Insanity in the UK
In the ’80s and ’90s, a woman named Audrey Harper made many appearances on behalf of the Christian organization Reachout Trust, a major proponent of Satanic panic in the UK. She claimed that in the ’60s, she belonged to a murderous Satanic cult in London. Her story was similar in theme to Doreen Irvine’s 1973 book From Witchcraft to Christ, and that may not have been a coincidence; reportedly, Irvine and Harper were both converted to Christianity by the same evangelist, Eric Hutchings. (3) And both women, as living examples of “what Satanists do”, were integral to the anti-occult crusade spearheaded by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, Diane Core of Childwatch, and Maureen Davies of Reachout Trust. (1)
Though it has the same basic structure and many common elements, Audrey Harper’s story was much darker than Doreen Irvine’s. While Irvine witnessed nothing more “deviant” than some bird murders and gay orgies in the early ’60s, Audrey was party to child sacrifice and other extreme forms of brutality during the same time. It’s odd that they didn’t cross paths until becoming Christians, as they may have belonged to the same international “black witch” cult.
Their backgrounds were even eerily similar. Though Audrey had a more privileged life than Doreen (she was adopted by a doctor and his wife), hers was a loveless childhood. She fell into drug addiction and prostitution at a young age, and things only went downhill from there. Her boyfriend died, she gave up their baby for adoption, became an alcoholic. Homeless, she fell in with a gang of hippies in Picadilly Circus and became a chronic pill-popper and pot-smoker. (2)
Then everything changed. In 1961 Audrey was invited to a glamorous Chelsea party, because homeless hookers who reek of weed and booze get invited to these things all the time.
After the party, the beautiful people inducted her into a coven that met monthly in the upscale village of Virginia Water (where, ironically, some Harry Potter scenes have been filmed). On Halloween night she signed a parchment pledging herself to Satan (just like Irvine), and drank the blood of a sacrificed rooster (just like Irvine). Then she was sexually initiated on the temple altar by the cult’s head “warlock” (the same term used by Irvine). This is the story she told to the London paper Sunday Sport in one of her first interviews (March 13, 1988). (4)
The “warlock” soon enlisted Audrey to recruit other vulnerable youths for the cult. The kids were gathered in a room scented by “heroin candles” and given hallucinogen-spiked drinks, which invariably led to orgies and the filming of porn. Ritual abuse and infant sacrifices were routine.
The cult also engaged in a range of petty crime, from church desecration to robbery.
Audrey remained with the cult for five years.
Like Irvine, Audrey never gave a name for her cult nor identified any of its members (at least, not publicly). She used the terms “witchcraft” and “Satanism” interchangeably, implying there is no distinction between earth religions and devil-worship. She was vague about her cult’s religious beliefs. She didn’t mention any scripture, like Irvin’s massive Book of Satan, nor any rituals that didn’t involve drugs, sex or murder. But she did describe the supernatural powers she developed, including the ability to levitate and the very handy skill of occult furniture arrangement: “I could bring down the powers of darkness to move furniture about”. (2)
Irvine had developed the same skills during her years as a “black witch”. Sadly, everyone forgot to take pictures.
Drug-addicted and mistreated by cult members, Audrey ended up in and out of mental hospitals, where she gave birth to her second child. She gave up this baby for adoption as well, fearing the head warlock would sacrifice it. (2)
Her addictions, combined with personal intervention by the Devil himself, served to keep Audrey tied to the cult. “Satan could direct me to the coven by remote control,” she later explained. “There was no resistance. I had to go.” Even after leaving the cult, she continued to believe that all her self-harming actions and poor choices had been the direct result of Satanic interference. Every time she injected an overdose of heroin, or walked to a cemetery where babies would be slain and women raped on altars, it was all the Devil’s idea. This near-total abdication of personal responsibility is so common to the testimonies of “former Satanists” that it begins to wear very thin after you’ve heard a few of them. It’s hard to believe that even the most hopelessly drug-addicted, beaten-down person would passively watch gruesome atrocities committed under her nose month after month, year after year, without making any effort to extricate herself from the situation. (2)
Of course, because this is first and foremost a Christian testimony, it was God and His people who provided Audrey with a way out of Satanic slavery; she finally resolved to leave the cult after a stint in a Christian rehab centre in 1966. Her escape was effected without any repercussions, just as Irvine’s departure from the black witches had been. Somehow, though she was not yet born again, her telepathic link with Satan was weakened.
Audrey married, had a third child, and attended church regularly. But she was consumed by guilt and rage until 1986, when she was exorcised by Roy Davies of Emmanuel Pentacostal Church in Stourpart. Freed from the demonic aftereffects of witchcraft, she was finally born again (Doreen Irvine, too, was exorcised after leaving her witch cult).
