were looking ‘fixedly at the sun’ or ‘tried to look straight at it’ or otherwise made clear they were gazing directly at the actual sun […]. If this is so, the ‘dancing sun’ and other solar phenomena may have been due to optical effects resulting from temporary retinal distortion caused by staring at such an intense light or to the effect of darting the eyes to and fro to avoid fixed gazing (thus combining image, afterimage, and movement).”[7]

If UV-beaten eyes are responsible for reports of Fatima’s dancing sun, Zusne and Jones are unclear as to whether their definition of mass hallucination is meant to describe such illusions for which an organic cause is apparent. In either case, however, the prerequisite conditions of emotional arousal, spreading imagery, as well as the subsequent harmonizing of the narrative from various disparate reports, were clearly extremely influential factors in Medjugorje and Fatima.


 In 2001, Christian apologist Gary Habermas published a paper titled Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: the Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories[8]. Though Habermas explains that he surveyed “over 1,000 critical publications on the resurrection”, he offers no hard numbers with which to qualify his claim of any recent “revival of hallucination theories”. In vague terms, he reports, “more scholars apparently support various naturalistic hypotheses [to account for the biblical claim of Christ’s resurrection] than has been the case in many decades. […] Of those who now prefer hallucination explanations, however, only a few scholars have pursued this approach in detail, while several other scholars simply mention the possibility of, or preference for, the hallucination thesis.”

A preference for “the hallucination thesis” opposed to what, one wonders? Opposed to other “naturalistic hypotheses” (such as the quite obvious explanation that the New Testament is a poor fictional work from the start) mass hallucination weighs in rather weakly; opposed to accepting the resurrection myth at its face value, however, mass hallucination can clearly be assigned a much higher probabilistic value by mere virtue of being a naturalistic hypothesis. Missing this point completely, Habermas asks, “[…] why must a naturalistic, subjective explanation be assumed?”

Though the question is presented rhetorically, there is sound rationale for assuming naturalistic explanations. To begin, while there is ample cross-cultural research demonstrating the human tendency to embrace superstition and to exert self-deceiving confirmation biases, there is no such research at all that satisfactorily demonstrates any supernatural phenomena. For that matter, supernatural forces are, by definition, not observable — they cannot be recorded, transcribed, traced, or measured by scientific procedure. As we can never isolate a mechanistic cause of a supernatural event, we are left with simply no other option than exhaust all naturalistic options first.

Further, history provides hard lessons in the unreliability of even large consensus accounts. The archaic minds of Christian philosophers, from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, took seriously claims of demonic assaults upon humanity by mere virtue of the claims’ ubiquity, Aquinas even insisting that reports of demonic voices could not have been imaginary as they were reported to be heard to all within earshot.[9] From this logic, prosecutions and brutal purgings of “witches” were deemed sound and fair due to their multiple corroborating witness accounts.

Habermas goes on to contest Zusne and Jones’s description of collective hallucination as it might be applied to the myth of Christ’s resurrection, though he concedes that Zusne and Jones themselves wrote of collective hallucinations “without any application to Jesus’ resurrection”. Further, none of the only three authors from this “revival” of hallucination theories Habermas explores — as examples of those who share a “hallucination theory preference” — invoke Zusne and Jones’s collective hallucination definition to support their positions. Nor are these authors unclear as to what they themselves mean when referring to the resurrection as a hallucination.[10] Of the three authors Habermas disputes, only German theologian Gerd Luedemann advances an explanation directly born of an established collective hallucination theory. Invoking Le Bon, Luedemann describes the appearance of the resurrected Christ to “more than 500 brethren” as “mass ecstasy” stimulated by the “preaching and the recollections” by Peter and the twelve disciples who saw Jesus die on the cross. This proselytizing devotion, according to Luedemann, “led to religious intoxication and an enthusiasm which was experienced as the presence of Jesus[…]”

Summarizing this without offering a direct counterpoint, Habermas goes on to protest against hypotheses published by two more theologians, Jack A. Kent and Michael Goulder. Kent, in his book The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth, proposes that Jesus’s cult individually “experienced grief-related hallucinations or illusions following the traumatic death of their leader”.[11] Kent details the Gospel accounts of “the Easter morning events” and notes that they are “inconsistent, contradictory, and inconclusive”, though he argues that “Mary Magdalene and the disciples did see what they believed were ‘appearances’ of Jesus but those ‘appearances’ were grief-related hallucinations or illusions.”

