Satanic Panic and Recovered Memory in the News

What do “Satanic Mormon” child abuse rings and a glam cult leader have in common? This therapist:

Dr. Barbara Snow in the 1992 documentary “Promise Not to Tell”

On Wednesday (October 3, 2018), six people filed a lawsuit in federal court against a John and Jane Doe who have been identified as Robert and Brenda Miles. The six adult plaintiffs allege that the couple sexually abused them at “touching parties” when they were very young children in the mid-’80s. The lawsuit has grabbed the attention of Mormons, because Brenda Miles is the daughter of Russell M. Nelson, the current President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is the highest office in the LDS church. The President is not only the head of the church, but acts as the church’s only living prophet.

The six plaintiffs (three women and two men) are the children and stepchildren of a man who died by suicide in 1995. They have identified this stepfather as one of their abusers (he is designated “Perpetrator” in the filing, which you can read here). The alleged abuse took place in various homes in the Mueller Park area of Bountiful, Utah, as part of a Satan-worshiping pedophile ring run by Mormons. Satanic ritual abuse isn’t mentioned in any stories about this lawsuit, but it was a big part of the original accusations in the ’80s.

The timing of this complaint appears to be strategic. Idaho attorney Craig Vernon of the firm James, Vernon and Weeks filed it just three days before the church’s semi-annual general conference. The lawsuit alleges that church authorities and investigators conspired to cover up the activities of the child-molesting Mormons.

Three of the plaintiffs allege they remember being sexually assaulted at the touching parties by their father, their paternal grandmother, the Mileses, a 16-year-old babysitter and others. Two of the stepchildren claim they were raped repeatedly by their stepfather in the ’80s and again in the mid ’90s with the participation of his second wife. One child and one stepchild were only infants when these things allegedly occurred, but were told of the events by their siblings, parents and therapists.

The concept of pedophile rings barely existed until the late ’70s, when Boston psychiatric nurse Ann Burgess (the inspiration for the psychiatrist character in the Netflix series Mindhunter) studied incarcerated men convicted of molesting groups of children (mostly adolescents) and began presenting information to la enforcement regarding predatory “sex rings.” Public concern quickly grew.

In the early ’90s, Salt Lake City-based therapists Dr. Barbara Snow and Teena Sorenson developed a hypothesis of interlocking sex-abuse rings, publishing two studies on the matter (How Children Tell and Ritualistic Child Abuse in a Neighbourhood Setting).

Snow and Sorenson claimed to have discovered multiple pedophile rings involving incestuous adult perpetrators. They admitted that the children did not initially present with any symptoms of sexual abuse. Disclosures of abuse were slow in coming and difficult to extract.

What the published papers do not reveal is that Snow and Sorenson believed they had stumbled upon clusters of highly secretive, child-abusing Devil cultists masquerading as upstanding Mormon families throughout the state of Utah.

According to a Desert News article (“Snow involved in 5 probes of alleged sex rings“, February 21, 2008), “Snow was involved in five probes in Utah involving alleged sex rings – two in Bountiful, two in Lehi and one in Midvale. The children in all five cases told investigators similar stories involving satanic rituals and multiple adults.”

This all began in the summer of 1985, when Snow was working as a therapist with the Intermountain Sexual Abuse Treatment Center. Sheila Bowers, a Lehi mother and LDS member, brought her three young children to the Center with concerns about their sexual acting-out. Snow rendered an opinion that all three children had been sexually abused. The perpetrator was supposedly a teenage girl who babysat the children. This girl was the daughter of Keith Burnham, a Bishop in the LDS Lehi Eight Ward.

Snow reached out to other Lehi LDS families with young children who had employed the Burnham girl as a babysitter, and interviewed several of the children. She ultimately concluded that all of the children had been repeatedly molested by the entire Burnham family – Keith, his wife Shirley, and their teenage daughter.

The State Division of Family Services promptly removed the Burnhams’ younger children from the home. For weeks, the Burnhams were under investigation. No evidence of any abuse – other than the disclosures elicited by Snow – was uncovered. The Burham kids were returned to their home, and no charges were ever filed.

This was not the end of it, though. While many Eight Ward members disbelieved the abuse allegations and supported the Burnham family, others felt certain the kids really had been molested and suspected a cover-up. A group of concerned parents pressured state authorities to launch a second investigation into the Burnham allegations. The Utah County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney General’s office did so.

Rex and Sheila Bower sent their children to Dr. Snow to be evaluated, as did Alan and Gay Hadfield. Both families had pushed hard for a re-opening of the Burnham investigation. Like the Bowers, the Hadfields had three young children, a boy and two girls.

This is where things went horribly wrong for both families. In February 1986, the Bowers’ son allegedly revealed to Snow that his dad had molested him. No charges were laid in that case, but the Hadfields were not to be so fortunate.

In the 1992 KUED TV documentary Promise Not to Tell (available for rent or purchase on Vimeo), Gay Hadfield says she was approached by a concerned neighbour whose kids had supposedly been molested by the babysitter. She was told the sheriff’s office would contact her, but when that didn’t happen she decided to consult Dr. Snow instead.

Snow, a soft-spoken woman with a calm demeanor, explains the Lehi children she interviewed spoke of “numbers” of other kids being abused by the same “baby-tender.” She suggests the police were incredulous and slow to respond because the Burnhams were upstanding, respected members of the community. According to Snow, up to a dozen children described:

  • multiple abusers, with a high proportion of women
  • “highly aberrant” sexual activities
  • being smeared with blood, drinking blood
  • urine and feces used as sacraments
  • pentagrams, stars, and Satanic symbols

As time went on, the stories elicited by Snow grew more elaborate and bizarre. By the time the investigation wrapped up in late 1988, she had named at least 40 perpetrators, including some adolescents. Yet there was no physical harm to any of the children, and no probable cause to indicate that such crimes had been committed in Lehi.

In May of 1986, as the Hadfield family was planning to depart Utah for a trip to Disneyland, 9-year-old Cara Hadfield had a session with Dr. Snow. Cara had been involved with the sex abuse investigation for nine months at this point, and maintained that she had neither witnessed nor experienced any mistreatment. It is unknown why Dr. Snow felt the need to keep assessing a child who was not party to any abuse.

At this session, Cara suddenly disclosed that her own father, Alan Hadfield, was sexually abusing her. Snow apparently did not contact social services immediately, because Cara Hadfield went home with her family as usual. Sometime that evening, she told one or both parents that Alan had molested her, then backpedaled and said he hadn’t. Gay Hadfield phoned Dr. Snow and declared that her daughter wanted to apologize, but on the line with her therapist, Cara quickly reverted to accusing her father.

The following day, the entire Hadfield family met with Snow. Two of the kids, Cara and 11-year-old Willy, accused Alan, though Willy initially denied being molested. Gay Hadfield believed her children.

Snow contacted the Attorney General’s office.

Alan Hadfield had support. Many Lehi residents flatly rejected the sex-ring stories that were coming out of Snow’s office, and believed Alan would be exonerated, just like the Burnhams.

They were wrong.

According to Snow, the Hadfield kids met with seven other mental health professionals. Dr Paul Whitefield says the kids gave him unprompted, detailed accounts of being abused by Alan and other Lehi residents. Hadfield, out of the 30-50 people named by Snow’s patients, was the only person arrested in Lehi. He went to trial on charges of molesting two of his children, and no one else’s. In Promise Not to Tell, defense attorney Bradley Rich points out the paradox that Cara and her brother Willy were believed when they accused their father, and disregarded when they accused anyone else. County prosecutor David Schwendiman admitted that their other allegations simply couldn’t be corroborated.

The Hadfield children described Satanic rituals that involved costumes and masks, photography, men dressed in women’s clothing and the consumption of  human feces.

At trial, Cara and Willy Hadfield falsely denied that they had ever accused any other adults. The defense brought out that dozens of other Lehi adults had been named. Other parents who had sent their children to Snow testified that their kids would tearfully retract their accusations of abuse after each session with Snow, explaining that she had pressured or forced them to discuss abuse that hadn’t occurred. Only one psychiatric expert was called to the stand, and he testified for the defense. Dr. Stephen Golding deemed Snow’s interviewing techniques “subtly coercive and highly questionable.” Judy Pugh, a colleague of Dr.Snow at the Intermountain Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, stated in her testimony that she thought Dr. Snow was coaching the children into disclosing sexual and Satanic abuse that they had initially denied. Her opinion was shared by  Wayne Watson, Chief Deputy Utah County Attorney, who had observed one of Snow’s interviews through a two-way mirror.

Yet Alan Hadfield was convicted.

In the documentary, several experts on ritual abuse are interviewed. Roland Summit, who played a key role in the McMartin preschool affair and other ritual abuse cases of the ’80s, starts out talking in a sensible and straightforward manner about the public’s growing awareness of battered children and child sexual abuse. By the end of the program, he is deeply into Twilight Zone territory. He declares that people with dissociative disorders can molest children without having any memory of doing so, and courts and therapists ignore these zombie molesters because they simply don’t know what to do, or aren’t adequately trained to see the signs.

Halfway into the documentary, Bradley Rich points to the elephant in the room. Clearly, he says, Snow was interested in ritual abuse. Then, in multiple parts of the state, she found identical cases of it.

By 1992, when Promise Not to Tell aired, no one in Lehi seemed to be concerned about child-molesting Satanic cults hiding in plain sight.

Though Dr. Snow’s post-Lehi “discoveries” resulted in just one very questionable conviction (that of Bountiful resident Arden Bullock), the legend of Satanic Mormon pedophile cults persists. Dr. Whitefield penned the foreward to a book that used some of the Utah “sex ring” material (Paperdolls: Healing from Sexual Abuse in Mormon Neighborhoods). The authors carefully omitted all references to the weirder, ritualistic aspects of the cases. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, former Mormons who became the church’s most outspoken critics, helped spread the legend that Mormons secretly worship the Devil and defile children by leaking the 1990 Pace Memorandum. This spurred the LDS church to take allegations of covert Satanism seriously, though no evidence of such activity within Mormon communities has ever emerged. As with the rest of the ’80s and ’90s “Satanic panic” that scoured America, the UK, Australia and other countries, public concern eventually faded.

Barbara Snow continued to practice psychotherapy, and “found” more Satanic Mormon abuse rings operating in Bountiful and Midvale. One of the two Bountiful rings she supposedly uncovered, with the help of Dr. Whitehead, involved Brenda and Richard Miles.

These rings were identical in structure and activity to the nonexistent Lehi “ring.” Each involved a neighborhood “sex ring” consisting of three to twenty Mormon families, including a significant number of religious leaders. Each involved Satanic rituals and neighborhood “sex parties.” Three of the cases involved playing with, consuming and/or bathing in human feces. Two of the cases involved men dressing in women’s clothing and the use of costumes and masks. In three cases, the children described the use of candles and pentagrams for Satanic rituals.

Investigations were launched, but no arrests were made in these cases. That’s because the stories coming from Snow and her patients were so outlandish that they defied all common sense, and there was simply no evidence to support them. At least one skeptical investigator decided to test Snow by pretending to leak information to her. The police wanted to see what she would do with the false leads.

To no one’s surprise, Snow’s patients began to disclose abuse that included those bogus details.

It was now clear that Snow used highly suggestive, or perhaps even coercive, questioning with her young patients. In Alan Hadfield’s request for a new trial, his defense counsel presented as evidence the following:

  • Barbara Snow’s doctoral thesis, in which Snow discussed the use of authority and punishment to modify patient behavior
  • testimony that she used this technique to modify the responses of her child patients to questions about sexual abuse
  • testimony from law enforcement personnel that false information deliberately “fed” by them to Barbara Snow in their investigatory work promptly appeared in the statements of children she interviewed
  • a highly suspicious correlation between the factual patterns revealed in at least four child sex abuse investigations in which Barbara Snow was involved.

Snow’s career rolled on. In fact, she became a mentor to one of the most troubling young cult leaders active in the U.S. today, Teal Swan.