In 1988, Audrey decided to go public with her story.
How Audrey’s Story Was (Mis)Used
Geoffrey Dickens latched on to Audrey Harper immediately, supporting her and helping her spread the news that, to her knowledge, English Satanists were still sacrificing children. Dickens was one of two Tory MPs (the other being David Wilshire) engaged in anti-occult agitation during the late ’80s. Wilshire actually called for witchcraft laws to be re-instated, and Dickens campaigned for occult literature to be restricted or banned. Complaining that “perverted cults which worship the devil can freely publish guides on how to dabble in the occult,” he opined, “The Home Office must act.” (1) He worked closely with Childwatch, a Hull-based organization that used every opportunity to warn the public about Satanic ritual abuse in England. Its founder, Diane Core, declared that up to 4000 English children were being sacrificed by Satanists annually. She publicly aired bizarre stories from alleged SRA survivors, like the “breeder” who claimed her cult froze sacrificed babies so members could defrost and eat them later.
Wilshire declared in the House of Commons that Satanism is about the ritual mutilation and torture of people, particularly children. (1)
Audrey Harper fit right into this crusade. Along with SRA survivor Cassandra “Sam” Hoyer, she gave numerous interviews and became a darling of the tabloid media. Both women were aided and abetted by Dickens, Wilshire, Core, and Davies of Reachout Trust, all of whom politely ignored the glaring inconsistencies in Ms. Hoyer’s various accounts. (1)
Police looked into the possibility that Harper’s baby-killing cult was still active, but Audrey gave them so little to go on that the investigation was soon dropped. If her story had seemed credible to law enforcement, it’s quite possible that Audrey herself would have been charged in connection with infant murders. This aiding and abetting is a very peculiar feature of ex-Satanist testimony, and it’s one that gets overlooked by many Christians. Few people have pointed out that Mike Warnke (if his story had been true) should have been charged with abduction and rape, that Lauren Stratford could have been prosecuted for allowing her three children to be killed by her associates, or that Irene Park deserved jail time for sexually exploiting her children. It’s bizarre that the people who tried to flush out occult criminals embraced self-described occult criminals when they encountered them, instead of demanding they be prosecuted. These “whistleblowers” were simply re-classified as victims and enlisted in the fight. But being a whistleblower does not necessarily absolve you of participation in awful deeds.
Fortunately, not one of these “whistleblowers” was actually telling the truth.
In spite of a years-long crusade against Satanic crime, no evidence of the mass murder of children by Satanists ever surfaced. The entire campaign was based on anecdotes, recovered memories, and uncorroborated stories from “former Satanists” and “ritual abuse survivors”.
Harper did a significant amount of work for this campaign. Alongside Irvine, she joined the Investigation Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, dedicating to compiling evidence of ritual abuse and other occult-related crime. (3) She appeared on the talk show After Dark in April ’88, to confront neo-Pagans about their evil ways. (6) She met with a parent involved in the Nottingham case to discuss ritual abuse. She collected the testimony of other “survivors” of Satanism to share with her audiences, including stories from coven “breeders” (women forced to give birth to babies specifically for ritual sacrifice). No criminal charges resulted from the sharing of these stories, because Harper did not know (or did not reveal) the full names of the alleged victims. (2)
The UK effort was closely aligned with the one going on in the U.S. For example, Harper, David Wilshire, Doreen Irvine, and Maureen Davies appeared in Caryl Matrisciana’s documentary Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism. You may recall that Matrisciana was one of the people who encouraged “Lauren Stratford” to write her 1988 memoir of violent Satanism, Satan’s Underground.
Was any part of Audrey Harper’s Story True?
Aside from the magical furniture-arranging and whatnot, there’s nothing in Harper’s story that couldn’t have happened. It is, of course, entirely possible (but not likely) that a kooky band of “witches” and “warlocks” were conducting some weird ceremonies in Virginia Water during the very early ’60s and that Audrey participated in them. But her accounts of Satanic crime don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. For one thing, she couldn’t bring forth a single person to corroborate any part of her story. She claimed that her life as a Satanist was so secretive, no one outside the cult was even aware of her involvement.
For another thing, her story changed dramatically during the first two years of her public appearances. Undoubtedly, the changes stemmed from her involvement with a group of activists who were desperately trying to convince the world of the reality of Satanic ritual abuse. Audrey’s original stories, told to tabloid reporters, didn’t contain much of that. By late ’80s standards, her Irvine-inspired material was bland and unhelpful. If she wanted to retain the interest and support of her allies, she had to offer up some “evidence” that would aid their campaign. So that’s exactly what she did.
