In light of the recent online hysteria surrounding the Hampstead satanic abuse allegations, it might be worth putting the story within some kind of historical context. As the old proverb says, those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
It’s not the first time allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse have been made and it won’t be the last. This is because a rich mythology has been created off the back of every well-publicised false allegation. From the McMartin preschool trial in the United States in the 80s, to the dawn raids in Rochdale, England in 1990, not one satanic abuse network in the modern context has ever been proven to exist.
Despite this fact people tend to remember the sensationalism of each case, and the fear and rumors generated by it – not the final verdict, which has always been acquittal or at least the overturning of a wrongful conviction.
The truth of each case gets lost in time and hangers on reposition themselves as experts, poised for the next case to emerge, where they’ll remind everybody of the mythology but not the reality.
Yet while this is self evident if one studies the timeline of cases, it doesn’t explain how the mythology originally came in to existence. People have always seen devils and demons as an outgrowth of religion and superstition, but the satanic ritual abuse idea emerged at a specific time in modern history and has a very specific set of themes.
1) Child Sexual Abuse
2) Infanticide (mass murder of babies)
3) Blood Drinking
4) Ritual (regalia, chanting, rites, devil worship)
5) A Widespread Network
6) Impossible Allegations (flying, magic and the supernatural)
When a new case like Hampstead pops it to existence it’s almost as if the alleged victims or those encouraging them have a memory bank of these themes which they have projected on to the story. That’s because they do. They come from past cases, but more interestingly – works of fiction that have directly influenced those cases.
Let’s look at 7 works of fiction that helped create the satanic ritual abuse mythology …
The Satan Seller (1973)
Mike Warnke’s book The Satan Seller (1973) did not directly reference satanic ritual abuse in regard to children, but it did establish some of the satanic themes and rites, and is a starting point for the panic that would follow, due to how it was widely shared along the bible belt of America. He continued ideas popularized by the likes of Rosemary’s Baby – the novel and film that reached wide appeal a few years prior, as well as the emerging ritualism of LaVeyan Satanism – and boldly declared that he had spent years in a real satanic cult.
He claimed to have been a high priest presiding over thousands of Satanists, in three cities. He describes the kidnapping, brainwashing and ritual rape of a young woman, as well as the summoning of demons through spells, and blood drinking rituals.But after having a change of heart, instead of surrendering himself to the cops for his crimes and handing over evidence to track down the cult and put a stop to them, he did what any morally sound and good natured person would do … he found God and became a preacher, selling his story as he went!
He promoted his book as a true life account (rather than a novel) and declared that his satanic network really did worship the devil and commit crime and abuse (unlike Anton LaVey’s harmless but antagonistic brand of atheism). This gave the churches the perfect fodder to confirm their congregation’s fears. Satan was real and the degradation of society was was down to him.
Remember, this was the late 60s/70s era when the younger generations were first beginning to reject their puritanical parents and religion, when heavy metal music was on the rise, and people were not only experimenting with drugs but also different belief systems, several which did give rise to damaging cults. In fact Warnke claimed to have attended rituals with Charles Manson, the evil archetype of the era.
The fundamentalists had a collective anxiety because they didn’t understand how the world was changing and what their children were doing, and men like Warnke gave them a specific target to unleash their negative energy towards – the satanic cults!
He travelled the networks of churches across the country, released his presentations on tape and album, appeared on TV, and as the title of the book suggests, he sold Satan to the masses.
Only it was all bullshit. Many people knew that from the beginning, but it took a popular Christian publication (the irony) to expose his timeline of events and track down the people who he was really hanging out with during his so called 8 year satanic crash course.
Ultimately Mike Warnke recanted a lot of his claims and decided to drop the act and become a Christian comedian. If only he read some of the Satan Seller’s pages on stage, they are hilarious.
Pheww! Good job old Deano had taught you what to do. What a laughing stock you would have been if that demon didn’t appear before everyone’s eyes.
Despite our ability to laugh at this absurd relic of religious paranoia, his book did very real damage that is still being felt to this day. He essentially popularized the modern concept of criminal satanic cults ritualistically abusing people, and sucked up millions in donations for churches in the process. Unfortunately the worse was yet to come.
Michelle Remembers (1980)
The satanic ritual abuse concept really took off Michelle Remembers (1980), which was written by Canadian psychotherapist Lawrence Pazder and his patient Michelle Smith. In fact it was Pazder who first coined the term “ritual abuse” in the book.
