Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Hoaxes of Space, Air and Land

moon_man

NASA totally Photoshopped this.

 

Somaly Mam and the Dark Side of Charity

Since 1996, a non-governmental organization known as AFESIP (from the French, Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) has been working to rescue and aid young female victims of human trafficking, operating three centres in Cambodia where the young women are housed and educated.
The guiding light of this effort is co-founder Somaly Mam, a Cambodian-born woman who claims to have been a child prostitute in the ’80s. She has become one of the world’s most prominent anti-trafficking activists, racking up prestigious awards and honours. According to Mam, over 4000 girls and women have been rescued from forced prostitution thanks to AFESIP’s efforts. AFESIP’s fundraising arm, the Somaly Mam Foundation, has raised millions since its inception in 2007.
So it came as a nasty surprise to many supporters when Mam stepped down as the head of her own foundation in May, amid allegations that she fabricated not only the stories of two of her spokespeople, but also her own life story. To hear other media outlets tell it, Mam’s downfall was brought about by a single Newsweek cover story penned by Simon Marks.

newsweek

A Distressing Situation

The Newsweek article is shocking, but here’s something even more shocking: Nothing in the Newsweek story is breaking news. Not one thing.

Back in October 2012, Simon Marks, along with Khy Sovuthy, published a piece in Cambodia Daily, “Questions Raised Over Symbol’s Slavery Story“, probing the accuracy of the horrifc story of sexual slavery and mutilation told by Mam’s most high-profile spokesperson, Long Pros (AKA Somana Long). This was just one of several articles Marks has written about Mam and AFESIP over the past two years.

Also in 2012, Cat Barton wrote several articles like this one, questioning the wisdom of the high-profile brothel raids engineered by Somaly Mam.  AFESIP has received a considerable amount of criticism from other anti-trafficking orgs for allowing journalist Nicholas Kristof to “live-tweet” a brothel raid in the northern Cambodian town of Anlong Veng in November 2011, as this violated the privacy of the young women removed from the brothel.
Barton also reported concerns that not all of the women and girls housed by AFESIP centres were there voluntarily; some had been dropped off by police following raids.

In November 2013, Lindsay Murdoch raised further questions about Somana Long’s  account and the integrity of Somaly Mam in a Sydney Morning Herald article, “Dark Truths or Fiction?

Another Marks article, published in El Mundo last year, exposed the same lies that Marks revealed in the Newsweek piece. In fact, there are few significant differences between the two articles. It’s disappointing that the world’s major media outlets ignored such an important investigative piece published by one of the largest newspapers in Spain.

In March, AFESIP launched an inquiry into the allegations raised by journalists over the years. Staffers knew that Marks was working on the Newsweek piece, and apparently realized it was time to deal with the issue head-on. The details of the independent, third-party investigation conducted by Goodwin Proctor LLP have not been divulged, but a statement posted on the website of the Somaly Mam Foundation makes it clear that the investigation results were the direct cause of Mam’s resignation. In other words, Goodwin Proctor discovered that aspects of her story were fraudulent.

With so many people raising the alarm about her, why has Somaly Mam been bulletproof for all these years?

The Long Con

One reason is the compelling stories told by young women she has rescued.

The first of these “pretty victims”, as Daily Beast* writer Amanda Marcotte has dubbed them, was Meas Ratha. Ratha, 14 years old at the time, appeared with Mam on the French TV programme Envoyé Spécial in 1998, only a couple of years after AFESIP was formed. This broadcast drew international attention to Mam’s work, winning Mam the endorsement of Queen Sofia of Spain and the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. She was subsequently able to gain some U.S. government funding, and donations began to flow into AFESIP.

Ratha spoke of being imprisoned in a Phnom Penh brothel, lured there by traffickers who promised her a job as a waitress. She said her father had abandoned his large family, leaving her mother destitute.
Last year, however, she admitted that she and her sister, Meas Sokha, were sent to the AFESIP center in 1997 by both of their parents, not because she had been a child prostitute, but because the couple was unable to provide for all eight of their children. Meas Sokha confirmed this, as did Marie Christine Uguen, a woman who was caring for Ratha at the time of her Envoyé Spécial appearance. Ratha confessed to Uguen, shortly after the TV show aired, that Somaly Mam had selected her to tell a scripted story on television.
Prior to their TV appearance, Mam told Ratha that the trafficking story had really happened to another AFESIP resident, Sokha, who was too traumatized to discuss the events publicly. Ratha was stunned to discover, last year, that Sokha had been featured on the same Envoyé Spécial broadcast, relating a completely different story of forced prostitution.

It was Ratha’s story that won the world’s interest in Somaly Mam’s work, but the young woman known as Long Pros became her most visible success story, and a haunting symbol of human trafficking in Cambodia.

When she first spoke out about her ordeal in a Phnom Penh brothel, Long Pros (Somana Long) said she was 13 in 2005, the year a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to the brothel. The teenager was twice impregnated by rapists and subjected to home abortions. She refused to service the brothel’s clients on the day of her second abortion, and this so angered the brothel owner that the woman seized a chunk of jagged metal and gouged out Long’s eye. She threw the girl out into the streets when the infected, oozing eye socket began to displease customers. Her own parents refused to take her in. Somana was then rescued by Mam’s organization.

An entirely different account appears in Traffik, a 2008 book by photographer Norman Jean Roy. In this version of the story, Somana’s eye became infected after she was kicked in the face by a pimp, and it was surgically removed in hospital. Roy has worked closely with Somaly Mam, photographing girls at AFESIP centres.
Long herself told Josephine Lim, in a 2012 interview for the Australian website Our World Today, that people at the brothel had taken out her eye with a piece of steel and that she was rescued by a police raid.
Asking if Mam had perhaps exaggerated the stories of survivors, Lindsay Murdoch pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald that Somana’s story changed over time, becoming increasingly gruesome and awful.

Two years ago, Cambodia Daily reported that Somana actually had her eye removed by surgeon Dr. Pok Thorn at the Takeo Eye Hospital in November 2005, because of a benign tumour that had been growing for years. Her parents, Long Hon and Sok Hang, confirmed this. They have since refused to discuss the surgery, worried that their daughter could lose her job if they do (she worked for an Australian nonprofit program affiliated with Somaly Mam’s organization).
Te Sereybonn, who was the director of the Takeo Eye Hospital in 2005, says his staff was responsible for Long’s placement in the AFESIP centre. She was not an abused child or a prostitute, but the staffers could see that her family was in financial straits, so they contacted AFESIP to see if she could be enrolled in one of their vocational training programs.
Goodwin Proctor also investigated Somana Long’s story, and it seems they found it to be untrue. The Somaly Mam Foundation has announced it is breaking all ties with her.

The pressing question is, why did Mam fabricate sex-trafficking tales? If her organization has, indeed, saved thousands of girls from forced prostitution, then surely a few of them would be willing to share their true stories. Even if the stories Ratha and Long told were 100% true, though, Mam’s use of these young women as spokespeople for her organization would be questionable. Having to relive their trauma over and over again in front of strangers could delay their own healing.

The Star Factor

Mam would not be where she is today – disgraced and unemployed – without the support of powerful people in business, entertainment, and journalism. She carefully courted these people, going to red-carpet and black-tie events in lovely gowns. She received endorsements from Queen Sofia of Spain, Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Meg Ryan. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Sarandon are advisory members of the Somaly Mam Foundation board of directors. Mam worked closely with Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife. Her 2005 memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, received dustjacket endorsements from Mariane Pearl and Ayann Hirsi Ali, two women who have survived very real hardship and tragedy.

These people are not fools. Who among us, looking into the earnest, anguished faces of young girls as they recount abduction, rape, and torture, would ask questions like, “Is she putting me on?” In the end, journalists like Marks were the ones to ask the hard questions and dig up the hard, disappointing answers.
One of these journalists should have been Nicholas Kristof. He had observed the sex trafficking situation in Cambodia up close. In 2004, he spent $350 to buy two young girls out of a Cambodian brothel. Kristof is a good journalist, but even the best journalists are human. His emotional response to the plight of women in the Third World blinded him to the reality of the NGOs working with those women. In a 2009 New York Times article, he expressed admiration for the work of Greg Mortenson, the author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson founded a nonprofit to educate girls in Middle Eastern countries, achieving worldwide renown for his efforts, but a 2012 investigation concluded that he had misspent $6 million that should have gone to his charity, and Mortenson agreed to repay $1 million. Like Somaly Mam, Mortenson had also fabricated portions of his life story to help promote his organization. When his lies were exposed by 60 Minutes, Mortenson hit back with angry denials; today, he thanks his detractors for putting him back on the straight and narrow. Sadly, his remorse came far too late to save the life of his co-author, David Oliver Relin. Relin committed suicide when the veracity of Three Cups of Tea was challenged.

Kristof embraced Somaly Mam’s work in the same manner that people had approached Mortenson’s accomplishments – with an uncritical eye and a deep willingness to believe in the strength of the human spirit. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, co-wrote the 2009 bestseller Half the Sky, a passionate call to justice for women in developing countries. This became a PBS documentary of the same name in 2012. Both book and film featured Somana Long telling her story in her own words. She subsequently appeared on Oprah, and her story is still posted on Oprah.com.
It would be difficult to underestimate the amount of credibility that Mam gained by her affiliation with Kristof. His New York Times pieces, his book, and the PBS doc boosted her already thriving NGO into the upper echelons of nonprofit stardom.

Based on a Lie

The fake trafficking victims are bad enough. Then there is the issue of Mam’s own distortions.

On December 7, 2004, police and AFESIP raided a Phnom Penh hotel called the Chai Hour II, removing 83 women and girls to the local AFESIP center. The next day, a group of about 30 men forced their way into the center and removed the females.
In a speech she gave before the UN General Assembly in April 2012, Mam stated that the Cambodian army had killed eight of these girls. This bizarre claim was immediately challenged, and Mam had to  admit that she did not have any firsthand knowledge of events following the raid; she had relied upon secondhand information (from a “reliable source) that eight girls and women had died after the raid in a “series of accidents that may have had something to do with their pimps and traffickers.”

That could be chalked up to a mistaken assumption, but the story of her daughter’s abduction is not so ambiguous. In The Road of Lost Innocence, Mam wrote that in 2006 her 14-year-old adopted daughter, Ning, was kidnapped and gang-raped by traffickers in retaliation for the Chai Hour II raid. When the police found Ning, she was in the company of a “boy she knew”, who acted as a lure for the traffickers.
Mariane Pearl wrote about Ning’s abduction in a piece for Glamour.
However, Mam’s ex-husband and Ning’s father, Pierre Legros, told Lindsay Murdoch that Ning was not kidnapped. She ran away with her then boyfriend. Legros’ version of the story is supported by Aarti Kapoor, who worked as a legal adviser to AFESIP from 2003 to 2006. No police report was ever filed in connection with Ning’s “abduction”.
The creation of false enemies and phony “brushes with death” is something we’ve seen over and over on this blog, among “former Satanists“, conspiracy peddlers, and fraudsters. If you have powerful foes, you must have a powerful message, right? Disturbingly, Kapoor told Simon Marks that other AFESIP employees knew the story was a fabrication, yet elected to remain silent.

Finally, there is Mam’s own chilling tale of survival.
As she tells it in her memoir, Mam was essentially a feral child, living out her earliest years in the forests of northeastern Cambodia with no one to look after her. Her parents and maternal grandmother abandoned her in the village of Bou Sra sometime in the late ’70s, when she was not yet 10 years old. As she repeatedly laments, she grew up without a mother.
Bou Sra was in a remote, forested area that had not been heavily affected by Vietnam or the Pol Pot regime, and Mam was sheltered from modern life. By the time she left the village around 1980, she had never seen a car, hot running water, or a pair of shoes. She had to forage for food and sleep in the open.
Around age 10 she was taken away to a far-off village, Thloc Chhroy, by a man who called himself her grandfather. She was subjected to daily beatings and forced to work in the rice fields. The Khmer villagers treated her like a slave, with the exception of a schoolteacher named Mam Khon and his wife, Pen Navy. This couple took her in, though they had six children of their own. Khon told her he was her paternal uncle, but Mam didn’t believe this. She was just grateful to be unofficially adopted by the family. “Grandfather” exploited Mam until she was approximately 14, then forced her to marry an abusive soldier. Without any medical training, she worked as a nurse in the military hospital at Chup, watching helplessly as soldiers and villagers died terrible deaths at the hands of untrained medical workers.
When her husband failed to return to Chup, Grandfather sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh, where she was forced to have sex with half a dozen clients per day. She was “about 16 years old.” She remained captive there for about 3 years. She witnessed a brothel owner fatally shoot her best friend. She was subjected to brutal beatings, rape, and electric shocks.