Likewise, Goulder, in his essay The Baseless Fabric of a Vision[12], describes Peter’s vision of the resurrected Christ as a personal vision — a conversion vision — which he likens to violent conversions reported throughout history wherein the convert typically describes visions accompanying an intense feeling of revelation. As an example, Goulder cites Manson Family murderer Susan Atkins’ prison conversion, which she described in visual terms, with Christ personally appearing to her offering consolation and forgiveness.

The appearances of Christ to the apostles or the 500 brethren, however, are seen as a collective delusion by Goulder, which he likens to today’s Bigfoot phenomenon. With both Bigfoot and Jesus expectation and popular enthusiasm precipitated sightings. “If you sighted Bigfoot, you were the centre of attention; people spoke about you; the press sought you out. If you sighted Jesus, you confirmed the Church’s hopes, and your own.”

Despite these descriptions of purely personal hallucinations acting to precipitate group delusions of resurrection, Habermas — after breezily under-summarizing each author’s actual position — disingenuously states: “One of the central issues in this entire discussion concerns whether a group of people can witness the same hallucination.” In fact, this appears only to be the central point that Habermas was predetermined to argue, while his survey of “over 1,000 critical publications” seems to have yielded little to indicate that this was ever at issue.


From the few academic descriptions available, authored by Le Bon and Zusne and Jones, we see that collective hallucinations are not intended to describe spontaneous herd occurrences of perfectly matched phantasmagoria. Nor is it irrelevant to emphasize the difference in terminology: collective hallucination, as opposed to the often-invoked mass hallucination which, while subtle, further reinforces the suspicion that those arguing against mass hallucination theory (in favor of their cherished chosen implausibility) are in fact inveighing against an imaginary opposition.

While “collective hallucinations” find a negligible presence in psychological literature, “mass hallucination theory” is disproportionately invoked as the primary — if not only — explanation offered to counter extraordinary claims for which there are (presumably) multiple corroborating witnesses. So long as this position is maintained, arguments for paranormal events are presented as less incredible than the alleged scientific alternative: that a mass of people all at once spontaneously shared a detailed mental vision, much like a group of people watching a film, and collectively mistook this shared vision for an external physical reality.

When “mass hallucination” is said to be the scientific counterpoint to any claim, it is worth asking, By which scientists? Where? What other explanations have been proposed? and, of course, “Mass hallucination” meaning what, exactly? Upon inspection, we find that the idea of mass hallucination as the fall-back end-all “scientific” position toward the inexplicable is, in itself, nothing more than a desperately crafted mass delusion… a bullshit argument — attributed to rational arguments against bullshit — that is meant to make said rational arguments look like bullshit.

[1] 2006. Agence France-Presse (AFP). Miracle or Mechanics. Taipei Times (Aug. 31). Available at

[2] Fisher, Mary Pat. 2011. Living Religions Eighth Edition, Prentice Hall (pp. 90)

[3] Le Bon, Gustave. 1982. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind — 2nd ed. Larlin Corporation (pg. 21)

[4] ibid. (pg. 23)

[5] Zusne, Leonard; Jones, Warren H. 1989. Anomalistic Psychology: a study of magical thinking — 2nd ed. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

[6] ibid.

[7] Nickell, Joe. 2009. The Real Secrets of Fatima. Skeptical Inquirer volume 33.6 November/December. Available at

[8] Habermas, Gary. 2001. Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: the Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories. Faculty Publications and Presentations (Liberty University). Available at

[9] Aquinas, Thomas. 1782. Contra Gentiles, lib. III, cap. cvi (Opera, vol. XVII, Venice, pp. 314-15) [cited in Cohn, Norman. 1973. Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom — revised edition, University of Chicago Press (pp. 251)]

[10] Nor are any of these authors, to be perfectly clear, scientists. Habermas is careful to refer to them as scholars, but they are all theologians.

[11] Kent, Jack A. 1999. The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth. Open Gate Press (pp. 21)

[12] D’Costa, Gavin ed. 1996. Resurrection Reconsidered. Oneworld Publications (pp. 48 – 61)

]]> 4
Reminiscent of 1692: A Modern Missouri Witch-hunt Tue, 28 Feb 2012 20:54:46 +0000 The following article was submitted to by “J. Bean” – a false memory expert who has been closely following the Mohler cases and attending the hearings….

