The First of Many
In 1973, Englishwoman Doreen Irvine published her autobiography, From Witchcraft to Christ. Just eight years earlier, an exorcist had expelled 47 demons from her body. Years before that, she was Queen of the Black Witches of Europe.
Since the late ’60s, Irvine has given her testimony countless times. She has appeared on 100 Huntley Street and in Christian documentaries about the dangers of the occult. (1) Her story has been cited by many Christian authors, including Russ Parker and the late Dr. Kurt Koch, as a reliable account of what witches and Satanists do (like most of the people we’ll see in this series, Irvine used the terms “witchcraft” and “Satanism” interchangeably).
She was the first of many born again Christians who claimed to be ex-witches and/or ex-Satanists, among them women who claimed to have been high priestesses in destructive Satanic cults, so her testimony provided a sort of blueprint. In this series, you’ll see many of the same elements recur time and again:
– A Dickensian childhood full of abuse, exploitation, and deprivation
– An early introduction to Jesus that would pave the way for salvation later in life (In Doreen’s case, her Sunday school lessons)
– An absence of time markers
– Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (scripture, philosophy, etc.), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (sacrifice, crime, etc.)
– Helplessness. Rather than being led into Satanic evil through his/her bad choices, the protagonist is usually a naive and vulnerable innocent victimized, lured, or coerced into sin by more worldly people. Once ensnared, escape is impossible.
– Supernatural events and paranormal abilities are common. Demons and angels materialize, Satanists use death curses against their enemies, and sometimes Satan himself makes an appearance.
– A remarkable conversion experience
– Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
– Expert advice on the occult. After sharing his/her testimony, the ex-witch or former Satanist gives us pointers on how to avoid occultism, prevent children from becoming involved in it, and/or how to expunge it from our communities. There are typically warnings about Ouija boards, Halloween, and occult literature.
Doreen Irvine’s testimony does bear key differences from later ex-witch stories, though. First of all, she gives no explicit suggestion of a worldwide Satanic conspiracy. However, the “fact” that her cult encompasses at least the whole of Europe does hint at Satanic organization on a global scale. Secondly, her family was not involved in the occult (we’ll see lots of multigenerational Satanism later in this series).
From Soho to Satan
According to her testimony, Irvine’s circuitous route to evangelical stardom began around 1948, when she became a teenage prostitute in London’s East End. We know the approximate year only because she gives the year of her conversion (1964) and provides a few numbers that allow us to make guesstimates of the chronology. As in most ex-Satanists’ testimonies, time markers and dates and specific names are almost nonexistent. Perhaps such details are omitted to lend the stories a timeless quality, or maybe there are other reasons for leaving out information that can be checked. (2)
Like all the ex-Satanists we’ll see in this series, Doreen describes her childhood as terrible. Though she adored him, her dad was a drunk who beat his wives and couldn’t provide for his five daughters. Doreen slept on piles of dirty laundry in lieu of a bed, and seldom had shoes. She attended school so rarely that she was illiterate until her late teens. Mum fled when she was 11.
So at 14, Doreen was walking the streets. By 16, after a stint as a domestic servant, she was a striptease artist and a callgirl in Soho.
She turned to Satanism around 1950, at the age of 16. She had begged to be inducted after overhearing two other strippers discussing the “secret, ancient order” to which they belonged. Reluctantly, the girls agreed to take her to a coven gathering at “Satan’s temple”, but she had to be blindfolded until she was inside.
When the blindfold was removed, Doreen saw about 400 people and 13 priests/priestesses gathered in a hall adorned with effigies of Satan. The high priest of these “black witches” sat on a throne (Irvine refers to him as “the chief Satanist”). At some point a white rooster was killed and its blood drained into a cup, to be mixed with blood from a cut made on Doreen’s arm. She drank from the cup, then signed a parchment pact with the Devil, pledging to serve Satan for the rest of her life.
Though the temple was packed with people, Doreen later learned that only VIPs were present that night, because there wasn’t enough elbow room for all the London area’s black witches.