The story documents Pazder’s so called therapy sessions with depressive Michelle, that began in 1973, the same year The Satan Seller was published and during the excitement surrounding the Exorcist movie. After a rather routine couple of years the book claims Michelle suddenly went in to a possessed like trance during one of these sessions, and began regressing to the state of a 5 year old girl. Over the next 600 hours of sessions Pazder claimed he used “hypnosis techniques” to recover alleged memories of ritual abuse that occurred in the 50s at the hands of Michelle’s mother Virginia and a satanic cult.
Smith claims to have been sexually abused, forced to drink blood at “satan’s altar,” and witnessed the ritual murder of babies.
The story is absurd, but these themes became the backbone of thousands of allegations that would emerge in the 80s, none of which ever had any merit beyond certain isolated cases of child abuse.
Many of these cases emerged from Pazder’s own “hypnosis techniques” as a whole community of therapists began to claim the ability to recover hidden memories of child abuse that patients had buried because of trauma.
Today Modern psychology rejects the methods of Repressed Memory Therapy and warns that it is impossible to distinguish between a real and false memory without corroborative evidence, and that therapists may well be implanting the memories in to their patients through suggestion or encouragement. British guidelines advise psychotherapists that so called repressed memories can be metaphorical or outright fantasies, and without corroborative evidence should be interpreted as such.
The ending of Michelle Remembers claims 5 year old Michelle was subjected to an 81 day long ritual, which culminated in the devil himself being summoned – only for Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael to come down and save the day, conveniently removing all the scarring and physical signs of abuse from Michelle’s body.
Despite these impossible allegations, the Christian community and most of the mainstream media welcomed the book at face value and Pazder was christened the go-to expert when similar criminal cases would soon emerge after the book’s publication. One of those was the McMartin Daycare scandal that erupted in 1983 after mother Judy Johnson claimed to believe her son had been molested by teacher Ray Buckey. This escalated to claims of bestiality, children being attacked with drills, and supernatural occurrences like levitation.
After an initial investigation and round of questioning police determined there was no evidence, but made the foolish mistake of sending all the parents of the children at the daycare a letter, informing them that their kids “may” have been abused.
This obviously caused a great panic and many more allegations began to emerge. It was determined that hundreds of children should all be interviewed, and Pazder was brought on as an expert consultant by the families because of his work with Michelle. This was foolish because no formal investigation or material evidence had ever been presented for the content of his book.
The hysteria grew exponentially. Flying witches, blood drinking, secret orgies at car washes and other seemingly public places, were all claimed. Then there were the secret tunnels underground, and rape in a space ship. The children were allegedly flushed down special toilets that ejected them in to underground satanic temples, before sucking them back up to be cleaned before home time.
This hodgepodge of delusional paranoia lead to the most expensive series of criminal trials in US history at the time. They lasted for 6 years, and targeted daycare matriarch Virginia McMartin, Ray Buckey, his wife and Virginia’s daughter Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray’s sister Peggy Ann Buckey and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler. They were charged with 321 counts of child abuse, based almost entirely on the children’s varied, contradictory and impossible testimony.
Ultimately no convictions ever materialized, but all of those accused spent some time within the system. Ray Buckey lost 5 years of his life before being acquitted in 1990.
Since then the case has been vigorously studied by all manner of experts and academics, and it is now accepted that the overall body of the children’s allegations were created by the coercion of the interviewers, who went against California guidelines at the time. A sample of such coercion can be read here.
“Never did anyone do anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything. I said a lot of things that didn’t happen. I lied,” revealed alleged victim Kyle Zirpolo in 2005. “Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn’t like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for … I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do.”
Several conflicts of interest were also observed in the case, including the history of mental illness from the original mother, the prosecution using an inmate with a history of perjury and giving him immunity from perjury if he testified against Ray Buckey, and the dubious characters like Pazder having influence over the case.
Interestingly one of the key local reporters who showed a bias towards the allegations ended up in a relationship with one of the children’s key interviewers, and David Rosenzweig, the editor at the Los Angeles Times at the time, became engaged to marry Lael Rubin, the prosecutor in the case.
It might also be worth noting that Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith both divorced their previous partners and married before Michelle Remembers was published.
Satan’s Underground (1988)
During the midst of the McMartin case and other similar trials, a woman using the name Lauren Stratford came along to add to the growing hysteria of satanic ritual abuse. She claimed to be a survivor of such abuse and alleged she had a lesbian relationship with the preschool’s matriarch Virginia McMartin.