Western Missouri Condemns Without Trial

By J. Bean (A Skeptic in Kansas City)

March 2010

“[For law enforcement officers] the level of proof necessary for taking action on allegations of criminal acts must be more than simply the victim alleged it and it is possible…. We need to be concerned about the distribution and publication of unsubstantiated allegations of bizarre sexual abuse.” – Kenneth Lanning, FBI

Dressed in orange jumpsuits and shackled at their wrists, ankles, and waists, six members of the Mohler family shuffle past local television news cameras and into a courtroom. Tethered together, they resemble fish on a stringer with the proud authorities displaying their catch.  On-the-spot reporters read the charges against them,“Forcible rape of a child; Deviate sexual assault; Use of a child in a sexual performance…”  Newspaper accounts are perhaps even more harsh: The men’s booking photos are posted beneath headlines such as “Incest Allegations Shatter Public image of Church-Going Clan”, [1] or “Child-Raping Missouri Family May Have Bodies in Yard”. [2 ] Posted on the internet  beneath these stories  are reader  comments reminiscent of 1692; judgments of guilt  and cries for harsh punishment along with suspicions cast upon any who question the charges dominate the boards.

The men are 76 year old Burrell Mohler Sr., his four sons, Burrell “Ed” Jr., David, Jared, and Roland, and Burrell Sr.’s 72 year old brother, Darryl Mohler. The arrests were made in November 2009, by Lafayette County, Missouri authorities based on accusations of ritualistic crimes against Ed Mohler’s (now adult) children from 1988 to 1995. The charges against the men involve numerous alleged child rapes, sodomies, and bestiality. They are also publicly accused of kidnapping, various murders, producing child pornography, breeding then slaughtering babies, performing forced abortions on minors, and holding an unwilling sex-slave for years in the family basement, although there have been no charges filed for those allegations.

“A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.” – Bertrand Russell

The case against the Mohler men first came to Lafayette County authorities in August 2009, when Ed Mohler’s 26 year old daughter (T.A.) contacted a western Missouri detective.   According to the probable cause statements: (T.A.) had “suppressed many of the memories” until recently. She “identified 8 specific memories of abuse and a 9th that was perpetrated on her brother”.  “She has many memories of abuse” but some occurred in other jurisdictions.  “She became pregnant and was made to have an abortion at age 11 ½.  She doesn’t remember any sexual abuse after that date.”[3]

Even if the word “suppressed” had not been used, the pointed use of the word “memories” in the report is indicative of repressed memory accusations. Generally when people report past events they do not do so under the context of “identifying memories”.

After those initial accusations in August, authorities made contact with, and began to question the other five siblings. On October 7th, three of the siblings (T.A.), (A.J.), and (E.M.) provided authorities with a 36 page collaborative report detailing several murders they witnessed spanning two Missouri counties. They were able to lead authorities to the approximate spot they say they helped to bury one of the murder victims. On October 29th, (T.A.) again spoke with the detective; this time alleging that she recalled her grandfather keeping a female child in his basement crawlspace. The siblings also told authorities that as they were being abused, the men told them to write down what was happening to them. These notes were placed in mason jars then buried.  The siblings say their abusers told them that if they buried these notes, their memories would also become buried. [4][5]

A fourth sibling (E.W.) told police that he had once unearthed some of those jars as a child, but reburied them at the request of his sisters.[4] Based on these statements, a search warrant was issued for the farm previously owned by Burrell Mohler Sr. to search for bodies, other evidence of murder, items from the crawlspace, and the mason jars. [6]

On November 10, 2009, as authorities swarmed the Bate City farmhouse with backhoes and shovels, detectives from Lafayette and various other counties were dispatched to arrest Burrell Sr. and his sons.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

As the arrests were made public, lead investigator, Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh, held a press conference. The stated purpose for the conference was to urge other possible victims to come forward. Specifically, investigators wished to locate the girl said to have been held captive in the basement crawlspace.

There were, however, other remarks of interest made during that press conference. One comment in particular gives further reason to suspect that all of the accusers are engaged in the recovering of repressed memories: Q: “How does the time factor complicate the case?” A: “Time factor always complicates a case. But when memories of this come out with the victims, as you talk about it, as you investigate it, more comes out.” [7]

Alumbaugh also defended the large amounts of county resources used to investigate the case, insisting the expenditures are important for protecting children: “You can read the probable cause statements as we leave and understand that this is money well spent of the tax payer’s dollars to bring these people to justice” …“They’ve had a threat to cut investigators…So, I mean, these are things that are really impacting our budgets and are very worthwhile to do because of the children.”[7]

Possibly most important, were the personal motivations Sheriff Alumbaugh expressed: “You personally attach it to yourself. You have children at home. You think about your children, you think about children that you know. Our biggest concern right now are those victims and those children that are out there that are potential victims. So, each one of us takes this very personally.”[7]

“All wrong-doing is done in the sincere belief that it is the best thing to do” – Arnold Bennet

Perhaps Sheriff Alumbaugh was thinking of a 5 year old girl he met in 2006, and hoping that, through aggressively pursuing the Mohler men, he could begin to repair his part in that child’s tragedy:

In 2006, the nude, battered body of 41 year old Marsha Spicer was found in a shallow grave in Lafayette County. Lorie Dunfield, a friend of Spicer’s, reported to authorities that she believed Spicer may have been involved with a man named Richard Davis. Dunfield reported that Richard Davis had recently asked her to assist him in videotaping the torture and murder of other women during three-way sex. “He wanted me to help him kill women and get rid of the bodies.” Dunfield said.[8]  Lorie Dunfield managed to get away from Davis, but believed that her friend, Marsh Spicer, may have later hooked up with him. Sheriff Alumbaugh and his deputies were called to interview Richard Davis and his girlfriend, Dena Riley, in regard to the Spicer homicide.