In 1990, Harper and reporter Harold Pugh published her story of redemption from Satanism, Dance with the Devil: A Young Woman’s Struggle to Escape the Coven’s Curse.Suddenly, the sacrificed rooster used in her initiation ceremony was a sacrificed infant. Geoffrey Dickens, who wrote a foreword for the book, must have noticed the discrepancy. Perhaps, as Reachout would later do, he convinced himself that Audrey had simply been misquoted in the tabloid press. Some inept yellow journalist must have scribbled “cockerel” in his notes when he meant to write “baby”. Happens all the time.
As recently as 2005, Reachout Trust republished Harper’s book and continued to defend its integrity. They claim that two members, Doug Harris and Mike Thomas, have investigated Audrey’s story and concluded she has been truthful. It’s possible that Harper believed her own stories, but it’s the truth, not “honesty”, that is at issue in Satanic horror stories like Audrey’s. A perfectly sincere person can declare that tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered by devil worshipers every year, without having a single fact to support that statement. Doreen Irvine, who comes across as earnest and sincere in her presentations, was diagnosed as having schizophrenia.
It is our responsibility to learn if such statements have any factual basis before even repeating them, much less demanding action from legislators, citizens, and clergy (as Reachout, Childwatch, et al, did in the ’80s and ’90s). Reachout now states it does “not support the myth of SRA [Satanic ritual abuse].” Evidently, its members learned some hard lessons after the hysteria Reachout helped create destroyed lives, careers, and families throughout the UK.
Nonetheless, the organization still offers Dance with the Devil for sale on its website, at a significantly reduced price, along with Jeff Harshbarger’s memoir of Satanism.
Harper herself has apparently moved on.
1. For more information on the UK anti-occult crusade, see this timeline . The UK crusade has also been extensively documented by the Sub-Culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF)
2. Dance with the Devil by Audrey Harper and Harold Pugh (Publications, 1990)
3. “Satan in Suburbia” by Gareth J. Medway. Fortean Times. Nov. 2001. ,
4. Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001)
5. “Christian Authors” (part 5) by Kerr Kuhulain. Witchvox.com. Retrieved July 29/11.
6. “The Devil Rides In: Charismatic Christians and the Depiction of a Satanic Menace in Contemporary Great Britain” by Philip Jenkins. Religiologiques. Spring 1995.
Hmmm … a memory (and I don't think it's a false one!) has been stirred by this mention of Audrey Harper. I think I may well have seen her–or somebody telling a very similar story at any rate–on the terrible daytime discussion TV programme The Time, The Place in the late 80s. I certainly remember seeing a woman talking about the number of child sacrifices she's witnessed, and thinking "Well, somebody arrest her is this is true!".
I pulled a second-hand copy of Harper's book from the small bookshop we have at my Church, and when I was training for the ministry a tutor referenced Irvine as though it was true. So these things are having some effect still.My first thought on reading Harper's book was that it is fanciful in the extreme. A genuine child-sacrificing cult would not just pull a drug-addicted prostitute off the street and immediately take her to a ceremony in which a child was sacrificed. In any such cult a person would be brought in slowly, until they were committed. Only then would they be admitted to the darker mysteries – because that's how cults and secret societies work. And when one of those 'deeper mysteries' is a criminal act, it follows that you don't bring someone in to witness it if there's the slightest chance they will run to the cops! So the story lacks the ring of truth there. It even lacks the ring of good fiction, come to that!And the story is made even odder by the fact that the only child-sacrifice she relates is this one. It BEGINS with the act that should be the climax of the evil, so that after that everything else the cult does in the book (which I am by this point treating as a novel) is banal by comparison. The murder of an innocent infant numbs the mind to everything else. And the utter implausibility of things having happened the way she says them.