In 1988 Stratford and her evangelical preacher friend Johanna Michaelsen published the book Satan’s Underground: The Extraordinary Story of One Woman’s Escape. This lead to Stratford appearing on chat shows like Oprah to share her “experience” of being raised in a satanic cult and witnessing and partaking in ritualistic sexual abuse and murder of children.
Her major contribution to the mythology was the concept of infanticide or the mass ritualistic murder of babies. She claimed to be a baby breeder, the person tasked with birthing and acquiring the infants for sacrifices to Satan.
Off the back of these claims she also associated herself with the infamous Kern County child abuse cases which emerged not long after McMartin. In total 36 people were convicted based only on flimsy testimony, and most spent years in jail before having their convictions overturned. Many of the alleged victims later admitted there was no truth to their stories and said they were encouraged by various adults in their families and the system to make things up.
It has since emerged that local Kern County social workers had attended a “training seminar” where the book Michelle Remembers was used as a manual. As for Stratford, despite trying her best to latch on to the cases even the investigators sent her packing, but her book would still get major publicity.
Just like Warnke, after she managed to escape the satanic cult she decided selling her story was more important than handing herself in with evidence to catch the other culprits. No missing babies or remains of babies have ever been discovered in relation to her claims, and later investigations revealed that none of her dates matched up and nobody who ever knew her by her real name Laurel Rose Willson, had ever known her to be pregnant nor part of a cult.
She did however have a history of mental illness, and once her publisher pulled her book for being a hoax she changed her name to Laura Grabowski and began claiming to be a holocaust survivor.
Her preacher friend Michaelsen is still active on Facebook sharing stories about Israel and Palestine, and stylising herself as an “expert” on the occult.
As for Kern County, a grass roots movement grew in support of those wrongly convicted and a documentary called Witch Hunt charts their story and leaves a lot of the blame at the doorstep of district attorney Ed Jagels.
Geraldo and 20/20
The news and chat show media played an important role in spreading the fraudulent survivor stories to wider public. In 1985 ABC News series 20/20 did an “investigative” piece on The Devil Worshippers.
Cutting through the imagery, creepy music, and claims of known liars, it only really focussed on a few isolated cases of church vandalism, violent criminality, and teenage rebellion. Nonetheless the slick production and faux concern from the hosts certainly fanned the flames. One Youtube user comments: “I remember my mom took my metal albums after watching this.”
During the show the narrator made reference to the movie Rosemary’s Baby, commenting: “These fictional devil worshippers are strikingly similar to that of real life Satanists,” though perhaps a simpler explanation is that fantasists were simply crafting stories based on more popular stories from cinema.
Talking heads on the program included none other than our old pals Lawrence Pazder and Mike Warnke, the latter who was described as “a former Satanist” and “high priest.”
He actually admits it was movies with satanic themes that peaked his interest and started him down the path to Satan. But since his own book is a work of fiction, and most of this very broadcast’s claims are false or sensationalized, neither he nor ABC News are separate from the fiction they claimed was impacting society.
It would seem rather than fiction leading to the widespread occurrence of real Satanism at the time, both forms of fiction (traditional and hoax stories presented as real) actually lead to a paranoia that didn’t have any basis in reality. The real widespread network – of true believers – did real damage in the form of hysteria and witch hunts, but actual Satanism and ritual abuse itself was nowhere to be found.
The most distasteful part of the program sees the host Charles Gibson talking to two young boys and getting them to re-enact their tale of ritualistically stabbing a baby, with a butter knife and a doll. Despite police admitting that there was no evidence that this really happened, nobody seemed to have any problem with exploiting the poor children, while endorsing a can of “Crush” soda in the process.
In his book “Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend” in 1993, sociologist Jeffrey S. Victor concluded that the 20/20 program was important in giving the panic credibility in the eyes of the wider public.
An even more sensationalist show aired in 1988 when moustachioed hack reporter Geraldo Rivera stole the name of Lauren Stratford’s book, and decided to expose “Satan’s Underground.”
Cut together with satanic imagery, interviews with “experts”, and a live studio audience, Geraldo “investigated” everything from the McMartin case, to heavy metal music. He even had a bewildered Ozzy Osborne live via satellite to answer for his satanic lyrics.
