Jun 11, 2015

Children of Satan: What do their disturbing tales of bloody rituals mean?

JUNE 11, 2015

IT WAS the chilling story that horrified affluent families in a leafy north London suburb.
Two young children, known as P and Q, appeared in a disturbing YouTube video, describing satanic rituals performed by a shadowy cult.

In hours of footage, they talked about how the devil-worshippers preyed on the wealthy community, holding pedophilic orgies and murdering innocent people. They said the Satanists abused and tortured babies, slitting their throats, drinking their blood and dancing while wearing their skulls.

They named teachers and parents as being part of the cult, led by their father. Four million people watched the footage, campaigners called for the Satanists to be stopped and police were deployed to the children’s primary school.

But after two police interviews, the pair admitted they had made up the accusations, under pressure from their mother Ella Draper and her new partner, Abraham Christie.

High Court Justice Pauffley ruled in March that there had been no satanic cult, blaming “emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse”.

She said the long-term damage to the children was “incalculable”, adding: “Their innocence was invaded. Their grip on reality was imperilled. Their minds were scrambled.”

They are part of an appalling history of vulnerable youngsters having sickening ideas implanted in their heads.

In October 1990, hitchhiking teenagers Fiona Burns and John Lee were found stabbed to death beside the Western Highway in Victoria near the border with South Australia.

Social workers said Fiona, of Melbourne, had feared for her life because of her association with an occult group. The 15-year-old had reportedly been counselled over claims she took part in a Satanic ritual in which a dog was skinned alive and beaten to death before those present drank its blood.

Fiona’s family said those claims were the product of an overactive imagination.

But relatives of John, a 14-year-old of Adelaide, said a Satanic group could have been responsible.

The dark, and most probably fictional, tales recall “the satanic panic” of the 1980s.

In 1973, Flora Schreiber wrote a book called Sybil, the best-selling true story of Shirley Mason and her therapist Cornelia Wilbur, which became a TV adaptation that gripped the US in 1976.

During their sessions, Shirley revealed what were apparently repressed memories of terrible childhood abuse. She described how her mother sexually assaulted her with torches and bottles, conducted gothic orgies in the woods with teenage girls and buried her alive.

She had as many as 16 personalities and was instrumental in creating a new psychiatric diagnosis: multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative-identity disorder.

But other psychologists, including Herbert Spiegel, who occasionally treated Shirley, cast doubt on Wilbur’s findings, The New York Times reported. They accused her of manipulating her patient using the power of suggestion and a “truth drug” called sodium pentothal, later found to induce false memories.

Sybil was followed by a wave ofbooks on patients with repressed memories and multiple personality disorders.

In 1980, psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his patient (and later, wife) Michelle Smith wrote Michelle Remembers, an account of how 600 hours of hypnosis therapy with her husband extracted her experiences of being tortured, locked in cages, sexually assaulted and forced to take part in Satanic rituals by her mother’s cult.

The book was thoroughly discredited by subsequent investigations, which pointed out major inconsistencies in their narrative and raised serious questions over the reliability of hypnotically enhanced memories.

In 1983, Judy Johnson, of California, accused a teacher at her son’s preschool of raping him, said faculty members had sex with animals and even claimed the teacher could fly.

Johnson was hospitalised with paranoid schizophrenia and died before the end of the preliminary hearing from problems related to alcoholism. But LA’s Children’s Institute International then interviewed several hundred children about the alleged incident.

The students were coerced through suggestive interview techniques into making bizarre claims including the existence of secret tunnels under the school in which the alleged abuse took place; orgies supposedly conducted in car washes and airports; disturbing games in which children were allegedly photographed nude; mutilation of corpses; blood drinking; baby sacrifice and a flying teacher.

Pazder was consulted by the prosecution as an expert on Satanic ritual abuse and corroborated the claims. All parties in the McMartin preschool trial were acquitted of all charges in 1990.

The popular explanation of repressed trauma suggests that because children need to see the people they depend upon as safe, they may maintain that relationship by denying abuse, a splitting of emotions that may develop into alternate personalities.

Some psychologists do not believe it is possible to forget past abuse and remember it in adulthood, instead suspecting that some therapists take patients’ “most cherished childhood memories and change them into diabolical abuse”, according to Princeton paper “Sybil, Satan and Science”.

The paper looks at the evidence of Dr Richard Ofshe, a University of California social scientist who studies how guided imagery and coercion can create morbid imaginings. It also uses the research of Dr Elizabeth Loftus, professor of psychology from the University of Washington, who says memories can be changed simply by the way questions are phrased in court.

FBI special Ken Lanning says that while there is a growing number of accusations of Satanic ritual abuse, there is little evidence to support it.

It’s unnerving to hear such extreme stories in relation to young children. But it seems Satanism remains for the most part the strange work of minds distorted in ghastly ways that do not require any actual drinking of blood.

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