Teal Swan (video thumbnail)

Swan grew up in Idaho, but entered therapy with Snow in Utah around 2005. It was shortly after her therapy that she began making YouTube videos about being ritualistically tortured and programmed by a Satanic cult that pretended to be Mormon, led by a man she called “Doc.” Swan’s stories of ritualistic abuse were so compelling that she was even invited to share her story on an Idaho news segment, KIVI 6’s On Your Side (you can watch that here).

After establishing herself as a survivor of unspeakable atrocities, Swan then branched into new age platitudes and motivational messages that earned her a vast, cultishly devoted following. In fact, there are signs that Swan is or will soon become a destructive cult leader. She claims godlike powers, encourages her devotees to tattoo themselves, and has established a small community in Costa Rica. She speaks blithely of suicide, murder and her own assassination.

Swan’s SRA story is a little more extreme than most. Doc’s Mormon/Satanic cult used highly sophisticated methods of torture and mind control. As a child, Swan was trained to torture and program other children using electricity. She was a slave of the cult throughout her formative years (c. 1990-2003), and was impregnated by Doc on three occasions. He would then perform abortions on her with veterinary equipment. She was drugged and confined in basements and lava caves. She witnessed sacrifices and was compelled to participate in acts of necrophilia and bestiality. She was forced to appear in violent porn and prostitute herself at gas stations.

Her most startling claim – and the one that draws the most skepticism to her tales – is that when she was about 8 years old, Doc took her to a mortuary after hours and sewed her into human  corpses on two different occasions, leaving her there overnight. This is simply not possible.

“Doc” has spoken publicly about Swan’s accusations. He points to falsehoods in her autobiography, such as being raised in the wilderness (her parents were schoolteachers). He knew Teal’s parents, and at their request he allowed teenage Teal to accompany him on his veterinarian visits. He also helped her acquire a horse. But he was not (and has never been) a Mormon. According to Doc, Teal told fantastical stories to get attention. She claimed to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra, insisted she was going to be model, then moved to Utah to train for the Olympic ski team. Her self-glorifying tales continued into adulthood.

In a June 6, 2004 letter to Doc (reprinted here), she claimed she made the United States Telemark Ski Team and placed fourth overall at Nationals, and was due to appear in an upcoming Playboy. Both claims were false. The letter was full of affection, gratitude and fond memories of their times together. There are no indications that the relationship between Swan and “Doc” was in any way abusive, controlling or damaging.

In fact, the “Doc” described by Teal might be based on this veterinarian, but she has taken so many liberties with the truth of his life that we might as well just say “Doc” is a wholly fictional character existing only in the minds of Teal Swan and her followers. For example, Teal characterizes Doc as a lifelong bachelor with no children. The veterinarian has been married for over thirty years to his current wife, and was married to his first wife for fifteen years. He has two stepsons.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Teal’s cult is that she practices a form of “healing” that can, and probably does, lead to the “recovery” of false memories.

Soon after treating Ms. Swan, Dr. Snow ran into serious professional trouble for the first time in her decades-long career as a therapist. In 2008, she was placed on professional probation for treating her own sister-in-law from 2004-2006, and going to the woman’s Provo home and smashing some computer equipment and other possessions with a baseball bat when the woman refused to comply with her treatment recommendations. Snow falsely stated that she had not billed a third-party insurance provider for the “informal” treatment of her relative, when in fact she had.

It emerged that Snow had convinced her sister-in-law and one other relative that they had been subjected to Satanic and military abuse and repressed all memories of the events. Snow provided the details and urged her sister-in-law to visualize the abuse. Snow suspected that yet another pedo/porn ring was operating in East Salt Lake City, and she collected the obituaries of teenagers from that area whom she believed died in mysterious circumstances.

As the recently filed lawsuit demonstrates, the damage wrought by Snow, Whitehead and others was not temporary. Their fanciful tales of devil-worshiping Mormons ripped apart families, traumatized children who may not have been abused at all and divided entire communities. The attention paid to these bogus ritual abuse cases also drew attention away from actual child abuse, including the highly ritualized rape, forced marriage and brainwashing of young girls in Fundamentalist LDS (breakaway) communities.

The Satanic panic was not just an outbreak of hysteria limited to the ’80s and ’90s. It lives and breathes to this day.

You can read more about Teal Swan at Medium, Vice and Gizmodo.

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What You Need to Know About the Arrest and Conviction of “Tommy Robinson”

This post will be part of a series, Pedo Panic in the UK, to be appearing here shortly. That series will dissect the “grooming gang” hysteria that has gripped parts of England for over a decade, the numerous historical child abuse inquiries that have been launched to uncover possible abuses committed years ago (some of the alleged perpetrators are long dead), and a moral panic that bears some remarkable parallels to the “grooming” situation – the Satanic ritual abuse cases that tore through English council estates in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

I don’t want to devote a lot of space to the anti-Islam shithead activist known as “Tommy Robinson” [actual name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon]. I owe him a degree of gratitude for drawing my attention to the grooming hysteria with his most recent douchebaggery, but I find him to be one of those tiresome attention whores who doesn’t deserve our attention. Everything there is to say about this guy has been said by others. I will not repeat any of it here.

I include this section only to clear up the misconceptions about his conviction that have spurred “Free Tommy” rallies all over the world. He has the support of the Drudge Report, Alex Jones, a Dutch MP (Geert Wilders) who believes “Tommy’s” arrest signals that “the lights of freedom are going out”, a German MP (Petr Bystron) who actually offered to help him seek political asylum in Germany, half a million people who signed an online petition to free him, and the son of a sitting U.S. President (Donald Trump Jr. tweeted of Robinson’s arrest: “Reason #1776 for the original #brexit”).

To hear the loudspeaker rants and read the tweets, you would think that a grave and peculiar miscarriage of justice has been playing out in England, that a “citizen journalist” was dragooned simply for “speaking out against crime” and “exercising his rights.”

But the truth is…

This is not a free speech issue. “Robinson’s” actions fall under the strict liability rule in the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which you can read here. In addition, Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act of 1925 (still in force and effect) forbids taking “a photograph, portrait or sketch” not only in courtrooms, but “in the building or in the precincts of the building in which the court is held, or if it is a photograph, portrait or sketch taken or made of the person while he is entering or leaving the court–room or any such building or precincts as aforesaid.” [emphasis mine]

If you object to what happened to “Robinson”, then you object to the law itself. Perhaps you should focus on that instead of defending some anti-Muslim goofball. If you’re concerned about jailed journalists, there are many more that you can support.

No journalist, citizen or otherwise, is permitted to film defendants outside the courts in England. You can film them some distance away, which is what actual journalists do.

“Tommy Robinson” knew the law and its consequences perfectly well, because he was arrested for contempt of court after he attempted to take video of the defendants in a rape case outside Canterbury Crown Court in May 2017. Four British-Afghan men stood accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in Ramsgate earlier that year. “Robinson” was working for The Rebel Media, a Canadian outfit, at the time. The Rebel pays by the story but does not always give specific assignments, and its “reporters” (very few of whom have any journalistic background or training) are encouraged to go out and get stories on their own time. Ramsgate was the story “Robinson” chose to tell.

The Rebel was founded by Ezra Levant, a lawyer and former journalist. With his background, Levant could be giving his employees and correspondents crash courses in how to obey laws and hew to basic principles of journalistic integrity so as to avoid legal trouble. It seems that he is not doing that. I don’t know if “Robinson” was aware at the time that English law forbids filming outside of courthouses.

But he was certainly aware of it one year later, in May 2018, when he showed up for one of the Halifax trials at Leeds Crown Court and did the same thing again. The previous year, at Canterbury Crown Court, the judge (HHJ Norton) had handed him a suspended three-month sentence, but warned him with great specificity what could happen if he breached the law again. Norton told him he “should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought, a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated, and that would be on top of anything else that you were given by any other court. In short, Mr. Yaxley-Lennon, turn up at another court, refer to people as ‘Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists’ and so and so forth while trials are ongoing and before there has been a finding by a jury that that is what they are, and you will find yourself inside. Do you understand?” You can read the entirety of Judge Norton’s ruling and sentencing remarks here.

It is apparent from “Robinson’s” video footage taken at Leeds Crown Court that he was making token attempts to stay within the limits of the law – he sporadically used the word “alleged” to refer to the defendants and so forth. However, it’s also apparent that by showing up outside the court with a camera after being strongly cautioned just one year earlier, he wanted to be arrested. He wanted to play the martyr and garner more attention.

He didn’t need to be there at all. Britons are well aware of the Halifax trials and the defendants. Standing outside the courthouse reiterating known facts and racist twaddle helps no one. “Robinson” is free to say whatever he likes about Muslims. He just can’t do it directly outside a courthouse, with a camera.

“Robinson” and the court that sentenced him to prison are on the same side. Robinson likes to call himself an enemy of the state, but he is no such thing. Both he and the Crown want to secure convictions in this grooming trial. The Crown has to get convictions to sustain the Pakistani Predator narrative, because the latest batch of Rotherham cases has been thrown out for lack of evidence.

“Robinson” was endangering those convictions with his unnecessary and foolish behaviour. The courts are not protecting the defendants. THEY WANT THOSE CONVICTIONS. “Robinson” is not a political prisoner.

He was not denied the counsel of his choice. Robinson’s defenders make much of the fact that he was assigned a public defender (known in England as a “duty solicitor”). That indicates to them that he was not permitted to find the barrister of his choice. In reality, defendants are assigned public defenders for any number of sensible reasons: They can’t afford to hire their own counsel, they can’t find anyone to represent them pro bono, or their preferred counsel is not available. In “Robinson’s” case, it seems to be the last reason, because he does have a lawyer by the name of Alison Gurden.

However, it’s possible that “Tommy Robinson” cannot afford counsel at this time. He does not have a job. He owned a tanning salon in Luton years ago, but gave up the skin-cooking biz to establish and lead the English Defence League. He no longer works for The Rebel Media. He has penned a couple of books that continue to sell briskly, but he’s certainly no Jeffrey Archer or Patricia Cornwell in the sales department. Perhaps he is more or less indigent, and has to rely on the British court system for legal aid – which is one of the things he found most abhorrent about the defendants in the “grooming” trials. Again and again, he pointed out how much the men were costing British taxpayers by “demanding” separate lawyers or asking for translators. It would be very interesting if he was gobbling at the public trough.

Alison Gurden has declined to comment on why she was unable or unwilling to represent “Robinson” at his contempt hearing. She specializes in defending football fans, sex offenders and U.S. defendants facing the death penalty, so she might have been very busy at the time.

The duty solicitor who represented “Robinson” is no slouch, by the way. Matthew Harding has a solid background in both defense and prosecution work, and has been in practice for over 15 years.

All this talk about “Robinson’s” counsel is moot, though. He pled guilty.

He was not sent to the gulag. There is this notion among his supporters that “Robinson” was hustled into police custody in great secrecy, that he was disappeared like Chilean dissidents or Japanese citizens of the ’70s. This is because a temporary media ban (known as a “postponement order”) was placed on his arrest and conviction and would not have been lifted until the conclusion of the Halifax trial. This is common practice in the UK (see Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981), and media bans may be instituted for an array of reasons: To protect the identity or security of victims, to prevent the compromising of due process by sensational media coverage, to shield witnesses or jurors, etc.

However, the ban did not extend beyond UK borders, and media outlets all over the world immediately reported that “Robinson” had been detained. In Canada, the outrage was sparked by “Robinson’s” former employer, The Rebel Media.

All of this is moot now, because the news website Leeds Live challenged the postponement order and the judge lifted the ban within days of “Robinson’s” conviction. That is also a fairly common occurrence in the UK.

His sentence was not unusually harsh for contempt of court. He could have received up to two years (see Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981). Instead, he received 10 months, with the previous suspended sentence of 3 months activated, for a total of 13 months. That is precisely what Judge Norton told him would happen when she issued her crystal-clear warning to him last year.

There was due process. The Criminal Procedure Rules for contempt of court were followed. Nothing unusual happened here.

The hearing was not secret. It was open to the public, and members of the press were present (including Stephanie Finnegan, the court reporter for Leeds Live who successfully challenged the postponement order).