Stratford herself also appeared on the show to retell her fraudulent story of being a “breeder” of babies to be sacrificed. Zeena Schreck, the daughter of Anton LaVey quite rightly asked “where are the bodies?” And Michael Aquino founder of the Temple of Set, challenged notorious former FBI agent Ted Gunderson, to name and arrest the culprits if he had the evidence.
Gunderson who passed away in 2011 became a prominent talking head in the wider conspiracy community, buddying up to the likes of Alex Jones and lending his air of authority to a number of theories beyond satanic ritual abuse. It’s concerning that a former FBI agent who was high up in the chain during the declassified COINTELPRO era, would be accepted at face value by so many people.
The Satanic Indicators
It wasn’t just the United States where the satanic panic took hold. By the 90s it had reached the UK with similar cases and the same checklist of themes. We had our own psychotherapists like Dr. Valerie Sinason making claims of widespread satanic ritual abuse, based solely on what she’d encouraged from her mentally unstable patients, never seeking any corroborative evidence.
Our social workers were also influenced by self-styled experts in conferences and “training seminars,” which sometimes hosted guests from the United States.
The hysteria really got rolling when the NSPCC Charity shared a list known as the Satanic Indicators.
Intended for social workers, it outlined so called signs that a child may be a victim of satanic ritual abuse, despite the concept having never even been proven.
Armed with their new found knowledge about the devil and encouraged by Christian elements within the social services and wider community, children began to be snatched by the state from their parents in a series of paranoid and baseless cases.
One of the most high profile of these was the 1990 case in Rochdale where a total of 12 children were wrongly removed from five families, several in dawn raids by police. Allegations ranged from the sacrifice of human babies and robed devil worship, to locking the children in cages and caves. None of the claims were ever proven, and all of the children were eventually returned to their families, 10 years later in the worst instance. Many of the alleged victims later spoke out in a documentary about the very real abuse they suffered when being forced to undergo “medical examinations” at the behest of those who had snatched them.
Video tapes of the children’s interviews were eventually released and showed how the social workers coerced and encouraged the stories.
One social worker involved in the Rochdale case – Liz McLean – just a few months later would become the central figure in another case in the Scottish Orkeny Island of South Ronaldsay. Once again children were snatched in police raids and their parents accused of satanic ritual abuse.
Evidence gathered and recorded as three masks, two hoods, and one black cloak, turned out to actually be three nativity masks, two academic hoods that you’d wear for graduation, and one priest’s robe.
A hand made child’s model plane was recorded as a “wooden cross,” and a video tape of the Blackadder comedy was seized.
The children themselves denied they had been abused. Recalling the saga later as an adult, one victim described how Liz McLean tried to force her to go along with it:
I was terrified of her. She was very intimidating, very controlling. I was always small when I was a child but she would lean over me. She got very angry. She would want me to agree with what she was saying. They were mentioning about private parts, things like that. Asking me, did one of the grown-ups touch you and touch your brothers and sisters in your private parts? They would want me to agree with it. And when Liz McLean couldn’t get me to agree with it, she would ask me to draw a picture. So I drew a picture of my pony. That wasn’t right. Then I drew a picture of us playing football. That wasn’t right. Eventually, she pulled this piece of paper out which had a circle on it, and she said, ‘Copy that.’ So I drew a circle and she said, ‘Draw little stick men round it,’ and that’s what I did. And she said, ‘You’re being very good.’ And that was the meetings.
It seems even where the Satanic Indicators didn’t fit, some social workers made them fit.
Dispatches – Listen to the Children (1990)
In 1990 feminist activist and journalist Beatrix Campbell produced an episode of Channel 4’s investigative series Dispatches, having become a leading media figure in the UK’s satanic ritual abuse hysteria, (she had previously sided with social workers in cases like Orkney). Her program “Listen to the Children” revisited a high profile case from 1987 in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, where several children were placed in to care. After an initial investigation, evidence was presented and a jury convicted 9 adults of being involved in an incest ring, spanning several generations within one extended family.
The nature of such a case means that not all of the facts will have come to light, but the local authority were happy that the children were safe and the majority of those leading the abuse were convicted. The case was summarized in another channel 4 documentary.
In the beginning there was no sign of Satanism, not from the children’s testimony, nor from any evidence gathered from the abusers. It was only after the children were in care that more allegations emerged. Untrained foster parents were asked by social workers to note down any further disclosures the children made, despite police closing the criminal case. One of the first disclosures noted was that the children had allegedly circled in a group and danced around a doll, some going in to the middle and jumping on it. The foster parent would later say in Campbell’s piece that she assumed this was a satanic ritual and the doll was a real life baby.