Under the name Diana (her stage name), Doreen spent the next 16 years developing occult powers and learning by heart the Book of Satan, an ancient tome six times thicker than the Bible. Satanism had many rules, and she learned them all.
In return, she received Mindfreakish paranormal abilities. She could levitate several feet off the ground, read minds, render herself invisible, manifest apports, and kill birds in midflight just by looking at them.
At some point, the chief Satanist told her she would be a contender to become Queen of the Black Witches. She would compete against six other witches at a midnight ceremony held on the moor at Dartmoor.
As always, the witches were naked. Just before the ceremony commenced, a local pastor showed up with two reporters, having somehow caught wind that witches would be convening that night. The witches, having nowhere to hide, went into a panic until Doreen assured them she could make everyone invisible. They joined hands, and were enveloped in a swirling green mist that obscured them from the three men.
Doreen easily won the magical competition. In the final phase of the test, each witch had to walk into a raging bonfire with flames 7 feet high. The successful candidate would reach the centre of the fire, where Satan himself would met her and lead her out of the flames unharmed. This is exactly what happened to Doreen. She strode confidently into the fire and saw her master, “Diablos” [sic], materialize before her as a “great black figure”. He took her hand and walked with her out of the fire before vanishing, leaving Doreen without so much as a blister. She was then crowned with a crown of “pure gold” and ensconced on a throne as Queen of the Black Witches of Europe, with the other witches prostrated before her. She held this title for one year.
Doreen goes into great detail about her paranormal abilities, the accoutrements of Satanism (thrones, a “golden orb”, etc.), and the “perverted” lesbian and gay sexual activities of witches. But she tells us remarkably little about what the “black witches” of this “ancient order” believe. Their beliefs seem to be centred on the repudiation of Christianity and very little else, as evidenced by the 8 rules of Satanism:
1. Never reveal the whereabouts of a Satanic temple or what goes on in it to an outsider.
2. Obey the “chief satanist” and commit yourself to Satan for life.
3. Never enter a Christian church.
4. Never read the Holy Bible.
5. The Holy scriptures are to be mocked and burned in the Satanic temple, and all Christian literature destroyed.
6. Satanists who are not punctual at worship will be whipped.
7. Lying, cheating, swearing, lust, and murder are permitted.
8. Prayers must be made to Lucifer daily.
This list is bizarre and simple-minded in the extreme. It’s as though someone asked a child or a young teenager to describe what they think Satanists or witches might be like. Not one item corresponds to actual beliefs or practices common among Satanists, Pagans, or witches.
Surprisingly, being queen of all the witches in Europe brought absolutely no material benefits to Doreen. She held the title for just one year, then it was back to being a heroin addict and prostitute. Her circumstances worsened considerably as the years passed. Whereas in her teens she had been a “classy” callgirl, by 1964 (when she was about 30), she was back hooking on the streets. That’s where she spotted a poster for a sermon by evangelist Eric Hutchings, which enraged her. She decided to attend the event expressly to “punch him in the nose”.
Instead, she was saved. Satan audibly warned her not to give herself to Christ, and even physically tried to restrain her, yet Doreen felt a love she had never known and stumbled to the altar to commit herself to Christ just as unquestioningly as she committed herself to the Devil 16 years earlier.
Salvation did not completely dispel her demons, however. Doreen experienced fits at church services, so in 1965 she underwent a 7-month exorcism by the Reverend Arthur Neil of Bristol and a group of other pastors. They expelled 47 demons.
Aside from the events enshrined in her testimony, not much is known of Doreen Irvine’s life. We know she gave birth to a disabled daughter around 1962, two years before she was saved. For many years she traveled to other countries to share her testimony, and counselled other ex-witches in England. She fell out of public view in the mid-’90s.
When giving her testimony, Irvine always stressed that she wanted to glorify Christ rather than Satan, and spoke effusively of her new life in Christ. She spoke succinctly, in an organized manner, often using exactly the same words and phrases.