Richard Davis was already being sought by his parole officer after serving 16 years for raping and sodomizing a woman at knife point. His parole officer had been unable to contact him for a drug screening. Upon arriving at Davis’ apartment, investigators noted a video camera trained on the bed, an open journal with notations about choking and sex, and marijuana on a table. During that initial interview, Davis’ girlfriend Dena Riley admitted that Davis was into violent sex.

Rather than detain Davis, Sheriff Alumbaugh told Richard Davis and Dena Riley to leave the premises while he applied for a search warrant. Alumbaugh and his deputies returned hours later. The investigators viewed the tape currently in the VCR next to Davis’ bed. It was a “snuff video” of the rape, beating, and strangulation of Marsha Spicer. It appeared that the couple may have been watching the video just prior to the Sheriff and deputies’ arrival. Regrettably, since Alumbaugh had not detained Davis and Riley, they had fled the city. It was eight days before a nationwide manhunt managed to locate the couple for arrest. During this time, Richard Davis kidnapped and raped a 5 year old girl. The child’s injuries were so severe; she had to be airlifted to a hospital.

Police Chief Fred Mills defended Alumbaugh’s decision, “You can spin the facts any way you want. But we had no probable cause to arrest them. What you need for an arrest warrant is a lot more than you need for a search warrant.” Alumbaugh said, “We just didn’t have enough (evidence). We weren’t ready to do hard questioning on them.”

None-the-less, Alumbaugh arrested the six Mohler men with only accusations from the alleged victims. These men had no parole violations, no drugs on their nightstands, and no past convictions for violent rapes. In fact they had no criminal histories at all. There were no bodies recently discovered in shallow graves, neither were the men holed up in shabby apartments with meth-addicted girlfriends. The Mohler men were arrested while at home with their wives or working for their longtime employers, to be charged with crimes allegedly occurring decades ago.

Newly appointed prosecutor, Kellie Ritchie filed the charges. It was while working as assistant DA in Buchanan County that Ritchie began concentrating on sexual assault cases. Four years out of law school, Ritchie was ready for greater responsibility at the same time that her boss wished to have one prosecutor handle all sexual abuse cases.[9] Ritchie readily accepted that challenge and helped to open a children’s advocacy center. Since her February, 2009 appointment to the Lafayette County office, Ritchie has continued her dedication to assisting victims of rape, raising awareness through a county Denim Day, [10] and promising the vigorous prosecution of any in possession of child pornography. [11] While these are all commendable pursuits; could this focus have clouded the prosecutor’s judgment in filing charges based on dubious repressed memory accusations?

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI has assisted in investigations of hundreds of cases in which adults begin to report that they were victims of extreme abuses as children. Allegations involve multiple victims and multiple offenders and often include insertion of foreign objects, witnessing mutilations, as well as sexual acts and murders being filmed or photographed. In several of these cases, women claim to have had babies that were turned over for human sacrifice. Such accusations are most common in rural or suburban communities with high concentrations of religiously conservative people. According to Behavioral Science Unit Supervisory Agent Kenneth Lanning, “In none of the multidimensional child sex ring cases of which I am aware have bodies of the murder victims been found – in spite of major excavations where the abuse victims claim the bodies were located. …Not only are no bodies found, but also, more importantly, there is no physical evidence that a murder took place. Many of those not in law enforcement do not understand that, while it is possible to get rid of a body, it is even more difficult to get rid of the physical evidence that a murder took place.” – Kenneth Lanning, FBI [12]

In 1994, the US Government funded a study by The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. Researchers found more than 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse, but none were able to be substantiated. The principle investigator in that study, Dr. Gail Goodman, commented, “While you would not expect to find corroborating evidence in many sexual abuse cases, you would expect it when people claim the rituals involved murders, and the reported cases come from district attorneys or police…If there is anyone out there with solid evidence… we would like to know about it.”[13][14] Large scale government funded investigations were also conducted in the states of Michigan, Utah, and Virginia with the same empty-handed results.