By the time she was in her late teens, however, the brothel owners no longer held Mam captive. She admits she worked for them voluntarily, on and off, up until she decided to leave prostitution in 1991, having met future husband Pierre Legros, a young French biologist working in Phnom Penh.

At least, that’s one version of her story. Speaking at the White House in February 2012, Mam said she was trafficked at age 9 or 10 and spent a decade in the brothel. Sitting beside Susan Sarandon on the Tyra Banks Show in 2008, she said she was sold to the brothel at 13 or 14 and remained there for 4 or 5 years. Legros has stated that when he met his ex-wife in 1991, she was working freely as a prostitute, not in a brothel but in an upscale hotel bar. Some biographies of Mam, such as this one at Women’s Conference.org, would lead you to believe that she met Legros in France.

Simon Marks probed these discrepancies by interviewing villagers in Thloc Chhroy who had known Mam as a child. These people say that Mam was not an abandoned child. She was the biological daughter of the kindly couple she mentions in her memoir, Mam Khon and Pen Navy.
According to residents who were there at the time, the family arrived in the village in 1981 from a nearby community. Prior to that, Mam Khon had been assigned to teach in a remote part of northeastern Cambodia – the same area where Mam supposedly lived as an urchin of the forest for the first 10 years of her life. Furthermore, she attended school in the village from 1981 right up to graduation from Khchao High School in 1987, the period when she was supposedly being prostituted in Phnom Penh. After graduation, she and a friend both sat for a teachers’ exam in Kompong Cham. Then, around 1987, Mam left her family home voluntarily. Never, at any time prior to age 18 or 19, was she homeless or abandoned. She was not married off at the age of 14. She was not pushed out into the streets to sell herself. There was no abusive old man posing as her grandfather. She did not sleep beside the body of a dead mother in the military hospital. There simply wasn’t time for Mam to have been prostituted as a child. Again, this “not enough time” issue is a problem we’ve seen many times in Satanic ritual abuse accounts and self-glorifying autobiographies.

Many of the other stories in Mam’s memoir have yet to be verified, like soldiers decapitating a small boy in Thloc Chhroy, and another little boy being fatally wounded by a hand grenade during military training in the schoolyard, and another little boy (Mam’s best friend) being torn apart in an accidental rocket blast.

But She’s Helping Trafficked Girls, Right?

At this point, an estimated 150 women and girls are living in AFESIP centres. We have no way of knowing how many of them were trafficking victims, and how many are simply young women seeking an education because their families cannot provide for them.

As mentioned, AFESIP has been criticized for taking in sex workers picked up in police raids. One former prostitute told Simon Marks she was taken to an AFESIP center by police on two separate occasions, and fled both times because the centre insisted she learn to sew.
This raises the question of what, exactly, the centres do to help women overcome their tough financial circumstances. In the interview below, Mam enthused that her girls may be doctors and lawyers in 10 years. In reality, the young women in her facilities are taught sewing, hairdressing, weaving, and other traditionally female skills that will allow them to eke out only the smallest incomes. Last fall, Estee Lauder announced it will be training sex trafficking survivors at a Somaly Mam beauty salon in Siem Reap.

It would not be out of line to call Mam’s behaviour predatory. She has been exploiting and manipulating vulnerable Cambodian girls to promote her cause. She has brazenly, outrageously lied to millions of people about ordeals that never occurred, which undermines real victims of trafficking and sexual assault. She has collected millions from donors under false pretenses. She has seized a heroine status that isn’t hers to claim. In a 2013 Daily Beast article, she actually likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave. I think we’ve gone well past exaggeration, here. This is cold-blooded deception on a frightening scale. We could be dealing with a sociopath.

Most NGOs struggle. It isn’t easy to raise funds and effectively operate a charitable organization at the same time, especially if that organization is anchored in a remote area of a developing country. So when a relatively tiny operation like AFESIP achieves dazzling success and brings in millions, attracting some of the most influential people on the planet to its cause, one has to wonder if the money and prestige have become more important than the cause. AFESIP seems to have a lot of both; the SMF regularly ran full-colour, full-page ads in TIME. The ads didn’t show trafficking victims, but a glamour shot of Mam herself.

Sex tourism has long been a problem in Southeast Asia, but now sex trafficking survivors are drawing in tourist money. Last November, U.S. travel company OmLuxe took 20 people to Cambodia to meet with Mam. They were promised they would be able to spend time with sex-trafficking victims. What if anti-trafficking is becoming the new trafficking? This year’s trip, scheduled for November, includes a lunch with Mam.

The Problem Doesn’t End Here

The Somaly Mam debacle is not an isolated incident. Charity-related fraud is widespread, and it’s very easy to be taken in by slick, professional-looking campaigns that want your donations. A few of the problems in the NGO world include:

  1. Fake Charities/Charities that aren’t actually charitable
    One example of a bogus charity is Pink Pagoda, an organization that claims to have rescued 50,000 Chinese girls from infanticide and is trying to raise $1 billion to rescue a million more. While it has the outward appearance of an NGO, a legal disclaimer in teeny-tiny print on the bottom of its website states that it is not a charitable organization. It is a for-profit enterprise, and an extremely dodgy one. Its founder/director, Jim Garrow, appears to be engaged in the buying and selling of babies. I’ve covered Pink Pagoda in a recent post about Garrow at Leaving Alex Jonestown.
  2. NGOs that aren’t actually doing anything
    Many orgs have good intentions, yet suffer from mismanagement, poor planning, or misguided goals.  NGOs dedicated to ending malaria in Africa (Roll Back Malaria, Malaria No More, etc.) tout mosquito netting treated with chrysanthemum-derived insecticides as the most effective method of stopping the disease. Unfortunately, a 2003 study found that an average of 55% of African households given treated bed nets actually used them over sleeping children. This amounts to roughly 20 million children – an impressive number, but far from enough to make an impact.
  3. Trafficking Activists who may be mistaken or lying
    In Argentina, Susana Trimarco is receiving the same accolades Somaly Mam did. Trimarco became an anti-trafficking activist after the disappearance of her 23-year-old daughter, Marita, in 2002. She insists her daughter was abducted and sold into prostitution, though the evidence seems thin, and has implicated everyone from hospital staffers to the governor of her province. She began to disguise herself as a prostitute to infiltrate brothels, piecing together stray bits of gossip in an attempt to track down her daughter. By some accounts, she has now rescued about 150 South American and Spanish girls from sexual slavery. She has millions convinced that some of the highest officials in South America are complicit in human trafficking, but how much of her story is accurate?
  4. The crying wolf effect
    Charity frauds like Mam and Garrow harden people, making them less likely to donate time or volunteer hours to worthy causes.

* It should be noted that Daily Beast made Mam one of its “Women of the World” just three years ago. Last November, it published Mam’s firsthand account of her time as a child prostitute, in which she likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave.

2013: A Very Bad Year for Psychics

A landmark year for extrasensory fail. 

mzarathustra1

Don’t Help Me, Rhonda

On June 6, 2011, an unassuming ranch near the town of Hardin, Texas (about an hour outside Houston) was swarmed by Liberty County sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents, Texas Rangers, and officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety. News choppers buzzed overheard as law enforcement fanned out over the property with cadaver dogs. Backhoes were brought in to excavate random spots.
This huge search effort was triggered by two phone calls to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office from a woman who identified herself only as “Angel”. She said the remains of at least 32 “sacrificed” children were concealed in the walls of a building on the property of Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton, and that messages were scrawled on these walls in blood. She also said the lives of three more children were in danger, hinting that two of them were  Jasmine and Mariana Pinales, who had been abducted by their 14-year-old sister in May (weirdly, they were no longer missing at the time of Angel’s phone calls – they had been found alive two weeks earlier, near Austin). Angel admitted she had received this information secondhand, from the ghosts of the children, but authorities felt obligated to investigate nonetheless. For one thing, Angel seemed familiar with the ranch. She knew its location and its layout, even though she didn’t seem to know much about the owners (she incorrectly identified the unemployed Joe Bankson as a carny).
The search quickly caught the attention of KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV in Houston, and news outlets around the world picked it up that afternoon. After Reuters erroneously reported that bodies had actually been found, Ed Lavendera of CNN tweeted that “at least 20” bodies had been found, someone at ABC News tweeted “‘Dozens of bodies’ found in mass Texas grave”, and the New York Times tweeted that up to 30 dismembered bodies were discovered. The Houston Chronicle reported a foul stench and traces of blood at the ranch. If Bankson and/or Charlton were responsible for all the bodies said to be buried there, he/they would have been the most prolific serial killer(s) the Houston region had seen since Dean Corll and his two teenage accomplices, back in the early ’70s.
Later in the evening, the AP revealed that the tip about bodies at the ranch might have come from a psychic. This was the first hint that the story could be bogus. The news agencies started to qualify their statements, tweeting phrases like “unconfirmed reports” and “conflicting information” (the Washington Post has compiled a timeline of some of these tweets).

The second hint? The search produced nothing. The blood mentioned by the Chronicle had come from a May suicide attempt by the boyfriend of Joe Bankson’s daughter, the source of the bad smell was trash, and there wasn’t a single headless corpse anywhere to be found. “Angel” turned out to be an area psychic by the name of Presley “Rhonda” Gridley. In an interview with KHOU, she made it clear that her information about dismembered corpses and endangered children at the ranch came solely from Jesus and 32 “angels” (the departed spirits of the children supposedly murdered by Bankson and Charlton). She did not explain how she was able to give a physical description of the property when her other details were so horrendously off.
Incredibly, she has never been charged with making a false report to police.

The entire incident echoed a fruitless search conducted in central Washington state in 1989. In that case, investigators were acting on a tip from the late Ted Gunderson, a retired FBI agent who considered himself an expert on ritual abuse, human sacrifice, and other things Satanic. During a taping of one of Geraldo Rivera’s many shows on the dangers of Satanism, Gunderson declared that a knowledgeable source had told him about mass graves containing countless the bodies of Satanic murder victims somewhere in Mason County, Washington. In response to the concerns of county residents, multiple agencies conducted helicopter and ground searches of the area. No trace of the “Satanic burial ground” was ever found.
That Geraldo broadcast I mentioned was mostly about the mass grave found in Matamoros. In that case, a group of drug runners with strange, cultish beliefs had ritualistically murdered several people to increase their luck and fortunes (that worked out really well for them). This was a big deal at the time. Now, drug cartels have considerably larger mass graves, and Geraldo isn’t saying boo about them. Huh.

In the Washington case, no private property was damaged, and no one’s reputation was harmed (unless you count Gunderson and Geraldo). The Texas case was much different. Bankson’s and Charlton’s land was riddled with holes, their house was trashed, and friends and acquaintances grew deeply suspicious of them.  Last year they filed a lawsuit against the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office for unlawful search and seizure, and against several media outlets (including most of those mentioned) for defamation. They also sued “Angel”, naming her as “Jane Doe” because the woman would not reveal her real name. They ultimately dropped the sheriff’s office and the media from their suit.
On May 7 of this year, Gridley was ordered to pay the Charltons $6.8 million in damages. This spells the end of the weird case for most people, but troubling questions remain. Why did Gridley target Bankson and Charlton, two people she apparently did not know? How did she know the layout of their property when she lived 800 miles north of it, in Stanton? Why has she not been charged with making a false report?
And when will the next massive, fruitless searched be launched on the say-so of some self-proclaimed seeress or cult expert?

Sylvia Browne

Louwana Miller was terrified when her 16-year-old daughter, Amanda Berry, failed to return home from her job at a Cleveland Burger King on April 21, 2003, just one day before her 17th birthday. Amanda had phoned to say she would be getting a ride home from work, and that was the last anyone heard from her. Miller knew her daughter hadn’t run away from home.
One week later, Louwana received a call from her daughter’s cell phone. A male voice said, “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days.” But Amanda never appeared.

Almost exactly a year after Amanda vanished, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus disappeared from the same street. The two girls were featured on America’s Most Wanted and Oprah. Then Montel Williams decided to invite Louwana on his show to ask the late Sylvia Browne about her daughter. Browne was accurate, at first. She correctly stated that Amanda had been wearing a jacket, and seemed very confident that only one person was responsible for her disappearance (at the time, Miller and the authorities believed three men were involved). She even gave a description of the perp that was remarkably on-target: “sort of Cuban-looking, short, kind of stocky build, heavyset…”, though she got the age wrong (21 or 22). Then she broke the bad news: Amanda was dead. Her body was “in water” somewhere.

Louwana Miller never entirely gave up the search for her daughter, but she did scale back her efforts after Browne told her Amanda was dead. Her health declined steadily. She died of heart failure in 2006.