She comes across as an earnest, candid believer. It’s difficult to believe she could be mentally disturbed, or an attention junkie, but of course both possibilities must be considered. Irvine herself claims she was diagnosed as being schizophrenic (more on that below).
Why Doreen Irvine’s Testimony Probably Isn’t True
Quite simply, it doesn’t stand up to the facts.
Witches are not Satanists, and Satanists are not witches. This conflation appears again and again in the testimonies of “former witches”. Some Christians will try to tell you that Wiccans and Pagans only pretend to be devoted to earth religions; in reality, they’re devil-worshipers bent on destroying Christianity. As anyone familiar with Satanism, Paganism, and witchcraft knows, this is completely false.
Satanism, neo-Paganism, and witchcraft are far more than knee-jerk reactions to Christianity. They have distinct beliefs, rules, and rituals unrelated to Christianity.
No Satanic or witchcraft movement has encompassed all of Europe. Even in pre-Christian Europe, Pagan beliefs were regional and diverse. Celtic culture, for instance, had different gods and customs than Nordic cultures. Today, covens operate more or less independently. The notion of a single, continent-wide Satanic church with a tightly organized hierarchical structure existing from ancient times is a fantasy.
If a Satanic “ancient order” did exist, its hierarchy would surely have well-defined titles and roles. There is little evidence of that in Doreen’s account. She says virtually nothing about her duties as Queen of the Black Witches, and she refers to her male counterpart by the generic title “chief Satanist” (a term that no established Satanic organization uses).
Loose terminology is a recurrent problem in ex-Satanist testimonies.
Irvine contradicts herself repeatedly. For example, rule #4 of Satanism is supposedly that Satanists must never enter Christian churches, yet Irvine tells us that she and her co-religionists frequently entered churches to steal and burn Bibles.
Her account is uncorroborated. In the four decades that have passed since Doreen Irvine began sharing her story, not one of the other thousands of “black witches” has appeared, and no evidence of their existence has surfaced.
The other ex-Satanists we’ll see in this series described covens much different from Doreen’s. In fact, despite the superficial similarities of their accounts, every former Satanist seems to describe a different system of Satanism – even though most of them claim to be describing the world-wide “church of Satan”.
She presents no evidence. This is another issue that crops up again and again with ex-Satanists’ testimonies.
People who have defected from secretive cults have generally been able to provide some evidence that they actually belonged to those groups. Ex-Satanists like Irvine provide zero evidence. No temples have been found, though they were of considerable size and were used frequently by hundreds of people. No one has seen a copy of the massive Book of Satan that Doreen memorized (and she will not reproduce passages from it). There is not a single photograph or document accompanying Doreen’s presentations, not one other defector has appeared, and she refuses to divulge any names or locations associated with the “black witches”.
Other claims Doreen’s story make no sense at all. Reverend Arthur Neil, the Bristol minister who exorcised Doreen in 1965, wrote the introduction to From Witchcraft to Christ. In it, he included a letter sent to him by Doreen in which she states that brain scans and X-rays taken prior to her exorcism revealed she had “extensive brain damage”. She was also schizophrenic and suffering from unnamed physical and neurological problems so severe that doctors gave her about six months to live.
X-rays taken after the exorcism, however, showed no evidence of brain damage. Ergo, she concludes, demons had caused brain damage that was miraculously reversed.
This is all very problematic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because X-rays cannot show brain tissue (at the most, they can reveal skull damage indicating underlying tissue damage). Secondly, Doreen does not explicitly state that she was cured of the schizophrenia and the other unspecified ailments.
How Doreen Irvine’s Testimony Has Been Used
Doreen’s conversion story served both as an inspiration to Christians and as an evangelistic tool to be used on people they hoped to covert. It contained a powerful message of redemption: If even a drug-addicted prostitute who worshiped the Devil can be saved, then no one is beyond the grasp of Jesus. Any and all can be saved, and no sin is unforgivable.