If Lafayette County officials were familiar with any of these reports, they should not have been surprised to find only one broken jar (no note), a bone fragment (unknown type), some broken eyeglasses, half a credit card, and a shoe sole in their excavation of the Bates City farm.[15]

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain

The Sheriff’s press conference proved more fruitful than the farm excavation. The following day, a woman came forward claiming to have been held in the basement’s crawlspace for several years as a child. “She recalls becoming pregnant twice while in captivity.   Burrell Sr. and Burrell Ed Jr. put the first infant in a box and buried it in the dirt floor under the window. Days later, the floor was covered in concrete.”[16] Ground penetrating radar was used to locate a “box-like” area under the concrete and a new search warrant issued. Detectives returned to the farmhouse, broke open the concrete floor, but found only dirt.  Samples of the dirt were removed for analysis.[17] Announcements of basement sex-slave and her murdered infant made for more sensational headlines, although no charges were ever filed in regard to her. Three weeks later, Sheriff Alumbaugh said that the woman “is longer part of this investigation.”[18] This proclamation has not been widely reported.

In addition to the basement captive, a local man whose ex-wife had once been married to Ed Mohler came forward following the press conference. Mark Young and Pamela Young divorced in 1993 with Pamela gaining custody of their son. Pamela then married Ed Mohler in 1999. Mr. Young has interviewed on several television news programs, as well as with print media, claiming that Ed’s ex-wife (mother of the accusers), Jeanette Mohler (Cyr) had come to him in January 2000 alleging that Ed was abusing Mark and Pamela’s son. Mr. Young says that he then filed complaints and won custody of the boy in an emergency hearing. Public records show, however, that Mark Young did not file for custody of his son until 2002.[19]  His ex-wife had already divorced Ed Mohler nearly a year prior, in the spring of 2001.[20]

The siblings’ mother, Jeanette Mohler, told investigators that she knew about, or suspected the abuse at the time it was happening. “At the time, complaints by the mother were taken to the head of the church rather than law enforcement”. [21] Bishop Tonga, now retired, recalls Jeanette’s complaints to him. Tonga says he interviewed both Ed and the siblings and they all denied the mother’s accusations. No further action was taken by the mother or by Mr. Tonga. Only Ed, Jeanette, and their children were members of Mr. Tonga’s congregation. No complaints were taken to any member of the other men’s churches.

The statements made by Jeanette Mohler are puzzling. Just as the original accusations have expanded to include bestiality, kidnappings, and murders, they have also expanded in time, now encompassing twelve years, from 1983 to 1995. Jeanette remained married to Ed throughout this time, not filing for divorce until 1997. During their divorce, both Ed and Jeanette continued to attend the Independence Missouri Mormon Church. It’s more probable that it was during this period that the mother began leveling these complaints against her husband to her church, and to her six children.

“There are people so prone to exaggeration that they can’t tell the truth without lying”. – Josh Billings

Defendant Burrell Mohler Sr. has been the most maligned in the media due to the finding of “incest pornography” at his home. On the day of his arrest, his wife, Sandra Mohler, voluntarily allowed investigators into all common areas of the house.  (Some areas were excluded as they are private quarters for an unrelated boarder). According to the investigator’s affidavit, Mrs. Mohler explained to Jackson County Detective Cathy Covey that she and her husband had arranged for separate bedrooms “after she had discovered he was viewing magazines and videos depicting persons involved in sexual activity”.[21]  (This statement has been consistently misquoted in the press). Mrs. Mohler reported that although they had begun to sleep separately, both had full access to all areas of the residence. She indicated that her husband commonly used the computer in her room because he had never set-up internet access for the computer in his basement bedroom.

Mrs. Mohler also “had full permission to enter his sleeping area downstairs”.[22] She stated that on two occasions she had looked in hidden areas of her husband’s bedroom to find his pornography. She told Detective Covey that she had taken away the magazines she found most objectionable and locked them in her file cabinet. Mrs. Mohler voluntarily supplied the investigators with the key to that filing cabinet. The magazines she had locked away included 5 digest style magazines which showed photos of adult models, engaged in sexual activity, with narratives depicting incestuous relationships.[22] “Incest is, in fact, sexual relations between individuals of any age too closely related to marry. It need not necessarily involve an adult and a child”.[12] Those 5 magazines are the most widely reported finding to imply the guilt of all six men, although none of them involve children or even models who appear to be children. The primary stash of pornography, later found in Burrell Sr.’s sleeping quarters, consisted of at least 65 more magazines, movies, and books – none of which were incest related.[23] In fact, many of these were specifically about and for senior citizens. One dvd has the words “Grandma and Grandpa” in the title and has been falsely reported as “incest porn” when in fact it is only about sexuality between aging partners.[24]

Many observers have noted that the search inventories included many unmarked or hand labeled videos. It’s been speculated that those tapes may contain child pornography but the information has not been released to the public. In fact, some articles on the case have falsely reported that illegal pornography was seized. Possession of child porn in the state of Missouri is a felony carrying up to a 10 year sentence. None of the men have been charged with this or any other offense resulting from the searches. Despite the wide assortment of accusations, the men are charged only with the crimes in which no physical evidence would necessarily be expected.