We know where “Robinson” will be serving his sentence (Hull prison).

The hearing and sentencing were speedy for three reasons:

  1. The defendant pled guilty.
  2. Contempt of court charges are often handled in summary proceedings. They are not drawn-out affairs.
  3. It was a second offense. He was warned one year ago that he could face jail time if he committed another offense. That made sentencing pretty easy for the judge.

Now let’s move on.

Pizzagate: Attack of the Satanic Gay Pedo Cannibal Democrats

PART I: Overview

The 411 and the Major Playersuntitled-1Hans and I are back after a two-year hiatus, and we have been eating a lot of pizza lately. Why can’t the global elite operate their child trafficking rings out of juiceterias? #smoothiegate

Fifteen months have passed since Pizzagate first blew up all over social media, and most sources critical of Pizzagate use the past tense, telling you that Pizzagate was a theory that emerged during the 2016 presidential race, that people believed Hillary Clinton was involved in a vast child-trafficking network centred around casual dining in Washington, DC., etc.

Don’t be fooled. Pizzagate is still here, and Pizzagate will always be here. It is part of us now. For decades to come, it’s going to serve as another example of things They got away with doing under our noses. It will contribute to outbursts from citizens outraged by how evil the world has become. It will cause tears and heartbreak to Facebook users who can’t stop thinking about the terrified, vulnerable children locked up in freezers beneath bistros. Calling Pizzagate “debunked”, “discredited”, “fake” or “unfounded” isn’t going to change its real-world impact at all.

So let’s deal with it.

Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t care how you feel about Pizzagate. I don’t care what your instincts are telling you. I don’t care what your political affiliation is. We are going to deal primarily with the straight facts of this matter – the artwork, the tweets, etc.

Lurking in forums and social media groups over the past year, we have seen hundreds of pages of information related to the occult, weird art, human trafficking, pedophilia, and arcane symbology. What haven’t we seen? Evidence that you can take to the bank. In fact, there is so little concrete evidence here that Pizzagate can’t even be classified as a conspiracy theory at this point. It’s more like a conspiracy hypothesis. Once you dig past the hoaxes, misinformation, and irrelevant material, you’re left with little more than, “Wow, the Podesta brothers really like food.”

This isn’t anything like the “Franklin cover-up” quagmire, which is dense with accusations and counter-accusations, lawsuits and confessions. Here, the evidence is so thinly layered that you hit bedrock almost as soon as you start digging.

“Is this all there is?” you ask.

“Connect the dots,” the Pizzagaters urge. “Wake up.”

So why am I even bothering with this topic at such a late date? Well, first of all, Pizzagate became a global phenomenon, and its core claims are certainly serious enough to warrant scrutiny. Secondly, the formation and dizzying growth of the Pizzagate hypothesis is a fascinating, convoluted tale that tells us a great deal about ourselves: our history, our weaknesses, our information culture. Thirdly, Pizzagate is history. It overlaps with one of the strangest political atmospheres in U.S. memory, as well as the emergence of peculiar neo-nativist movements and ugly sexual scandals, both real and imagined.

Most importantly, Pizzagate has not really been examined in a concise, critical manner. Snopes took a shot, but kept it very brief as per their short-form debunking style. Saying “Comet Ping-Pong doesn’t have a basement” is not enough anymore. BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone zeroed in on how Pizzagate began and how misinfo was disseminated by bots and Twitter patriots, without discussing the actual hypothesis itself in any depth. The Washingon Post has run several stories focusing on the weirdity of Pizzagate, as though it’s a singular event in the history of American conspiranoia (it’s not). The New York Times assembled a decent overview, but couldn’t get into too many details.

In this series, I’m going to give you a detailed timeline of events,  show you historical parallels to Pizzagate hysteria that will put it into some context, and expose how a few obscure players manipulated us into being suspicious of mundane things. We’re going to examine the Pizzagate body count, the strangest sub-theories and virtually every smoking gun that has been presented by the Pizzagate community. I’ll even teach you how to become a Pizzagate investigator.

The 411

If you’re not familiar with Pizzagate, here’s the crux: According to many Internet denizens, a handful of code words in the leaked John Podesta emails have revealed the existence of an international child trafficking/prostitution ring made up of Satanic Gay Pedo Cannibal Democrats.

This hypothetical “Pizza Ring”, as I’ll call it, is headquartered in or near a popular D.C. pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong, owned and operated by one James Alefantis. This popular Connecticut Avenue eatery, opened in 2006, regularly hosts musical performances and political fundraisers. It has a laid-back, hipstery vibe, with a room full of ping-pong tables and local art covering the walls (you’ll be reading a lot more about that). “Comet”, as it’s often called, was featured on an episode of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2013.

The child slaves are supposedly brought to this location via a network of tunnels beneath the pizzeria, and may be held or abused in the basement of the restaurant. Some of the children are ritually sacrificed and/or consumed, because the Pizza Ring is part of a worldwide cult that does that sort of thing.

And they would’ve gotten away it with, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling Twitter users.

Thousands of people all over the world are now taking part in a crowdsourced citizen investigation of the Pizza Ring. Let’s call these investigators “Pizzagaters.” They have linked Pizzagate to alleged child trafficking in Haiti, several murders and suspicious deaths, and even sports injuries. Celebrity Pizzagaters include Roseanne Barr, James Woods and Kanye West.

Although it’s just a little over a year old, the Pizzagate hypothesis has already had real-world consequences:

  • A Trump transition team member probably lost his job over a Pizzagate-related Tweet. Trump loves his conspiracy theories, but it seems Pizzagate is a line in the sand for him. Michael Flynn, Jr. tweeted the following on November 2, 2017:pizzagate-michael-flynn-tweet“I want him fired immediately,” Trump reportedly declared. And that’s precisely what happened. Furthermore, the incident may have helped drive a wedge between Trump and Michael Flynn’s father, White House national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn. We all know how that ended.
    Michael, Jr. is about as sharp as an egg. Last year, he used the hashtag #MuslimBan to discuss Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several Muslim-majority, high-conflict nations. The administration obviously wasn’t keen to see this order characterized as a “Muslim ban”, so this time both Flynns deleted their Twitter accounts.
  • On December 4, 2016, a young man named Edgar Welch tried to intimidate the business owner, staff and patrons of Comet Ping Pong by firing a weapon three times in the restaurant. He said he was merely “investigating.” Most Pizzagaters insist this was a false flag incident staged by someone-or-other to rally public support for the Pizza Ring and shut down the citizen investigation. Welch originally entered a plea of not guilty, but later took  a plea deal. He is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for interstate transportation of a firearm and assault with a dangerous weapon.
  • D.C. police devoted manpower and resources to the shooting incident, threats made against business owners, and some of the allegations made online. The FBI’s Russian probe also investigated aspects of the allegations.
  • Internet broadcaster Alex Jones apologized for certain comments, for perhaps the first time ever, after he and a guest made weird and insupportable allegations against people around the time of the shooting incident. This “apology” was the direct result of threats of legal action. Currently, singer John Legend is also threatening legal action against Pizzagaters for claiming that he and his wife could be part of the Pizza Ring. Celebrities and politicians have long ignored the wackier conspiracy theories that adhere to them. Now that the fringe has gone mainstream, they can’t afford to do that. They’re fighting back and forcing alternative media to be more accountable for what they put out there.
  • Business owners and employees, friends and neighbours of the “suspects” and numerous artists have been harassed and slandered by people who think they must be Satanic Gay Pedo Cannibal Democrats.
  • According to some, Pizzagate investigators fell victim to the “largest ban in the history of Reddit.” We’ll examine this claim later.
  • Law & Order: SVU based an episode entitled “Real Fake News” on Pizzagate, portraying the conspiracy theory as a plot cooked up by Russia to undermine the U.S and disgrace a Congressman. This is the only exposure to Pizzagate that many Americans have had, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
  • Hillary Clinton has made hay of it, even mentioning it in a commencement address.

Some Pizzagaters claim to have moved beyond the narrow confines of the Pizza Ring hypothesis, and prefer the term “Pedogate.” Bizarrely, though, highly specific allegations of sexual misconduct (such as those against senate candidate Roy Moore) don’t seem to bother them as much as sketchy rumours of possible sexual misconduct.

Dramatis Personae: The Accused

For this lineup, I’ve used memes actually shared in Pizzagate online communities. These images in no way reflect my personal attitudes or beliefs. I include them here as examples of how vicious, absurd and childish some of the Pizzagate accusations are. 

Keep in mind that these are definitely not the only people to be accused by Pizzagaters. They’re just the major players.

Marina Abramović, 71: A world-renowned performance artist who is friends with John Podesta and his brother, Anthony. She is perhaps best-known for her performance pieces entitled The Artist is Present, in which she sits silently in a chair while people say and do anything at all to her. But it was her quirky Spirit Cooking pieces that led Pizzagaters to the conclusion that the Podestas might be Satanic Gay Pedo Cannibal Democrats. As we’ll see, the misrepresentations of Spirit Cooking as an occult ritual were crafted by alt media outlets.
Like most performance artists, Abramović has deliberately cultivated an unsettling, offbeat persona. She wears upside-down crosses, dyes her hair raven-black, and poses with goat horns, giving her a sort of posh Morticia Addams vibe.
Abramović has no criminal record and has never been implicated in a sex scandal.

James Alefantis, 43: Not only is Alefantis the owner of the restaurant at the centre of Pizzagate, he is an ex-boyfriend of David Brock, the founder of both Media Matters for America and the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record (Alefantis and Brock dated c. 2007-2013). I mention this only because Pizzagaters bring it up continuously.
In 2009, Alefantis became the sole owner of both Comet and another Connecticut Avenue restaurant called Buck’s Fishing & Camping when co-owner/chef Carole Greenwood left the industry.
He has produced independent films and is extremely active in the D.C. arts scene.
He is a registered and active Democrat.
Alefantis’s various activities earned him the #49 spot in GQ‘s list of the 50 Most Influential People in D.C. back in 2012. A lot of Pizzagaters think this is weird, but there is one other restauranteur and a trio of party planners on the same list. GQ described Alefantis as a local bon vivant. 
Alefantis has no criminal record and has never been implicated in a sex scandal. Unless that thing with Brock’s other ex-boyfriend counts.

Hillary Clinton, 69: I don’t think this lady needs an introduction. Though she is not referenced in any of the “incriminating” Podesta emails, she is obviously thick as thieves with John Podesta (chairman of her 2016 presidential campaign). Clinton has no criminal record, but has been implicated as some sort of accessory-after-the-fact in several sexual assaults allegedly committed by her husband, and sundry other scandals. She has also been characterized as a lizard-woman, a closet lesbian, and a serial murderer who knows how to disguise assassinations as suicides.

[The artwork above is by Holocaust denier David Dees. I have written about Dees at Leaving Alex Jonestown.]

Jeffrey Epstein, 64: A wildly successful, deeply secretive financier and billionaire who split his time between New York, Florida, New Mexico, the Virgin Islands, and France. Like Clinton, Epstein doesn’t appear in any of the Pizzagate-related emails, but he was friendly with Bill Clinton. He is also friends with Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, and thousands of other people.
Epstein is the only major Pizzagate figure with a criminal record. In 2008, after a three-year investigation by Palm Beach police, he was convicted of soliciting an underage female prostitute. Numerous young women have accused him of paying them for sexual favours and/or sexually molesting them when they were as young as 14, though no criminal charges have been laid in relation to those allegations.

John Podesta, 68: Podesta is a major Democratic player. He served as chief of staff to President Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama before becoming chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He serves on more boards and councils than you can possibly imagine.
In March 2016, he fell prey to a phishing scam that gave unidentified hackers access to his Gmail account. Wikileaks subsequently obtained these emails and published them online in 28 batches, or volumes, between October 7 and November 4, 2016. A small number of these emails form the dark nucleus of Pizzagate.
Podesta has no criminal record and has never been implicated in a sex scandal.

Anthony Podesta, 73: John Podesta’s only sibling, and a heavy political hitter in his own right, Tony Podesta is a veteran D.C. lobbyist and art collector.