Doreen’s story also served to foster complete reliance on Jesus Christ. “You can’t change yourself, ” she told her audiences. “Only Jesus can change you.” (2)
Doreen’s testimony was soon used for another purpose; to counteract the effects of the burgeoning New Age movement, and the various “alternative” religions that had become popular in the ’60s.
Its hegemony seriously threatened for the first time by other religions, the Christian church in America and the UK (particularly the fundamentalist denominations) launched an anti-occult crusade. Preachers warned of the spiritual hazards posed by Halloween, rock music, Ouija boards, and occult bookstores. Doreen’s story was cited extensively by the late Dr. Kurt Koch in his book Occult ABC (which I reviewed here), and by Russ Parker in his book Battling the Occult.
Doreen’s book, and the testimonies that followed, provided tangible evidence of a spiritual battle between the forces of God and the forces of evil. They helped mobilize Christians for spiritual warfare, created cohesion among believers by identifying a common enemy, and upped morale. After all, conversions like Doreen Irvine’s can make the enemy appear like a worthy opponent destined to be vanquished.
Doreen’s testimony is still being used in this way today. One Baptist blogger recently wrote, “One has only to read the testimonies of Dr Rebecca Brown and Doreen Irvine and of most missionaries to realize that there are dark forces assailed [sic] against us.”
In the late ’80s, Irvine actively joined in the anti-occult crusade in the UK spearheaded by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP, Maureen Davies of Reachout Trust, Dianne Core of Childfind, the Reverend Kevin Logan, and others. Dickens called for all forms of witchcraft to be outlawed in England, while Core and Davies disseminated alarmist misinformation about Satanic ritual abuse and Satanic crime. Rev. Logan performed mass exorcisms on “ritually abused” children and counselled adults who claimed to be former Satanists. Doreen also counselled former Satanists, joined the Investigation Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, and became a representative for the UK Campus Crusade for Christ.She and Maureen Davies appeared in Caryl Matrisciana‘s documentary Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism. (3)
By this time, Satanism wasn’t just a threat to strippers anymore. Dickens, Core and cohorts insisted that children were being Satanically abused from infancy by parents, daycare providers, and pornographers. Every atrocity imaginable was being committed by these fiends: Incest, torture, ritual human sacrifice, bestiality, child sex slavery and prostitution.
There was no forensic evidence of these goings-on, so testimony like Irvine’s became indispensable as the only “evidence” that a well-organized criminal Satanic underground was operating in the UK.
Doreen’s influence on a younger generation of women soon become evident, and the results were grim.
In 1987, a deeply troubled 20-year-old woman named Caroline Marchant received counselling at the Zion Christian Temple at Yate, near Bristol. One of her counsellors was Doreen Irvine.
Caroline claimed that at the age of 13, she had been sexually initiated into a Satanic cult in Norfolk by her boyfriends’ parents. She gave birth to a child that year, but the birth was unregistered and the baby taken from her and shipped to America by the Satanists. She also underwent at least one abortion. The teenage father of her first baby was ritually murdered in her presence by his own father, a leading member of the cult. The cult also sacrificed newborns on a regular basis.
Over the next 8 years Caroline became a high priestess of Satan, worked as a prostitute, and abused drugs. The Satanists ritually abused her throughout this time, raping her and carving symbols into the inside of her vagina.
In 1985 she joined a Baptist church, and gave her testimony to the congregation. She didn’t mention Satanism or abuse, but did say she had been raped while living in Norfolk.
During ’86 she spent several periods at residential healing centres operated by evangelical Christians, and began to speak of Satanism. For the rest of her life, she sought refuge in the homes of evangelical Christians who seemed sympathetic to her troubles. One Christian couple was harsh with her, however. Believing that she was not telling them the full story of her Satanic past, they ordered her to either confess all her sins to Maureen Davies of Reachout Trust or she would be cast out of their house like Cain, to wander as a fugitive for the remainder of her days. So Caroline contacted Davies and told her whole story.