On May 6 of this year, Amanda, Gina, and a third missing woman named Michelle Knight were rescued from a Cleveland house owned by Ariel Castro. All three had been abducted and subjected to sexual assault and abuse by Castro. Amanda had given birth to a daughter without medical assistance the year after her mother died.
Castro was Puerto Rican, not Cuban, and was in his 40s when he abducted his first known victim, Knight, in 2002.

The media was quick to pounce on Browne’s mistake, but this was just one of numerous epic blunders she had made over the years. She misled more grieving people than I can count, either giving them false hope that their deceased loved ones were alive, or smashing their hopes by declaring falsely that their loved ones were dead. She went to her grave without apologizing to even one of these people.
Furthermore, she didn’t even accurately predict her own death. On a May 2003 appearance on Larry King Live, she said she would die at the age of 88.

An Unsuccessful Success Story

Psychic detectives have an abysmal track record when it comes to actually solving crimes, as a previous series on this blog shows. One psychic seemed to have defied expectations this past summer, however, when she located the body of an 11-year-old boy in Menifee, California. Terry Smith Jr. had been reported missing by his mother on July 7. The community and law enforcement quickly mobilized to search the area.
On July 10, Pamela Ragland phoned the tip line set up for information related to Terry’s disappearance. Identifying herself as a psychic, Ragland said she had been experiencing visions of Terry lying on his side, as though sleeping. Riverside County Sheriff’s investigators, desperate for any lead, encouraged her to visit Menifee. She and her children were taken to the Smith property by an off-duty fireman. Within an hour, the Raglands came upon Terry’s remains. His body had been placed in a shallow grave beneath a tree.
The media lavished attention on Ragland’s astonishing “hit”, pointing out that she somehow knew her way around the Smith property. But a closer examination reveals that Ragland was literally stumbling around in the dark. After seeing the Smith home on TV, she was familiar enough with the property to point out a few landmarks. No psychic ability required. She didn’t even find Terry’s body; her 12-year-old daughter did. The only mystery connected to this story is how the grave was overlooked for days.
Skylor Atilano, Terry’s 16-year-old brother, has been charged with his murder. Skylor did not have access to a vehicle, so by necessity would have had to dispose of his brother’s body in the immediate area. Perhaps Ms. Ragland suspected as much, since Skylor was admittedly the last person to see Terry alive.

Sleazier Than Fiction

Jude Devereux is one of the top-selling romance novelists in the world. In 1991, she decided to end her four-year marriage to Claude White, and she feared that he (in an interesting reversal of gender roles) would take her to the cleaners in court. That was when she happened to meet a woman named Joyce Michaels in the Manhattan studio of a friend. Michaels revealed she was a psychic, operating out of an office in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and offered to help Devereux get through her divorce with relatively little trauma – for a price, of course. She then told Devereux precisely when White would file for divorce, and on what day the papers would arrive at her home.
Devereux says she was deeply skeptical of this seer until the papers arrived. Now convinced that Michaels possessed extraordinary powers, Devereux gave her $1 million to somehow make the divorce process easier. Michaels had convinced her the money was cursed, and promised to cleanse it of “evil” at the cathedral (a classic scam).
Devereux was so satisfied with the “results” that she continued to consult Michaels for years, giving her up to $20 million for various readings, consultations, and blessings.
What Devereux and other clients of Joyce Michaels didn’t know was that the woman was really Nancy “Rose” Marks, the matriarch of a family of psychic scammers who often used aliases. She did not have an office in St. Patrick’s cathedral. The Marks clan defrauded so many people that police set up a sting operation to catch them, codenamed Operation Crystal Ball. Several members of the extended Marks family were arrested in August 2011.
Nancy Marks was convicted of 14 counts of fraud in September, after Devereux and other victims testified against her.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

go-back-and-try-again-before-you-make-me-cry

Literary fraud is an important topic at Swallowing the Camel. Whether it’s middle-aged women pretending to be teen boys afflicted with HIV/AIDS (here and here), or James Cameron’s BFF letting himself be snowjobbed by a lying WWII vet, or fake Holocaust memoirists, no one gets a free pass when it comes to literary misdeeds. So why should Christians be any different? This week’s Weirdness Roundup covers some of the most egregious frauds involving inspirational Christian nonfiction, starting with the most recent case:

  • A year after diligent readers expressed their concerns, UK Christian publishing house Authentic Media has withdrawn a popular preacher’s autobiography from the market. Tony Anthony’s Taming the Tiger (2004) told the awesome story of how Jesus transformed him from an angry young criminal to the person he is today (I’ll let you decide if that was an improvement or not).
    Taming the Tiger describes how 4-year-old Tony learned Kung Fu from his grandfather. As the book’s cover reminds us, he ultimately became a “3 times Kung Fu World Champion”. His professional debut was in 1984. The following year, he went to work as a bodyguard for international VIPs, including the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Italy, and Cyprus. In 1988 or ’89, his world fell apart when his girlfriend of three years, Aiya, was killed in a car accident. He turned his back on everything good in his life and become an enforcer for his boss, threatening and beating and even killing people who posed the slightest danger to the ambassador. He then became a burglar to raise money for an expensive medical procedure his father needed, and started getting into confrontations with police in Cyprus, where he was then living. He landed himself in jail in Christmas 1989, and it was there that an Irish missionary introduced him to Jesus Christ.
    Upon release in 1992, Anthony returned to the UK and settled down to have a family. He considered himself a good Christian, but after he was arrested for killing a woman in a hit and run (and lying to police about it) in 2001, he realized he still needed a lot of work. His second awakening as a Christian spurred him to write the memoir, which has sold more than a million copies in 25 languages. Its success gave him the opportunity to preach all over the world, and he established an Essex-based international evangelism organization called Avanti Ministries.
    The whole thing imploded when skeptical readers decided to look into Anthony’s actual background. One of the first things they discovered was that he was born in 1971…meaning he would have been just 13 years old when he became a Kung Fu grand master, and 14 when he was supposedly protecting an ambassador. He would still have been a teenager when he ended up in Nicosia prison. Also, the Saudi ambassador to the UK from 1980-1992, Nasser Almanqour, was never sent to Italy or Cyprus.
    It wasn’t just readers who were skeptical. One director of Avanti Ministries, Mike Hancock, resigned because Anthony seemed reluctant to verify the stories in his book. Hancock joined forces with another former Avanti director and a few concerned Christian ministers to investigate Anthony’s claims. Last year, they submitted a summary of their findings to the board of Avanti, the UK’s Evangelical Alliance, and Authentic Media, resulting in Authentic’s decision to pull the book.
    Tony Anthony has issued a statement saying he “wholeheartedly” defends everything he wrote in Taming the Tiger, with the exception of some details that he claims he wasn’t aware of at the time he wrote it. He admits that some names, places, etc., were altered to protect the privacy of certain people. He also claims he recently tried to publish an updated autobiography, but was blocked from doing so by unnamed persons “intent on discrediting” his ministry. Hilariously, he seems astonished that anyone would be interested in the historical veracity of his work (which is categorized as a nonfiction martial arts book in libraries and bookstores).
    Anthony’s statement includes the announcement that Avanti Ministries will no longer be in charge of its outreach programs.
  • The story of “Lauren Stratford” is by far the weirdest, most convoluted bogus Christian memoir tale of the past several decades. In 1988, her book Satan’s Underground was published by one of the top Christian publishers in America, Harvest House. In it, Stratford described a nightmarish existence as an abused child prostitute, handed over to child pornographers and pedophile rapists by her own mother (a schoolteacher). As a teen, she became a virtual sex slave to a Satan-worshiping porno kingpin known only as “Victor”. Victor’s cult engaged in everything from infanticide to cannibalism, and Lauren was forced to participate in their hellish rites. She was the first former Satanist to claim status as a “breeder”, a woman forced to bear children for ritual sacrifice, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that within months of the release of Satan’s Underground, breeders were popping out of the woodwork to appear on Geraldo and Sally Jesse Raphael. Stratford herself was invited to appear on Oprah and Geraldo as a victim of Satanic ritual abuse. Her book became very popular with recovered memory advocates and Christian therapists, and other ritual abuse survivors credited Stratford’s book with helping them retrieve their own “repressed memories”.
    Then, in 1991, the Christian magazine Cornerstone investigated Stratford’s background. The reporters couldn’t find a shred of evidence that Laurel Wilson had ever been abused by Satanists or anyone else, but they did uncover evidence indicating that Wilson/Stratford suffered a factitious disorder.
    Toward the end of her life, Stratford re-emerged as a Holocaust survivor named “Laura Grabowski”. She said she had been one of Josef Mengele’s victims, and even had a touching reunion with a fellow child survivor of Auschwitz, Binjamin Wilkomirski. The problem was, Wilkomirski had never been in Auschwitz, either.
    You can read more about the peculiar Wilson/Stratford/Grabowski saga in Part IX of my series The Prodigal Witch.
  • In 1986, Christian pamphleteer Jack Chick published a bizarre book titled He Came to Set the Captives Free, by one “Rebecca Brown, M.D.” It told the story of a crusading Christian doctor (Brown herself) who was engaged in a life-or-death struggle against evil forces in Indiana. Satanists were dogging her every step because she had rescued a young woman named Elaine from their clutches. Elaine had been brainwashed by the Satanists from childhood, and as an adult was forced to literally marry Satan in his human form.
    Having divorced Satan and her second husband too, Elaine helped Dr. Brown foil Satanic assassins and rescue other cult victims. The duo claimed to have saved about 1000 witches from dangerous covens in the first half of the ’80s alone. Brown published a second book about her battles with darkness, Prepare for War, in 1987. That same year, she and Elaine appeared on one of Geraldo Rivera’s shows about Satanism.
    In 1989, writers G. Richard Risher, Paul R. Blizard, and M. Kurt Goedelman delved into the backgrounds of Rebecca Brown and Elaine for the Personal Freedom Outreach Newsletter. What they found was deeply disturbing. Brown was really Ruth Bailey, and she had been stripped of her medical license five years earlier, after colleagues discovered she had been giving massive (potentially fatal) doses of prescription painkillers to one of her patients, Edna Moses. Edna Moses was “Elaine”. The two women had been living together in a filthy house for years, telling neighbours they were sisters. Bailey was known for her violent, unstable, paranoid behaviour. Edna/Elaine died in 2005.
    Bailey/Brown left Edna in 1989 to marry an ex-con who claimed he was tortured by Swiss rabbis as a boy, and the couple now runs a small ministry called Harvest Warriors.
    Though many Christians recognize Brown’s books for what they are (pure batshit insanity), they remain in print and continue to captivate the more gullible members of the Christian community.  In 2010, a sixth-grade science teacher in Brooklyn was mildly reprimanded for distributing and selling copies of They Came to Set the Captives Free to some of his students.
    The full story of Ruth Bailey and Edna Moses can be read in Part VIII of my Prodigal Witch series.
  • In the early ’70s, a roly-poly young Californian named Mike Warnke took the evangelical world by storm. He was loved for his Christian stand-up comedy (yes, that’s a thing, I guess), but it was his truly sinister background that drew the most attention to him. As he detailed in his 1973 memoir The Satan Seller, Warnke had dropped out of college to lead one branch of a nationwide Satanic cult that practiced blasphemous rites, lured teenagers into their ranks with the promise of sex and drugs, and occasionally raped and dismembered innocents in the name of the Devil. You know, typical frat stuff.
    Just like Tony Anthony, Warnke founded a successful ministry on the strength of his testimony. It wasn’t until 1992, nearly 20 years after The Satan Seller was printed, that a group of Christians published an exhaustive refutation of Warnke’s claims in a Cornerstone magazine article. As writers Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein revealed, Warnke hadn’t been a Devil-worshiping drug addict in college; he had already become a Christian by that time, and spent most of his time doing ridiculously wholesome things that other square kids did in the late ’60s: Bowling, going out for ice cream, double-dating with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, etc.
    Confronted with his make-believe past, Warnke weakly explained that his Satanic following may have been a bit smaller than he originally stated (around a dozen people, rather than 1500). He would not back down from anything else in his book. A few years ago, though, he admitted to Jim Bakker that he had felt compelled to present a dramatic conversion testimony to impress the evangelical community, and made a joke about “evangelasticity”.
    You can read more about Warnke in
    Part II of the Prodigal Witch series.
  • The same year The Satan Seller was published, Doreen Irvine’s autobiography From Witchcraft to Christ was released in the UK. A prim-looking older lady, Irvine claimed to have been a teen prostitute who was inducted into Satanism in London around 1950. Over the next 12 years, she developed the abilities to levitate several feet off the ground, read minds, render herself invisible, manifest apports, and kill birds in midflight just by looking at them. She was crowned Queen of the Black Witches of Europe. Then she walked into a church on a whim and was instantly converted to Christianity. After a grueling exorcism removed 47 demons from her body, she traveled to churches all over the world, sharing her story of redemption.
    No one has ever extensively refuted the claims in From Witchcraft to Christ, probably because they are too absurd to take seriously in the first place. But the book, and Doreen’s preaching, had a profound and lasting impact that has left at least one young woman dead. You can read more about her influence in Part I of The Prodigal Witch.