Podesta has no criminal record and has never been implicated in a sex scandal. He did step down from his position at the Podesta Group lobbying firm as a result of the FBI investigation into possible Russian tampering in the presidential election, and the Podesta Group shut down in late 2017.

Anthony Weiner, 52: Congressman who seemed to spend most of his time taking dick pics and sending them to many women – and one underage girl. For the latter activity, he got into a lot of trouble. His wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, has been named as a Pizza Ring member by some Pizzagaters.

In a sense, Pizzagate is the bastard child of Anthony Weiner, because the earliest online speculation about “something big” revolved around the FBI’s investigation of his emails. However, that probe didn’t yield anything big, so the rumour mill moved on to John Podesta’s emails in search of dirt.

On the surface, all of the people mentioned above are on the same page politically. Don’t be fooled. David Brock has harshly criticized Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, headed by John Podesta, for failing to get her into the White House. Tony Podesta stepped down from his post at the Podesta Group not because he was a subject of the FBI investigation, but because his company employed a Republican who was. Sure, Jeffrey Epstein was friendly with the Clintons – but he was also tight with Donald Trump. Real life does not always follow party lines.

Dramatis Personae: The Accusers, Investigators and Pizzagate Experts

Mike Cernovich: Cernovich is a right-wing internet personality very active on Twitter. In 2012 he set up the website Danger and Play, primarily as a forum for Men’s Rights topics. He was a loud voice throughout Gamergate. He says semen has magical, addictive properties and should be carefully guarded from semen-stealing whores (“whores” = women who are sexually active). He thinks white genocide is a thing. He makes sassy comments about rape and occasionally accuses people of supporting child molesters in order to get them fired. When he records his videos, he makes sure you can see his hawt Iranian wife lounging in the background (“See, I’m not racist!”). You know, the usual alt media hipster edgelord shit. It’s completely impossible to tell how much of Cernovich’s output is brand-building bluster and how much is genuine, so I won’t even waste your time with that.

During the 2016 election, Cernovich increasingly focused on the political scene (because Trump). His main contribution was insisting that Hillary Clinton had advanced Parkinson’s Disease. When that got stale, he become one of the first and most prominent “new right” voices to trumpet Pizzagate. In fact, he was so early to the game that it wasn’t even called Pizzagate yet. He continued to heavily promote the hypothesis for several months.

Since that time, Cernovich has eased back from Pizzagate as part of an effort to up his credibility. We’ll look more closely at his Pizzagate role in the next post.

Liz Crokin: Like David Seaman (see below), Crokin was a freelance journalist and is now a full-time Pizzagater.

Crokin claims that journalists who write about sex trafficking are being blacklisted, just as the editors at Townhall.com supposedly blacklisted her for writing about “Pedogate.” This echoes the Pizzagaters’ frequent cries of censorship and persecution, which usually turn out to be exaggerations. A Google news search for “sex trafficking” should reassure you that lots of journalists are still covering the topic. What Crokin omits from her blacklisting allegation is that Townhall stopped publishing her work after she jumped to the defense of professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos, devoting roughly a third of her “sex trafficking” article to how mean everybody was being to him. It’s possible that Townhall ditched Crokin for her inability to stick to a goddamn topic.

Prior to Pizzagate, Crokin wrote primarily for tabloid publications and sketchy websites. She has a history of dramatic and bizarre claims, some of them disguised as fiction. After breaking up with a wealthy older boyfriend in 2013, she published a political thriller entitled Malice in which the antagonist is a wealthy older man who abuses children, somehow gives his daughter Lyme Disease and slips ecstasy into his wife’s drinks. Crokin has accused her ex of giving her herpes that resulted in meningitis and brain damage. He has countered by alleging that Malice is a thinly disguised attack on him. Which, duh.

At one time, Crokin claimed that a sex tape of Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin and an underage girl was soon going to emerge and blow the lid off the Pedogate scandal. This video was supposedly found on Anthony Weiner’s computer, in a file labled “Life Insurance.” Crokin is the only person to claim any knowledge of this video. Just like the video of Bill Clinton assaulting a 13-year-old girl, which we’ll cover in the next post, this video has never surfaced.

Currently, Crokin is clinging to the idea that the FBI’s Russia investigation will lead directly to Hillary Clinton.

The Drudge Report: Though Drudge never jumped all the way onto the pizza bandwagon, it gave the hypothesis a powerful kickstart with a re-post of an Infowars story headlined “WIKI WICCAN: PODESTA PRACTICES OCCULT MAGIC.”

alex-jones

Alex Jones, 44: The subject of one of my other (mostly defunct) blogs, Leaving Alex Jonestown, Jones is an Internet broadcaster who believes the Anti-Defamation League might have been behind the Holocaust Museum shooting and that France is genetically engineering fishpeople like Kevin Costner in Waterworld. He’s an avid Trump supporter. Like Cernovich, Jones took an intense interest in Pizzagate, then backed away from it. However, his early support for the Pizzagate hypothesis helped launch it into public consciousness, so his role cannot be overlooked.
Jones has no criminal record, and has not been implicated in a sex scandal, though he’s friends with Charlie Sheen but is currently being sued for racial discrimination and sexual harassment by two former employees.

At this time, Jones’ YouTube channel may be deleted. It was put on notice after he posted videos describing the Florida school shooting as fake and some of the teenage survivors as “crisis actors.”

Breitbart.com: Breitbart published a few articles on Pizzagate, but its main contribution to the hypothesis was the misconception that the late Andrew Breitbart exposed John Podesta as a human trafficker and pedophile all the way back in 2011. We’ll examine this utterly inaccurate bit of pizzalore in Part IV.

Brittany Pettibone: One of several twentysomething alt-right wannabes who attempted to boost themselves into the spotlight with Pizzagate, Pettibone has worked closely with white supremacists and believes in white genocide, while insisting she is not a racist. She was recently barred from entering the UK (Britain’s Home Office explained in a statement that it has the power “to refuse entry to an individual if it is considered that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good”). Tucker Carlson leapt to her defense. He presented her as just your average conservative journalist, which she is not. She is a cute little Nazi who gets far more attention than she has ever earned. That’s really all there is to say about her.

Jack Posobiec: Basically Mike Cernovich in a different skinsuit.

Chances are that any goofball conservative PR stunt you’ve heard about in the past year and a half had something to do with this guy.  In November 2016 he showed up at an anti-Trump rally with a “Rape Melania” poster. A month later, he used his Twitter powers for evil and convinced most Trump supporters – without presenting a crumb of evidence – that Disney had hastily added anti-Trump scenes to Rogue One. This culminated in the Twitter ban of another central Pizzagater, Jared Wyand (see below).

Posobiec’s primary contribution to Pizzagatery was his live-streamed “investigation” of Comet Ping Pong. He found nothing of interest and was asked to leave the restaurant for attempting to broadcast a child’s birthday party.

guy-fawkes

Pseudo-Anonymous: Who the hell knows who this is? Could be anybody. Anonymous, as you know, is a collective of hacktivists who release videos via a semi-official YouTube channel and occasionally organize mass actions dealing with everything from Scientology to Australian porn. But pseudo-Anonymous groups proliferate online, and (as we’ll see) their stances are often at odds with the real Anonymous. In this post, I have tried to differentiate between pseudo-Anonymous groups and Anonymous, but it’s not always an easy thing to do.

David Seaman: All of Seaman’s earliest Pizzagate videos have been removed from YouTube, but the former freelance journalist has still churned out an incredibly high volume of Pizzagate-related videos in the past year. I don’t think it would be exaggeration to say that Pizzagate is his life now.

Seaman got his start in journalism by landing an internship at Jezebel in 2007. His bosses immediately tired of his childish self-absorption. He then wrote two books about self-promotion, including How to Be a Publicity Whore (2008), and became something of an expert on cryptocurrency.

In 2016, he was publishing a HuffPo finance blog. That’s where things went sideways. HuffPo supposedly fired him for posting too many stories about Hillary’s health during the 2016 election cycle, and he admittedly turned into a beer-swilling, unemployed mess. He grew determined to get revenge on “that bitch”, and Pizzagate was one of the last straws left to grasp. Seaman grasped it hard. As we’ll see in part II, though, Seaman was not actually fired by Huffpo.

At this time, Seaman is under a two-week YouTube ban for posting videos about the Florida school shooting being fake.

hillbilly

Edgar Welch, 29: North Carolina resident with no known connections to anyone in D.C.  (or anyone in this entire lineup, for that matter). On December 4, 2016, he entered Comet Ping Pong and fired three shots from an assault rifle after a failed attempt to find and rescue child slaves from the restaurant.

Welch has a criminal record that includes marijuana possession, a 2007 conviction for driving after consuming alcohol while under 21 and a 2013 conviction for driving under the influence, according to court records. In October 2016 he struck a kid with his car. We also know he worked on several student films between 2007-2009, and graduated from Cape Fear Community College in 2007. He has two kids with his girlfriend. He’s a registered Republican, but hasn’t expressed any political motivation. On his Facebook page, he posted things about Biblical prophecy and the coming of the Muslim Antichrist.

There are a lot of theories about Mr. Welch. Pizzagaters generally believe he was a government agent or a mind-controlled patsy sent to discredit their investigation. In my own view, Welch probably has some mental health issues and a good dose of Travis Bickle syndrome. He told police he brought the rifle with him to “help rescue” any children he found, and en route to D.C. he recorded a video message for his family, telling them he loved them and he hoped to be able to tell them that again.

Prior to entering Comet, Welch reportedly texted a friend that he was “Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many… I’m sorry bro, but I’m tired of turning the channel and hoping someone does something and being thankful it’s not my family. One day it will be our families. The world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to.” The text also mentions “Standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.”

Some Pizzagaters have followed the lead of Sandy Hook and Boston Bombing truthers by pointing to Welch’s handful of film credits and declaring him a “crisis actor”, hired by someone-or-other to impersonate a crazed gunman. This is unlikely. Welch has accepted responsibility for his actions and expressed regrets for the way he handled the situation. He is also serving four years in prison – a stiff price to pay for an acting gig.

Silhouette of a man in a business suit giving a shrug with a question mark

Social Media Users on Twitter, Gab, Voat, Steemit, YouTube, Reddit, etc.: The driving forces behind Pizzagate may or may not be using their real names online, as is their right. Therefore, we know little to nothing about them. We don’t know if any of them have criminal records, and we don’t know if they have been implicated in any sex scandals.

malfoy

Wikileaks and Julian Assange: Wikileaks and its founder don’t need an introduction, do they? Wikileaks is now the world’s largest repository for leaked, stolen and classified information that you’re probably not supposed to see. It has been instrumental in exposing injustices and dragging hidden information into the sunlight. It published the Podesta emails and took a keen interest in the early research of Pizzagaters.
Assange was accused of rape in Switzerland in 2010, and took refuge in the Embassy of Ecuador in London rather than submit to a Swiss police investigation. The Swiss investigation was dropped in May 2017, but Assange continues to reside at the Embassy to avoid bail-jumping charges.

Jared Wyand: Though Wyand is the second-most obscure online personality on this list (Ms. Pettibone being #1 with a bullet), he is more responsible for the creation of Pizzagate than any of them. He had a sizable Twitter following in late 2016, and he tweeted the mysterious, food-related “code words” that spurred people to comb through John Podesta’s emails in search of dirt and led to the “outing” of Comet Ping Pong as the spiritual headquarters of the Satanic Gay Pedo Cannibal Democrats.

Wyand subsequently freaked out over the anti-Trump scenes that weren’t even in Rogue One, and pitched a racist, anti-Semitic Twittertantrum that got him banned. He now posts at Gab, where he is openly a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite. We’ll see much more of him in Part IV (The Evidence).

Looking at this random assortment of characters, it’s difficult to comprehend how a conspiracy hypothesis involving all of them came to exist. To understand how Pizzagate  became a phenomenon, we have to review its troubling origins.