The group of foster parents began to meet up and share stories, and gradually a wide range of new allegations emerged, including that the children were taken to parties and churches with witches and hooded figures, where blood drinking and rituals would take place, as well as the murder of babies.
At the behest of the foster parents and social workers police opened up a second investigation to get to the bottom of the new satanic allegations. Teams returned to the houses of the abusers and tore them apart in search of any hidden evidence, as well as checking the gardens for graves or sacrifice remains. Nothing was found. They then searched the wider Nottingham area, including alleged locations of abuse, such as Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan country house and park, owned by the council and open to the public. Again nothing was found.
There were also no tunnels found between Wollaton Hall and other nearby properties as alleged. And while one “tunnel” was found in a local cemetery, it was known to the public. It was simply an old route where funeral processions would follow in to the church grounds.
The investigation deemed that the amateur interviewing of the children by the foster carers and their encouragement by social workers obsessed with satanic ritual abuse, might put the original case in jeopardy, should defence attorneys argue that investigators were entertaining absurdities. If they could prove that B was false, then maybe A was false too. Police once again closed the case, causing a rift between the two parties.
By this point the “satanic indicators” and wider US-centric hysteria had been spread among the social workers and foster parents, and satanic “experts” were brought on board to fan the flames of the panic. Now even more allegations and locations were made.
It was ultimately decided that an independent enquiry involving police and social workers outside of the case, be brought in to come to an independent conclusion. By 1990 their findings were released in the Joint Enquiry or JET Report and determined that “there is no evidence of Satanic ritual abuse in the Broxtowe case or its aftermath,” and that the social workers and the foster parents were influenced by the unsubstantiated “satanic indicators.”
Parts of the Social Services Department appear to have developed over the last two years a belief system in ritualistic Satanic abuse which is unwittingly resulting in children being encouraged to believe in and allege bizarre abuse. This could lead eventually to grave injustice and if unchecked it has the ingredients of a modern ‘witch hunt.’
This didn’t stop Beatrix Campbell peddling her Dispatches documentary. It sought to restate the satanic allegations and framed itself as giving the children a voice. It did not take on board any of the JET findings and even retraced old allegations that had already been debunked by police, as “new evidence.”
Dispatches “listen to the children” – annotated by the Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation, SAFF
In one sensational scene Campbell treks down the aforementioned graveyard tunnel with a flash light. It certainly gives the appearance of something creepy, but the tunnel was not secret and had already been investigated. It was a known feature that the public were well aware of. It’s presence alone is hardly evidence of a Satanic cult. On the contrary it was part of a Christian church’s grounds, the antithesis of satanic.
Campbell then breaks in (or was let in by the caretaker) to the cemetery’s “lodge,” and rummages around in a draw. She finds some junk and a dildo, which she puts back with disgust. The irony of a lesbian feminist activist’s disgust at a dildo is pretty hilarious.
The insinuation is that this was some kind of hub for the abuse, but then one has to ask, why would the culprits leave any evidence behind if this “lodge” was so easily accessible? Or if the owners of the property were in on the action, why would they let a film crew inside? It has since been claimed that this was simply where the caretaker dumped litter and other junk that he’d cleaned up from the grounds.
Similar to the media conflicts of interest in the McMartin scandal, social worker Judith Dawson who is featured in the Dispatches episode left her husband and began a lesbian relationship with Campbell. The two would continue to peddle the satanic ritual abuse mythology, and Judith managed to worm her way in to other similar cases when she dropped her husband’s name.
Campbell who has since received an OBE from the Queen is now a prominent member of the Green Party. She seems to keep this embarrassing time of her life at arms length, and the entry about it has also been curiously scrubbed from her Wikipedia page. Those pushing the Hampstead abuse allegations at face value have brought her name in to the fold as somebody who supports the cause, though she has not discussed the case in any way.
Although Channel 4 carelessly commissioned Campbell’s Dispatches piece, they did somewhat redeem themselves in a fascinating episode of After Dark. For those unfamiliar, the series was very much a pre-podcast era discussion show, that did not confine itself to time-constraints or TV style interview methods. A range of guests would be invited to converse for hours on end, in an informal setting.
This particular episode featured Beatrix Campbell, Nottingham Social Services Director Andy Croall, former judge Jean Graham Hall, anthropologist Dr. Sherrill Mulhern, Repressed Memory therapist and alleged satanic abuse survivor Wendy Lindsay, Director of Newham Social Services Deborah Cameron, sociologist Dr. Bill Thompson, and “Paul”, one of the innocent parents from the Rochdale case.