“They were distinguished for ignorance for they had just one idea and that was wrong.” – Benjamin Disraeli

When asked where the accusing Mohler siblings reside, Sheriff Alumbaugh states that they are “from all over right now”.[7] While this is true, the primary accuser resides in the college town of Provo, Utah and two other siblings show previous addresses in Provo. Provo, Utah is home to the Brigham Young University, run by the LDS Church. For a city of only 42 square miles, it has seen more than its share of repressed memory scandals. “Following a single article in the Provo weekly paper [about the FMS Foundation], in three days, over 150 families in this single geographical area called to report their experience.” Institute for Psychological Therapies, 1992

The student Counseling Center at BYU offers therapy to students for abuse issues. The Center’s website asserts, “Some individuals have little or no memory of being sexually abused and its impact upon them until adulthood.” [25] The Center also recommends books by repressed-memory therapists, Lynn Finney, Beverly Engel, and Noemi Mattis, as suggested reading. “The authors of these books all rely on the one another’s work as supporting evidence for their work; they all endorse and recommend one another’s books to their readers. If one of them comes up with a concocted statistic — such as ‘more than half of all women are victims of childhood sexual trauma’ — the numbers are traded like baseball cards, reprinted in every book and eventually enshrined as fact. Thus the cycle of misinformation, faulty statistics and invalidated assertions maintains itself….” -Carol Tavris

Lynn Finney is known for her promotion of self-hypnosis to recover memories of abuse, and for her belief that fully one-third of all women have been victims. In fact, Finney’s one-third statistic leads BYU Counseling Center’s website page for students seeking therapy.[25] One of Finney’s former patients, Martha Beck, authored the 2005 book Leaving the Saints. Beck is a Provo native, a therapist, and past professor of Sociology at BYU. It was while teaching at BYU, that Beck recovered memories of ritual abuse. In her book, Beck brags of her cruel confrontation with her 90 year old ailing father, “I grin, but my father is not amused. He looks longingly toward the hotel room door, apparently realizing I’m not about to let him leave.” [26] All seven of Beck’s siblings have expressed outrage and condemned these allegations.

Beverly Engel espouses, “If you still have a hard time believing a survivor…look at your own history for signs that you yourself may have been abused and are in denial” Engel gives a list of symptoms to assist the reader in determining if they have been abused and are in denial. Those symptoms include:  feeling ugly; a tendency to apologize; feeling helpless; or problems in relationships.[27]

Also recommended by the BYU Counseling Center is the 1993 publication Confronting Abuse.[25][28] Compiled by three Brigham Young University professors, Confronting Abuse is a collection of essays on ritual and sexual abuse. In it, repressed-memory practitioner, Neomi Mattis, describes the abuse she’s helped her patients to uncover: “In addition to all combinations of sexual intercourse genital, anal, and oral between child and adult or child and child (forced), victims are penetrated genitally or rectally with all kinds of objects, and are forced to submit to sexual activity with animals”. “They are forced to participate in all of the crimes, including sacrifice of animals; the torture and sometimes murder of babies, including in some cases the infants of young girls required to bear children specifically for sacrifice; the torture and sometimes murder of adults; and the systematic disposal of bodies.” Mattis explains why evidence of these crimes is never found, despite in-depth investigations: “Cultists include professionals, such as morticians and butchers, who are skilled at disposing of evidence.” She goes on to explain why many of the reports are verifiably false, “The victims are programmed to dissociate, so that they do not recognize or remember parts of their own experience or personality. They are trained to deny accusations, tell conflicting stories and retract their own reports”.  As for the seemingly normal, often charitable, outward lives of the accused in these child-rapes, breedings, murders, and torture, Mattis offers this, “[The Perpetrators are also]dissociative and thus unaware of their other cult-involved selves.” [29] (*See footnote) By this logic, any one of us could be not only victims, but also perpetrators of these crimes and never know it.

Just eight miles outside of Provo, the infamous “Greenbaum” [30] lecturer, Corydon Hammond operates a therapy office. In 2004, Hammond, along with Bennett Braun and Roberta Sachs of Chicago, settled a malpractice lawsuit against them by retracting repressed-memory patient Elizabeth Gale.  Hammond paid $175,000 of that $7.5M settlement.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein

It seems to be the perfect storm: A divorce with bitter custodial parent; the repressed-memory pied pipers of Provo; a lead investigator with an agenda; a newly appointed prosecutor who has specialized in sexual abuse cases; and regular sensationalist misinformation distributed in the media. Having made the allegations so public and over-extending county monies on the investigation, the likelihood that the charges will be dropped due to the lack of hard evidence is greatly lessened.

An entire generation has come up since the hysteria of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. We saw then how easily the hysteria spreads from one sibling to the next, to investigators, prosecutors, child services, the media, and to the public. Each points to the other as evidence that their beliefs are reasonable. At that time, it was daytime talk shows like Sally Jesse Raphael or Phil Donahue that disseminated these shocking tales to gullible audiences. Today, the internet has taken the place of those talk shows and it seems that audiences are just as gullible.

A 1995 study found that in cases of alleged abuse with no claims of repression or amnesia by the accusers, only 22% of accused passed polygraphs.  In cases where accusers claimed a period of amnesia, 91% of accused passed polygraphs. [29]


  1. Bradley, D. (2009, November 23) Incest Allegations Shatter Public image of Church-Going Clan.  Kansas City Star.
  2. Marttinez, E. (2009, November  12)  Child-Raping Missouri Family May Have Bodies in Yard. CBS NEWS
  3. Schroer, Det. C. (2009 November 3).  Mohler Probable Cause, Lafayette Co., MO
  4. Schroer, Det. C. (2009 November 9).  Mohler Probable Cause, Lafayette Co., MO
  5. Reported by Sgt. Collin Stosberg , Missouri Highway Patrol
  6. Bates City farm Search Warrant Authorization 11/9/09; Judge Frerking
  7. Alumbaugh, K. Sheriff (2009, November 11). Press Conference.
  8. Krajicek, D. (2005) Serial Killers: Partners in Crime: Ricky and Dena.
  9. Cooper, R. (2009, November 29) Former Local Attorney Involved in Huge Case. St. Joseph News Press.
  10. Parmon, J. (2009, April 29) Rally Shows Support for Victims of Rape.  The Lexington News
  11. Ritchie, K.W. (2010, January 25) First Year Report.
  12. Lanning, K. (1992) Investigators Guide to Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse.  Behavioral Science Unit & National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
  13. Goleman, D.  (1994, October 31) Proof Lacking for Ritual Abuse. New York Times
  14. Goodman, G., et al (1994) Characteristics & Sources of Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse.  Clearing House on Child Abuse & Neglect Information
  15. Burns, Det. Ray (2009, November 10) Return and Inventory.   Lafayette Co., MO
  16. Schroer, C. (2009, November 12) Affidavit.  Lafayette Co., MO
  17. Burns, Det. Ray (2009, November 13) Return and Inventory.  Lafayette Co., MO
  18. Kelleher, M.  (2009, December 12) Jared Mohler Returns to Court.  Fox 4 News
  19. Pamela Young-Robinson-Mohler v Mark Young MO Case #7CV193002524 (1993-2006)
  20. Burrell Edward Mohler v Pamela Robinson-Mohler  MO Case #01FC204320 (2001)
  21. Lederle, Officer M.  (2009, November 10)  Affidavit.  Boone Co., MO
  22. Wilson, Sgt. A.  (2009, November 10) Affidavit/ Inventory.  Jackson Co., MO
  23. Cole, Det. P. & Kelley, Det. A. (2009, November 20)Return and Inventory.  Jackson Co., MO
  24. (WARNING – Explicit material)
  25. BYU  Career and Counseling Center:
  26. Beck, M. (2005) Leaving the Saints. Crown Publishing.
  27. Engel, B.  (1989). The Right to Innocence. Ivy Books.
  28. Horton, A.L., Harrison, B.K., & Johnson, B.L. (1993) Confronting Abuse. Desert Book Co.
  29. Abrams, S. & Abrams, J.  (1995) False Memory Syndrome vs. Total Repression.  Journal of Psychiatry and Law
  30. Hammond, C. (1992, June 25). “Greenbaum Speech “originally known as “Hypnosis and MPD: Ritual Abuse” Presented at the Fourth Annual Eastern Regional Conference on Abuse and Multiple Personality.  Washington DC.