 

Part II
The Birth of an Hypothesis: The Pizzagate Timeline

 

 

The War on Christmas is Real

The Espresso Shot Heard Round the World

On November 5, Arizona vlogger and possible psychopath Joshua Feuerstein posted a Facebook video calling for a worldwide movement to force Starbucks to acknowledge Christmas.  His rant went viral, topping 12 million views in just three days.
Feuerstein was incensed that the world’s largest coffee chain had removed all vestiges of Christendom from its holiday paper cups, though a review of previous years’ cups reveals that Starbucks never actually had Christmas-themed cups in the first place. The cups usually feature stylized swirls, snowflakes, and other random wintery stuff. What does the birth of Christ have to do with the outline of a poinsettia? I don’t know, either. I just know that the ’99 cup design included a car so poorly drawn it resembled a UFO. Because Jesus.

starbucks cups

Feuerstein contends that Starbucks “hates Jesus” and is waging an assault-by-omission on Christmas.  Never mind, please, that Starbucks is offering Christmas blend coffees, Christmas albums, Christmas cookies, and porcelain Christmas mugs in all its stores. Frankly, the average Starbucks in November looks like Santa’s man cave.

Feuerstein also announced his intention to open carry in Starbucks, because Jesus just loved weaponry, right?

On a CNN appearance, he insisted that unnamed plotters are trying to “remove Christmas out of society.” He cited two examples: The SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, has “required that they take down their Christmas tree this year” (falseby popular demand, the mall’s Christmas tree will be going up) and “cities are banning nativity scenes in front of churches” (false – I can’t find a single instance of this happening in the U.S.; cities such as Santa Monica have banned public displays, but never private ones on church properties).

This sort of tirade has become an annual tradition in the U.S., and it is infinitely more beloved than fruitcake or mulled cider ever were.

I’ll Give You My Yule Log When You Pry It From My Frostbitten Hands

It all began roughly two decades ago, when Colorado pastor Jim Hagen noticed that employees at a shopping mall were greeting customers with “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Obviously, this was not an attempt to sideline Christmas (the five aisles of tinsel-decked fuzzy reindeer that pop up in stores every October will attest to that), but Pastor Hagen took (or pretended to take) umbrage. He started a grassroots campaign to get in the face of any minimum-wage retail employee that dared say “happy holidays”, although “happy holidays” is probably more appropriate for a season that includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Henry Miller’s birthday, Solstice celebrations, and New Year’s Eve.

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly later became the face of the movement. In 2004, he began collecting random tales of “holiday trees” being erected in public squares, of elementary schools staging “winter” pageants, etc. His collective term for these widely separated and unconnected incidents was – say it with me now – the “War on Christmas.”
According to O’Reilly (and other Fox pundits, notably John Gibson), this was a full-frontal assault on Christmas orchestrated by liberals, non-Christians, atheists, and Wal-Mart cashiers; a systematic effort to tear down public Christmas trees, banish nativity displays, sanitize school Christmas pageants, and render Christmas carols obsolete. In 2005, Gibson’s book The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought became a bestseller.

However, Pastor Hagen and Fox News didn’t manufacture the War on Christmas all on their own. It was actually the brainchild of a British Fortune editor, Peter Brimelow. In the late ’90s, he founded one of the most virulent anti-immigration sites ever run by an immigrant: VDare.com. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies VDare as an extremist site, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. The sidebar of the site’s main articles page is a wall of Confederate flags, advertised as part of a “Personal Patriot Pack” offered to generous donors. Featured articles include “Dalton Trumbo Had It Coming” and essays mourning the death of white civilization. VDare makes it plain that immigrants are probably the worst thing to happen in the history of this planet.
Every Christmas, VDare awards a prize to the writer who can present the most enraging example of the War on Christmas. Bill O’Reilly, as we’ve noted, sticks mostly to elementary school festivities and nativity mangers and such. VDare sticks mostly to immigrants, Communists, Muslims and Jews. You read that correctly. Year after year, the “winners” of VDare’s annual War on Christmas essay competition are crackpots who believe that Jews and other “Christophobes” are trying to abolish Christmas. The 2001 winner, for example, declared Hanukkah to be a make-believe holiday unworthy of observance, and waxed nostalgic over how awesome it was for Whittaker “Pumpkin Patch” Chambers to celebrate Christmas with his kids after leaving those crummy pinkos behind.

Santa Commie

More respectable Christian media outlets soon joined in the yearly rage-fest. In 2007, Focus on the Family, America’s most popular Christian radio show, called for listeners to throw out any mail-order catalogues that used the term “Happy Holidays.” They called this campaign Merry Tossmas.

It was around this time that my own late grandmother, worked into a righteous lather by an afternoon of Fox News viewing, told me she would shout “MERRY CHRISTMAS” to the first cashier that had the gall to say “Happy holidays!” to her. To my knowledge, she never had to bother.

Then came the legislators.  In 2008, Utah senator Chris Buttars announced a resolution pressuring retailers to allow their employees to use the word “Christmas” in their greetings to customers. He ultimately abandoned the idea, but declared the battle wasn’t over.
In 2009, Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., introduced a resolution calling for the House to protect Christmas symbols and traditions. Brown was particularly peeved that the Obamas’ holiday cards hadn’t explicitly mentioned Christmas. “I believe that sending a Christmas card without referencing a holiday and its purpose limits the Christmas celebration in favor of a more ‘politically correct’ holiday,” he told Fox Radio.

I was more than a little baffled by this War on Christmas rhetoric. You see, I live in a very multicultural city where Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are well-represented. We also have a good number of Sikhs, Hindus, atheists and agnostics, Sai Baba people,  Bahá’í and Unitarian people, Maitreya people, Scientologists, folks who think Jesus came back as a South Korean, and people who worship a former shoe salesman.
Yet there is still a huge Christmas tree in the city square every year. Even when we had a Jewish mayor, you would find an enormous nativity manger parked outside city hall each Christmas. In our stores, Christmas carols play, greeters say “Merry Christmas” more than “Happy Holidays”, and expanded holiday hours are often called “Christmas hours.”

But I’m here to tell you that there is a War on Christmas, ladies and gentleman. It’s all real. A sinister cabal of people actually is trying to rip down your treetop angels and your boughs of holly and those gigantic inflatable snowglobes in your front yard. They are engaged in a tireless, year-round campaign against Christmas presents and gingerbread houses. These merciless killjoys don’t even want you to hang mistletoe or host ugly sweater competitions!

And guess what? These people are Christians.

Let’s take a look at the frontline soldiers in the real War Against Christmas.

Alex Jones/Infowars

Texas broadcaster and professional paranoid Alex Jones has long been an anti-Christmas fanatic. I first discovered this during his December 14, 2007 broadcast, when he spent a solid five minutes excoriating listeners for buying frivolous Christmas gifts like clothing and sweets and Pagan-inspired Christmas decorations – buy merchandise from the Infowars Store instead! Get the extended 12-hour director’s cut of The Obama Deception! Annoy your friends! Depress your family! Make everyone wish you’d get carted off to a FEMA camp so they don’t have to listen to your fatalistic bullshit a minute longer!

Three Christmases later, Jones’ Prison Planet website re-posted a Russia Today report titled Christmas is pagan celebration of shopping & eating’.

Last December, Infowars re-posted Michael Snyder’s essay on how Christmas gift-giving – and Christmas itself – is a sick, soulless pagan tradition.

So it’s well-established that Jones and company don’t like Christmas trees, Christmas gifts, and the other heathen and godless trappings of Christmas, right?

Well, not quite. In 2013, Jones sent two of his lackeys reporters to the Christmas tree display on the Texas state legislature grounds to express his outrage that non-Christians allegedly opposed having a Christmas tree there. He titled this report “Soft Killing Christmas” (video here). Confused yet? That’s Jonestown for you. Don’t agree with him, he’s already changed his mind.

Santa tapping your phones

The Santa = Satan Crowd

Last Christmas, the Born Again Independent Baptist Church in Harlem displayed “Santa is Satan” on its marquee sign. Most observers were baffled by this, but Pastor Edward Caruthers’ choice to associate Santa Claus with the Adversary of all mankind is not uncommon among American Christians.

santa is satan

Answers in Genesis features an article by Roger Patterson, urging parents to cool it with Santa Claus because belief in him involves deception and manipulation – and takes away too much attention from Christ. Cutting Edge Ministries has a handy chart to show you why Santa is the counterfeit Jesus.

Some Christians, like this guy, rebel against modern depictions of Santa because they stem from Coca-Cola marketing campaigns.

For true Santa-hate, it’s hard to top Wisconsin outsider artist Norbert Kox. An alleged former biker, Kox developed some rather outré Christian beliefs after an Easy Rider-calibre acid freakout in the ’70s. He decided that most of what we know about Christianity, right down to Jesus’s name, is really blasphemous misinformation that must be discarded by seekers after truth. That includes everything we think we know about Christmas. In the December 1986 issue of his now-defunct newsletter, The Wisconsin Caver, Kox linked Santa Claus to Zeus, “Old Nick” (the Devil), Odin, and just about every non-Christian deity known to history. He habitually referred to Santa as “Satan Claws.”

Santa watching you

“We Don’t Do Christmas”

It’s not just eccentrics waging war on Christmas, though. Many Christian denominations have always eschewed the season: The United Church of God , the Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists are the best-known denominations to reject Christmas.
In addition, there are a growing number of evangelical Christians who won’t celebrate the holiday because it has pagan roots, encourages “worldly” behaviour such as greed, and/or isn’t explicitly referenced in the Bible.
In fact, there are so many of these Christians that Kirk Cameron addressed a presentation to them at Liberty University last year (video here) and attempted to reclaim Santa for Christianity with a feature film, Saving Christmas. He pointed out that Saint Nicholas was a model Christian who can be fondly remembered for his charity. Other, anti-Catholic evangelicals promptly told him to put a sock in it.

So if you want to save Christmas, you might end up saving it from the people who created it in the first place.

 

P.S.:  This post was written in my local Starbucks.

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2014: The Year in Psychic Fail

mzarathustra1It’s that time of year again: Time to review some of the psychic predictions made for last year.
Sylvia Browne is out of the picture now, but as Illuminutti has pointed out, she made one last set of predictions that turned out to be very wrong. How did the upstart psychics fare?

Nikki, “Psychic to the Stars”

I covered Nikki’s predictions two years ago (and I’m still waiting for Stallone to nab that Tony nomination). It seems her style has really evolved since then. Her predictions have become more specific and less cataclysmic in nature, making them more believable than “the map of the world will change” or “Earth will fall off its axis a little more”. However, she still has that peculiar habit of combining world-shattering events like food riots and massive earthquakes with events so mundane that you wonder why the spirit world would even bother to communicate them (the death of a royal horse, marriage for Oprah).

Nikki claims that a ton of her 2014 predictions came true, including health problems for Cher and Avril Lavigne, a “space tragedy”, and the deaths of four celebrities. This year, she has unpacked a whopping 290 predictions for the new year, not including a list of dozens of public figures who may die and/or have health issues. That’s a good strategy. If you throw enough shit at the wall, something has to stick, right?

Let’s take a closer look at Nikki’s listed predictions for 2014. Out of 45 celebrity predictions, three were accurate (“Mathew McConaughey nominated for an Oscar”, “12 Years a Slave winning numerous awards”, and Rob Ford’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel). Four, if you’re very generous and include “Cher has to watch her health”. Cher is 68 years old. Everyone in their late 60s has to watch their health.
Most of the predictions on Nikki’s list were absurdly vague (“Danger around Justin Beiber”), and several were ludicrously safe bets (“A country music legend will pass”). Of the seven relationship breakups she predicted, not one actually happened. She predicted a “slight accident” for Tom Cruise and cautioned Johnny Depp to be careful around motorcycles, but said nothing about Bono’s bike mishap. Not even the predictions that seemed highly likely (“Miley Cyrus full body cast”) came to pass.

Nikki’s success rate for world events is even more dismal. The Egyptian pyramids were not sucked into a giant sinkhole, a gorilla did not devour its trainer, and the Empire State Building was not attacked by terrorists. The Coliseum Colosseum did not partially collapse, civil war did not break out in the U.S., and Mt. St. Helen’s Helens did not erupt. Her obsession with bird attacks didn’t pan out, either.