There are a number of other Christian memoirs that definitely set off my BS alarm, but the claims made in these books are so unverifiable that there is really no way to refute them. These include:

  • A Divine Revelation of Hell (1997) and A Divine Revelation of Heaven (1998) by Mary K. Baxter. Baxter, a Pentacostal preacher from Michigan, claims she was given walking tours of both Heaven and Hell by Jesus himself, so that she could bear witness to their physical reality. She says Hell is located near the planet’s core, is shaped like a human body, and contains many homosexuals. In Heaven, angels collect the tears of everyone on Earth and store them away in jars.
  • Blood Secrets by Isaiah Oke, as told to Joe Wright (1989). Oke is a Nigerian Christian who claims he was once a ju-ju shaman, and that he witnessed a brutal human sacrifice carried out by his mentor. The person who commissioned this sacrifice is described as a powerful colonel, and it’s quite obvious that Oke wants us to think he was Idi Amin.
    Oke became a Christian while studying accounting at college. As he and Wright tell it, a young American co-ed had annoyed him one day, but Oke was unable to “hex” her even after numerous attempts. Finally, he asked her why she was resistant to his magical powers, and she told him she was a Christian. He promptly converted, and continues to talk smack about Nigerian spirituality to the present day.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Extra-Stoopid Edition

satanfarts

It’s good to be back. My ThinkPad finally succumbed to a series of long-term ailments two weeks ago (Hans has a computer, but can’t type with cloven hoofs. I think he just uses it for porn). I’ve now replaced it.
So. On with the weirdness.

  • Folks love a good feral child story. Probably because feral child stories combine three of the things we want most in our Pixar films hard-hitting news coverage: Kids, the triumph of the human spirit, and cute fluffy animals. Sadly, some of these stories are ridiculously bogus. Amala and Kamala, the Bengalese girls raised by wolves, were actually urchins “rescued” by a minister who wanted to promote his missionary work (the famous photos of the wolf-girls walking on all fours were taken years after they died, using stand-ins). Misha Defonseca, the Belgian Holocaust survivor adopted by wolves at the age of 8, wasn’t even Jewish and spent the duration of the war safely ensconced in her grandpa’s house.
    Now we have Marina Chapman, a British national who claims in a new memoir that she was reared by monkeys in Colombia. She clambers up trees, makes monkey noises, and says it’s quite comfortable to scoot around on all fours. Supposedly, Marina was abducted from her family by two men around 1954, when she was 4 or 5 years old. One of them chloroformed her as she played in her yard, and she was taken to a remote area somewhere near the Venezuela-Colombia border. Then her kidnappers simply dumped her in the rainforest for no obvious reason, never to return.
    Marina says she gradually came to be accepted – even loved – by a troop of Capuchin monkeys, and survived by mimicking their behaviour and scooping up their dropped bananas. The monkeys groomed her and led her to water when she was sick, but the relationship Marina describes strikes me as one of tolerance rather than affection.
    Marina says she was rescued by hunters around age 9, only to be sold into sexual slavery in exchange for a parrot. She ran away from the brothel to become a street kid in Cúcuta, stealing food until she was saved again, this time by a family of “notorious” gangsters that treated her like a household slave. Finally, she was adopted by a decent family that migrated to England in the late ’70s. Marina settled down and raised a large family while working as a chef at the National Media Museum in Bradford.
    At this point, no one knows exactly who the hell Marina Chapman is. She says she can’t remember her name, or where she lived prior to the age of 4. She doesn’t recall her birth family at all, in fact. Her daughter Vanessa, who helped her write the memoir, hopes someone in Venezuela or Colombia will step forward to identify her.
    Aside from the obvious parallels with the wolf-girl hoaxes, there are a few other reasons to question Marina’s story. First of all, her memoir reads like a serial melodrama from the early 1900s. It’s The Perils of Pauline meets Tarzan, with absurdly evil villains lurking around every corner, scheming to trap the innocent monkey-girl. Secondly, Marina claims she totally lost the ability to speak Spanish during her time in the jungle, yet regained it with ease some 6 years later. How likely is it that Marina basically learned to speak for the first time as a pre-adolescent, without assistance? She would be the first feral kid to pull that off. Thirdly, she recalls the details of her abduction remarkably well…but she can’t remember a single thing about the family she left behind on the very same day? This whole thing smells.
    And speaking of smells…
  • The city of Quincy, Massachusetts is experiencing some rather weird shit. Perhaps literally. For the past several weeks, citizens have been complaining of sulfurous, noxious odours wafting through town, and at night they’re observing overflights of a mysterious plane they can’t quite identify. Theories range from ZOMG ALIENS to ZOMG CHEMTRAILS, though there doesn’t seem to be any direct link between the stink and the annoying plane. Also, the Patriot Ledger reported last week that the stench is probably coming from a malodorous brown algae, Pilayella littoralis.
  • If massive, non-human primates were roaming populated areas everywhere from Arizona to upstate New York, we would be finding copious signs of their existence; bones, poop, furballs, etc. But it seems Bigfoot only leave behind Blair Witch-style craft projects and magically vanishing corpses. About a week ago, a Bigfoot was supposedly shot and killed by an unnamed turkey hunter somewhere near Altoona, Pennsylvania, as overheard by a ham radio operator known only as Daniel C. This happened scarcely two weeks after the release of Shooting Bigfoot, a documentary about a 2012 Bigfoot murder in Texas. It includes footage of Rick Dyer luring a Sasquatch with some ribs, then shooting it (the Bigfoot stumbles off, fatally wounded, and is never seen again). Before that, in 2010, there was a double Bigfoot murder called the “Sierra Kills”. That incident produced a “Bigfoot steak” that may or may not have been examined by Dr. Melba Ketchum as part of her bizarro Sasquatch DNA study, but the bodies themselves were never recovered. And no one has presented the Pennsylvania Bigfoot yet, either.
  • Alex Jones thinks a magical government weather machine may have caused the tornado that ripped through an Oklahoma City suburb, killing dozens and leaving hundreds homeless and injured. Jones hasn’t seen this mechanism, he can’t even begin to explain how it might function, and he didn’t produce the name of a single scientist or agency involved with its development. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
    Looks like the Godlike Productions Forum guys have it all figured out, though…it was a HAARP tornado whipped up to distract us from government scandals. If so, it was kind of a bonehead move; the tornado itself is creating government scandals.
    Pat Robertson doesn’t know what caused the tornado, but he still says prayer can alter storm systems  if enough people join in. He doesn’t seem to realize what he’s revealing about himself, here. If he truly buys into this prayer-based weather manipulation deal, then he should park himself in front of the Weather Channel every single day and go on the air to tell his viewers to start praying for certain areas. The 700 Club has roughly 1 million viewers per day in the U.S. alone, and if half of them prayed under Robertson’s direction, he could theoretically prevent any tragedy from occurring ever again. Instead, he waits for a storm to hit and then gets all Dr. Brule on us, like, “Why didn’t you think of that, dum-dum?” From this we can infer one of two things: Pat Robertson is lazy, or he just doesn’t give a crap.
    Either way, he’s being a total dick.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Steven Greer’s alien + lots of other fake dead aliens

srsly

On April 22, Amardeep Kaleka‘s documentary Sirius will premiere in L.A. Though the film is mostly about magical alien energy sources, like Thrive, the highlight will undoubtedly be the tiny alien body that Dr. Steven Greer has been studying for more than a year. (Update: You can read more about that here. )

Greer’s alien was discovered by a treasure-hunter back in 2003, in the ghost town of La Noria in Chile’s Atacama desert (interestingly, a place considered similar to the Martian surface). The dessicated little skeleton, which is no longer than a pen yet has perfect proportions, was found buried  in a ribbon-tied bit of cloth near La Noria’s Catholic church. It had well-formed teeth, nine ribs, and a strangely elongated skull. The tabloids in Chile joked about a “horrible dwarf extraterrestrial”, but no serious interest was shown in the “Atacama humanoid”. It changed hands a few times, eventually ending up in Spain.
That’s where it came to the attention of Dr. Greer, an American ufologist best-known for founding the Disclosure Project. He probably heard about the humanoid during the Exopolitical Symposium held near Barcelona in 2009 (he was a presenter). Last year, he announced that his Center for the Study of ET Intelligence had gained access to the body, and would need funding to carry out scientific tests. He released a single photo and an X-ray of the “humanoid”, failing to mention it had already been in the Chilean tabloid press nine years earlier. In late October, he announced the body had been examined by “experts” using X-rays and CT scans, but still wouldn’t release more photos or give the names of the scientists working with him. For a disclosure advocate, Greer doesn’t like to disclose much. He would only say that “one of the world’s top geneticists” was studying DNA samples from the alien, and the “world’s foremost authority on skeletal abnormalities” had pronounced the skeleton non-human.

Atacama Humanoid

The Atacama alien

Steven Greer has a – how shall I put this? – rather checkered history in the field of UFO studies. He has promised big things before, with no payoff:

  • Throughout the ’90s, he claimed the ability to summon and communicate with UFOs using lights, lasers, and mental telepathy.
  • In 2008, the Orion Project announced it was developing a free energy device. Delay after delay pushed its unveiling all the way to the spring of 2010, when the Orion Project declared the work could not continue until their funding needs were met (a mere $3 million or so). Greer repeatedly insisted the device was already functional, yet it has still not been revealed.
  • In 2009, he practically guaranteed that the Obama administration would give full disclosure about UFOs and ETs by the end of 2010. (video)

Greer claims the secrets of aliens, free energy, and antigravity spacecraft are being kept from the public by a massive conspiracy possibly known as PI-40, comprised of Freemasons, Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and…uh…Mormons. He says most of his associates, including Eugene Mallove, were murdered because they came too close to the truth about aliens – just like Marilyn Monroe and former CIA director William Colby. He also thinks the government has possessed the capability to induce cancer from a distance since the 1950s.

You would think the Atacama humanoid results would be big, big news in the world of ufology, but skepticism and disinterest remain high. I’m guessing this is partly because of Greer’s track record, partly because he won’t even release the names of these world-renowned scientists, and partly because we’ve been through all this before. Since the ’50s, we have been subjected to a veritable parade of alien fetuses, alien autopsies, alien skeletons and alien skulls – nearly all of which turned out to be terrestrial. Let’s take a quick look at some of the alien corpses of years past. Be warned that a few of the photos are kinda gross.

1953: Spaceman hit by a truck

georgia monkey

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a bald monkey.

Three young men in Georgia reported to police that they had struck what appeared to be a 2″-tall space creature with a pickup (the alien’s two companions had managed to escape in their flying saucer). A local vet confirmed the round-eyed, jug-eared being was no animal known to mankind, but Emory University anatomists who studied the body disagreed: The Georgia alien was a shaved Capuchin monkey with its tail removed. The three men confessed to staging the hoax to get into the local paper. Today, the spacemonkey is displayed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation museum. (read more at The Museum of Hoaxes)

1979: Puerto Rico’s baby Conehead

Puerto Rico Alien

Consume mass quantities.

As one version of the story goes, two teenage boys exploring a cave near Cerro Las Tetas stumbled upon a whole colony of aliens, and bludgeoned one of the creatures to death in their panic. The pickled alien was revealed to the world by ufologist Jorge Martin later that year. It was never subjected to thorough scientific examination, however, and its current whereabouts are unknown. Señor Martin has since moved on to other dead aliens that are definitely fake. (read more at the Forgetomori blog)

1995: American alien autopsy

alien autopsy

His name was Bob.

Supposedly a film of doctors conducting a peculiar autopsy on an alien killed in the Roswell crash of 1947, the film turned out to be precisely what it looks like: A hoax utilizing rubber aliens, animal parts, and raspberry jam. The owner of the footage confessed to fakery, but stubbornly insists it was a “recreation” of genuine Roswell autopsy footage that is too damaged to be shown.

1996: Dr. Reed’s alien, AKA the Screaming Alien or the Microwave Burrito Alien

Burrito Alien

Protip: Fake aliens always look more real if you stick ’em on a space blanket.

You could probably compose several novels, an entire History Channel series, and an opera out of the hilariously dumb saga that is the “Dr. Reed” hoax, in which a Seattle psychologist enthralled Coast to Coast AM listeners with his tale of encountering a landed triangular spacecraft in the Cascades, watching a very fast alien vaporize his dog, then capturing the alien and stuffing it into his freezer. The alien wasn’t quite dead yet, however, and let out a horrifying shriek when Reed opened the freezer. Reed claimed the body was stolen by government agents who continued to stalk and menace him (though they somehow forgot to confiscate his photos of the UFO and the frozen alien).
“Dr. Jonathan Reed” was soon exposed as Seattle gas station attendant John Rutter. Incredibly, Rutter still insists his alien story is essentially true, and has made many fantastical additions to it over the years, including the discovery of an alien bracelet that either allows him to teleport (skip to the 7:00 mark) or just sit on a couch in a Mexican TV studio. (read more at UFO Watchdog)

1999: The Starchild skull

starchild skull

In 1999, American novelist Lloyd Pye purchased what is probably the skull of a hydrocephalic child. But he’s pretty damn sure it’s an alien-human hybrid, and won’t stop talking about it.

2005: Yugoslavian alien autopsy

Yugoslav alien

I prefer them medium rare.

Basically the same as the American autopsy footage, this film was said to have been taken in the former Yugoslavia in 1966. In photos sent to UFO Casebook by one “Ivan Kremer”, doctors are shown examining the charred corpse of an alien, supposedly recovered from a crashed UFO in the village of Otocek. Italian skeptic Andrea Zoboli later took credit for the hoax, citing the American alien autopsy as his inspiration.

2006: alien in a jar

attic alien

Antiques Roadshow estimate: $3.50

During renovation of a cottage in Gunthorp, workers found a jar containing what appeared to be (and was) a realistic alien model made from clay. Who put the alien model in Barney Broom’s attic, and why, remains a mystery. (read more at the BBC)

2008: Russian alien autopsy

Russian alien autopsy

Might be Joan Rivers. Somebody check.

The makers of this film were quite innovative. They opted for colour instead of black and white, chose a small alien dummy rather than a child-sized dummy, and zoomed in on the alien instead of standing ten feet away. The film even includes footage of Russian soldiers surrounding a crashed UFO that looks about as real as Tara Reid’s breasts. B for effort, guys.
This is not to be confused with a  “KGB” film that shows unmasked doctors hovering over random bits and pieces of an alien (judging by the hair on the lady doctor, this one was shot in the ’80s or early ’90s).

2011: Siberian alien and Russian refrigerator alien

Siberia alien

finger lickin’ good

The Siberian alien was probably the biggest dead alien story to hit the news since the American autopsy. Media outlets around the world carried stories of the cell phone video shot and posted to YouTube by anonymous teens, showing a pitifully one-legged alien entity sprawled in the snow. The Kremlin actually launched an investigation, and within hours an “alien” made out of old bread and chicken skin was found in the home of one of the kids in the video. Two boys confessed to creating it.
A few months later, Marta Yegorovnam of Petrozavodsk produced photos of a plastic-wrapped alien corpse she had been storing in her fridge for two years. It looked somewhat like the lovechild of Jabba the Hut and Kermit the Frog. Sadly, no one ever had the chance to examine Ms. Yegorovnam’s disgusting leftovers, because she surrendered them to the Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Academy disclaimed any knowledge of the fridge alien. (read more at the Daily Mail, which was one of the few mainstream media outlets to bother with this)

Russian fridge alien

C’mon, lady.
At least put it in the crisper.

Date unknown: Roswell alien that looks suspiciously like the masks from the movie Brazil

roswell alien  brazil

The Prodigal Witch X: Derry Mainwaring Knight

God’s 007

In the spring of 1983, an unassuming, middle-aged fellow by the lofty name of Derry Mainwaring Knight appeared in Newick, East Sussex, and began attending the local Anglican church, St. Mary’s. He became a regular at Bible studies and prayer meetings. He offered to hand out Christian tracts.
He told the late vicar, John Baker, that he had been born again in jail (he had just been released from Hull Prison after serving time for a rape conviction). His sincerity and eagerness to devote himself to his newfound faith must have touched Reverend Baker deeply, because he did everything in his power to help the ex-con. When Knight said he was homeless, Baker gave him a room in the rectory attic, rent-free. When Knight said he was desperately short of cash, Baker promptly raised over £6000 to put toward the newcomer’s debts.

St. Mary’s Church in Newick

That’s when Knight began to show symptoms of demonic possession, lapsing into strange trances and talking about the Devil.
During one such spell, he revealed to Baker that he was the grandson of a sorceress who groomed him from childhood to be a great Satanic leader. When he was just eight years old, Granny informed Derry he could enter into communion with the Devil himself if special platinum plates were surgically implanted in his skull. The plates were installed, and just as Granny promised, Derry was able to communicate directly with Satan. As an adult, he become a high-ranking member of a secretive but powerful cult.
When he came out of his altered state, Baker repeated all this to Knight and asked him if it was true. Yes, Knight admitted, it was. For years, he had been struggling to break free from a Satanic cabal that operated at the the highest levels of English society.

The son of a pastor, Knight had been raised in Germany. Lucifer manifested in his bedroom one night to claim him when he was nine, he told Baker.

Now, Derry claimed, he wanted to destroy his own devil-worshiping sect from within. He wanted to rid himself of demonic possession. He wanted to pay off his debts to cult members, so they could no longer hold sway over him. He wanted to bring other Satanists out of occult slavery. He wanted to destroy unholy Satanic regalia. To do all that, though, he would need funds. Major funds.
Over the next several months, members of St. Mary’s Church and other area residents donated a staggering sum (over £300,000) to Knight’s anti-Satanic crusade. The county high sheriff gave over £83,000 pounds. The wife of millionaire Tory MP Timothy Sainsbury ponied up nearly £120,000 pounds. Anthony David Brand, Lord Hampden contributed a Rolls-Royce with state-of-the-art communications equipment so that Knight could continue to pose as an affluent Satanist-about-town. The bishop of Lewes wrote a letter on Derry’s behalf, requesting donations for his “necessary work”. In November 1983, Reverend Baker secured a £25,000 loan from a Christian charity and handed it over to Knight.

Lady Susan Sainsbury, one of Knight’s prominent victims

Where did all this money go? Knight claimed to be buying up Satanic paraphernalia such as talismans and robes, expressly to destroy them in dramatic ceremonies. He explained that some of these items were being used to magically influence him, keeping him tied to Satan; the objects would send “signals” to the plates in his head. Oddly, no one suggested he simply get the plates removed.
On one memorable occasion, Knight flung a golden scepter into the Thames. Another time, he and the Reverend Baker carried a silver chalice into the church garden and crushed it.
At the time of his arrest in 1985, Baker was in the process of raising £20,000 so Knight could acquire a “Satanic throne” from a lavish temple in Pall Mall.
The members of St. Mary’s didn’t get to see a lot for their money, but they treasured the satisfaction of knowing they were literally buying a man’s way out hell. Like shareholders, they held regular meetings so they could be briefed on Knight’s progress.

No one in the Newick congregation was aware that Knight had just been sprung from prison after a rape conviction. Nor that he had prior convictions for fraud and robbery. Nor that he was an out-of-work housepainter in spite of his cult’s supposed affluence.
Clearly, he was still in Satan’s grip and needed all the help they could give him. Sometimes he would collapse to the ground in a deep trance, muttering Satanic incantations.

The first person to hear serious alarm bells in his head was the Bishop of Chichester, the late Eric Kemp. The septuagenarian bishop caught wind in the summer of 1985 that congregants in Newick were throwing fat sums of money at a Satanic double agent, and didn’t think it sounded quite right. The double-agent thing was sensible enough, he thought, but the donations seemed excessive.
The alarm bells turned to sirens when Derry himself told Kemp he had been initiated into Satanism by a defrocked Catholic cardinal. As Bishop Kemp knew, no English cardinals had been defrocked in the ’50s.
Kemp believed the Charismatic movement, which was popular among certain Anglicans at that time, rendered Christians vulnerable to this sort of deception. They focused on the ubiquity of evil until they convinced themselves that things like mind-control scepters and telepathic head-plates could really exist. They also convinced themselves that God was speaking directly to them, exhorting them to help scammers like Knight in His name.

A church investigation, conducted by a retired bishop, uncovered Knight’s police record, and Newick authorities were notified. Inspector Terrance Fallon concluded he was dealing with your typical con man – Derry was just luckier than the usual crook, having stumbled onto a community of kind-hearted and extraordinarily gullible people with scads of money. The donations had gone straight into Knight’s own pocketbook, usually manifesting as gifts for “lady friends”, high-end car rentals for himself, and posh parties. On one occasion, he chartered a champagne steamboat cruise along the Thames for one hundred guests. The Anglicans were not invited.

Knight, under Inspector Fallon’s questioning, played the innocent. Sure, he had asked the vicar for some cash to pay down a debt, and chatted with him about black magic and Satanism because Baker was “interested in that sort of thing”. But he never asked for another handout, he insisted. The Anglicans were so keen to squash Satanic evildoing in their area that they plied him with fistfuls of money every time he showed up for a prayer meeting, begging him to do something about the occult menace. (1)

As it turned out, Knight had a colourful history of scamming Christians out of their money. He had been dishonorably discharged from the Coldstream Guards for defrauding a fellow out of thousands of marks.

When the Anglicans of Newick learned about Knight’s real past, and his Larry Flynt present, most of them wisely faced the fact they had been scammed. Many of them testified against Derry at his 1986 trial. So did local jewelers who had been hired by Derry to craft peculiar-looking scepters and medallions out of gold and silver.
Church member Randle Mainwaring (no relation) testified that Knight once proposed sexually blackmailing a local bank manager to raise funds for his anti-Satanism campaign.

But others stubbornly maintained that Derry had been doing God’s work, and should never have been arrested. Michael Warren, who lost £36,000 pounds to this “work”, vociferously defended Derry from the witness stand and warned the court that Satanism was “very much a potent source of evil in this country”. (2)
Reverend Baker, too, remained certain that Knight’s life was imperiled by devil-worshipers. On the witness stand, he refused to name the items he and Derry had destroyed, for fear he and others would be “shot or disposed of in some way” by cult leaders for revealing details of their ritual implements. (2)

Though Knight admitted to Inspector Fallon that he wasn’t a Satanist, just the recipient of something like compulsive philanthropy, his trial defence strategy was to declare himself a member of a cult called “The Sons of Lucifer” and bring out shocking testimony that would blow the lid off Satanic doings at the highest levels of English society. He “outed” two Tory politicians (William Whitelaw, Enoch Powell) and one Labour MP (Leopold Abse) as cult members.
He declared he would have no need to bilk money out of churchgoers, because he was a successful pimp.
Derry Mainwaring Knight was convicted of nineteen counts of obtaining money by deception and sentenced to seven years in prison by Judge Neil Denison. He also received a £75,000 fine.
After his conviction, his own mother claimed he had conned her out of a large sum of cash.

Knight’s Legacy

Reachout Trust, a UK organization dedicated to fighting the occult, listed Derry Mainwaring Knight’s story as evidence that ritual abuse was really occurring in England in the ’80s, and with Reverend Kevin Logan produced a tape titled Set Free in Christ. In the video, a woman identified as Peggy Knight claimed she was Derry’s mother and a born again Christian. She said the cult Derry betrayed still posed a serious threat to the entire family.
Logan also included the Knight story in his 1988 book Paganism and the Occult, though he obscured the names and details. In this book, Logan stated that every city and major town in the UK contains a “small exclusive coven made up mostly of people in the professions.” (3)
Logan was heavily involved in UK Satanic panic; one of his most tragic Satanic ritual abuse misadventures is described in my post on Doreen Irvine. We’ll see Logan and Reachout Trust again in the next part of this series, dealing with “former Satanist” Audrey Harper.

Today, professional conspiranoid David Icke still considers Derry Mainwaring Knight a valuable Satanic whistleblower: “Willie Whitelaw, a chairman of the Conservative Part, was named as a leading Satanist by self-confessed Satanist, Derry Mainwaring Knight, at Maidstone Crown Court in 1986. As usual, nothing was done about it. Mainwaring-Knight lived near East Grinstead, one of the centres of Satanism in England.” (4)

Is it possible that Derry Mainwaring Knight really did practice Satanism with high-level politicians, when he wasn’t scamming churchgoers? No. The fact that he had to manufacture Satanic paraphernalia in order to destroy it indicates he didn’t have access to any real stuff. At one point he claimed to be a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, an occult organization, but this wasn’t verified. That’s probably why he chose not to mention the OTO at his trial. There is no known Satanic group called Sons of Lucifer, and no grand Satanic temple exists in Pall Mall. “Nothing was done” about his courtroom accusations against Whitelaw simply because no one, barring a country vicar and a few Charismatic believers, found his tales remotely credible.

Due to the prominence of Knight’s victims and the sheer wackiness of his scam, the outcome of his trial was covered by all the major English daily newspapers. The affair should have staunched the spread of Satanic panic in the UK, but sadly it did not. Stories of former Satanists and ritual abuse survivors, which were every bit as spurious as Knight’s Sons of Lucifer nonsense, continued to flow through the media like a diseased river, polluting minds and sweeping innocent people into whirlpools of persecution.

Sources

1. The Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism by Gareth J. Medway(New York University Press, 2001)
2.A British Con Man Says the Devil Made Him Do It” by Dianna Waggoner. People magazine. Vol. 25. No. 24 (July 16, 1986)
3. Paganism and the Occult by Kevin Logan (Kingsway Publications, 1988)
4. The Biggest Secret by David Icke  (2nd edition; David Icke Books, 1990)

The Prodigal Witch VIII: "Elaine" Part II

space

Dr. Brown’s Story

Rebecca Brown’s story, as told in Closet Witches and in her books, is every bit as weird as Elaine‘s. It includes religious persecution, demonic possession on an epidemic scale, and sinister medical conspiracies.

Bailey was born in Indiana in 1948. Though her parents were Christians, she came to believe that their church was evil because “drunkenness and adultery were rampant”. As a result of attending this ungodly church, her parents became “evil and demonically controlled”. (1)

Brown claims the hospital in which she met Elaine (not named by her, but known to be Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana) was a hellhouse where the forces of darkness had been loosed, not alike Lars von Trier’s Kingdom. According to her, this is because most of the staff had turned away from Christ and were immersed in New Age/Satanic practices.
First of all, the hospital was plagued by mysterious deaths. When Brown expressed puzzlement and concern to her superiors, they warned her to keep quiet about it. So Brown did her own investigating, and discovered that a staggering 75% of the patients were suffering ICU psychosis, and all of these people were experiencing vivid hallucinations of demons. At least, most people would consider them hallucinations. Brown, as a fundamentalist Christian, decided the demons were real. (2)

This mass possession coincided with local religious persecution and Satanic activity, as well as New Age beliefs among hospital staff. A local pastor (unnamed) spent months in the hospital after he was kidnapped, beaten, partially skinned, and burned by vindictive Satanists who didn’t appreciate his prosetylization efforts.
To Brown’s dismay, nurses told an elderly patient she should let go of her will to live so she could be reincarnated. One laid hands upon the old woman and uttered strange incantations, trying to summon “higher powers” that could ease her transition into death. Instead, she summoned a terrifying demon.
At Bible study, Brown met a nurse named Lynn who confirmed that certain nurses were witches trained to encourage some patients to die. She also discovered that her town was located just 20 miles from the second-largest centre of Satanism in the US., next to L.A./San Francisco (possibly Chesterfield). “There was a whole town that was made up of Satanists and they had a Satanists’ church, but they also had a lot of denominational Christian Churches they attended to put on a good front.” Lynn revealed that many of the nurses and several of the doctors on staff at the hospital were Satanists.
The elderly woman was so frightened by demonic apparitions that Brown agreed to stay by her bedside through the night, and for the first time she experienced intense demonic oppression, feeling as though “something was literally trying to squash my body into the floor.” (2)

Brown took it upon herself to protect every patient in the hospital from demonic interference. To her mind, this was a spiritual battle: Jesus and Rebecca against nearly every doctor and nurse in the hospital. Every night, she walked through the wards quietly uttering prayers for protection. After she started doing this, the death rate in the ICU dropped by 50%. (2)

Though she didn’t know it at the time, Brown’s most powerful enemy was Elaine. As Satan’s wife, Elaine was in charge of the community’s Satanic underground, and her husband explicitly ordered her to kill the obnoxious doctor who was stymying all his efforts. It was Elaine who sent out the order for the pastor to be abducted and tortured, but two such incidents in a single year would have attracted too much attention. “So I organized a national effort between [sic] top witches nationwide to get rid of Rebecca.” The witches, knowing that Brown suffered a rare muscle disease, prayed for the disease to worsen. It did.
Brown’s minister friend, “Pastor Pat”, didn’t know about any of the goings-on at the hospital. Yet he realized that Brown was suffering demonic oppression, and could soon die. He had his 200 parishioners pray for her. Thanks to Pat’s efforts, Brown was freed from the influence of the witches and her disease was miraculously cured. (2)

The demons were so annoyed by this turn of events that they physically manifested and beat the tar out of Elaine. Satan was also highly displeased with her. He demanded to know why Brown wasn’t dead yet, and ordered his wife to hurry up. This is around the time she was saved. Even after turning to Christ, however, Elaine continued to cling to witchcraft. The result was that Man-Chan and “several hundred” other demons stuck around, making her life difficult. (2)

Brown claims she experienced severe personal losses as a result of her fight against the Satanists. But she’s cool with that, because God had warned her she would have to make sacrifices to do His work properly. On Closet Witches, she tells Jack Chick she resigned from her job to devote herself full-time to the battle against the Devil. As we’ll see, this is not what really happened.
Brown contends that most, if not all, Christian churches have been infiltrated by Satanists, meaning Satanists-cum-Christians like Elaine face opposition even from their new faith communities. This is an absurd statement made by many ex-witches/former Satanists, and I would like to see some hard evidence for it. The notion that a Satanist would spend hours of every week attending a Christian church, posing as a Christian, is every bit as ridiculous as the idea of a devoted Baptist joining his local Satanic church to spread the gospel. It just doesn’t happen.
At this point in Closet Witches, Chick complains that he and other Christians faced the same sort of persecution when God commanded him to launch a vicious, hoax-based attack against the Catholic church.
Then he makes a very strange confession. He admits that when he suspected a witch of sending curses against him, he prayed that God would return those curses tenfold. Wow, dude. If that’s not persecution by paranormal means, what the hell is? How can he bellyache about mean ol’ witches when he behaved worse than they (allegedly) did?
Though he expresses contrition for his behaviour, he also warns Christians not to return curses because it could kill them. Not because it’s unchristianly to curse people. Not because curses are nonsense. Because uttering a curse could kill them. Sheesh, it’s like time travel; I swear we stepped back into the Dark Ages for a second.

One story in Brown’s Prepare for War concerning this period defies explanation. In this account, an angel descended from Heaven to kill Elaine because God considered her a “nuisance”. Brown prostrated herself before this angel and begged to be killed in Elaine’s place. The angel settled for making Brown severely ill for a brief period.

Brown’s friends and former colleagues supposedly abandoned her when she left her job at the hospital, and family members even tried to commit her to a mental institution. People close to Brown, including her pastor, also disapproved of Elaine’s presence in her home, possibly because Elaine attacked her with a butcher knife one day. Brown sensed that this attempted murder was really the work of Man-Chan, so she continued to let Elaine live with her. Pastor Pat performed an exorcism on her, expelling hundreds of demons in the span of eight hours. Unfortunately, he didn’t get rid of all the demons. Within a week, Elaine was in the full grips of possession again. For two months poltergeist activity, psychic attacks, and other supernatural phenomena plagued Brown’s house. Both women were brutally beaten and abused by discarnate entities. Elaine repeatedly tried to strangle herself to death with a belt, which Brown viewed not as self-abuse but as more manifestations of the demonic. “I’m convinced that most suicides are actually not done by the person themselves, but by a demon within them controlling their body,” she told Chick. This echoes John Todd’s assertion that many medical conditions, including epileptic seizures, are caused by demons. Brown even contends that Satanic and “Voodoo” curses are highly effective, capable of blocking a person’s spiritual growth. (2)

It was only after Elaine renounced all her witchcraft powers and prayed for forgiveness that the nightmare abated somewhat. Another deliverance session with Pastor Pat expelled the last of the demons, including Man-Chan.

Brown warns that partaking in any “occult” activity (such as Satanism, Freemasonry, Catholicism, Dungeons & Dragons, or rock music) can open the door to demonic influence.

In Closet Witches, Brown and Chick lay a guilt rap on fellow Christians who don’t take ex-witches into their homes or at least counsel them. Chick gripes that a pastor at Melodyland (the California megachurch despised by John Todd and Mike Warnke) refused to believe that witches could be brought to Christ. As a result, 60 former witches gave up all hope and died of drug overdoses. It’s unclear how Chick acquired such information. Did he track down all of these ex-witches? Did he hear second-hand reports of their fate? As with the mission field fairytales of Kurt Koch, anecdotes take the place of hard information.

You have to wonder just how many witches and Satanists there are in the U.S., if each ex-witch has brought hundreds of other witches to Christ – as nearly all of them claim to have done. The numbers would be truly staggering. In reality, there are roughly 200,000 to 1.2 million neopagans, Satanists in the U.S. The number of Satanists is unknown, but would be extremely low relative to other minority religions. Needless to say, these numbers were considerably lower in the ’80s.

Chick expressed concern about the number of Freemasons and Catholics who have infiltrated Protestant churches, a concern shared by John Todd and Bill Schnoebelen. Elaine told him you can always spot a Mason by his flamboyance and arrogance. Chick trotted out his absurd claim that Masonry, at its highest levels, is controlled by Jesuits. That’s a neat trick, considering that Catholics are not permitted to become Freemasons. To prop up this incredibly weak conspiracy theory, Chick reads a letter from an anonymous former Mason and ex-Nazi who alleges that the Pope is the master of Freemasonry, just as “Dr.” Rivera says. How convincing.
But Elaine obligingly confirms Chick’s suspicion that “the Evil Trinity” (Catholics, Masons, and witches) works together to infiltrate and subvert Christian churches. That’s not surprising; the testimony in Closet Witches seems tailor-made to appeal to Chick’s own specific theories and prejudices. Elaine flatters him by saying it was one of his pamphlets that persuaded her of Christ’s power, and by identifying him as one of the targets of the Satanists’ wrath.

After resigning from Ball Memorial Hospital, Brown set up a private practice in another town (not named by her, but known to be Lapel, Indiana). Here the harassment escalated. Somehow, the Satanists played a role in the death of Brown’s mother, and possibly struck Elaine with leukemia. Elaine was confined to her bed for half a year, semi-comatose, as Brown worked desperately to save her life.
Their church and their families turned against them, refusing to help in any way. This is when the Satanists broke into Rebecca and Elaine’s home, murdered their pets, and trashed Rebecca’s office. Though Elaine was still severely ill, they had little choice but to flee Indiana.

The number of preposterous statements made by Brown and Elaine are too numerous to count. We’ve seen a lot already: Satan getting married in a Presbyterian church, the Pope ruling over a horde of “flamboyant” Freemasons, etc. Here are a few more, told by Brown on Closet Witches and in her books:

– A teenage girl found herself suicidally depressed and “bound” by demons because of “weekend experimentation with street drugs during a slumber party around age 13.” Come on. A kid’s spiritual life is destroyed because she used an illicit substance once in puberty? Are you freaking kidding me? Where is the evidence – Biblical or otherwise – that one-time drug use is sinful and injurious to one’s spiritual well-being? Even if that’s so, where do we draw the line, here? Would a single toke separate you from God? What if you don’t inhale? What if someone slips you a mickey – would the spiritual effect be the same, even though you don’t realize you’ve taken a street drug? You see how silly this line of reasoning can get. (1)
– Most herbalists and health food purveyors are witches or yogis who utter incantations over their merchandise. Consuming any of this stuff leaves one vulnerable to demonic attack. Unholy granola! Satan’s supplements! (1)
– It’s wrong to be a vegetarian. Vegetarians lack the physical strength required to fight demons, as they consume only “incomplete proteins”. Remember, this woman is a doctor. (1)
– “Be aware that many children’s toys are actually statues of demon gods.” (2)
– Because of African tribal warfare, today’s African-American communities have been cursed with violence. (3)
– “Every Rock music record and tape has a demon attached to it.” Again, this is straight from the mouth of John Todd, who claimed that record producers took master recordings into Satanic temples and literally inserted demons into them. She urges parents to destroy any rock albums or D&D merchandise owned by their children, citing Deuteronomy 7:25-26, in which God urges his followers to slaughter the Canaanites and destroy all their religious stuff. Because that would be a sane and humane thing to do. (1)
– If you don’t inform your Catholic friends that they are “witches” destined for Hell, then you are basically a witch yourself. Really? I wonder if Brown told her Catholic financial backers this, right before they handed her a substantial sum of cash to open up her private practice. (1)
– Brown herself suffered 13 years of demonic attack just for viewing the King Tut exhibit, because all Egyptian artifacts are cursed. (3)
– Sorority and fraternity members are particularly prone to demonic attack. When they pledge loyalty to a deceased founder, they are actually declaring their devotion to a demon. (1)
– A minister’s family experienced Amityville-style paranormal activity (blood oozing from walls, objects whizzing through the air of their own accord, etc.) because the minister’s 18-year-old stepdaughter had become demonically possessed after her natural father molested her. The belief that sexual abuse causes possession in victims, rather than perpetrators, is disturbingly common among Christians interested in demonology (notably Bob Larson and the late Dr. M. Scott Peck). On Brown’s advice, the minister ejected the young woman from his home and this ended the demonic phenomena. (1)
– Satanic ritual abuse is real, and its primary aim is to “place demons” into children. She offers some appalling advice to parents who discover their child has been abused: “The first decision is whether to notify the authorities. You must carefully seek the Lord’s wisdom on this issue. We are most certainly in the last days and our country is almost totally corrupt.” In other words, don’t even give the authorities the chance to do the right thing. Just let child molesters, rapists, and even murderers run amok in your community if God “tells” you to do so. What Brown is suggesting would actually place her readers on the other side of the law, as most states require you to report suspected child abuse. (1)
– Brown portrays Satanists as homicidal thugs. Without giving a single solid detail, she told Jack Chick that a Satanic coven slaughtered a fourth of its members for betrayal (briefly becoming Christians). In other words, Brown knows of 25 murders and she’s not naming names. This is quite typical of the former witches in this series. They claim to have witnessed human sacrifices, rapes, and a host of other atrocities – but they don’t report these alleged crimes, nor provide enough information for the alleged crimes to be exposed. That’s very odd behaviour for people who are “fighting Satanism” and “saving souls”. If they really want to protect the rest of us from baby-eating, virgin-slaughtering Satanists, they can start by learning to dial 9-1-1.

Unless, of course, they’re bluffing about all this carnage. And I think the evidence will show that Ruth Brown and “Elaine” were doing just that.

The Exposure of “Elaine” and Dr. Brown

Surprisingly, one of the Christian media outlets that called the Elaine story into question was the Personal Freedom Outreach Newsletter, which had promoted the anti-Wiccan agenda of Tom Sanguinet back in ’83. In 1989, writers G. Richard Risher, Paul R. Blizard, and M. Kurt Goedelman delved into the backgrounds of Ruth and Elaine. What they discovered flatly contradicted much Jack Chick’s material about the two women.

First of all, Rebecca Brown did not exactly resign freely from her job at Ball Memorial Hospital. She was asked to leave when her deliverance rituals and religious paranoia began to disturb patients and staff. She left Ball Memorial and set up a practice in the town of Lapel. She and Elaine set up housekeeping in the nearby town of Pendleton, telling locals they were sisters.
Interestingly, Brown’s funding came from a Catholic hospital. She certainly didn’t mention that to Jack Chick when they were discussing the Catholic-Masonic plot to destroy Bible-believing churches.
In 1984, under her original name, Ruth Bailey, she was stripped of her license to practice medicine in the state of Indiana. The events leading up to this are deeply unsettling. On October 17, 1983, Elaine was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis after receiving a near-fatal overdose of painkillers, her body covered with bruises and lesions from multiple injections. Significantly, she was not suffering from leukemia or any other serious medical condition.
Officer Samuel E. Hanna of the Madison County Police found that Edna had been under the treatment of one Dr. Ruth Bailey. Subsequent investigation revealed that Bailey, in a six-month period, had written prescriptions for 330 vials of Demerol. She had regularly administered 600-900 cc of phenobarbitol to Edna, when 150-200 cc is typically a fatal dose.
The following May, when Bailey was summoned to appear at a hearing of the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, she was residing in Niles, Michigan. She was found guilty in absentia, and her medical license was revoked.
The witness testimony at this hearing was profoundly disturbing. Several people testified that Bailey brandished a handgun and threatened to shoot them because they were possessed by demons. Ruth’s former live-in housekeeper testified that Ruth and Edna were more than just friends and housemates; they shared the same bed. Far from living in the sanitary conditions a cancer patient would require, the two women lived in squalor. Their house was strewn with garbage, used syringes, food, animal feces, and overflowing ashtrays. Some of the witnesses had watched Ruth injecting not only Edna with morphine and Demerol, but also herself and teenage Claudia. Ruth explained to them that God had allowed her to “share” her patients’ illnesses, to ease their burden.
Worst of all, Bailey had misdiagnosed several patients (including Edna and Claudia) with serious ailments including leukemia, gallbladder disease, blood disorders, and brain tumours. She told the women that these conditions were caused by demons, and claimed that God had granted her the ability to diagnose diseases other physicians could not. She prescribed massive amounts of painkillers without adequate instruction, supervision, or record-keeping; some of her patients subsequently had to go through detox, and underwent withdrawal. She falsified patient information on charts and records to convince other doctors that her patients were severely ill. (4)

There are many unanswered questions about this incident. Who checked Edna into St. Vincent’s? Did Ruth flee to Michigan alone, or did Edna accompany her? Where was Claudia while her mother was in hospital? Why was Edna diagnosed with leukemia and given massive quantities of drugs? Was Bailey drugging her friend to keep her dependent, or had the two women fallen into a dangerous folie a deux involving delusions of terminal illness and Satanic persecution (not to mention drug addiction)?

These questions may never be answered, but we can address some of the other claims made by Ruth Bailey. For instance, did Satanists have any role in the death of Ruth’s mother, Lois Bailey? It’s unlikely. Mrs. Bailey was 75 years old when she succumbed to a heart attack on December 31, 1982. (4)

What about the mayor of Muncie and the chief of police being Satanists? Brown gives this as her sole reason for not turning to law enforcement when Satanists started harassing her.
Well, the late Robert Cunningham was the ougoing mayor (1980 was an election year). Brown may have considered him a badass, but his gravestone tells a slightly different story. I don’t think there’s a self-respecting Satanist on earth who would choose such a fuzzy-wuzzy epitaph. At any rate, even if Cunningham was the nicest Satanist in the world, he was replaced by Republican Alan K. Wilson, and Wilson was replaced in ’84 by the late “Big Jim” Carey. Were both of these men devil-worshipers, too? Watch the classic 1982 documentary The Campaign, part of the PBS series “Middletown”, and decide for yourself. It chronicles the 1980 mayoral race between Wilson and Carey.

In 1986, Ruth Bailey legally changed her name to Rebecca Brown. She continued to refer to herself as a doctor, though she never acquired a license to practice medicine outside Indiana.

Like the other people in this series, Bailey declined to give the names of witnesses who should have been able to corroborate parts of her story. For instance, the doctor at Ball Memorial who learned of the Pavulon in Elaine’s IV, or the nurse who confessed to helping poison her food. Neither she nor Elaine reported any of the attempted poisonings and bombings. She does not name any of the murderous doctors or nurses at Ball Memorial, which would be quite inconsiderate if her stories were true – shouldn’t the public be warned?

“Elaine” was Edna Elaine Moses (nee Knost). Her witchy background turned out to be solidly Christian, though I suppose she could argue this was actually evidence of her infiltration efforts. Her high school yearbook (1965) listed her as a member of the Bible Club, and she married in a Foursquare Gospel church. (4)

Throughout the late ’60s and the ’70s, Edna/Elaine lived with her mother and stepdad in her hometown of New Castle, Indiana, working at a series of low-paying jobs. She then became a Practical Nurse (LPN) and worked in nursing homes in and around New Castle. If she lived the jet-setting life of a Regional Bride of Satan, no one seems to have noticed.

Strangely, Edna used an array of aliases after meeting Ruth Bailey. She sometimes used the surnames Bailey or Brown, her maiden name, or various combinations of her given names. Though she could have argued this obfuscation was necessary to shield herself from the Satanists, Edna’s location was usually known.

After their adventures in the Midwest, Edna and Ruth packed their bags and headed to California, home of Chick Publications (and a large number of the other ex-witches in this series). Chick not only published their stories, but hired them to work for him. They also landed speaking engagements at several churches.

Edna eventually drifted away from Ruth, and passed away in 2005.

Ruth married the Daniel Michael Yoder (real name William Joseph Stewart) on December 10, 1989. (4)
Yoder/Stewart has a very mysterious background. He claims he was born into a very wealthy Jewish family of international bankers (hinting at the Rothschilds, which brings to mind the “Satanic Nephilim” nonsense of Doug Riggs) and schooled by Rabbinical and Cabbalistic scholars at an exclusive Swiss boarding school between the ages of 6 and 19. He was ritualistically tortured by the staff of this school. As soon as he arrived, the rabbis locked him in basement dungeons and dumped poisonous spiders on him. This is when Jesus appeared to Daniel and miraculously healed the spider bites. But he didn’t become a Christian until his 30s.
Upon completing grad studies in Switzerland, Yoder went to work in his grandfather’s business. He later inherited it, and started some businesses of his own as well. When he was 30, his parents forced him into a strategic marriage with a woman named Kai, also a victim of “Cabbalistic abuse”. She soon converted to Christianity, which so enraged their families that hitmen were hired to kill the young couple. They were captured on the run and shipped to Israel. Daniel was chained to a wall, forced to witness Kai being tortured to death for her refusal to renounce Christ. She was with child at this time, having miraculously conceived in spite of a non-medical hysterectomony performed upon her in childhood at the behest of the evil rabbis.
Yoder fled to a remote cabin in the United States, where Kai’s martyrdom and her copy of the Bible finally persuaded him to accept Jesus.
Like his second bride, Yoder offers no verifiable details of any of his stories. (3)

At the time of his marriage to Brown, Yoder was using another man’s social security number. The newlyweds relocated from Arizona to Lake Park, Iowa, where Yoder passed himself off as a retired neurosurgeon whose father had also been a doctor. He befriended Dickinson County Sheriff Greg Baloun, telling Baloun tall tales about his days as a surgeon. In one fairytale, he used a modified Chevy Cordoba with a 40-gallon gas tank to make emergency trips between California and Nevado, speeding along the highways at 200 miles an hour.
Within a six-month period, Yoder and Brown lived in three different communities in northeastern Iowa and set up a ministry called Wells of Living Grace. The authorities discovered that Yoder was using several aliases and forging documents to prop up his false identities. He had served time in Minnesota and Missouri for simiar offenses. Perhaps knowing the law was at their door, Yoder and Brown returned to Arizona.
In 1991, Yoder was arrested in Pheonix and extradited to Iowa to face charges of falsifying motor vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, and social security records. He ultimately pled guilty in exhange for a modest fine, then resumed life in Arizona. Later the couple would relocate to Arkansas.
Together, Yoder and Brown established a ministry called Harvest Warriors. Their website describes Yoder as a “prophet, healer, and evangelist”, and claims that in 2002 he was presented with the National Republican Congressional Gold Metal for leadership, on the recommendation of Newt Gingrich. (5)

Yoder’s real background remains largely unknown.

In 1992, the Christian publisher Whitaker House reprinted the first two books by Rebecca Brown, and they have remained in print since that time.
The Reverend William W. Woods, pastor of Deer Valley Church of the Nazarene in Phoenix, the minister who married Yoder and Brown, wrote the foreword to their first book, Unbroken Curses (1996), and continues to support their work. (5)

Yoder and Brown continue to travel and preach, spreading curse theology and misinformation about neopaganism and the the “occult”. Last March, Yvonne Kruger of Prophetic End Time Ministry invited Brown to speak in South Africa.

Though Brown’s star has definitely fallen since the mid-’80s, she retains a small corps of fans who enthusiastically recommend her books. Last year, a sixth-grade science teacher in Brooklyn was mildly reprimanded for distributing and selling copies of They Came to Set the Captives Free to some of his students.

Sources:

1. Prepare for War by Rebecca Brown, M.D. (Chick Publications. Chino, Calif., 1987)
2. Closet Witches summary @ Monsterwax.com (reposted @ James Japan’s homepage). Retrieved June 26/11.
3. Unbroken Curses: Hidden Source of Trouble in the Christian’s Life by Rebecca Brown, M.D. and Daniel Yoder (Whitaker House, 1996)
4. “Drugs, Demons, and Delusions: The ‘Amazing’ Saga of Dr. Rebecca Brown” by
by G. Richard Fisher, Paul R. Blizard and M. Kurt Goedelman. Originally published in The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach. Vol. 9, No. 4, Octo
ber-December 1989. (reposted @ Cult Help and Information)
5.The Curse of Curse Theology”: The Return of Rebecca Brown, M.D.” by G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman @ Personal Freedom Outreach.org

Fake Teens

Perpetual adolescence may sound like hell, but these folks went to astounding lengths to make it happen…

Part I: James Hogue, self-educated cowboy and Ivy League track star
Part II: Brian McKinnon and other fake students
Part III: Predatory Fake Teens
Part IV: Serial Teen Treva Throneberry, the female Peter Pan
Part V: Frederic Bourdin, the bizarre case of a real-life changeling
Part VI: Online Teens
1. Jailbait
2. Caught (spoiler alert: contains spoilers for the movie Catfish)
Part VI: The Messiah, cult victim or cult leader?

Fake Teens VI: Online Teens

One of the following two stories ends in tragedy. The other ends somewhat happily for everyone. But both shine a bright light into the depths of online deception. I see these cases not so much as suspense thrillers (like the documentaries made about them), nor cautionary tales (as the media presents them), but as reminders of just how far a few people will go for attention.

Jailbait

Four years ago, two families and two innocent young people fell victim to the fantasy lives of two incredibly manipulative, unbalanced chat addicts.

In 2002, college student Brian Barrett began working at the Dynabrade factory in Clarence, New York, to help pay his tuition. A quiet and good-natured former athlete with wholesome good looks, the 18-year-old wanted to become a shop teacher. By 2006 he was studying industrial arts at Buffalo State.
Brian had an unlikely friendship with one of his co-workers, 45-year-old former Marine Thomas Montgomery. Tom had left the Marines as a young man with a drinking problem. When Brian Barrett met him, though, Tom was a dry, thoroughly reliable family man who taught Sunday school, volunteered on his daughters’ swim team, and had not so much as a speeding ticket on his record. He found his work as a machinist monotonous and uninspiring, but the pay was decent.
The only problem in Tom’s life was that he felt disappointed in himself, and craved more adventure. He started gambling and gaming online, and in mid-2005 he began chatting with a 17-year-old girl from West Virginia who called herself “Talhotblond” [sic]. Jessi sent him a few sexy photos of herself, and she was indeed tall, hot, and blond – perfect in every way.
Tom, who called himself “Marinesniper“, sent Jessi a 30-year-old photo of himself in uniform and told her he was 18-year-old “Tommy”, heading off to boot camp.

Jessi was an intriguing blend of woman and girl. She was an outrageous flirt and sent “Tommy” slideshows of herself posing provocatively in miniskirts and bikinis, but she lived with her parents and brother in the little town of Oakhill, West Virginia, where she played softball and basketball.
She and Tommy had cybersex and talked to each other on the phone daily.
Tom quickly fell in love. Not only with Jessi, but with his own online persona. He had given Tommy the Marine a chequered backstory: He hadn’t felt real love since his mother’s untimely death, and became a Marine to assuage his guilt over raping a girl when he was younger. Sometimes he felt suicidal.
Letters Tom Morgan wrote to himself in early 2006 indicate he was fantasizing about becoming the “good looking, battle hardened” Tommy, with a fake birth certificate and Social Security Number. Tommy would look like a redheaded Harrison Ford, sport a 9-inch penis, and have $2.5 million in the bank. He would have a black belt in karate.
Jessi called him her “sweet, sexy Marine”. On Christmas Day 2005, just six months after they met online, Tommy told her he was shipping off to Iraq and asked her to marry him on his return. She said yes.

Bizarrely, Tom also pretended to be “Tom Senior”, Tommy’s military dad. He chatted with Jessie online when his son was unavailable in Iraq, and shipped Jessi’s snail mail to him via “military contacts”.
When Tommy flipped out over Jessi flirting with other guys online, Tom Sr. was angry with her too, because his son really cared for her and would believe her “lying ass”. He remained angry with Jessi long after his “son” forgave her.

When Tommy, facing death in Iraq, lapsed into suicidal depression, Jessi coaxed him out of it.

By the summer of 2006, the guilt was getting to Tom Montgomery. He had an anxiety attack that he mistook for a heart attack. He tried to stay offline, but that made him even more anxious.
His wife of 17 years, Cindy, had been suspicious for a while, asking questions about who Tom was chatting with for hours. He gave her vague, reassuring answers that comforted neither of them.
Then Cindy discovered one of Jessi’s photos, sent by mail along with a pair of panties, and the jig was up. She was deeply weirded out that her husband was posing as a soldier (and a soldier’s dad) to seduce a girl not much older than their daughters.
She fired off a letter to the girl, explaining that “Tommy” was a 46-year-old married man. She warned Jessi to be more cautious online so she wouldn’t again be hurt by someone who had “mastered the art of manipulation and lies”. She enclosed a Montgomery family photo.

Jessi was just as shocked and wounded as Cindy. She demanded to know why Tom had deceived her. Incredibly, though, their relationship didn’t end. Jessi either wanted to learn more about the real Tom, or she wanted to get even: She turned to one of Tom’s online friends – Brian Barrett (“beefcake”). Soon, she began sending Brian photos of herself and calling him “Sexy”, an instant replay of her romance with Tommy. They fell in love, sort of.
Jessi threw her new “relationship” with his young coworker in Tom’s face, praising Brian’s honesty. Of course he realized she was trying to make him jealous, but as soon as she re-initiated contact, Tom knew he wanted her back. He apologized for his lies again and again, pleading for a second chance.


On the surface, Brian and Jessi were a good match. They both loved playing sports, and he was just a few years older than she was. Best of all, Brian wasn’t a middle-aged dad posing as a suicidal teenager. But Jessi craved drama and risk, just like Tom. She finally agreed to resume her relationship with Tom, on one condition: He had to continue pretending he was the 18-year-old Marine she had agreed to marry. “Don’t let Tommy die,” she begged him. At first, Tom refused. That’s when Jessi and Brian began taunting him in the online game chats, calling him a loser and a predator. The harassment amused Brian for a while, but then he began to feel Jessi was taking it too far. He could see a vindictive, manipulative side to her that didn’t appeal to him at all.

By this time, of course, the camaraderie between Tom and Brian was at an end. Brian was creeped out by Tom’s pursuit of a girl young enough to be his daughter, and Tom was extraordinarily bitter that Brian had chosen Jessi over their friendship. More than that, he was threatened. How could he possibly compete with a single guy in his early twenties? He was anchored to a home and family, while Brian could do pretty much as he pleased.
This hit home hard when Brian accepted Jessi’s invitation to visit her in West Virginia. Tom wrote to him, “tell ur little whore to stay the fuck out of my life.”
Before Brian packed his bags, however, Jessi broke it off. She accused him of only being interested in sex. She drifted back to Tom and tried to woo him, but he was still furious with her. “You mean shit to me these days,” he wrote.
She was finally able to melt him somewhat by writing, “U and only U are my connection to Tommy and I will love him till I die.”
Their renewed friendship was an uneasy one, clouded by Tom’s overwhelming hatred for Brian. In one chilling exchange, Tom claimed he had come very close to actually murdering Brian.

Tom: “I hate him with a passion and for 10 cents I would eliminate him.”
Jessi: “that’s a little drastic isn’t it”
Tom: “payback is a motherfucker, Jessi. I am the ultimate weapon. I am a Marine.”
Jessi: “what are u going to do?”
Tom: “Let’s just say ur piece of shit boyfriend came with a hair of dying… the day after U 2 assholes told me you were fucking with me… had I pulled a little harder he would gone… Brian will pay in blood.”

Now for the average person, declarations like “he will pay in blood” would be alarm bells. Not for Jessi. Tom’s fury and threats of homicide only drew her closer to him. She pledged never to betray him again, and began having cybersex with “Tommy” again.
But Jessi’s promises didn’t last long. Very soon, she was flirting with other guys on the online chats right under Tom’s nose.
Finally, Tom had enough. He ordered Jessi to leave him alone, or he’d physically harm her and her mother. (Earlier, he had threatened to post Jessi’s home address online so “the niggers can find you”.) This is when Jessi’s mom appeared online for the first time. She told Tom to keep away from her daughter. He agreed.
Two weeks later, Jessi was back in his life. “I have totally defied my ma to be with you,” she wrote.

While renewing her ties with Tom, Jessi began writing to Brian again, too. Tom discovered this through Myspace and was enraged. He wrote to her, “U will pay now bitch. U better be very afraid now. I told u what would happen if u and Brian got together.”

Jessi informed Brian that Tom was furious with both of them, and that’s as far as it went. Authorities weren’t notified about the repeated threats against Brian, Jessi, and Jessi’s mother at any time. Privately, though, Jessi and Brian expressed concern about Tom’s anger. Brian mentioned that Tom had tried to hit him with his car in the Dynabrade parking lot.

Jessi: “Brian I am really afraid of him.”
Brian: “Yea me too he’s crazy”

On September 15, 2006, Tom phoned Jessi to scream in an incoherent rage. She hung up on him.

That night, Brian finished work around 10:00 PM and headed out to his truck. When he was in the driver’s seat, Tom snuck up on him from behind and fired three shots from a .38-calibre rifle through the window. Because it was a Friday, Brian’s body remained undiscovered for two days.

When police learned about the sick love triangle and couldn’t locate Tom Montgomery, they feared the worst: He could be on his way to West Virginia to harm Jessi. Erie County Lieutenant Ron Kenyon phoned the girl immediately, informing her of Brian’s death and warning her to be cautious. Then he dispatched West Virginia police to her home.When Officer J. L. Kirk and a partner arrived at the little white house in Oakhill, Jessi’s mother answered the door. Mary Shieler already knew about Brian’s murder and seemed distressed about the situation, yet claimed her daughter wasn’t home.
“She was just here,” Kirk pointed out.
Something about Shieler’s attitude triggered his suspicion. After some fruitless back-and-forth, he asked her bluntly if she was “Jessi”.
The woman explained she did have a teen daughter named Jessi, who really wasn’t at home. But, yes, she was the Jessi known to Tom Montgomery and Brian Barrett.
Later, Mary would claim she never had any intention of disrupting her “happy” marriage for either of these men. With her kids nearly grown and Tim at work, she was lonely and bored. She cast herself in something like a heroic role, telling reporters she played along with Montgomery merely to keep him away from actual teen girls. And Brian Barrett? Well, he just got caught in the middle.

Mary Shieler was a 45-year-old housewife, known in her community as a devoted wife and mom. She went to all of Jessi’s games and volunteered at her daughter’s school. Mother and daughter were reportedly quite close, shopping and getting manicures together. Mary was clearly very proud of her lovely daughter, and spared no expense when it came to Jessi.
No one knew that the photos she continuously took of Jessi were being distributed to strangers over the Internet. Her husband, Tim, was mortified when he learned what she had done. He quickly filed for divorce.
Jessi was equally appalled. Mary never apologized to her, nor attempted to explain her actions. Jessi severed all ties with her mother.

Tom Montgomery, as it turned out, didn’t head for West Virginia. He remained at home, and on September 18 was taken in for questioning by Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weiss and Detective Charles Tirone. He was shocked and upset to learn that his beloved, virginal Jessi was really a 45-year-old mother of two.
Tom said he took his two daughters, 12 and 14, out to dinner on the night Brian was murdered, and returned home at 10:15. His daughters supported his alibi, but Lisa Montgomery stated Tom arrived home around 11:00. That left plenty of time for Tom to go to the plant in Clarence and shoot his rival.
Worse yet, Tom’s cell phone records placed him near the plant around 10:00.
He denied owning a .38 rifle, even though a photo of it was discovered in his home along with a .38 handbook.
His DNA was found on a peach pit left near Barrett’s vehicle. He had purchased a bag of peaches shortly before the murder.

Charged with Brian’s murder on September 27, Montgomery pled not guilty. Initially, he said Brian had several other enemies who made threatening phone calls to him at work.
But he had no real defense other than the word of his two young daughters. In July 2007, he took a plea deal: 20 years for manslaughter.
He attempted to change his plea again at his sentencing.

Brian Barrett’s parents, Dan and Deb Barrett, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Montgomery, Shieler, and Dynabrade. After the suit was dismissed, they campaigned for the development of “Internet accountability laws”.

In 2009 the documentary TalHotBlond, produced and directed by reporter Barbara Schroeder, aired on MSNBC. The instant message excerpts above were taken from that film.
Some of the more disturbing details were left out of the film, including Montgomery’s impersonation of “Tom Senior”, Montgomery’s racist threat to Jessi, and “Tommy’s” confession of raping a cheerleader.


Other Sources:

– “An IM Infatuation Turned to Romance, Then the Truth Came Out” by Nadya Labi. (Wired issue 15.09)
– “Thomas Montgomery: Bizarre Love Triangle” by Kristal Hawkins (TruTV.com Crime Library)

Online Teens Part II

Spoiler warning: Part II of this post contain complete spoilers for the film Catfish.