There are 'sidebar' stories, related to The Story Of Audrey Harper, which I still find dreadfully disheartening. The story of "Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation", (SAFF), attempts to educate EVERYONE involved in fomenting, promoting, tolerating and ultimately carrying out Satanic Panic 'witchhunts' in the UK – 1) EVERY NATIONAL AND PROVINCIAL EDITOR WHOSE NEWSPAPERS HAD AT ANY TIME FEATURED THE SATANIC CHILD ABUSE MYTH.(2) EVERY JOURNALIST AND FREELANCE WHO HAD AT ANY TIME WRITTEN ABOUT THE SATANIC CHILD ABUSE MYTH.(3) EVERY CHIEF CONSTABLE OF EVERY POLICE FORCE IN THE U.K. AND EVERY POLICE OFFICER WHO HAD UNDERTAKEN SATANIC ABUSE INVESTIGATIONS (that we knew of).(4) EVERY GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT WHICH HAD AN INTEREST IN THE ONGOING SITUATION AND EVERY PERSON IN THOSE DEPARTMENTS WHOM WE HAD PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN PERSONAL LETTERS TO.(5) EVERY ONE OF THE HUNDREDS OF MPs IN PARLIAMENT(6) EVERY DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES IN EVERY LOCALITY IN THE U.K.(7) EVERY BODY OR GROUP WHICH HAD BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCARE (I.E. NSPCC; CHILDLINE; CHILDWATCH; AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL; UNITED NATIONS ASSOCIATION ETC ETC)(8) EVERY BROADCASTING BODY, RADIO STATION, TELEVISION COMPANY AND THE PEOPLE WHO HAD PRODUCED PROGRAMMES WHICH HAD UPHELD/INVESTIGATED THE SATANIC CHILD ABUSE HOAX- delivering to all of these persons, over & over, easily verifiable factual data demonstrating that SRA was a fraudulent concept being peddled by fraudulent 'survivor' claimants and quack self-proclaimed 'experts' – yet the vast majority of the recipients of SAFF educational literature never even bothered to read it, apparently.http://www.saff.ukhq.co.uk/rochdale.htmHorrific, profoundly injurious, totally preventable, injustices were perpetrated against children and their families through tragedies like the "Rochdale child lifts" and WHILE THEY WERE BEING PERPETRATED, information demonstrating that these actions were totally misguided was repeatedly presented to & ignored by all of the above listed "guardians of the public interest".http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/real_story/4595158.stmhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/4594250.stm
Quite worthwhile piece of writing, thanks for the article.
Audrey Harper and I met in London in 1990. She was asked to see me as I had come out of a cult group. There is no way she is a liar. These sorts of groups cover up their tracks. To say these things don't exist plays straight into their hands. I don't feel its right to share my experiences but please don't mock what you don't understand. Audrey is a good women and has helped many people. Including my self.
I saw AUdrey at WOlverhampton POlytechnic when the Cook Report cameras were also filming. Her lecture was a deeply disturbing one and a few people actually converted to Christianity that night from their Wicca religion. Amazing woman and her conviction left me in no doubt it was all true.
Excellent coverage of an episode in recent history that has been all too easily forgotten in today’s paedophile hysteria. Geoffrey Dickens actually claimed to have a “dossier” of information on Satanic practices in the UK that he intended to “hand to the Home Office.” These were claims he made in Parliament and can be found via Hansard. His role in fomenting the panic through association with Audrey Harper and the like shouldn’t be forgotten in light of his latter-day canonisation as a secular saint.
Dianne Core – with 2 n’s. A total nutter.
audrey harper told the truth ,at the end of the day its all a matter of what you believe ,a couple of points firstly because a person has had mental health problems does not invalidate their story might be said in light of what she says its not surprising shes had such trouble dealing with it secondly the average man and woman on the street has much trouble dealing with this subject as its so fantastic and difficult to comprehend far better or easier to dismiss or ridicule, at one point i would have too ,after over 20 years of research im convinced its real its happening now ,you people who dismiss it do a great service to the participants who continue as no one believes in the victims.
Just read this book, Harper strikes me first and foremost as an attention seeking idiot and compulsive liar though it is possible she genuinely believes her own made up stories. Most of the thoughts I had while reading have already been mentioned by the person who wrote the main article and by some of the other commentors here. Her narration of events unrelated to this “coven” are hard to believe and make you instantly suspect fabrication, such as one of her “customers” she had when she was a prostitute, she tells us she met him as he pulled up and stopped like any other punter would in his car and he drove her without either speaking a word to the other to clapham common I think it was she said then he asked her “why did you get in the car” she says something like “I thought you were a customer” and its supposed to be some amusing misunderstanding where he thought she just wanted a lift, if so, why did he just assume she wanted to go to clapham common? Was it not obvious she was a working hooker? Not a single part of her “account” is believable, if your a serious powerful coven of witches then why invite drug addicted prostitutes you do not know to bear witness to your most nefarious rituals? Her story is riddled with contradictions and yes it also made me laugh how she could “bring down the powers of darkness to move furniture” not very useful unless you run a house moving company lol. Again someone else mentioned something that struck me whilst reading, her inability to accept responsibility for her own bad decisions (if any part of her account is true I believe its the drug addiction part) and instead blaming all her failings on Satan. Poor guy gets blamed for everything. If you are amused by reading religious propaganda then you may get the odd chuckle out of this book.