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Maybe next year.

I predict that in 2015, Nikki will finally hire an editor.

T.B. Joshua

This year’s Top Fail award goes to T.B. Joshua, one of Nigeria’s most successful televangelists. His megachurch, The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), broadcasts his sermons to millions on its own channel, Emmanuel TV.
Joshua’s predictions merit special attention, because he presents them as information imparted to him directly from God – old school prophecy in action. Let’s examine just one of the many prophecies Joshua unveiled in 2014.

On March 8, a video made up of clips from Joshua’s July 28, 2013 sermon was posted to Emmanuel TV’s YouTube channel. During that sermon, Joshua asked his audience to pray for an Asian country to help avert an airplane crash that could happen there. He indicated the plane would have some kind of problem that could be detected while it was still on the ground. “I see a balloon,” he said.
If the plane crashed, almost 200 passengers would die.
Joshua explained that God had revealed the name of the Asian country to him, but he wouldn’t reveal it for fear of disrupting air travel to and from that nation.
The video then segues into clips of news stories about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the plane that had just vanished.

The March 8th video is impressive, I have to admit. Here’s a guy in Africa, predicting a major Asian air disaster more than six months before a Malaysian airplane goes missing in one of the weirdest unsolved incidents of modern aviation history. Sure, Joshua was a little skimpy on the details, but that’s a remarkably on-target prediction, right?

Maybe not so much. Another video, showing an unedited version of the same July 2013 sermon, tells a rather different story. In this clip. we hear Joshua clearly say that the plane will crash just metres from its takeoff point…a key detail that somehow didn’t make it into his official video.

God revealed the crash to Joshua, yet Joshua has (obviously) played no part in locating the plane. A full day after searchers started looking for it in the Indian Ocean, he suddenly suggested that very area as the site of the crash, and revealed for the first time that some sort of confrontation or hijacking involving “strange people” was the root cause of the tragedy. He confidentally asserted that wreckage would be found in the ocean within a week.

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WHAT ABOUT THE BALLOON, THO?

Okay, so one of T.B. Joshua’s prophecies was a bit wonky. Let’s all give him the benefit of the doubt, and see how he did with other 2014 prophecies over at the blog T.B. Joshua Watch.

Terry and Linda Jamison, the world’s “most documented” psychics

The California-based Jamison twins revealed dozens of 2014-2015 predictions during an online radio broadcast (Beyond the Gate) aired on January 6, 2014. They called 2014 The Year of the Truth Revealed – lots of uncloseted skeletons and exposed corruption. They also explained that Light Beings are helping us form crystalline bodies, increasing our “manifestation potential”. So, uh, enjoy that.
They also accused Lady Gaga of stealing their costume designs from the ’80s and ’90s.

They offered some helpful career tips (computer skillz) and a few investment tips (oil, gas, biotech, and wellness).

On their website, they have a page devoted to predictions made on this show that came to pass in the latter half of 2014. However, after listening to the broadcast on YouTube, I have a hard time matching their predictions to any of the events listed on this page. They did make a few successful predictions on the show –  that Republicans would win the Senate, for instance – but I didn’t hear them talking about the specific events on the list. They just matched real-world events to the vague statements they made. For instance, their airy prediction about “breakthroughs in prostrate cancer” is matched to a vitamin D study, even though they didn’t give any such details on-air. This is classic retrofitting in action.

Bizarrely, though, they can’t even get their retrofitting quite right. They write that Nicole Kidman’s father died in the Philippines amidst rumours of pedophilia and participation in a “child murder ring”. In reality, Antony Kidman died in Singapore. He was not under investigation for anything at the time of his death, because the International Common Law Court of Justice mentioned in blog posts about him is not an actual legal entity. It is a loose collaboration of individuals with no background in justice or law enforcement, acting under “common law” principles in the same manner as Sovereign Citizens or Freemen-on-the-Land. The allegations of Satanic ritual abuse and sacrifice that have been brought to light by the “Court” are extremely dodgy. I don’t say that lightly. The man who started the Court and popularized the Ninth Circle Satanic pedophile/murder ring meme and is now the primary investigator of its supposed crimes is a personal friend; for years, I supported his work with the survivors of Canada’s residential school system. In recent years, however, he has shown signs of mental strain and gullibility, traveling the globe to collect evidence that he believes implicates the pope, the English royals, and influential politicians in everything from mass child abduction to cannibalism. The International Common Law Court of Justice he established has presented no concrete evidence to support any of these accusations. The sole source of information about the Ninth Circle consists of testimony from various alleged victims of the cult, and they haven’t presented any evidence, either. As the stories spread via videos and blog posts, more and more people embrace them uncritically without asking for one iota of proof, just as the Jamison sisters have done. It is a disappointing and alarming trend.

Other “predictions” were flat-out wrong. “Homeopathy will be helpful” in the treatment of depression? Sorry, ladies: Sugar and salt and water won’t cure anything.

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Sidney Friedman

U.S. mentalist Friedman’s predictions are, by far, the most entertaining of 2014.

  • “Garlic is in the news.”
  • “Chivalry returns.”
  • “A shock wave, perhaps literally or perhaps figuratively, is felt in Russia.”
  • “Remarkably, for the first time, a poll finally finds one person who actually approves of Congress.”
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I predict bologna sandwiches today.

LaMont Hamilton

Not one of pyschic LaMont Hamilton’s predictions for 2014 came to fruition, largely because they’re silly. He predicted scientists would find that diseases can be spread by our thoughts, that a mirror universe would be discovered, and that a former U.S. President or First Lady would die. He accurately predicted the Bitcoin crash, but attributed it to a faulty algorithm rather than plain old human greed. He also predicted that “nano-chemicals” would produce cars that don’t need to be washed as often as regular cars. His less-silly predictions crashed and burned, too:

  • An electrical fire at the NSA’s new Utah data center will be linked to sabotage. Nope.
  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will go to Alivisatos, Seeman, and Mirkin for their work on DNA nanotechnology.
    Nope. It went to these fellows for their work on super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.
  • At least 2-3 Congresspeople will resign their offices before the Fall elections.
    “At least” is a clever little qualifier that can save almost any dumb prediction from certain death. Clearly, though, Mr. Hamilton doesn’t pay much attention to how many resignations we see in an average Congress. The numbers are always higher than this.
  • The original 1969 USA moon landing site will be reported as damaged or vandalized by another country that lands on the moon.
    Nope. And c’mon, this is just goofy. No one was even planning a moon landing for last year.

Better luck next year, ladies and gentlemen.

Satanic Panic in the News: Ouija Board Possession

On June 23, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, the Daily Mail, several paranormal websites, and other media outlets reported on this video of a “possessed” Mexican woman. The girl seen in the clip, Alexandra Huerta, alternates between growling and laughing while restrained on a hospital stretcher.

These initial reports stated that Alexandra, 22, had begun to convulse and speak in tongues after using a Ouija board with her 23-year-old brother and a teenage cousin in the village of San Juan Tlacotenco in southwest Mexico. The Blaze article is headlined, “Terrifying Video Allegedly Shows Effects of Young Woman’s Use of a Ouija Board”, and the Daily Mail article stresses that many Christians perceive Ouija boards as dangerous occult instruments.
All three were taken to hospital to be treated for symptoms that included double vision and blindness, hallucinations, numbness, difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms, and deafness. The girl’s parents had sought an exorcism, but were reportedly refused one by local clergy on the grounds that the family didn’t attend church.

Two days later, the real story emerged: The two young men and Alexandra (who is 16, not 22) had ingested Brugmansia on the advice of Alexandra’s guardian, 48-year-old Maria Camaño.
Brugmansia, also known as Angel’s Trumpet, is an extremely potent (and poisonous) hallucinogenic plant that produces states of delirium in which a person can’t distinguish reality from fantasy and acts out in bizarre, sometimes violent, ways – “temporary insanity” is a term commonly used in relation to it. Effects can include fever, paralysis, convulsions, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), migraines, frightening visual and auditory hallucinations, vomiting, cycloplegia, photosensitivity, confusion, memory loss, and death.

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Brugmansia in bloom. Psychoactive ingredients: the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine.

Camaño reportedly told the young people that Brugmansia would help them contact the spirit world and perhaps receive messages from Alexandra’s deceased parents. After the girl began to convulse and “speak in tongues”, however, Camaño began to believe her body had been taken over by a spirit. She called the paramedics only after the youths’ conditions didn’t respond to prayer and the priest refused to perform an exorcism.

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Typical Ouija board. Psychoactive ingredients: None.

All of the symptoms experienced by the three young people in Mexico can be attributed to Brugmansia ingestion. There is no need to blame the spirit world, the Devil, or a piece of wood with letters on it.

Top 10 Stupidest/Weirdest Jack the Ripper theories

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125 years ago yesterday, the last known victim of an unknown serial killer was found stabbed and eviscerated in her dismal rented room in London’s East End Whitechapel district. Over the previous two months and ten days, this man had murdered at least four other area prostitutes, desperate and impoverished women in their forties. At 24 or 25, Mary Kelly was the youngest victim of the Whitechapel killer.

The killer had seemingly made a name for himself, quite literally, by writing letters to news agencies and professionals associated with the investigation. One of these missives was signed “Jack the Ripper”.  It is now believed, by former FBI profiler John Douglas and others, that this particular letter was a hoax sent by someone other than the killer. (Douglas and Olshaker, 2000)

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So it’s unlikely we’ll ever know what the killer really called himself, or what his name was. Nonetheless, theories about his identity continue to abound, even after countless other serial killers have come and gone. There’s something about the events of that dingy time and place that smear the public imagination like a mysterious, fascinating stain. At least once a year, some new theory about the killer finds its way into a mass market paperback or the pages of the Daily Mail. A few are worthy of consideration, but then there are the theories that are so tragicomically absurd you have to wonder if the writer is any saner than “Jack” was. Leaving out the obvious hoaxes (such as the James Maybrick and James Carnac “diaries”), here are my Top 10 Stupidest/Weirdest Jack the Ripper theories:

10. A “Satanist” named Robert Donston (or D’Onston) Stephenson

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Donston entered the Whitechapel saga by way of Aleister Crowley. In an essay penned about half a century after the murders, Crowley relates the story of lovely authoress Mabel Collins, a devotee of Theosophy who became estranged from her male lover (Donston) by a treacherous female lover (Baroness Vittoria Cremers). The Whitechapel murders had already begun by the time this domestic drama was playing out.
Crowley believed that “Jack” was a cannibal, consuming parts of his victims’ bodies right at the scenes of his crimes. So did Miss Collins and the baroness. One day, as they were discussing how it could be possible for Jack to do such a thing without getting blood on his shirtfront, Captain Donston donned his opera cape for them and showed them how easy it would be for a man to protect his shirt with the dark, heavy fabric. Cremers thought little of this until she crept into Donston’s room, hoping to retrieve a packet of Mabel’s love letters to save the woman from any blackmail or embarrassment. In a trunk beneath his bed, she discovered five dress ties stained with blood.
On December 1, 1888, the Pall Mall Gazette published an article (here) in which the anonymous author postulated that the murders were black magic ceremonies designed to imbue the killer with power, in accordance with instructions in the writings of Eliphas Levi. The locations of the murders, Anonymous explained, would form a cross (Crowley changed this to a five-pointed star). Crowley dismissed this theory, believing (as many did) that there were seven “Ripper” murders in Whitechapel, but wondered if Donston had written the article, and if the killer had been following some astrological pattern in his selection of crime scenes (an idea brought to his attention by crime reporter Bernard O’Donnell).  After conducting his own research, Crowley concluded that at the time of each murder, either Saturn of Mercury was precisely on the Eastern horizon.
The interesting story of Captain Donston is exactly that: An interesting story. Donston was known to Crowley only as “Captain Donston”, and it’s unlikely he ever met the man in person. It seems all his information about him came from old Vittoria Cremers, a member of his O.T.O. lodge. Later writers discovered that an alcoholic confabulist named Robert “Roslyn” D’Onston (or Donston) Stephenson had lived in London at the time of the murders, and he was deemed a prime suspect by some Ripperologists (notably, the late Melvin Harris).
In a 2003 book, Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals, career criminal Ivor Edwards resurrected the black magick/Donston theory, positing that the Whitechapel killer really did plot out the five murders to form a giant shape (a vesica piscis). The snag in this theory is that D’Onston Stephenson was a patient at London Hospital at the time, being treated for neurasthenia. He checked himself into the hospital in late July, one month before the first murder, and checked out on December 7, one month after the last murder. Edwards gets around this by pointing out that the hospital was in the Whitechapel area. Security was so lax, he maintains, that curiosity-seekers regularly snuck onto hospital grounds to catch glimpses of John Merrick, the Elephant Man….so isn’t it plausible that Stephenson could sneak out, slay prostitutes, then sneak back in without being observed? Four times?
The evidence here is ridiculously thin, and Edwards pushes the envelope even further by insisting that Stephenson murdered his wife, Anne Deary, in 1887 (it isn’t even known if she died at this time). The only real, discernible connection D’Onston Stephenson has to the Whitechapel killings is that he had his own suspect in mind; Dr. Morgan Davies, one of the physicians at London Hospital. He reported his suspicions to the police, and gave a statement to Inspector Thomas Roots of Scotland Yard after his release. Other than this, and the secondhand tales of an old girlfriend, there doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit of evidence against Mr. Stephenson. Note that among three people who championed the black magic theory of the crimes, there were three different designs attributed to the killer (a cross, a star, and a vesica piscis).

9. Crowley

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before his Telly Savalis phase

Aleister Crowley was not known to be a violent man, despite rumours that he sexually tortured at least one of his wives. Yet the notion persists in some quarters that if you’re an occultist, you probably kill people. Crowley was portrayed as a pedophile serial killer in the web series lonelygirl15, and more recently has been called out as a Jack the Ripper copycat by historian Mark Beynon and blamed for six of the deaths linked to the bogus Curse of King Tut.
And, since he lived in London during the 1880s, why not make him Jack the Ripper as well? After all, he expressed interest in the murders, and had a theory about the killer. Good enough.
Crowley has never become a mainstream suspect (that is, no Ripperologists have written books about him), but he has been mentioned by fringe conspiranoids who dabble in true crime.

8. Lewis Carroll

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In 1996, an elusive character named Richard Wallace published Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend. It consisted almost entirely of anagrams formed from passages of a preschool version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Sylvie and Bruno. These scrambled, barely coherent verses were supposed to prove that Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was one sick bastard, and probably slaughtered prostitutes alongside his friend Thomas Vere Bayne when he wasn’t doing math. This makes for some pretty hilarious reading, as this review shows. Of course, if you rearrange words in Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend, you can probably prove that Richard Wallace is actually Donald Trump.
Sadly, this hot mess was taken halfway-seriously at the time of publication. Harper’s excerpted it, Ripperologists and anagram enthusiasts went out of their way to refute it, and Lewis Carroll fans facepalmed themselves into concussions.
This was not Wallace’s first book about Carroll. In The Agony of Lewis Carroll (1990), he exposed “hidden smut” in Carroll’s books in an attempt to prove that Carroll was gay, which rather works against the idea that he murdered female prostitutes. 

Another writer, Thomas Toughill, sussed out clues to the Ripper’s identity in Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, concluding that portraitist Frank Miles was the killer. He published his findings as The Ripper Code in 2008 (remember, kids, adding the word “code” to your title adds credibility).
Even if the passages Toughill highlights pointed unambiguously to Miles, though, wouldn’t this merely show that Wilde thought Miles was a good suspect? He was a playwright, not freaking Inspector Maigret.

7. The Demon of the Belfry

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In April 1895, nearly seven years after the Whitechapel murders ended, two young women in San Francisco were raped and strangled inside  Emanuel Baptist Church. Blanche Lamont, 20, disappeared first. Nine days later, 21-year-old Minnie Williams vanished. On Easter Sunday, one of the church ladies opened a cabinet where teacups were usually stored and discovered Minnie’s body. Blanche’s body was soon found in the church belfry.
Because he was seen with both young women shortly before they went missing, a 23-year-old medical student named Theo Durrant was charged with the murders. He was the assistant superintendent of the church Sunday school.
At trial, Durrant’s defense attorney argued that the real killer could have been the church minister, John George Gibson. Gibson had been a pastor in Scotland until resigning from his post in 1887. Between that time and his arrival in the U.S. in December 1888, Gibson’s whereabouts are unknown.
Durrant went to the gallows in 1898, and few doubt that he was the “demon of the belfry”, as reporters dubbed him. But Robert Graysmith, author of Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked, took note of that gap in John Gibson’s resumé. It matches up perfectly with the dates of the Whitechapel murders; Gibson left his post at least 8 months before they began, and arrived in America one month after they stopped. Coincidence?
Well, yeah, probably. First of all, the Emanuel Church murders – while certainly gruesome – were considerably less vicious than the Whitechapel murders. It would be essentially unheard-of for a serial killer to de-escalate in such dramatic fashion. Secondly, Durrant’s behaviour before and after the murders was peculiar. He offered outlandish theories about white slave trafficking to the aunt of Blanche Lamont, and was seen arguing with Minnie Williams the day she vanished. Gibson, on the other hand, isn’t known to have said or done anything unusual at the time of the murders. (McConnell, 2005)
An intriguing footnote to all this is the sensational Salome trial that occurred in London twenty years after Durrant’s execution. In the wake of the murders, Durrant’s sister, Maud, had turned to dance. Though she had no professional training, she was able to establish herself as a performer in England, specializing in “Salome dances”. In 1918, she staged Oscar Wilde’s Salome in London, and came under attack from a right-wing publication. The editor accused her of being a lesbian “honey trap” and a German spy, sent to undermine the morals of British patriots. Maud Allan sued for libel, but the unfortunate fact that her brother had raped and killed two women worked against her. She lost the suit.

6. A mad doctor

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Doctors came under heavy suspicion in the Whitechapel case because it was assumed, at the time, that anyone who could mutilate a body and remove organs in a short amount of time must have some degree of surgical skill. This is not the case, but that hasn’t stopped Ripperologists from implicating physicians and surgeons by the dozen. A few of the most notable:

Dr. Stanley
In the 1920s, Australian journalist and MP Leonard Matters introduced a bizarre theory: That a late physician he identified only as “Dr. Stanley” had gone on a prostitute-killing rampage because a prostitute had given his son an STD. He was searching for one prostitute (out of roughly 800 in the district), so he simply murdered each one he questioned until he found his real target – Mary Kelly. Supposedly, Matters had read the doctor’s deathbed confession in a South American newspaper, but he never produced the article.
Sadly, this lame theory was the subject of the first full-length treatment of the case, Matters’ The Mystery of Jack the Ripper (1929), and became the basis for the 1959 film Jack the Ripper.

Sir William Gull, Royal physician
Though he was elderly and partially disabled by a stroke at the time of the murders, Stephen Knight selected Dr. Gull as the central figure in his Freemason theory (see #3).

Sir John Williams, Royal gynecologist
In what has to be one of the weirdest Ripper theories of all time, Tony Williams implicated his own ancestor in his 2005 book Uncle Jack, proposing that the royal OB-GYN killed prostitutes and harvested their uteri as part of a research project aimed at curing his wife’s infertility. This had something to do with being a Freemason.
This September, an equally ridiculous book was put out by a woman who claims to be Mary Kelly’s great-great-granddaughter. Antonia Alexander claims Mary Kelly had an affair with Williams. He then killed her for some reason or other. The proof? His blurry photo is in a locket that supposedly belonged to Kelly.
You can find details of the Williams allegations in this Daily Mail article. 

Dr. Thomas Barnardo
Dr. Barnardo was not actually a doctor, but he identified himself as one throughout his life. He established a string of children’s charity homes between 1870 and his death in 1905.
Aside from pretending to be a doctor, Barnardo had a more-or-less unblemished reputation as a philanthropist right into the 1970s, when the late historian Donald McCormick suddenly decided he would make a decent Ripper suspect for his book The Identity of Jack the Ripper (though his suspect of choice remained the cross-dressing Russian assassin Pedachenko – one of the silliest Ripper hoaxes ever). Gary Rowlands, in his chapter of The Mammoth Book Of Jack The Ripper, expands on McCormick’s theoryBarnardo’s lonely childhood in Ireland, combined with religious zealotry, caused him to go on an anti-prostitute murder crusade. He only stopped killing because a swimming accident deafened him.
I don’t know about Rowlands, but McCormick was a notoriously shoddy historian; one of my favourite bloggers, Dr. Beachcombing, calls him Baron Munchausen, and accuses him of fabricating a creepy poem that “Jack” supposedly wrote.
It’s true that Barnardo worked in the slums, and claimed to have met victim Elizabeth Stride shortly before her murder. Other than this, how much evidence links Barnardo to the Whitechapel murders? None. Seriously. None.

Dr. Morgan Davies
Robert D’Onston Stephenson suspected Dr. Davies merely because Davies routinely discussed the murders with another patient at London Hospital, acting them out in some detail and opining that the killer was a sexual sadist. As a man familiar with mental illness, it wouldn’t surprise me if Davies had a better grasp of criminal behaviour than the people around him.

Francis Tumblety
Tumblety was not a real medical doctor, and in my opinion could still be a viable suspect. He also had an odd connection to the assassination of Lincoln.

5. Famous painters.

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Walter Sickert.

Sickert, like Crowley, is another person who apparently came under suspicion because of his interest in the case. Most people know of this from Patricia Cornwell’s 2002 book Portrait of a Killer, but Cornwell was not actually the first to suggest Sickert’s involvement. That dubious honour would go to Donald McCormick, who mentioned Sickert in his 1970 book The Identity of Jack the Ripper. Also in the 1970s, a man claiming to be Sickert’s son (Sickert had no known children) declared his dad had been chummy with the heir to the throne, Prince Alfred Victor (the Duke of Clarence, himself a Ripper suspect). According to Joseph Gorman, AKA “Hobo” Sickert, the duke knocked up a poor Catholic girl named Annie Crook around 1885. When the Queen and the Prime Minister discovered this, they were horrified, and arranged for Miss Crook to be abducted and “lobotomized” by the royal physician, Sir William Gull. Someone connected to the royal family then murdered the illegitimate child’s nanny, Mary Kelly. The illegitimate daughter of Annie and the duke, Alice, later became one of Sickert’s mistresses….and Hobo Sickert’s mother. Therefore, he could be considered an heir to the throne. All of these details proved to be false, and Joseph Gorman/Hobo Sickert admitted as such to the Sunday Times (June 18, 1978), though he continued to insist he was Sickert’s son.
The late Stephen Knight, whom we’ll meet shortly, incorporated the Annie Crooks story into his conspiracy theory about Freemasons and royals, asserting that Sickert had been part of a plot to murder prostitutes on behalf of the royal family.
In 1990, Jean Overton Fuller published Sickert and the Ripper Crimes, in which she laid out a theory that Sickert was the one and only Jack (incidentally, she was friends with Crowley associate Victor Neuberg, and was quite familiar with the D’Onston Stephenson story).
Then Patricia Cornwell took on the case. Thanks to her popularity as a crime novelist, Portrait of a Killer became a bestseller and unleashed a fresh flood of interest in Sickert-as-Ripper. In 2012, the Royal Opera House even parlayed Sickert’s fascination with Jack into a moody ballet, Sweet Violets
Cornwell’s theory rests heavily on Sickert’s supposedly deformed genitalia, alleged DNA matches between genetic material found on “Ripper” envelopes and on envelopes mailed by Sickert, and what she considers telling imagery in some of Sickert’s portraits. She points to the blurred or distorted faces of women, arguing that they represent the mutilation of the Ripper’s victims. Sickert was, unquestionably, inspired or intrigued by infamous London crimes involving prostitutes, though he didn’t begin to express this until nearly 30 years after the Whitechapel murders. In 1907 he painted Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom (below), and the following year he did a series on the Camden Town murder.