Cartoon courtesy of Martha Churchill

Not Exonerated Quite Yet: An update on Missouri Mohler case
by J. Bean (A skeptic in KC)

The arrests in the fall of 2009 of Burrell Mohler Sr., his brother, and his four sons stunned Western Missouri residents.   On Friday, February 17, 2012, the community was again taken off-guard as Burrell Sr.’s impossibly high bond was reduced, then waved, releasing him from jail to  await a trial, still many months away.

On November 11, 2009 Lafayette County Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh, along with prosecutor Kellie Ritchie-Campbell, held a press conference, announcing the arrests of the Mohler men on charges that they had repeatedly sexually assaulted several young relatives during the 1980’s.   In the weeks following that press conference, information and speculations from authorities continued to be shared with the media.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the media frenzy came to a halt.  Questions as to why no charges were filed on any of the allegations which should have produced physical evidence went unanswered, as were questions as to why it’s taken over 20 years for the victims to come forward.   Now, the community is left with another mystery:  What has happened in the cases which would cause a judge to release the accused without posting bond?

Since his arrest, the legal wranglings in the case of Burrell Mohler Sr. have all centered around discovery – specifically the production of diaries and medical/therapy records.  The state’s primary justification for not producing these in the past two years has been that the alleged victims were stunned and terrified due to “unexpected” media attention.  The defense has pointed out that the only media attention the case received was immediately following the state’s calling of a press conference.   As soon as defense counsel was retained, the media blitz stopped.

In December 2011, a special appointed discovery judge issued a 30 day final deadline for the lists of physician names to be provided for subpoena.   Still nothing happened.   Burrell’s attorney filed a motion for sanctions, to be heard on Feb 17th.

In the weeks following the filing of that motion, there was a sudden flurry of activity, the accusers finally providing names of physicians and other materials.  On Wednesday, Feb 15th, the alleged victims made a statement to the Associated Press, which read in part:  “After four years of cooperating with the prosecution, we believe that a just and speedy trial can be reached without further compromising our privacy and safety”.   Due to this announcement, several media outlets noted the motion to be heard on Friday.

Friday at 10am there was a packed courtroom, as usual, on the side of the defense.  For the first time in over two years, there were also a few seats occupied on the side of the state – not supporters of the state, but members of the press.

Oral arguments began with Attorney Kim Benjamin reviewing the two years of attempts in obtaining necessary discovery.   She told of the original complaint having been brought to and investigated by neighboring Jackson County, with no charges filed.  The complaint was then taken to Lafayette County and the men immediately arrested and charged based on the victim statements alone. Only then did that county begin its investigation.

Attorney Benjamin showed color glossy photos of the original press conference, with the DA herself standing next to a chart which clearly identified the alleged victims as the children of Ed Mohler. Ms. Benjamin told of the allegations, made but not charged, of satanic rituals, severed heads floating down rivers, child prostitution as preschoolers, and live births at the ages of ten or eleven.  She said the state had denied this was a case of repressed memory, then read a quote from one of the first communications ever given to authorities, in which one of the accusers asserts she was the first of the siblings “to have adult memories of our childhood abuse”, only a few years ago. She explained how easily the defense was able to connect the accusers with a group of pet psychics and massage therapists who claim to be able to bring hidden memories out of your body cells.

The prosecutor admitted that it is a case of repressed and recently recovered memories, saying she’d never told attorneys differently.  She said she did not have control over the press conference, and spoke of the re-victimization of rape victims by having to hand over personal records.   She stressed that many records have been provided in the past couple of weeks.   The discovery judge, Hon. Michael Maloney, confirmed that he had recently received several thousand pages of materials.   In proceedings later in the day, he took the bench, and expressed some dismay that it is the defense, rather than the prosecution, seeking these and other records, as the state should have sought them in order to prove its case noting, “The results of the alleged abuse would certainly have required critical care”.

Burrell Sr.’s attorney reiterated that the appropriate time for the state’s investigation should have been prior to the arrests, rather than arrest first, and now attempting to gather the required evidence two and a half years later.  She argued that it’s not a matter of “what have you done for me lately”, but a matter of her client rotting in jail, while counsel has still not received a single page of this discovery.

Judge Harmon denied the motion for sanctions or dismissal.  Then, without it having even been asked, ordered Burrell Sr. released on his own recognizance.  The state asked there be a condition that he cannot be around children under the age of 17, which the court rejected.

Burrell’s hearing aid wasn’t working, so he had no reaction.  As the family broke into tears of joy and relief, Ms. Benjamin penned him a note saying, “You’re going home.”

Father of the accusers, Ed Mohler, awaits in jail in another county.  No similar motions have yet been filed by his public defender.

Burrell’s brother, defendant Darrel Mohler passed away in October, and thus will never hear of his accusers’ announcement that they are now ready to provide him a just and speedy trial.


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