Maureen Davies introduced Caroline to Kevin Logan. Logan took her into his home. Logan had turned St. John’s Vicarage near Blackburn, Lancashire, into a halfway house for ex-satanists and witches.
On the morning of February 16, 1990, Logan found Caroline unconscious in her room. She had taken a fatal dose of the anti-depressants she had been prescribed. She died 19 days later.
Davies and Logan told the press that Satanists had pursued Caroline after her defection from the cult. Increasingly fearful of being killed for her betrayal, she took her own life. That was the bullshit story given to London’s Sunday Mirror, which on March 25, 1990, published an account of Caroline’s life under the headline “I SACRIFICED MY BABIES TO SATAN – From sex orgy to death at the hands of the Devil’s disciples.” The article didn’t mention that Caroline had taken her fatal overdose while in the care of Kevin Logan.
The real story of Caroline’s life emerged, bit by bit. Caroline’s divorced father, Les Marchant, was a self-employed builder in Hayes, Middlesex. He placed his two children in foster care because he found it difficult to raise them on his own.
Shortly before Caroline’s 13th birthday in 1979, foster parents Gordon and May Porter moved to a horse farm in Norfolk. For the next four years, Caroline and younger brother lan lived at Border House Stables in Fordham with several other foster children and the Porters’ own daughters. She rode horses and took dancing lessons. She had medical check-ups every six months and was closely supervised. The Porters, her friends, and her foster siblings agreed that she could not possibly have been pregnant during this time.
After high school, Caroline earned her certificate as a trainee instructor in horse management, then worked as a nanny before becoming dependent on her fellow Christians for housing and support. When she killed herself, she left behind bizarre and contradictory accounts of her supposed Satanic past.
The solicitor hired for her by Maureen Davies, Ronald Marshall, believed she possessed information about snuff movies, child sacrifice, Satanic financing, arms deals involving the IRA and the Baader-Meinhof gang, and shady political dealings. There is no evidence that Caroline Marchant had any knowledge of such things. In fact, everything she said and wrote about Satanism seemed to come from Christian sources.
Her incomplete autobiography plagiarized passages from Irvine’s From Witchcraft to Christ. Describing her first encounter with her devil-worshiping boyfriend she wrote, “He explained the difference between being good and what good really was. Evil was right… It sounded crazy to me but I was soon brainwashed into that way of thought.” Compare this to a passage in From Witchcraft to Christ, which reads, “I was taught that evil… is not wrong, but right and good. It sounded stupid to me, but I started to believe it… It was a kind of brainwashing.” Caroline’s inititiation into her boyfriend’s: “When the time came I stepped forward up to the altar, an incision was made on my arm and some of the blood caught up in the cup with the cockerel’s blood.”
A second post-mortem exam conducted on Caroline by Leeds-based pathologist Dr Michael Green could not determine if Caroline had ever given birth. There was no conclusive evidence of sexual abuse. The genital mutilations were not evident at all.
Caroline Marchant was not the only “ex-Satanist” taken under the wing of the UK anti-occult crusaders during this time. Former devil-worshiper and born again evangelical Christian Audrey Harper became a member of the Reachout Trust, lecturing widely on the dangers posed by Satanists in the UK. She claimed she had been lured into a posh Satanic coven in the late ’60s, when she was a homeless, drug-addicted prostitute.
In 1988 she gave her story to the Sunday Sport. She described how she been initiated into Satanism at a ceremony in which the throat of a rooster was slit and its blood smeared on her body. Two years later, when her memoir Dance with the Devil was published, the sacrificed rooster had become a sacrificed baby. Times had changed. (3)
1. Audio of her appearance on 100 Huntley Street can be found here. 2. In addition to the recording above, there is a video presentation on YouTube, c. 1986. 3. See this timeline of the UK anti-occult crusade. The UK crusade has also been extensively documented by the Sub-Culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF)