- Off the Hook: Conspiracy theories about the shootings in Connecticut, if they can even be called “theories”, are starting to draw attention from mainstream newspapers, websites like Salon and Gawker, and TV reporters. I’ve talked a little about these theories (here, here, and at Leaving Alex Jonestown), but the Sandy Hook conspiracy meme is far more contagious than I realized. 8.5 million people have viewed a 30-minute YouTube video by anonymous user Think Outside the TV. It’s basically a mishmash of outdated information culled from early reports, misinformation, and the “media lookalike” nuttery of Ed Chiarini, the Texan who believes the Pope is actually Robert Blake. Among other weirdness, TOTV includes the “theory” that one of Adam Lanza’s victims, 6-year-old Emilie Parker, is not only alive and well, but met with the President for a public photo op after she was murdered.
The media is critical of websites such as Sandy Hook Hoax, which was started by Jay Johnson. Johnson bills himself as the New Age Messiah, and boasts that he “solved LOST” with the aid of an Egyptian goddess. He has also written a screenplay about his life (or, as he likes to call it, the “greatest true story ever told”). His evidence for a grand Sandy Hook conspiracy is essentially the same as TOTV’s. He is quite indignant that family members don’t publicly cry enough for his satisfaction.
But not everyone in the mainstream media is critical of the Sandy Hook theories. Ben Swann, an award-winning reporter with Cincinatti’s Fox affiliate, devoted a segment of his Full Disclosure Web series to the possibility that Newtown, Aurora, and the Sihk temple massacre involved more than one gunman, citing early interviews with non-eyewitnesses and footage of Newtown police chasing a suspect into the woods (this man turned out to be a parent, Chris Manfredonia, who may have fled the school). To Swann’s credit, he didn’t actually tack a theory to any of this. It’s interesting to note, though, that he has been a guest on The Alex Jones Show. Jones, as always, is at the forefront of conspiranoids who insist that nearly all mass shootings are false flag operations perpetrated by drugged-up Manchurian Candidates on behalf of the New World Order.
A World Net Daily article by Aaron Klein attempts to tie Adam Lanza to other “Satanic” killers, and even suggests the possibility of a Satanic conspiracy.
Other online Sandy Hook theories too ridiculous to attract U.S. media attention include wacky Biblical interpretations of Google maps, “Newtown is a hub of Satanism”, “Lady Gaga and Satanism had something to do with this“, “Freemasons had something to do with this” (a theory that also emerged in the wake of the Dunblane massacre in 1996) and of course Jews did Sandy Hook. And Jews did Sandy Hook.
We could pass this off as harmless crankery – and most of it is – but we must face the fact that conspiracy theories have real-world consequences. In this case, an entire county in Connecticut shut down its schools after the Christmas break because the religious conspiracy website Revelation Now warned that a map in the latest Batman movie predicted another school attack. Gene Rosen, a retired Newtown resident who assisted six children after they bravely fled their classroom, is being harassed and slandered by conspiranoids who think he’s a paid “crisis actor”, a Satanist, or even a paedophile (merely because he took children into his house). The anti-Semitic wing of the Sandy Hook peanut gallery is certain that Gene Rosen’s ethnicity is a key to his involvement in a mass murder conspiracy. He has been threatened with death.
Yes, the Sandy Hook “theories” are idiotic – but they’re also deadly serious.
- I know, I know, it’s really serious: It can be said that the only perfect girlfriend is an imaginary one (or maybe that chick with three breasts). Devoutly Mormon Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o seems to have taken that literally.
Last September, media outlets around the nation relayed the touching and inspiring story of how Te’o led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 victory against the Michigan State Spartans just days after his beloved grandmother passed away and his girlfriend of nine months, Stanford graduate Lennay Kekua, lost her battle with leukemia. Lennay, 22, had been diagnosed after a car accident early in 2012. A cover story in the September Sports Illustrated Regional hailed Te’o as a “star student” who had “restored the shine to the golden dome” in spite of his personal tragedies. Writer Pete Thamel described how Te’o spent his few free hours on the phone to Lennay, comforting her as she lay in her hospital bed. Even after Lennay slipped into a coma, he continued to call and speak reassuring words through the phone. Her death on September 12, coming just six hours after the death of his maternal grandmother, was a devastating blow to the 21-year-old design major. They had been good friends since 2009, and began a relationship in January. A Yahoo! Sports piece describes how Te’o dedicated the September 15 game against the Spartans to his gran and his girl, grateful for the support of Lennay’s family after he made the difficult decision to stay with his “football family” and play Saturday’s game rather than fly to Oahu to be with his and Lennay’s relatives. Writer Dan Wetzel opined that Te’o is just the kind of player Notre Dame needs – young men of “accountability and awareness”, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick is quoted as saying Te’o “may be the perfect Notre Dame football player”. Even I heard about this amazing kid, and I don’t follow college ball.
The warm fuzzies lasted all the way up until this week, when the sports news site Deadspin released its investigative report on Te’o’s story. Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey could find no evidence that Lennay Kekua existed; she was not registered at Stanford, birth announcements can’t be found, no obituary was ever published, and no one other than Manti Te’o has ever met her (remember, he did supposedly meet her in person; according to an October story in the South Bend Tribune – which has been yanked offline – Brian Te’o said his son Manti met with Lennay several times in Hawaii in 2010 and 2011). They could find no record of a 2012 traffic accident in California involving a Lennay Kekua. Nor could they find any relatives of Lennay, like the older brother (Koa) mentioned in the Sports Illustrated article. Sure, there were photos of Lennay (one was shown on CBS This Morning the day of the Notre Dame/Michigan game, and her Twitter feed featured a few more), but Burke and Dickey claim to have traced them to a woman in California who was shocked that her pictures have been misrepresented to the media as photos of a woman she doesn’t know.
Te’o and Notre Dame are insisting that Manti is the victim of a cruel hoax. Having never met his girlfriend in person (which contradicts his earlier stories about meeting her), he was duped into believing that a voice on the other end of the phone was Lennay Kekua. However, he has not addressed Deadspin‘s examination of the Twitter accounts belonging to him and to “Lennay”, which indicate they met online in 2011 rather than in-person in 2009. At this point in the story, it’s still possible that Te’o is a hoax victim. But here’s where things get sticky for him. The California woman told Deadspin that an acquaintance named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo asked her to pose with a sign reading “MSMK”, supposedly to cheer up someone who had suffered a car accident, and she obliged. “LoveMSMK” was the name attached to Lennay Kekua’s Twitter account. Here’s the problem for Te’o: He knows Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, and exchanged Tweets with him all last year (he even plugged a song recorded by Tuiasosopo). Then there’s the issue of a supposed relative of Lennay trying to hush up the controversy by sending emails to webmasters, contacing Nev Schulman of Catfish fame, and being given a shout-out on Manti’s Twitter feed. It looks like Manti Te’o may have been undone by his own twittering.
I don’t know how common fake girlfriends are, but cancer hoaxes occur with troubling frequency. Just two months ago, the Wednesday Weirdness Roundup featured another one that had the town of Gypsum, Colorado mourning a little boy who never existed.
Anyway, time will tell. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to read Deadspin‘s exposé yourself. This post is already far too long for a Wednesday Roundup. In honor of the fictional Ms. Kekua, let’s have a musical interlude…
- In 2004, a creepy ghost video surfaced online. It had been taken with a VHS camcorder in the Smith Building, a former office located at Schatzell and Mesquite streets in downtown Corpus Christi, Texas, by a 20-year-old painter who was part of a renovation crew (the building is now called Retama Vista Apartments). Shot in 2002, the video shows cameraman Mike De La Garza walking through a vacant office suite on the building’s second floor. From his comments, you can gather that someone else has been reporting strange noises, and that De La Garza thinks a female ghost is responsible. “She’s here…it’s cold,” he says as he walks from room to room, searching for her. He comments that doors are closing, apparently of their own volition, and in one of the rooms a light seems to switch off by itself. One of his co-workers, a man named Tom, sits in a hallway hugging a gigantic crucifix to his chest, looking nervous.
Every room on the floor is empty, except for one darkened space; what appears to be the figure of a young girl is fleetingly glimpsed, standing in the corner. De La Garza dashes away from the apparition in terror, so we don’t see much detail. There’s just the impression of a dark-haired girl in a long white skirt, facing the corner. But it’s such a classic horror movie set-up – the warren of empty rooms, the grainy footage – that gooseflesh ripples down your arms when you realize there’s someone standing there. Let’s face it: It’s scarier than the last Paranormal Activity.
After the video became public, De La Garza explained that he had seen the little ghost-girl he called “Christie Smith” before, and told Tom about her. Tom, in turn, told some locals about her. His story attracted so much attention in Corpus Christi that De La Garza and a friend conducted ghost tours of the second floor for a while, telling visitors that they, too, might catch a glimpse of Christie. Then Mike decided to try and capture the ghost on video.
The video was posted on countless websites devoted to ghosts and the paranormal, and the Smith Building was added to lists of haunted places in Corpus Christie. The building’s current owner, Tracy Long, once discovered a group of people conducting a seance on the second floor.
This October, De La Garza finally decided to come clean. He now says the “ghost girl” was a prank he pulled on Thomas after finding some old clothes in the building. He rigged up a mop and a yardstick to simulate the appearance of a young girl, had a friend turn breakers off to make the lights flicker, and instructed another friend to slam doors when no one was looking. By the time he took the video, however, Thomas was in on the hoax.
An “outtake” from the ghost video shows De La Garza and two friends sitting beside the obviously fake “ghost” in a well-lit room.
- Speaking of creepy videos, what’s weirder than ranting about the New World Order for four or five hours a day? Putting a terrorist mask on your kid and coaching him to do the same thing.
- In 1924, 14-year-old Anna Mitchell-Hedges discovered a skull sculpted from quartz crystal in the ruins of the Mayan city of Lubaantun while exploring with her adoptive father, the English adventurer Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. They handed it over to locals, but when the family was preparing to return to England three years later, it was returned to them as a farewell gift. At least, this is one of the stories Anna told. It seems her father never mentioned the skull in any of his writings, and no one can recall Anna being in Lubaantun with him. There is evidence that the skull didn’t come into her possession until 1944.
For years, Anna kept the “skull of doom” on her dining room sideboard. It passed to her friend Bill Homann (mistakenly identified as her widower in several news stories) upon her death. Though Anna always insisted it was used by Mayan priests to place death curses upon their enemies, the skull bore more than a passing resemblance to another crystal skull held by the British Museum, and experts who examined that one found evidence of modern tool marks and machine grinding on the quartz, leading them to conclude it’s a clever fake. Just who created the skulls, and when, remains a mystery.
The skulls became a popular symbol of the unexplained, appearing in Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (aliens made it, of course) and on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.
Now, there are reports that an archaeologist in Belize is suing the makers of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Homann, and the Mitchell-Hedges estate. News stories claim that not only does Dr. Jaime Awe of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology want the skull returned to Belize, but he’s upset that the filmmakers didn’t ask permission to use the skull as the model for the prop in the movie (which doesn’t even look very much like the Mitchell-Hedges one). However, according to this report from Belize, Dr. Awe was not even aware a lawsuit had been filed, does not believe the skull is a genuine artifact, and wants nothing to do with the group that launched the suit.
- It’s been three years since Wife Swap participant, stormchaser, and all-around jackass Richard Heene reported that his 6-year-old son, Falcon, may have stowed away in his homemade flying-saucer balloon, which had escaped its moorings and was floating over Laramer County, Colorado. The whole thing turned out to be a publicity stunt, as little Falcon accidentally revealed in the family’s first televised interview. So what’s up with Balloon Boy these days? Would you believe…preteen heavy metal boy band?
- Henry Makow has appeared on the Wednesday Weirdness Roundup many times, but he has finally jumped the shark with his December 11 article “Aliens Have Abducted Our Women“. No, he’s not talking about alien-aliens, he’s talking about the “Illuminati Jewish bankers and their Masonic lackeys” who have used the Communist conspiracy known as feminism to transform Western women into frigid lesbians. He goes on to cite – big shock – a book published in the ’50s.
Fake nuns with fake Anthrax, real vampires, UN conspiranoia, hateful lies about hate speech, and Bigfoot’s disgusting ancestry
- After years of top-secret lab work, Dr. Melba Ketchum has announced the results of her DNA analysis of alleged Bigfoot hair and tissue samples (including, perhaps, the “Bigfoot steak” that was central to the Sierra Kills hoax). The upshot: Bigfoot isn’t an ape or a human. It’s descended from an unknown primate and a human female, who mated about 15,000 years ago. Ew. Ketchum is calling for Bigfoot to be afforded full Constitutional rights, as an aboriginal. Best title about this, to date: “Boffin claims Bigfoot DNA reveals BESTIAL BONKING“. Not even avid Sasqwatchers are wholefootedly accepting Ketchum’s results, though; Bigfoot Lunch Club, for instance, shares a few of the same reasonable doubts expressed by the Houston Chronicle‘s “SciGuy”, Eric Berger (and the rest of the scientific community).
- In the Serbian village of Zarozje, a different inhuman beast is supposed to be amuck. The mayor and the village council have warned locals that Zarozje’s legendary vampire, Sava Savanovic, might be pissed off and looking for blood now that the abandoned mill where he has dwelt for years untold has finally collapsed. In all apparent seriousness, officials have advised villagers to stock up on garlic and religious paraphernalia to keep Savanovic at bay. But given the vampire’s tourist appeal, garlic might not be the only thing that smells in Zarozje…
- “Big Brother is watching, and he really is gay.” That’s the title of a chapter in Dr. Michael Brown’s book A Queer Thing Happened to America. In a recent webcast of an interview with Brown, Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries claimed that at a Christian conference he attended in Switzerland last summer, Swiss attendees refused to use the words “wife” or “husband” to describe their spouses. Instead, they used the word “partner”. Asked why, a Swiss man supposedly informed Joyner that gender-specific titles for your significant other are classified as hate speech in Switzerland; you can actually go to jail for saying you have a wife or a husband. I’m calling BS on this one. Such radical restrictions on free speech would raise an international outcry, and there simply isn’t one. Either Joyner was misinformed, or he’s lying. His claims are remarkably similar to hate crime urban legends and misinformation that have been circulating in the Christian community for years: Hate crime legislation will prevent pastors from preaching against homosexuality, gays are trying to ban straight marriage, legislation could forbid homeschooling parents from sharing their opinions on gay marriage with their kids, etc.
When it comes to human rights, gays are not at the top of the list, as a particularly nasty bit of proposed legislation in Uganda shows.
- The last time I wrote about fake nuns, there was a serial killer/cult leader involved. This time, a fake nun in England simply sent some white powder to politicians and aristocrats because she was annoyed by their worship of Satan. Over the summer and autumn, 71-year-old “Sister” Ruth Augustus mailed envelopes stuffed with some harmless substance to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Baroness Scotland, Baroness Kennedy, and MP Edward Leigh. On the envelopes Augustus had written “devil worshipping”, “freemason”, “sex with 30 plus women”, “stop this evil devil worshipping”, and “stop these evil devil-worshipping freemasons.” The one addressed to Baroness Scotland also bore a swastika. Augustus refers to herself as a disabled Catholic nun who works for a children’s charity, but she does not actually belong to any Catholic order, and does not seem to be employed by any charity organization. For sending “noxious substances” through the mail, she has been ordered to undergo mental health treatment and serve a two-year community order.
- Also this autumn, the entire town of Gypsum, Colorado, rallied behind a 9-year-old cancer patient named Alex Jordan, a boy no one in the community had ever met. According to a Jordan family friend, Alex’s parents relocated to Gypsum earlier this year so the boy could spend his final days in the mountains. He was dying of leukemia, after defeating it two years earlier. From his hospital bed, Alex enthusiastically followed the local high school football team, the Eagle Valley Devils, over the Internet. As soon as they learned about their number one fan, team members signed a football for Alex, began displaying the letter A on their helmets, and even wrote his name on the fence that surrounds their field. Soon, hundreds of other locals joined a Facebook page in support of Alex. When they learned at the end of October that Alex had died, Gypsum residents mourned the brave little boy who had become the Devils’ unofficial mascot. But, as in the cases of Kaycee Nicole Swenson, Jonathan Jay White, and Anthony Godby Johnson, a few people wondered why no one had actually seen this kid or his parents. The only individual with a known connection to the Jordan family was that mysterious family friend who had first mentioned him to local reporters and football parents, 22-year-old Briana Augustenborg. As it turned out, Augustenborg had created “Alex” out of thin air, for reasons that are not entirely clear (she didn’t attempt to raise any money, and didn’t accept any gifts or donations). Alex Jordan now joins a long list of cancer-related hoaxes that preyed upon the tenderhearted.
- Meanwhile, UN conspiracy theories are in full bloom – and they’re actually getting a bit of mainstream attention. A small but vocal coalition of U.S. senators led by Rick Santorum is opposing ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, arguing that it will impinge upon parental rights, if not actually make every disabled child a ward of the New World Order global superstate (a view shared by the Home School Legal Defense Association and other homeschooling advocates). Other Republicans have succumbed to Agenda 21 paranoia, believing the UN and Obama are conspiring to forcibly relocate rural dwellers, and/or control their minds.
I would love to combine all these stories into a TV series about a gay, undead Bigfoot. He must defeat a bogus nun who pretends to have cancer and sends hate mail to the UN.
|Do you know this suburban twentysomething wild teenager?|
- For the past nine months, a young Kaspar Hauser clone in Germany has been insisting he was raised in the woods for the past 5 years, knows only his first name (“Ray”), and that he buried his father (his only known relative) in an unmarked forest grave last August. Intriguing as the Forest Boy of Berlin mystery is, I suspect we’re seeing another Bush Boys of British Columbia or Piano Man story in the making. Update (June 15, 2012): Forest Boy has been identified as Robin van Helsum, a 20-year-old from the Netherlands. He disappeared from Hengelo just three days before he turned up in Berlin last September.
- Hey, did you know that Vice magazine and Beavis and Butthead predicted 9/11? Yeah, neither did they. Conspiranoids are pointing out that an illustration in a 1994 issue of Vice, featuring Beavis and Butthead as Al Qaeda terrorists circling the Twin Towers in little airplanes (tasteful as hell, right?), is a classic example of “predictive programming”. That’s when bad guys tell you exactly what they’re going to do to you before they do it because their ancient, heathen religion demands a willing victim (you know, like Cabin in the Woods). The problem with this brilliant theory is, the issue was actually a mock-up of a 1994 magazine to commemorate Vice‘s 15th anniversary – written, illustrated, and printed in 2009.
- If you’ve read part VI of the Fake Teens series , or followed the incredibly bizarre story of the teen boy who manipulated an online buddy into trying to kill him, or even just watched Dateline, then you know that online romances with teenagers can end messily. A young woman in Novia Scotia is now facing up to the consequences of her fake online identity after her pseudocide possibly contributed to a real suicide.
- Last month, the Skeptoid podcast did a nice piece on the Rothschild banking dynasty, pointing out that the Rothschilds are still all that, but do not currently include a bag of chips.
- That Cabin in the Woods reference wasn’t really a spoiler. If you like horror movies, see it.
In the next few days, we’ll be wrapping up the Prodigal Witch series and moving on up to Chemtrail Week.
The writers at Cornerstone magazine, in exposing the make-believe story of Lauren Stratford, referred to the hoax as “Satan’s sideshow”. If Stratford was the sideshow, the late Eric Pryor was the whole circus.
The late Eric Pryor appears to have literally crawled out of some woodwork. Suddenly, on Halloween 1990, this strange, gawky man with bleached-blonde hair and weird blue eyes appears in front of the San Francisco Civic Auditorium with an eclectic mob of neo-Pagans, gays, and Satanists from the Bay area.
Pryor loudly announces they’re going to perform a “public binding” against Texas televangelist Larry Lea, a vocal opponent of all things occult and gay who is holding one of his “Prayer Breakthrough” rallies at the Auditorium that night. Pryor dramatically burns and hacks up a candle representing Lea, to the amusement of onlookers and TV cameramen. Then the protesters return to their usual lives, and Pryor gets a full-time job preaching the gospel at Jubilee Christian Center, a Pentacostal megachurch in San Jose.
A sample of Larry Lea’s work
Really. It seems that sometime in between the chanting and the effigy-torching, Pryor decided Bible-thumping wasn’t so bad after all.
The day after his protest, he appeared on the San Francisco TV show People are Talking alongside Dick Bernal, head of Jubilee Christian Center. He identified himself as a Wiccan who wanted to prevent witch hunts from breaking out in the Bay area, and was ostensibly trying to prove that neo-Pagans are just like any other socially conscious citizens, worthy of respect and tolerance. But then he screwed the pooch re-enacting a “Wiccan ceremony” he performed on a young woman (his girlfriend Cassandra, as it turned out). In what appeared to be an exorcism, Pryor crouched over Cassandra, making repeated stabbing motions with his athame while chanting something in Hebrew. Public response to the video was less than enthusiastic. Pagans were annoyed, and Christians were appalled. (4)
But the Christians were soon rejoicing, because after the TV appearance, Pryor agreed to meet with Dick Bernal and attend Lea’s service at Jubilee, all expenses paid. On November 17, he was saved. He even allowed his new brothers and sisters in Christ to clear his apartment temple of witchcraft paraphernalia and burn it in a bonfire.
By the end of the year he was in the pulpit as yet another “witch who switched”.
As a Wiccan, Pryor had called himself Lord Gandalf. He claimed to have been the head of the Wiccan New Earth Temple in San Francisco, but no one in the Pagan subculture seemed to know him before his Larry Lea protest, and the “temple” was located in Pryor’s apartment.
At first, he claimed to have had about 75 local followers. In 1991 he claimed “tens of thousands” of followers. (3) On a January 1992 broadcast of his TV show Change Your Life, Larry Lea said he had led 50,000 Pagans. (4)
But he revealed that he was more than just a born again neo-Pagan; in New York, he had been a prostitute and belonged to a Satanic cult that delighted in luring strangers to their temple to brutalize and torture. They didn’t actually sacrifice anyone, but they came pretty close.
Weirdly, Pryor also said he had been born again once before (a notion that most Christians reject – you’re born again once, period, and any reversion to your former ways is merely backsliding). This was around 1977, when he was still a teenager.
Further underscoring the supposedly violent nature of occultism, Pryor told Larry Lea that if he hadn’t realized Lea was an okay guy, he might have ended up shooting him. He claimed he had a gun stuffed into his cowboy boot during the protest. Later, he claimed he and the other Pagans were equipped with an entire arsenal: automatic weapons, grenades, dynamite. (4)
As we will see, Pryor was not allowed to possess firearms, yet prominently displayed guns in his apartment and bragged of carrying a shotgun everywhere for protection against Pagan assassins. With his avowed history of violence and homicidal intentions, this should have alarmed his Christian friends. But it did not. They apparently chalked it up to his charming eccentricity. Pryor liked to dress all in black with a Stetson, snakeskin boots, and a duster coat, like some kind of spaghetti Western vigilante. At other times he would don Army fatigues and call himself a “Christian soldier”.
As an evangelist, Pryor specialized in “slaying in the spirit” (sending people into an ecstatic state, knocking them to the ground with a light touch or a spoken command). His services somewhat resembled mass exorcisms, with people flopping into the arms of Pryor’s assistants or onto the floor as he hollered invectives against the Devil. A transcript of one of his services shows that by early ’91 he was already well-schooled in the evangelistic style, knowing just when to fire up the audience and when to pluck their heartstrings. He used just the right combination of humorous patter and earthy spirituality.
Bernal seemed delighted with his catch, referring to Pryor as “the Chief Wiccan of the Wicca cult”. (4) As a former witch, a former Satanist, and a former prostitute, Pryor was the ideal evangelistic tool for a gay-friendly, Pagan-friendly region. If he had some faults, they could be politely overlooked.
The exact nature of Pryor’s position at Jubilee Christian Center has remained murky, as Dick Bernal gave inconsistent statements about it. He told ABC’s Primetime Live in November 1991 that Pryor received an income of $1000 per month. One month later he told the San Jose Mercury News that Pryor received $500 per month, and had his own office. (3) In 1996 he told the Metro newspaper that Pryor did not get a salary from Jubilee and was not on staff, but admitted that Pryor got to pocket the donations for all the services he held at Jubilee (though Bernal didn’t mention it, Pryor also made money from videotapes that sold for $12-$45 per copy). (5)
The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Herb Caen reported Pryor made $100,000 in his first year of preaching. Pryor refuted this, insisting he was nearly broke. But he was wearing a Rolex as he said it. (3)
Whatever Pryor’s actual income and position in the church, he did not have any other employment during the 7 years he spent there. His evangelistic roadshow, Christian Gladiator Ministries, operated out of Jubilee. By 1996, he was charging $1300-$1700 per show. (5)
In addition to his preaching, Pryor also became one in a long line of “occult crime experts” who attributed every pentacle spray-painted on an underpass to Satanic criminal gangs. Absurdly, he declared in 1996, “I’m the only one I know of in the country who does this type of investigation.” (3)
His only major gig in this capacity was a “Satanic crime” seminar held on July 26, 1991 at a church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He told the assembled law enforcement officers that Pagans usually act as front-people for Satanic organizations that are involved in criminal enterprises, and urged them to do undercover work against Pagans to expose their “real” activities. He even provided phone numbers of Pagans to get them started.
To bolster his contention that all Pagans and Satanists are bad news, he admitted to committing all sorts of crimes as a Satanist in New York and San Francisco: stockpiling weapons, robbing graves and churches, blackmailing other occultists. He said, “The occult community encompasses murder, drugs and homosexuality. The stuff I share with you could easily get me killed. New Age and Occult practices are becoming more popular and as it becomes more popular it is a cover for criminality.”
He even hinted that Freemasons were part of this occult criminal underworld, claiming his temple had been located inside a Masonic hall (as we know, it was located only in his apartment). He said Satanists commit ritual sacrifices several times a year, breed babies for sacrifice and sale, abduct teenagers, and provide young children to pedophiles (he libelously claimed that the Temple of Set supplies young boys to NAMBLA).
Like ex-Satanists John Todd, Mike Warnke, and Doc Marquis, he claimed the Pagans would have murdered him for defecting. It was all the publicity that attended his conversion to Christianity that scared them away, he said. Nonetheless, he carried a shotgun with him at all times for protection. (4)
Law enforcement agencies were obviously not keen to enlist Pryor’s help, so he resorted to handing out a “Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults” videotape instead. In the video, as in his British Columbia presentation, he placed peculiar emphasis on the link between Paganism (Satanic crime) and homosexuality. This was not an accident. In June 1991, he told a church audience in Cameron Park, “My goal is to destroy Satanism, humanism, paganism, druidism and the practice of homosexuality in our lifetime.” (3)
In November 1991 he wed his girlfriend, Cassandra, in a Jubilee ceremony at which Dick Bernal officiated. Sandra had converted to Christianity, too.
“The witch who switched” garnered considerable mainstream media attention, much of it negative. In November 1991 ABC’s Primetime Live looked into Pryor as part of its investigation into the ministries of Larry Lea and other televangelists. Diane Sawyer said, “We discovered right away Eric Pryor was never a major leader of the Pagans.” Primetime also learned his first marriage had never been dissolved, and the ceremony with Cassandra was just for show (Bernal even admitted he knew Pryor was already married). The man who filmed the ceremony, Eric Marsh, claims he saw Bernal and Pryor “signing what appeared to be a wedding license. Pryor started to ask me if I would like to witness it but Bernal cut him off.”
There is no doubt that Pryor tried to pass this off as a legal union. Lea proudly told Diane Sawyer that Eric had married his live-in girlfriend, and Pryor himself announced to a Denver audience that he was a married man (which was true enough, but the woman he named wasn’t his wife). (6)
Also, despite the fact that donations were pouring in during his spectacular church services, Pryor had not resumed child support payments for his two children from his first marriage (a warrant was issued against him for nonsupport in 1993).
Diane Sawyer also revealed that Larry Lea’s ministry had been giving Pryor money. (2)
The Mercury News reported that Jubilee moved Pryor out of his Tenderloin hovel, buying him a golf course condo in Santa Clara. Bernal claimed the move was strictly a safety precaution, as San Francisco Pagans were gunning for Pryor. (3) (Pryor complained that Pagans were attacking and menacing him, but he was the only one throwing around unsubstantiated accusations and behaving in a threatening manner. He continually warned Christian audiences that Pagans and Satanists are child-stealing, murderous perverts. He also encouraged the police to harass them and interfered with their ceremonies.)
There has been speculation that Larry Lea, Dick Bernal, and/or someone in their ministries hired Eric Pryor to fake a miraculous conversion as a publicity stunt, and there is a lot of circumstantial evidence for that. It’s also possible that Pryor engineered the stunt himself: One former Pagan who met Pryor shortly before the anti-Lea demonstration, Eric Marsh, claims Pryor discussed “putting on ‘an act’ of going over to the Christians so that he could go undercover and get the dirt’ on them.”
Lea is certainly not above suspicion. Like so many televangelists before and after him, he has a history of scamming. The same year he saved Pryor, he held a fund drive to build the first Christian church at Auschwitz. However, the church had already existed for two years and was paid for entirely by Polish Pentacostals. Lea gave the church a $30,000 donation, but his ministry had nothing to do with its creation. (2)
Eric’s Prior Life
Details of Pryor’s early life are sketchy, and the information he gave about his background varied over time.
He was born in 1959. He said his childhood in Woodstock, New York, was marred by neglect and abuse. He was often in foster care due to his mother’s mental illness. He spent much of his time studying occult books at the public library. (5) He was attracted to occultism, in part, because one of his grandfathers was a founding member of the American Nazi party and practiced mystical Nazism (Pryor stated, incorrectly, that Hitler himself was an initiate of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis). When he was 10 years old, the neo-Nazis burned some sort of insignia onto young Eric’s right arm to mark him as one of their own (he never displayed it publicly). (4)
Like several of the people we’ve seen in this series, Pryor claimed a childhood devotion to God that paved the way for salvation later in life. Just as Lauren Stratford described asking Jesus to be her daddy when she was 4 years old, Pryor said he knelt down at the age of 4 and asked God to be his daddy. (6) Pardon my cynicism, but I suspect he had a copy of Satan’s Underground in that Santa Clara condo.
Because of the abuse, Eric ran away from home and became a child prostitute in New York City at the age of 12. He met Herman Slater, owner of the city’s most famous occult bookstore, Magickal Childe. It was Slater, he said, who initiated him into Wicca and tutored him in the occult. Eric was such a quick study that Slater commissioned him to write sections of the two-volume Book of Pagan Rituals (1974-75) when he was just 14 years old. By the time he was 15, he said, “People were already starting to name babies after me! I was like a Mozart of the occult community, the prodigal child!” (6)
As a Christian, Pryor viciously (but ridiculously) slandered Slater by stating that Magickal Child sold snuff videos via its mail-order catalogues, and that Slater and other Pagans used him as a teenage temple prostitute.
He went on to study under Lady Sabrina of the Wiccan school Our Lady of Enchantment and Carol Bulzone, a witch of the Welsh tradition. For a time he worked at Bulzone’s occult bookshop, Enchantments. He was later granted a certificate of ordination by Gavin and Yvonne Frost’s Church of Wicca, and reached the third level of Gardnerian Wicca under priestess Rolla Nordic. He referred to himself as a Welsh High Priest and a reverend. He worked with prominent witch Laurie Cabot and Pagan musicians Kenny and Tzipora Klein.
Prior to being born again, he was also a Satanist thug, a parapsychologist with an honorary doctorate from the American Parapsychology Research Association, and a licensed funeral director and mortician (which enabled him to procure bodies and body parts for necromancy).
There’s no evidence that Pryor had any sort of honorary doctorate, nor that he ever possessed a mortician’s license, but we do know he made the abrupt leap from Wicca to Satanism sometime in the late ’70s or early ’80s. Just as he would later do in California, he tried to draw teenagers into his orbit. We also know that he had a rather lengthy criminal record. (4)
In 1982 he wed his first wife, Nichole, in a prison ceremony. He was serving time for a drunken assault, and fighting extradition to Texas on armed robbery charges of which he would ultimately be convicted.
The Pryors had two children. Though he never mentioned this part of his past to his born again friends, the marriage was volatile. Pryor was once arrested for shooting out the windows of his house while Nichole and their son were inside. She left him around 1987.
In 1988, Eric sought the greener pastures of California. He established his New Earth Temple in his San Francisco apartment and joined the Bay Area Pagan Assemblies. He later claimed, falsely, that he was a board member of BAPA.
Two years later, he found Jesus.
Pryor established a somewhat respectable Christian life for himself, or so it seemed at first. After his “marriage” to Sandra ended, he wed a young Christian mother, Shelly Kolt, in July 1994.
Sadly, while Eric’s zeal for devil worship may have faded, his penchant for violence had not. Just one month after his wedding he was charged with spousal abuse and assault with a deadly weapon (a knife). During his arrest by Mountain View police, he lashed out drunkenly and had to be placed in restraints. He later insisted that Shelly was the real aggressor, though she had no record of domestic assault, and complained the police “failed to protect” him.
So did a judge, apparently. Pryor spent several months of 1995 in jail.
According to Shelly, Eric assaulted her and threatened to kill her because she was considering leaving him. At that time, according to court records, Pryor was negotiating a six-figure book and TV deal with the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the deal required him to remain married (to one woman at a time, of course). (5)
Pryor soon married his assistant, another young Christian mother named Renee.
The Witch Who Switched and Then Switched Again and Then Switched Again and Then Switched Again
The story so far is that Eric Pryor was a witch who briefly became a Christian in the late ’70s, then returned to Wicca, then became a Satanist simultaneously (though Wicca and Satanism are incompatible belief systems), then became a Christian again.
Exactly 7 years after being born again, Pryor parted ways with Jubilee and Christ. He grumbled about the church’s “money-grubbing” and “hypocrisy”.
The following year, he and a small gaggle of New Age followers rented a 38-room mansion Pryor claimed was once owned by Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery and set up the Serene Foundation to endorse a peculiar mix of Christianity, Satanism and shamanism. Pryor pledged to cure drug addiction and other disorders with natural healing and faith healing, claiming to possess potent gifts, and announced his intention to train a team of “shamanic prophets” to perform the same feats. His decision to become a full-time healer is unnerving in light of what he told a Christian audience in Salem, Massachusetts, back in 1992: As a Wiccan, he said, he charged clients “a thousand dollars to put a piece of quartz crystal on their heads and burn enough incense to kill a thousand mosquitoes.” (4)
The Serene Foundation’s grand opening was held on Halloween, with teenagers invited to join a “healing circle” at the mansion.
Pryor cultivated a new, kookier image and excitedly courted the small amount of media attention his return to Satanism attracted. He took to wearing leopard-print robes and colourful Satanic vestments embroidered with crosses.
Though he boasted of commanding $20,000 per public appearance as an evangelist, the truth was much sadder. The money he had earned with Jubilee Christian Center and Christian Gladiator Ministries was mostly gone by the end of the 1998. He could no longer afford the rent on the Bewitched mansion and had to relocate his temple of healing to a jumble of ramshackle buildings on Vine Hill Road, optimistically named Happy Valley Estates. He tried to establish a halfway rehab house for teens, and held healing services on a cement “healing table” in the yard of the Happy Valley mansion. Various priests, priestesses, and spiritual seekers found their way to the Foundation to take shrooms and grab some enlightenment, but it never drew the kind of attention or funds Pryor seemed to crave.
His spirituality seemed to consist of a melange of Satanism, Native American traditions, and Wicca. He made his teenage stepdaughter a “high priestess”. In short, he was probably the only person in this series to have a real life every bit as weird as his fantasy life.
And now things get just a little stranger. According to an obituary published by the Christian magazine Charisma in 2009, Pryor resumed Christian preaching. After moving to Carson City, Nevada, in the late ’90s, he and Renee founded a Christian ministry called Peculiar Nation, and Pryor preached occasionally at churches and Christian events until the time of his death.
It’s quite possible that Peculiar Nation was a Pagan or Satanic effort that Charisma mistook for a Christian ministry (the author doesn’t even mention Pryor’s defection from the church), but given Pryor’s erratic nature, I wouldn’t be shocked if he tried to return to the fold.
And stranger still, Pryor reinvented himself as a pop artist.
Now, instead of being a teen prostitute and a wicked Satanist during his New York years, he was an assistant to Andy Warhol at the Factory, studied advertising and design at New York University’s Center for the Media Arts and worked as an illustrator at Dentsu Advertising. He later earned a degree from the California College of Fine art and pioneered what he called the “neo–byzentine-pop” [sic] art style.
Needless to say, not one of these things actually happened. And the artist’s bio, apparently written by Pryor himself, sheds a very bright light on his years as a witch/former witch/former former witch: “Both classically trained and self taught, Mr. Pryor’s work has become very successful and his ‘antics’ & ‘episodes’ have become fodder for many national and international news stories both in print and on air.”
What Was Eric Pryor, Exactly?
A witch? A Satanist? A Christian pretending to be a former Satanist? A Former Satanist pretending to be a Christian? An attention whore? A performance artist? A very confused man?
Damned if I know.
It’s quite possible that Pryor’s 1990 conversion was a PR stunt. In addition to the statements made by Pagans he knew (see below) and the statement in his artist’s bio, the Primetime Live investigation discovered that Larry Lea’s ministry gave Pryor cash after his conversion.
What is obvious is that despite all his alleged instruction from prominent East Coast Wiccans, Pryor had an incredibly weak understanding of Paganism, Satanism, and the occult. In a video presentation produced by Jubilee Christian Center shortly after his conversion, From Pagan to Pentacost, Pryor referred to a paperback copy of the Simon Necronomicon as an ancient and evil tome. He called temples “covendoms” and Pagan grottoes “groves”. He declared that only Wiccans can become Satanists (false), said Hitler was an OTO and Golden Dawn member (false), and performed an exorcism (something Pagans and Satanists generally don’t do; they seldom believe in literal demons).
Since evangelical Christians tend to embrace former witches and ex-Satanists without any sort of background checks, sorting out the facts and factoids of Pryor’s many claims fell to the Pagan community. Investigations were undertaken by BAPA (to which Pryor had belonged only briefly, never serving on the board), Covenant of the Goddess, and Kerr Cuhulain. Their findings revealed that Pryor may have associated with at least one Satanist in New York (a guy named Pete Colon), but his stellar Wiccan credentials were b.s.:
- Pryor did meet Herman Slater as a youth, but he was 17, not 12. This would have been around 1977, the exact same time Pryor was supposedly born again. If that date is correct, Pryor could not possibly have helped Slater compile A Book of Pagan Rituals. Slater vaguely recalled that Lady Rhea, his high priestess, may have initiated Eric into the Welsh tradition.
- Carol Bulzone never met Pryor. And as a participant in all the initiation rituals done by Lady Rhea since 1975, she was certain Lady Rhea never initiated Pryor.
- Lady Sabrina said she never heard of Pryor, and could find no record of Pryor taking the correspondence course offered by Our Lady of Enchantment.
- Gavin and Yvonne Frost didn’t know Pryor, have no record of him as one of their mail order students, and did not ordain him.
- Rolla Nordic also said she had never met Pryor, and couldn’t have initiated him into a Gardnerian tradition because she was a practitioner of the Welsh tradition. In January 1991, after Pryor’s conversion to Christianity, he sent Rolla Nordic an initiation certificate he created himself, asking Nordic to sign it. It stated Pryor was initiated by Nordic in 1977. Clearly, he was hoping Nordic would sign the thing without question. She didn’t.
- Laurie Cabot stated she did not know Pryor, and he had no involvement with her Witches’ League for Public Awareness.
- In the early ’80s, Kenny and Tzipora Klein gave Pryor and his first wife a place to shower when they were homeless in New York, and that was all. They didn’t work together. In September 1990, Kenny and Tzipora ran into Eric at a benefit concert in Oakland, California. He told them that he’d just come into large amount of money and was organizing a benefit concert for the homeless for Jubilee Christian Center (there was no such concert). He also mentioned he was organizing the demonstration against Larry Lea. Now that’s odd. By all accounts, Eric had no affiliation with Jubilee prior to the Lea protest. This lends some support to the theory that the entire Lea affair was a mock-protest, designed to hype Lea’s crusade and introduce a Satanist-turned-Christian to Jubilee (as we have seen, evangelical and Pentacostal churches love to have their own in-house former Satanists). Kerr Cuhulain learned from the Kleins that Larry Lea may have been the chaplain of the Texas prison where Pryor served his sentence for armed robbery, and speculates the two men could have met at that time. Eric’s attempt to establish Wiccan credentials for himself after becoming a Christian also hints at something funky about his dramatic conversion. Is it possible that Larry Lea persuaded a prison inmate to stage a mock-protest and a mock-conversion? Or did Pryor, knowing about Lea from his time in Texas, simply decide to protest his presence in a city that is, for the most part, friendly to gays and Pagans? We’ll probably never know. (4)
Eric’s account of his childhood may be more legit than his Wiccan credentials. An uncle told the Wiccan researchers that Eric left home at the age of 14 and became a prostitute, developing drug and alcohol problems. In California, he finally sought psychiatric and medical treatment for his substance abuse issues. After being born again, however, he went off his meds and discontinued therapy, falling back into his old patterns of drinking, drugs, and violent behaviour.
On June 7, 2009, Pryor was hit by a truck while crossing a street in Carson City, Nevada, and died of his injuries.
1. “6500 Christians Attend S.F. ‘Exorcism‘” by Don Lattin and David Tuller. San Francisco Chronicle. November 1, 1990.
2. Primetime Live report “The Apple of God’s Eye.” Broadcast November 21, 1991. (available on YouTube)
3. “Reborn Again?” by Dave O’Brien. San Jose Mercury News. December 14, 1991.
4. “Eric Pryor” by Kerr Cuhulain @ Witchvox
5. “Prophet Seeking” by Bob Hansen. 1996 Metro article @ Metroactive.com.
6. Transcript of testimony given by Eric Pryor at Victory in Jesus Church in Denver, Colorado, on February 4, 1991
7. “The Witch Who Switched Back” by Traci Hukill. October 29-November 4, 1998 issue of Metro @ Metroactive.com.
Insanity in the UK
In the ’80s and ’90s, a woman named Audrey Harper made many appearances on behalf of the Christian organization Reachout Trust, a major proponent of Satanic panic in the UK. She claimed that in the ’60s, she belonged to a murderous Satanic cult in London. Her story was similar in theme to Doreen Irvine’s 1973 book From Witchcraft to Christ, and that may not have been a coincidence; reportedly, Irvine and Harper were both converted to Christianity by the same evangelist, Eric Hutchings. (3) And both women, as living examples of “what Satanists do”, were integral to the anti-occult crusade spearheaded by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, Diane Core of Childwatch, and Maureen Davies of Reachout Trust. (1)
Though it has the same basic structure and many common elements, Audrey Harper’s story was much darker than Doreen Irvine’s. While Irvine witnessed nothing more “deviant” than some bird murders and gay orgies in the early ’60s, Audrey was party to child sacrifice and other extreme forms of brutality during the same time. It’s odd that they didn’t cross paths until becoming Christians, as they may have belonged to the same international “black witch” cult.
Their backgrounds were even eerily similar. Though Audrey had a more privileged life than Doreen (she was adopted by a doctor and his wife), hers was a loveless childhood. She fell into drug addiction and prostitution at a young age, and things only went downhill from there. Her boyfriend died, she gave up their baby for adoption, became an alcoholic. Homeless, she fell in with a gang of hippies in Picadilly Circus and became a chronic pill-popper and pot-smoker. (2)
Then everything changed. In 1961 Audrey was invited to a glamorous Chelsea party, because homeless hookers who reek of weed and booze get invited to these things all the time.
After the party, the beautiful people inducted her into a coven that met monthly in the upscale village of Virginia Water (where, ironically, some Harry Potter scenes have been filmed). On Halloween night she signed a parchment pledging herself to Satan (just like Irvine), and drank the blood of a sacrificed rooster (just like Irvine). Then she was sexually initiated on the temple altar by the cult’s head “warlock” (the same term used by Irvine). This is the story she told to the London paper Sunday Sport in one of her first interviews (March 13, 1988). (4)
The “warlock” soon enlisted Audrey to recruit other vulnerable youths for the cult. The kids were gathered in a room scented by “heroin candles” and given hallucinogen-spiked drinks, which invariably led to orgies and the filming of porn. Ritual abuse and infant sacrifices were routine.
The cult also engaged in a range of petty crime, from church desecration to robbery.
Audrey remained with the cult for five years.
Like Irvine, Audrey never gave a name for her cult nor identified any of its members (at least, not publicly). She used the terms “witchcraft” and “Satanism” interchangeably, implying there is no distinction between earth religions and devil-worship. She was vague about her cult’s religious beliefs. She didn’t mention any scripture, like Irvin’s massive Book of Satan, nor any rituals that didn’t involve drugs, sex or murder. But she did describe the supernatural powers she developed, including the ability to levitate and the very handy skill of occult furniture arrangement: “I could bring down the powers of darkness to move furniture about”. (2)
Irvine had developed the same skills during her years as a “black witch”. Sadly, everyone forgot to take pictures.
Drug-addicted and mistreated by cult members, Audrey ended up in and out of mental hospitals, where she gave birth to her second child. She gave up this baby for adoption as well, fearing the head warlock would sacrifice it. (2)
Her addictions, combined with personal intervention by the Devil himself, served to keep Audrey tied to the cult. “Satan could direct me to the coven by remote control,” she later explained. “There was no resistance. I had to go.” Even after leaving the cult, she continued to believe that all her self-harming actions and poor choices had been the direct result of Satanic interference. Every time she injected an overdose of heroin, or walked to a cemetery where babies would be slain and women raped on altars, it was all the Devil’s idea. This near-total abdication of personal responsibility is so common to the testimonies of “former Satanists” that it begins to wear very thin after you’ve heard a few of them. It’s hard to believe that even the most hopelessly drug-addicted, beaten-down person would passively watch gruesome atrocities committed under her nose month after month, year after year, without making any effort to extricate herself from the situation. (2)
Of course, because this is first and foremost a Christian testimony, it was God and His people who provided Audrey with a way out of Satanic slavery; she finally resolved to leave the cult after a stint in a Christian rehab centre in 1966. Her escape was effected without any repercussions, just as Irvine’s departure from the black witches had been. Somehow, though she was not yet born again, her telepathic link with Satan was weakened.
Audrey married, had a third child, and attended church regularly. But she was consumed by guilt and rage until 1986, when she was exorcised by Roy Davies of Emmanuel Pentacostal Church in Stourpart. Freed from the demonic aftereffects of witchcraft, she was finally born again (Doreen Irvine, too, was exorcised after leaving her witch cult).
In 1988, Audrey decided to go public with her story.
How Audrey’s Story Was (Mis)Used
Geoffrey Dickens latched on to Audrey Harper immediately, supporting her and helping her spread the news that, to her knowledge, English Satanists were still sacrificing children. Dickens was one of two Tory MPs (the other being David Wilshire) engaged in anti-occult agitation during the late ’80s. Wilshire actually called for witchcraft laws to be re-instated, and Dickens campaigned for occult literature to be restricted or banned. Complaining that “perverted cults which worship the devil can freely publish guides on how to dabble in the occult,” he opined, “The Home Office must act.” (1) He worked closely with Childwatch, a Hull-based organization that used every opportunity to warn the public about Satanic ritual abuse in England. Its founder, Diane Core, declared that up to 4000 English children were being sacrificed by Satanists annually. She publicly aired bizarre stories from alleged SRA survivors, like the “breeder” who claimed her cult froze sacrificed babies so members could defrost and eat them later.
Wilshire declared in the House of Commons that Satanism is about the ritual mutilation and torture of people, particularly children. (1)
Audrey Harper fit right into this crusade. Along with SRA survivor Cassandra “Sam” Hoyer, she gave numerous interviews and became a darling of the tabloid media. Both women were aided and abetted by Dickens, Wilshire, Core, and Davies of Reachout Trust, all of whom politely ignored the glaring inconsistencies in Ms. Hoyer’s various accounts. (1)
Police looked into the possibility that Harper’s baby-killing cult was still active, but Audrey gave them so little to go on that the investigation was soon dropped. If her story had seemed credible to law enforcement, it’s quite possible that Audrey herself would have been charged in connection with infant murders. This aiding and abetting is a very peculiar feature of ex-Satanist testimony, and it’s one that gets overlooked by many Christians. Few people have pointed out that Mike Warnke (if his story had been true) should have been charged with abduction and rape, that Lauren Stratford could have been prosecuted for allowing her three children to be killed by her associates, or that Irene Park deserved jail time for sexually exploiting her children. It’s bizarre that the people who tried to flush out occult criminals embraced self-described occult criminals when they encountered them, instead of demanding they be prosecuted. These “whistleblowers” were simply re-classified as victims and enlisted in the fight. But being a whistleblower does not necessarily absolve you of participation in awful deeds.
Fortunately, not one of these “whistleblowers” was actually telling the truth.
In spite of a years-long crusade against Satanic crime, no evidence of the mass murder of children by Satanists ever surfaced. The entire campaign was based on anecdotes, recovered memories, and uncorroborated stories from “former Satanists” and “ritual abuse survivors”.
Harper did a significant amount of work for this campaign. Alongside Irvine, she joined the Investigation Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, dedicating to compiling evidence of ritual abuse and other occult-related crime. (3) She appeared on the talk show After Dark in April ’88, to confront neo-Pagans about their evil ways. (6) She met with a parent involved in the Nottingham case to discuss ritual abuse. She collected the testimony of other “survivors” of Satanism to share with her audiences, including stories from coven “breeders” (women forced to give birth to babies specifically for ritual sacrifice). No criminal charges resulted from the sharing of these stories, because Harper did not know (or did not reveal) the full names of the alleged victims. (2)
The UK effort was closely aligned with the one going on in the U.S. For example, Harper, David Wilshire, Doreen Irvine, and Maureen Davies appeared in Caryl Matrisciana’s documentary Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism. You may recall that Matrisciana was one of the people who encouraged “Lauren Stratford” to write her 1988 memoir of violent Satanism, Satan’s Underground.
Was any part of Audrey Harper’s Story True?
Aside from the magical furniture-arranging and whatnot, there’s nothing in Harper’s story that couldn’t have happened. It is, of course, entirely possible (but not likely) that a kooky band of “witches” and “warlocks” were conducting some weird ceremonies in Virginia Water during the very early ’60s and that Audrey participated in them. But her accounts of Satanic crime don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. For one thing, she couldn’t bring forth a single person to corroborate any part of her story. She claimed that her life as a Satanist was so secretive, no one outside the cult was even aware of her involvement.
For another thing, her story changed dramatically during the first two years of her public appearances. Undoubtedly, the changes stemmed from her involvement with a group of activists who were desperately trying to convince the world of the reality of Satanic ritual abuse. Audrey’s original stories, told to tabloid reporters, didn’t contain much of that. By late ’80s standards, her Irvine-inspired material was bland and unhelpful. If she wanted to retain the interest and support of her allies, she had to offer up some “evidence” that would aid their campaign. So that’s exactly what she did.
In 1990, Harper and reporter Harold Pugh published her story of redemption from Satanism, Dance with the Devil: A Young Woman’s Struggle to Escape the Coven’s Curse.Suddenly, the sacrificed rooster used in her initiation ceremony was a sacrificed infant. Geoffrey Dickens, who wrote a foreword for the book, must have noticed the discrepancy. Perhaps, as Reachout would later do, he convinced himself that Audrey had simply been misquoted in the tabloid press. Some inept yellow journalist must have scribbled “cockerel” in his notes when he meant to write “baby”. Happens all the time.
As recently as 2005, Reachout Trust republished Harper’s book and continued to defend its integrity. They claim that two members, Doug Harris and Mike Thomas, have investigated Audrey’s story and concluded she has been truthful. It’s possible that Harper believed her own stories, but it’s the truth, not “honesty”, that is at issue in Satanic horror stories like Audrey’s. A perfectly sincere person can declare that tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered by devil worshipers every year, without having a single fact to support that statement. Doreen Irvine, who comes across as earnest and sincere in her presentations, was diagnosed as having schizophrenia.
It is our responsibility to learn if such statements have any factual basis before even repeating them, much less demanding action from legislators, citizens, and clergy (as Reachout, Childwatch, et al, did in the ’80s and ’90s). Reachout now states it does “not support the myth of SRA [Satanic ritual abuse].” Evidently, its members learned some hard lessons after the hysteria Reachout helped create destroyed lives, careers, and families throughout the UK.
Nonetheless, the organization still offers Dance with the Devil for sale on its website, at a significantly reduced price, along with Jeff Harshbarger’s memoir of Satanism.
Harper herself has apparently moved on.
1. For more information on the UK anti-occult crusade, see this timeline . The UK crusade has also been extensively documented by the Sub-Culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF)
2. Dance with the Devil by Audrey Harper and Harold Pugh (Publications, 1990)
3. “Satan in Suburbia” by Gareth J. Medway. Fortean Times. Nov. 2001. ,
4. Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001)
5. “Christian Authors” (part 5) by Kerr Kuhulain. Witchvox.com. Retrieved July 29/11.
6. “The Devil Rides In: Charismatic Christians and the Depiction of a Satanic Menace in Contemporary Great Britain” by Philip Jenkins. Religiologiques. Spring 1995.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
continued from Part II
Out of the Frying Pan, Into Another Frying Pan
In the summer of 1997 a new face appeared at a support group called the Child Holocaust Survivors Group of Los Angeles. Laura Grabowski didn’t share much about her background at first (she was even reluctant to identify her country of origin, Poland). She said she had kept her past a secret from everyone throughout her life and was fearful of revealing it, but over several months she told members of the group a few stories about her time as a child inmate of Auschwitz.
Her parents died during the war, so after Auschwitz was liberated in January 1945, 5-year-old Laura was sent to an orphanage in Krakow. In 1950 she was adopted by a couple from Washington state.
Soon, Laura was so close to her fellow survivors that she referred to them as her new family. (1)
There were many gaps in Laura’s story. She never gave her birth name or the names of her parents, never explained how she came to be adopted by foreigners, never spoke of her other family members. She did, however, describe the experiments at Auschwitz in some detail. She could remember the doctors giving the children candy. She remembered Mengele injecting chemicals into her eyes, rendering her temporarily blind. She remembered the procedure that left her unable to bear children. (1)
There was nothing in Laura’s story that indicated falsehood up to this point. Roughly 3000 Polish children and teens were incarcerated at Auschwitz, and 52 of the liberated inmates were children under the age of 8. (4) Mengele did attempt to change the colour of the iris by injecting dyes into children’s eyes, and experimented with sterilization.
But Laura’s Mengele stories were problematic. His subjects were mostly children with disabilities or unusual traits, and very few of them were allowed to live. As the above numbers show, most of the Polish children were murdered or died of disease. (5)
There were other not-so-subtle hints that Laura’s story was fabricated. She posted this to an online Holocaust survivor forum called H-HOLOCAUST: “For myself, the Holocaust is about individual suffering… And if some call themselves survivors who are not survivors in any sense of the word, does this upset the whole survivor movement? I think not.” (1)
Meanwhile, historian Jennifer Rosenberg set up an About.com page to share her Holocaust research. Shortly before she traveled to Auschwitz in 1998, she was contacted by Laura, a frequent visitor to the site who used the screen name Child Survivor. She asked Rosenberg to place a pair of pink sandals at the death camp to commemorate her friend Ana, a little girl who died there.
Rosenberg did so, and said Kaddish for Ana and others. As she wrote on her website, the tiny shoes were a poignant reminder of how young and innocent some of the victims had been, bringing the darkness of Auschwitz into sharp relief for her and other members of her tour group. (3)
Laura befriended another frequent visitor to Rosenberg’s website, Monika Muggli, and the two began an e-mail correspondence. Laura told Muggli she was desperately ill with a rare blood disorder. While she still could, she wanted to travel to Los Angeles in April 1998 to meet Binjamin Wilkomirski, a fellow child survivor of Auschwitz whose widely-acclaimed memoir, Fragments, had been published in 1995. (3)
Wilkomirski, born in 1941, had been just two or three years old when he entered the camps. His memories of that time were repressed until he entered psychotherapy as a middle-aged adult and began “recovering”. The memories he recovered were fragmentary and mysterious, so he wrote his memoir from the perspective of a young, confused child. Tanks became “big gray monsters”, and the inmates’ uniforms became pajamas. (2)
Laura and Wilkomirski had been corresponding since the previous year, and could recall meeting each other in Auschwitz and in a Krakow orphanage.
Their experiences had been stunningly similar. They were the same age. They had both been adopted by Christians after the war, and raised away from their countries of origin. They had both been victims of Mengele, and both suffered blood diseases they believed to be caused by the medical experiments. Binjamin could vividly recall Laura’s white-blonde hair (their heads had not been shaved, leading Binjamin to conclude they were probably unregistered inmates). They compared notes and realized they both had their coccyx bones broken by the camp doctors. They had so much to share.
Sadly, Laura’s California doctors said she must fly first-class to make sure she received the attention her fragile condition required, and she simply couldn’t afford the airfare to L.A.
Muggli promptly sent $1000 to her American friend. (3)
The meeting between two child survivors drew international media attention. The BBC recorded a concert held at a Beverly Hills synagogue on April 19 (Holocaust Remembrance Day), in which Mr. Wilkomirski played his clarinet and Laura Grabowski sang an original piece, “Ode to the Little Ones”. Incredibly, though they had met only briefly 50 years earlier, Binjamin recognized Laura on sight. He movingly described how he was sitting disconsolately in the mud, believing himself to be the last child in the camp, when white-haired Laura and her little friend Ana appeared hand-in-hand.
Laura admitted she didn’t remember Binjamin right away, but eventually realized he was the boy known as “Andrzej”. She told the BBC, “He’s my Binje, that’s all I know.”
A local Jewish newspaper noted that Wilkomirski was helping his long-lost friend reconstruct her half-remembered childhood memories, her own “fragments”. (3)
Somehow, Jon Trott or the Passantinos learned that Laura Grabowski could be Laurel Willson/Lauren Stratford. This was quickly confirmed. Documents signed by Grabowski included Laurel’s Social Security number and address, and in one letter Laura signed her name “Laura Stratford-Grabowski”. As mentioned in Part I of this post, Grabowski was the maiden name of Laurel’s mother, Rose Willson. Anton and Rosalio Grabowski emigrated from Poland in the 1890s. They were lifelong Catholics.
The three writers also compared signatures of Laura and Laurel, finding them nearly identical. Photos of Laura showed a distinct resemblance to old photos and film footage of Lauren Stratford.
The Cornerstone team learned that Stratford/Grabowski had applied to the World Jewish Restitution Organization. An anonymous source told them that in ’98 and ’99 Jewish Family Services made 24 disbursements to Grabowski, totaling $2,188. (1)
Laurel Willson was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington in 1941, and the Willsons began adoption proceedings within days of her birth. She did not live in Poland until the age of 10. In fact, she had never left the U.S. at all. The entire story was a fantasy. Family photos provided to the Cornerstone researchers by Laurel’s sister, Willow, show Willow and Laurel together as little girls. In one photo, they pose with a group of nuns.
In her books, Lauren/Laurel said she was abused from the age of four by her mother, Satanists, pedophiles, and child pornographers. She gave detailed descriptions of her life in Washington before the age of 10, descriptions that evangelistic Christians like Johanna Michaelsen and Hal Lindsey found highly convincing. Those stories were not true, and the Holocaust stories of “Laura Grabowski” were not true.
The Holocaust survivor community that had become Laura’s family didn’t know how to respond to the revelation that she was a Gentile who had never lived abroad. Jen Rosenberg told Forward magazine she didn’t want to deal with the issue at all. (3)
And what of Laura’s long-lost friend from Auschwitz, Binjamin? As you may know, he was also a fraud. In August 1998, the Swiss news magazine Weltwoche published an article by writer Daniel Ganzfried, laying out evidence that Wilkomirski was really a Swiss Gentile by the name of Bruno Grosjean. Grosjean had remained in Switzerland throughout the war, and was never in a Polish orphanage. His father was not killed in Latvia. He never knew his father. His mother did not die in the camps. (2)
Wilkomirski initially responded to the allegations by explaining he had been given the name of a Christian boy, Bruno, after the war. This satisfied many of his admirers. (2)
However, Ganzfried’s findings were confirmed a year later by Stefan Machler, the historian hired by Wilkomirski’s literary agency. He uncovered still more damning information: When Yvonne Grosjean died in 1981, Bruno contested her will because he knew he was her illegitimate child.
More damning still was Bruno’s “recognition” of Laura Grabowski, a woman who had never been in Auschwitz.
DNA tests conducted in 2002 showed that Bruno Grosjean’s biological mother, Yvonne, and “Wilkomirski” were indeed mother and son. There is absolutely no question that “Binjamin” the Latvian Holocaust survivor was really Bruno Grosjean, born 1941 in Switzerland and adopted by the Dössekker family of Zurich in 1948. (3)
It is quite obvious that Laurel Willson mined Fragments for information about the Holocaust. She placed herself in a Krakow orphanage, just like Wilkomirski.
Of the two hoaxes perpetrated by Laurel Willson, this one was probably more damaging. Though short-lived in relation to her Satanic cult hoax, it defrauded at least one organization that could have been assisting a real Holocaust survivor. And like other Holocaust memoir hoaxes, it has been used by Holocaust deniers to argue that all such memoirs are fictional.
The stories of Lauren Stratford and Binjamin Wilkomirski were known to be “recovered memories”. While there are indications that traumatic memories can sometimes be forgotten and spontaneously recalled, this would seem to be an exception to the rule; most memories of traumatic events are consciously recalled. For this reason alone, those eager to promote their stories should have verified them to the greatest possible extent before making them public.
This entire sad affair mirrors the meeting between Eugenia Smith, a woman who pretended to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, and Mikhail Goleniewsky, a man who pretended to be the Tsarevtch Alexei. The two “siblings” instantly recognized each other. Later, as their credibility eroded, both denounced the other as a fraud.
The End of the Underground
Lauren Stratford never publicly responded to the exposure of her Holocaust imposture. Nor did she recant any of her Satanic testimony, though the two overlapping accounts wildly contradicted each other. No evidence ever surfaced to validate either version of her life story, so her former supporters quietly backed away from Satan’s Underground.
None of the people who helped promote Lauren’s story have expressed regret for failing to verify even the most basic details before presenting her terrifying tales to the public.
Lauren Stratford passed away in California in April 2002. To my knowledge, she remained estranged from her adoptive family to the end of her life.
It is now generally accepted that the woman known as Laurel Willson, Lauren Stratford, and Laura Grabowski confabulated her stories of Satanism and Holocaust survival. There are only a few diehards who insist Satan’s Underground was factual, like Satanic ritual abuse survivor Gregory Reid. As late as 2002, Reid defended the veracity of Lauren’s account and hinted that the Cornerstone writers were complicit in a cover-up of the “real” story. He brought no evidence to the table.
Examing how and why Satan’s Underground came to be, and why it affected so many people, offers us invaluable lessons about critical thinking. If only Joanna Michealsen, Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera, and the other SRA advocates of the late ’80s had learned them…
1. “Lauren Stratford: From Satanic Ritual Abuse to Jewish Holocaust Survivor” by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott. Cornerstone magazine. Vol. 28, Issue 117 (October 1999).
2. The Wilkomirski Affair: A Study in Biographical Truth by Stefan Machler (Random House, 2001)
3. A Life in Pieces: The Making and Unmaking of Binjamin Wilkomirski by Blake Eskin (W.W. Norton, 2002)
4. The “Children in Auschwitz” page of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum website
5. Mengele: The Complete Story by Gerald Posner and John Ware (McGraw-Hill, 1986)
continued from Part I
Unearthing the Underground
In 1989, Christian authors Bob and Gretchen Passantino teamed up with Jon Trott, one of the Cornerstone magazine writers who would expose Mike Warnke’s deceptions in 1991, to investigate the story told in Satan’s Underground. They had been alerted to possible problems with Lauren Stratford’s testimony by another Cornerstone researcher, Eric Pement. A colleague expressed doubts about Stratford’s credibility to Pement after he booked Lauren as a speaker at the Rockford Conference on Discernment and Evangelism. (2)
The Passantinos were extremely skeptical of Satanic ritual abuse stories, and realized that Christian writers played a role in fomenting the hysteria.
As with Warnke’s The Satan Seller, nearly everything in Satan’s Underground turned out to be at odds with the facts. First of all, “Lauren Stratford” was really Laurel Willson. Secondly, the chronology was wonky. Willson was born in 1941 (as I guessed, she grew up in Washington state), so if her timeline is accurate she ran away from her adoptive mother in 1956, met Victor in 1959, and left Victor’s cult when her father died in 1960.
Trott and the Passantinos learned that Laurel’s adoptive father, physician Frank Willson, left the family when Laurel was nine years old, not when she was four. He died in 1965. This means Laurel was twenty-four years old, not twenty, at the time of his death. And Laurel lived with both her adoptive mother and father at various times after the age of fifteen.
This timeline, which makes Laurel Willson a good deal older than Lauren was when she was supposedly a virtual hostage of Victor’s Satanic porn empire, undermines the impression given in Satan’s Underground that Lauren was a dewy innocent during her year as a Satanist. She would actually have been in her mid-twenties and out of college.
Lauren had gone to great lengths to prove to us she was never a Satanist by choice, that everything she did was done under duress. This would be easier to believe of a 19-year-old who had never lived away from home.
More surprising was the fact that Laurel had a sister, Willow. Though Lauren didn’t explicitly state she had no siblings, she strongly implied she was totally alone with her deranged mother after her father left the family. This was not the case. Laurel and Willow often visited their maternal grandfather, Anton Grabowski, in Tacoma. (4)
And what of Lauren’s adoptive mother? Was she really a demented, violent, raging harpy who allowed homeless drunks to rape four-year-old Laurel? Did she really invite child porn film crews to set up shop in her basement? Did she beat Laurel and abuse Frank so viciously he ended up in hospital on several occasions?
Rose Willson was a schoolteacher. In 1941, the year they began adoption proceedings for Laurel, she and Frank lived in the town of Buckley, Washington, not far from Tacoma. Willow was five years old.
The Willsons were older parents. Frank Willson, born around 1899, earned his medical degree from Loyola University in 1926.
According to Willow, the Willsons were devout members of the local Bible Presbyterian Church, and raised their daughters in a “very sheltered, strict Christian” environment. Both had volatile tempers and argued frequently, but Willow says their anger was not directed at her or Laurel.
Willow described Rose Willson as straightlaced. In her opinion, her mother would never have become involved with child pornography. (3)
At any rate, it would have been very difficult for a middle-class Tacoma woman to do in the early ’40s. It’s very unlikely Rose Willson herself had been a victim of child pornographers, having grown up in pre-WWI Tacoma.
Willow’s and Laurel’s upbringing was completely average for small-town kids in the ’40s. They made trips to the beach, played in local parks, and rode their bikes around the neighborhood. The Willsons fostered Laurel’s musical talent by paying for lessons in voice and various instruments. As a teen, Laurel was part of a singing trio and belonged to several school clubs. (3)
Recall that in Satan’s Underground, Laurel claimed she was deprived of toys, outings, and extracurricular activities throughout her childhood.
In short, Willow noticed nothing out of the ordinary in the Willson household. She was a Christian missionary in 1989, so she was probably not just covering up her family’s alleged Satanic porn activities. (2)
Other parts of Lauren’ story were at least partially true. Laurel did run away from home (around the age of sixteen), and was sent to live with Frank at his new home in San Bernardino, California. However, she didn’t stay there long. She returned voluntarily to her mother’s home in Tacoma. This fully contradicts Lauren’s claim that she escaped her mother’s nightmarish household and never looked back. (3)
Interestingly, there have been many rumours of Satanic cult activity in and around San Bernardino. It was at San Bernardino Valley College, Mike Warnke claimed, that he was recruited into the violent Satanic sect known as The Brotherhood.
Crackpot “mind control researcher and deprogrammer” Fritz Springmeier (who got out of prison last year after serving seven years for his role in an armed robbery) states in his nonsensical article about the “McDonald bloodline” that San Bernardino is a “major headquarters for the Illuminati and Satanic Hubs”, with thousands of black magic practitioners residing in the area. Springmeier is a major purveyor of misinformation about the occult. He claims to have deprogrammed an Illuminati slave called Cisco Wheeler, and together they authored several books about Illuminati mind control. He vociferously defended “former Illuminati member” John Todd after Todd’s stories were shown to be fraudulent.
In addition to the nonsense of Warnke and Springmeier, Devil Canyon in San Bernardino has supposedly been the site of Satanic rituals involving animal mutilation. But these stories weren’t circulating when Laurel lived in the area. The rumours reportedly began in 1981, after the Kimberly Crest mansion in Redlands was used in the filming of the slasher flick Hell Night.
For a time, 17-year-old Laurel lived with Willow’s family in Seattle. This is when signs of severe emotional problems began to surface. She accused Willow’s husband of sexually molesting her, the first of many sex abuse allegations she would make. In 1959, shortly after enrolling at Seattle Pacific College (a Christian school now called Seattle Pacific University), Laurel told a classmate she had been forced into prostitution by her mother and molested by staff members. According to Willow, Laurel admitted to the dean that she had fabricated these stories to “impress” her friend. Shortly after this incident, she made her first suicide attempt by cutting her wrists. (3)
By the Satan’s Underground timeline, Lauren was in California, hopelessly addicted to pills and under the control of the pornographer Tony and his minions.
Laurel’s condition seemed to improve when she returned to San Bernardino and enrolled as a music major at the University of Redlands (then a Baptist school that required daily chapel attendance). She became the choir director at a First Assembly of God church. On the surface her life was back on track, but she told friends her father was molesting her, and made numerous suicide attempts over the next six years.
In 1962, she attached herself to an older Christian couple and moved in with them. Seeking sympathy and stability in the homes of others would become a lifelong pattern for Laurel. This eerily parallels the behaviour of “serial teenager” Treva Throneberry, who attached herself to Christian families and falsely accused several men of sexually abusing her. Treva, too, told horrific tales of Satanic ritual abuse.
Laurel lived with Norman and Billie Gordon for nearly a year, and required far more attention than their children. She told them her mother had died when she was very young, and her stepmother abused her physically and sexually. On one occasion she showed up at the Gordons’ home with a bruised forehead, claiming her stepmom had bashed her with a can of peaches. Under questioning, she admitted it was a lie.
She experienced periods of hysterical blindness that she later admitted were fake – which sheds some light on the episode of blindness recounted in Satan’s Underground (supposedly experienced on the day she ran away from home). She engaged in self-mutilation.
The Gordons washed their hands of Laurel after she lunged at Billie with a broken vase. (3)
Laurel returned to live with her father and attended another First Assembly of God church. She told a friend that two lesbians in the congregation had seduced her. It’s highly unlikely that even one lesbian would attend a Pentacostal church.
Despite her emotional turmoil, Laurel earned her bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Redlands in 1964. Then she left home without telling anyone where she was going, and pretended to be a drug addict to gain entrance to an L.A. rehab program called Teen Challenge (she was twenty-three at the time).
After her father’s death in 1965, Laurel lived on her own and held down a job as a music teacher at Hemet Junior High School. In ’66 she married a younger man, a minister’s son, after three or four dates. The marriage was annulled two months later. (3)
None of these events are mentioned in Satan’s Underground.
In January 1968 Laurel left Hemet Junior High. She later told people she worked as a guard or a counselor at the California Institute for Women in Chino from 1969 to 1971, but there is no record of her employment there. If she did work at the Institute, it was her last job outside the home.
During this period, Laurel sang with a gospel trio called Delpha and the Witnesses. In ’71, she lived for a time with the family of group member Ken Sanders in Bakersfield, and she remained in Bakersfield for the rest of her life. She told Sanders and Delpha Nichols that her mother and several men had sexually abused her “in the name of Christ.” This abuse had been so brutal that she doubted she could bear children, she told them. She didn’t mention Satanism or Satanic ritual abuse at all until the ’80s, after the publication of Michelle Remembers.
Nichols and her husband, Willie, were so touched by this damaged woman that they legally adopted Laurel when she was thirty years old. But she continued to seek support from others. To a church friend, she related stories of abuse that the woman later realized were drawn from the book Sybil. Clearly, Stratford was familiar with Multiple Personality Disorder long before she was diagnosed as having it, and was not above passing off others’ suffering as her own. (3)
By now, Laurel’s mental instability was obvious to everyone who knew her. It prevented her from working outside her home (she gave private piano lessons and drew mental disability payments), singing with a group (Delpha and the Witnesses split in ’74), or maintaining relationships. She put such tremendous demands on one close friend’s time that the woman began to feel alienated from her family, and attempted suicide. Laurel deliberately estranged herself from her mother and Willow in the late ’70s, telling them she had a new family. (3)
Enter Satanic Panic: Bakersfield and McMartin
It was California’s pedophile ring hysteria and daycare ritual abuse allegations that led Laurel on a circuitous route to Johanna Michaelsen and Hal Lindsey, the people who would make her story famous. Without her marginal involvement in two infamous cases, Lauren may never have met them at all and her bizarre stories would never have been believed.
Unfortunately, by sheer chance, Laurel happened to live in a city in which sex-abuse hysteria and Satanic panic would establish a firm grip in the mid-’80s. It all began in 1982, when 38-year-old Mary Ann Barbour learned that one of her husband’s granddaughters, 7-year-old Becky McCuan, may have been touched inappropriately by a family member. Barbour was furious that the alleged abuse hadn’t been reported to the authorities (though Becky had undergone therapy, and visits with the family member were supervised). She decided the McCuans were unfit to parent their two daughters or to continue running a daycare centre in their home. Questioning her stepdaughters closely, she “discovered” they were abused not just by one relative, but by a huge group of local pedophiles – including their own parents. The Barbours were granted custody of the two girls.
The investigation mushroomed into a literal witch hunt. For the next three years, children were aggressively interrogated until they “revealed” horrific abuse that included torture, murder, child pornography, and Satanic rituals. Many of these children later recanted their testimony, and 34 of the 36 convictions in the case were overturned on appeal, but the damage has been permanent for some families. Alvin and Debbi McCuan, for instance, weren’t released from prison until 1996, and remain estranged from their daughters to this day. (5)
Laurel contacted a foster parent involved in the Bakersfield case, Pat Thornton, to say she feared for her life because she had inside information about the perpetrators – Satanic cultists.
Laurel fell into her usual pattern with Thornton. She called her at all hours with emotional crises, demanding attention. She said she had been a “love slave” to a Satanist named Jonathan for many years. Jonathan belonged to a huge Satanic pedophile/pornography ring involved in the Bakersfield abuse. It was headed by man known as Elliot.
Laurel had been an unwilling cult member her entire life, as both of her parents had been members. She was sexually abused by both of them. Her youth had been spent in a farmhouse basement. She had lost more than one child to human sacrifice. The first, Joey, died when she was fifteen, and she said she still possessed an audio recording of his death. For two years, she had been confined to a Los Angeles warehouse along with other cult breeders.
Laurel was enrolled in high school and living with her mother and sister at age fifteen. According to Willow and others who knew her during that time, she was never pregnant.
Laurel told Thornton she began to resist the cult after her father died in 1983. She wanted to leave the cult and expose it, but Jonathan and Elliot continued to force her to attend late-night ceremonies that included ritualistic sexual abuse of preschoolers. This was ongoing in 1985, yet in her book Laurel would say she left Satanism over two decades earlier. (3)
If Laurel could meet privately with individuals involved in a high-profile child abuse investigation, what prevented her from leaving the cult? Surely, if Jonathan and Elliot allowed her enough freedom to associate with “the enemy” on numerous occasions without any interference, she had enough freedom to slip out of the area?
Laurel also claimed to have inside information about the McMartin preschool case; members of her cult were involved in that, too. She said she had a lesbian affair with one of the accused, Virginia McMartin. No evidence has ever emerged to indicate that the elderly Mrs. McMartin, who died at the age of eighty-eight in 1995, was a lesbian.
Pat Thornton didn’t believe Laurel really had inside information. Nonetheless, she arranged for her to meet with a private investigator working for some of the McMartin parents, Judy Hanson. Laurel appeared for the meeting in a wheelchair, carting an oxygen tank. She told Hanson she was terminally ill. Again, this speaks against the notion that Satanists were forcing her to attend rituals. Would Jonathan and his fellow cultists really haul Laurel’s wheelchair and medical equipment to and from remote sites just so she could be witness to their abuse of children? Even if this was happening, couldn’t she seek shelter in a hospice (or impose herself on strangers, as she so frequently did)?
McMartin parent Bob Currie video-recorded Laurel’s testimony and shared it with several other McMartin parents. They all agreed her story was not credible, and could end up damaging their case. All of the details she offered were either unverifiable or had already been made public in media reports. The district attorney, Colleen Ryan, reached the same conclusion.
It was Currie who provided Johanna Michaelsen’s contact information to Laurel, at Laurel’s request. (3)
As mentioned in my thumbnail sketch of Johanna Michaelsen, Michaelsen was aware of the contents of Laurel’s McMartin-related testimony before Satan’s Underground was published. She admitted to the Cornerstone writers that she didn’t know if it was true or not. (3)
This is a damning admission, because the McMartin testimony flatly contradicts Laurel’s later testimony, having a completely different timeline and very different details. In this earlier account, Satanism had always been part of Laurel’s life and she was still active in it during the mid-’80s. Why would Michaelsen overlook these inconsistencies and uncritically accept Laurel’s later stories? Why would her brother-in-law lie about having documentation? Why would Harvest House publish such a disturbing memoir without securing any evidence that it was, in fact, a memoir? According to Cornerstone, the publisher received nothing more than character references from people who hadn’t know Laurel very long. No one from Harvest House contacted Laurel’s family to confirm even the most basic information. (3)
If Laurel really possessed all the evidence she claimed to have, and if her stories were accurate, prosecutions probably would have resulted. “Victor” or “Jonathan” could have been tracked down. Rose Willson, who was still alive, would surely have been investigated for possible involvement in a child pornography ring. Laurel could have led police to the other women who were forced to be breeders for the cult. Law enforcement would have been keenly interested in everything she had to say.
Laurel tried to persuade her supporters that this was, indeed, the case. She told them she had given the specifics of her case to Justice Department official John Rabun, and that Rabun was one of her advisors on Satan’s Underground. As it turned out, Rabun worked not for the government, but for the National Center for Missing Exploited Children. He told the Cornerstone researchers he had spoken to Laurel Willson only once, over the phone. Just like the Bakersfield investigators and the McMartin parents, he didn’t find her story believable. (3)
This episode demonstrates that Laurel Willson was not merely delusional, but on at least some occasions engaged in deliberate deception in order to make her fictional stories seem credible.
There are also indications that Laurel attempted to erase the contradictory stories she had told. After her book was released, she legally changed her named to Lauren Stratford. She asked Bob Currie to give her the videotapes of her McMartin testimony. She stopped communicating with Pat Thornton. (3)
The name change, the physical distance and estrangement from her family, and her cutting of ties with certain people helped ensure no one would uncover her true background. But the Cornerstone article documented Laurel’s real life so thoroughly that Harvest House yanked her book from publication (it was subsequently reprinted by another publisher).
Her speaking engagements dwindled in the early ’90s, forcing her into bankruptcy in 1994. (3)
Eyewitness accounts of Satanic evildoing were no longer novel or shocking; Lauren had a lot of competition. Also, skeptics of the whole phenomenon were beginning to be heard in the media. The 1992 BBC Panorama program on which Lauren appeared, In the Name of Satan, had a distinctly critical tone, to her annoyance. This same program, which is not to be confused with the cheesy video documentary of the same name by evangelist Bob Larson, also documented the mental abuse Pastor Doug Riggs was inflicting on his parishioners. The tide had turned.
When Satanic panic finally subsided in the U.S., Lauren Stratford altered her name and background once again. This time, she became a Holocaust survivor.
1. Satan’s Underground by Lauren Stratford (Harvest House, 1988)
2. “Lauren Stratford Update” by Jon Trott. Cornerstone magazine vol. 18, issue 91. 1990.
3. “Satan’s Sideshow” by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott. Cornerstone magazine. 1989.
4. “Lauren Stratford: From Satanic Ritual Abuse to Holocaust Survivor” by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott. Cornerstone magazine
5. Dateline NBCreport by Keith Morrison. Broadcast October 22, 2004.
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.
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, October-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