There was a clear split between the guests with Dr. Mulhern and Dr. Thompson broaching research from the satanic panic and repressed memory scandals in the US, and Christian Andy Croall and Beatrix clearly wrapped up in that very panic themselves.
Croall who had been involved in “training seminars” was forced to step down from his position shortly after the show aired in 1991.
The Biggest Secret (1998)
By the late 90s the hysteria had quietened down in both the US and the UK, but one man who would give it a new lease of life, at least in the realm of the online conspiracy community was footballer and TV host, turned self-professed messiah – David Icke.
His 1999 book The Biggest Secret is riddled with accusations of satanic ritual abuse. George Bush for example is a “Satanist, child abuser and serial killer” and the Yale Skull and Bones society is “a blood drinking, Satanic secret society.”
The Royal family are “satanic abusers,” and “ceremonies involving the ritual murder of children, and the use of women called breeders to produce babies and aborted foetuses for sacrifice
to a demon ‘god,’” are happening all around us.
The book is an amalgamation of all of the satanic ritual abuse themes explored in the above list, as well as umpteen other conspiracy theories he plagiarized from other “researchers.”
What he has added to the mythology and what became particularly popular in the first decade of the 2000s is that the satanic ritual abusers are actually reptilians that are not visible to the human eye under normal circumstances.
Icke has since backed off from talking about the Reptilians and if quizzed attempts to give it an air of scientific basis, but from the discredited Hollie Greig case to the very real (though most likely not satanic) Jimmy Savile scandal, Icke continues to assert that satanic ritual abuse networks are widespread across the world with no solid evidence whatsoever.
Starting in the 60s the United States went through a dramatic culture shock that alienated the god-fearing traditionalists. Over the next decade popular fiction, particularly cinema, played in to these fears with satanic themed movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist. However beginning with Mike Warnke’s The Satan Seller in 1973, it was a series of “survivor stories” dressed up as true-life accounts that gave rise to a moral panic about Satanism. First shared among Christian groups and then given national exposure on shows like Oprah, ABC’s 20/20, and Geraldo in the 80s, these stories lead the public to believe widespread networks of Satanic cults were murdering babies and abusing children as part of their evil religion. It was only after the themes were established in fiction that real world allegations were reported to the authorities, none of which ever resulted in long-term convictions.
When we see the term “satanic ritual abuse” bandied around be so called experts today, it is therefore important to understand that the term itself was first coined in a work of fiction (Michelle Remembers) and only came in to popular use as the satanic panic intensified. No credible agency uses the term today because it essentially has no meaning in the real world and brings along with it a lot of unhelpful hysteria.
According to a 1996 study in the UK by Anthropologist Jean LaFontaine, in a handful of isolated abuse cases that did involve loose satanic themes and “props”, the perpetrator’s goal was deemed sexual gratification rather than religious or cult practises. A preoccupation with Satanism from those involved was seen to distract from the crimes at hand.
Not one ritual abuse network of religious Satanists has ever been uncovered.
So when a case like Hampstead falls out of nowhere and includes every theme on the satanic panic checklist, we need to be deeply skeptical. Have we miraculously stumbled on to the very first legitimate satanic ritual abuse cult, or is it just another in a long line of false allegations, driven by the mythology that came before it?
Believers will argue that the children in the videos are far too articulate to be making things up. However that assumes they are the sole originators of the stories. We’ve seen how time and time again, social workers and parents have coerced stories out of children to fit their preprepared narratives, and the children have gone along with them out of both fear and the desire to please the authority figure.
So while it is true that children do not know how to verbalize the concept of satanic ritual abuse, as it is not in their frame of knowledge or vocabulary – it is not necessarily a sign of truthfulness when they do, rather a sign that adults have introduced the themes and words in to their world.
The elaborate nature of the Hampstead allegations indicate the stories have been fed to or coerced out of the children and then repeated until an elaborate narrative was formed. Even if such coercion came from a genuine (though misguided) concern – as may have been the case in with McMartin, Rochdale and Orkney – that doesn’t make the allegations truthful.
Furthermore police discovered a history of neglect in the family home dating back to when the mother and father were still together. The mother’s new partner was also found to have a history of physical violence against his own children and the children in question.
Are the public getting wrapped up in another satanic panic and failing to the see what’s right in front of them?