Walter Sickert Jack the Ripper's Bedroom

While it’s true that some of Sickert’s paintings are murky and vaguely disturbing, he also painted delightful street scenes and whimsical caricatures of ballet-goers. Furthermore, his Camden Town series was meant to be enigmatic, even baffling, in the style of Victorian problem pictures. And while the DNA evidence seems compelling, it should be noted that the envelopes and stamps from which DNA was extracted belonged to letters widely believed to be hoaxes (e.g., the “Openshaw letter“). There’s a good discussion of this evidence at the Casebook: Jack the Ripper site.
There is nothing in Sickert’s background to suggest that he was prone to violence. At the time of the murders, he may have been living and painting in France.

And speaking of painting in France…

Vincent Van Gogh

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Van Gogh is a recent addition to the suspect pool. Painter and writer David Larner spent five years (2006 – 2011) compiling research for his unpublished manuscript, Vincent Alias Jack.
Larner first suspected Van Gogh while trying to recreate Irises; the face of Mary Kelly simply jumped out at him from within the folds of a flower. You can see Larner’s side-by-side comparison of the Kelly crime scene photo and the painting here (WARNING: graphic imagery). Hello, pareidolia.

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“When you see it, you’ll shit bricks,”

But the painting isn’t the only “proof”. Apparently, Van Gogh is a good Ripper candidate because he consorted with prostitutes, hacked off part of his own ear (Catherine Eddowes’ ear was hacked off), and might have been in London at the right time. Larner also believes – with no solid evidence to back him up – that Van Gogh was responsible for the 1887-’88 Thames torso murders, which are only seldom linked to the Ripper. That’s about it.

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Besides, serial killers can’t paint.

4. Jill

A surprisingly popular theory at the time of the murders was that “Jack” was actually a woman, possibly a midwife who worked in the area, or a wife so enraged by her husband’s fondness for prostitutes that she decided to slaughter as many of them as she could. Possible “Jills” include murderess Mary Pearcy, who killed her lover’s wife and child in 1890 (the only female Ripper suspect to be named close to the time of the murders), and Lizzie Williams, wife of suspect Sir John Williams (according to this theory, she was driven insane by her infertility and began ripping the uteri out of prostitutes). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle favoured the theory that “Jack” was a lady, and his fans continue to put forward female suspects. For example, Constance Kent, who admitted (perhaps falsely) to killing her 4-year-old half-brother in 1865, has been named by E.J. Wagner in The Science of Sherlock Holmes.

3. Freemasons

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This theory was the brainchild of a young British writer named Stephen Knight, published in 1976 as Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, but the elements of it were culled from a variety of sources:

  • Retired doctor Thomas E.A. Stowell‘s article “Jack the Ripper – A Solution?”. This piece, published in the November 1970 issue of The Criminologist, proposed that the Ripper was an aristocrat who stalked, killed and eviscerated Whitechapel prostitutes in much the same way the aristocracy stalked, killed, and gutted deer. This young man was suffering insanity from the latter stages of syphilis, so he might have harboured great resentment against prostitutes for giving him the disease, which ultimately killed him. Stowell  hinted that this aristocrat was none other than an heir to the throne, Prince Albert Victor (the Duke of Clarence).  Stowell claimed this information came from personal notes of Dr. Gull (Stowell knew Gull’s daughter) – but Gull died two years before the duke.
  • The tales of Joseph Gorman Sickert
  • Conspiracy theories about English Freemasons
duke

The Duke of Clarence

Knight somewhat elegantly stitched together these loose threads to create the mother of all weird Jack the Ripper narratives: The Duke of Clarence impregnated a poor Catholic girl, Annie Crooks, and entrusted the care of his illegitimate child to Mary Kelly. Kelly and four of her friends unwisely decided to blackmail the royal family, and in retaliation Queen Victoria dispatched Dr. Gull and a gang of other prominent Freemasons to silence the women. One by one, they were lured to their deaths. The men kept their pact of silence for the rest of their lives because…well, because they were Freemasons. Bros before hos, yo.
As it turned out, this was all a complete waste of everyone’s time. The duke died of influenza just four years later.
The idea that a stroke-paralyzed physician would drag himself around the East End just to shut up a handful of prostitutes who wouldn’t be believed, anyway, makes for a good comic book and very little else. Over the years, however, people have grafted more Freemasonic suspects onto the theory, including Churchill’s dad.
Walter Sickert, incidentally, gave painting lessons to Winston Churchill.

2. The author of My Secret Life

This theory is weak for several reasons, but the first and foremost one is that we don’t know who wrote the book. My Secret Life was an erotic novel released in serialized form, beginning around the same time as the Whitechapel murders (the exact date of publication isn’t known). The author was listed simply as “Walter”. Hey, maybe it was Walter Sickert!

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In their 2010 book Jack the Ripper’s Secret Confession, David Monaghan and Nigel Cawthorne propose that “Walter” left clues about his identity as the Whitechapel killer throughout his book. Monaghan came up with this theory after noting the resemblance between passages of My Secret Life and the 1894 confession of Chicago serial killer Herman Mudgett (“H. H. Holmes”), particularly Walter’s description of a corpse floating in the Thames. Never mind that all of the Whitechapel victims were found on dry land.
Even if “Walter” truly had violent tendencies, there just isn’t enough here to draw a link between him and the murders. Weirdly enough, though, Holmes himself was named as a suspect by one of his descendants.

1. Hitler

I used to think this was a theory of my own invention, but it turns out some other lunatic already put the pieces together.
Bear with me, here. This is bulletproof. All you have to do is take the Stowell/Sickert/Knight theory that the Duke of Clarence had a role in the Whitechapel murders, and combine it with a fringe theory that the duke faked his death to begin a new life in Germany as one Adolph Hitler. Sure, the duke would have been considerably older than the man we know as Hitler, but didn’t Eva Braun describe Adolph as an “elderly gentleman” when she first met him?

But seriously, folks, any theory of the Whitechapel killings should take into account John Douglas’s profile of the killer. Based on victimology, the locations of the crime scenes, and especially the manner of the murders and mutilations, Douglas concludes the sole perpetrator was an asocial malcontent who might have worked for a butcher or a mortician, if he was able to hold a job at all. He lived or worked in the area. (Douglas and Olshaker, 2000, pp. 67-70)

In 2006, police affirmed that if they were looking for the suspect today, they would be knocking on doors in and around Whitechapel, rather than searching far afield for artists, dilettantes and Freemasons. They even issued a composite sketch of the Whitechapel killer.

Police_composite_of_Jack_the_Ripper

It was Freddy Mercury all along.

Sources:

Douglas, J. and Olshaker, M. The cases that haunt us. (2000). New York, NY: Scribner.

McConnell, V.A. (2005). Sympathy for the devil: The emmanuel baptist murders of old san francisco. Lincoln, NE: Bison Books.

Sandy Hook Truth, 9 months later

It has been about seven months since I first looked at the Sandy Hook Truth movement, an assortment of individuals who believe they have uncovered evidence of labyrinthine conspiracies behind the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.
These intrepid investigators have had nearly nine months to crack the case wide open and tell us who really did the crime, and why. Let’s take a look at what they’ve found by comparing/contrasting aspects of the “official story” with some of their results. After that, I’ll list the Sandy Hook Truth movement’s best evidence.

The Official Story

On the morning of December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the home they shared in Newtown, Connecticut. He then drove his mother’s Honda Civic to Sandy Hook Elementary School with four semi-automatic firearms licensed to Nancy. He took three of the guns with him when he entered the school.
Using a  Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, he shot his way into the locked building at approximately 9:35 AM local time. Between that time and about 9:49 AM, he killed principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, teacher Natalie Hammond, first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, teacher’s aide Anne Marie Murphy, substitute first-grade teacher Lauren Rousseau, and 20 students who were 6 years old or younger. 6-year-old Dylan Hockley was autistic. Lanza shot all but two of his child victims multiples times; 6-year-old Noah Pozner was shot 11 times. All of the staff members died trying to stop the gunman or shield their students. Ms. Murphy covered Dylan Hockley’s body with her own. Throughout the school, teachers and faculty members hid children in closets and bathrooms, thereby saving an untold number of lives. 
Six children fled Ms. Soto’s classroom and escaped from the school, making their way to the driveway of a home owned by Gene Rosen.
Before police could reach him, Lanza returned to Soto’s classroom and shot himself in the head with  a Glock 10mm.
His motivation remains obscure, but Lanza reportedly suffered mental and emotional problems that left him socially isolated and unable to work full-time or complete college. Around the time of the massacre, Nancy Lanza told friends she was considering leaving New England and attempting to enroll Adam in college for a third time.
Adam had access to the weapons because his mother was an avid collector who had taught both of her sons how to shoot.

The Truther Stories

The most popular alternate theory of Sandy Hook, by far, is that it was a government operation engineered to push through restrictive gun legislation, psychologically destabilize Americans, make blood sacrifices to the Devil, and/or distract us from “more important” things that are happening.
Some Sandy Hook Truthers agree with the general outline of the official story, but suspect Lanza was a victim of government-sponsored mind control (according to one Truther, Lanza’s mind control programming could be linked to Satanism, the Illuminati and Lady Gaga).
Some Truthers think Lanza may have had accomplices, and this is not completely unsupported speculation, as Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky did mention other “potential suspects” when arguing that unsealing warrants in the case could compromise the investigation.
Other Truthers have floated the idea that the shooter was not Adam Lanza, but a man named Scott Vollmer. Vollmer was apparently singled out because his mother Janet taught kindergarten at Sandy Hook, and the school nurse seemingly confirmed to a reporter that the shooter’s mother taught kindergarten at the school (see “The Nurse” under Best Evidence, below). Also, Vollmer is said to be an event manager for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a vocal advocate for increased gun control. In reality, Vollmer was a director of special events for Bloomberg TV’s catering company, Flik International. Not exactly the guy you would handpick as an assassin.
Other alternative suspects include: A three-man Israeli hit team, the FBI, three people in a purple van, and men in the woods (whom Truthers have still not identified; see “The Man in the Woods” under Best Evidence).
But not all Truthers buy into the notion of alternate suspects. For example, YouTube user “ReviewManify” has posted a video titled “There Is No Shooter” in which he discusses – and dismisses – the Vollmer theory before telling us that there is no evidence that even one child died in Sandy Hook Elementary. Funerals and grieving parents notwithstanding, “There ain’t no proof of that.” So, no shooter. Problem…solved?
Florida professor James Tracy came under heavy criticism when he suggested basically the same thing on his Memory Hole blog, but he later clarified in an interview with Miami’s WLRN that he believes some people died at Newtown. He went on to publish his Sandy Hook articles on the website of Global Research, a Canadian outfit that has also declared the Srebrenica massacre a hoax and argued that Rwanda was really a massacre against Hutus, not Tutsis.
There are also Truthers who have argued that Adam Lanza does not exist and Sandy Hook was not actually a school.
The idea that no one died at Sandy Hook has led to the harassment of several people involved in the tragedy. The first person to come under heavy attack from Sandy Hook Truthers, strangely enough, was not a city official or a government agent. He was Gene Rosen, the retired grandfather who sheltered six escaped kids in his house until their parents arrived. For reasons I can’t even begin to fathom, some Truthers decided Mr. Rosen was not only an actor portraying a helpful Newtown resident, but could also be a pedophile, a liar, and/or a government agent. He has allegedly been harassed and slandered by conspiranoids who think he’s a paid “crisis actor” or a Satanist. The anti-Semitic wing of the Sandy Hook Truth movement is certain that Gene Rosen’s ethnicity is a key to his involvement. A YouTube user posted a music video about “creepy Gene”, to the tune of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”. Rosen has also reportedly received threats on his life. Yet not one shred of real evidence has been presented to back up any of these slurs. Truthers tried to prove that Rosen was a professional actor, but that turned out to be a different Gene Rosen.
The official Sandy Hook investigation is ongoing, and the final report may not be released until late autumn. But by the end of February, there was already a bumper crop of Sandy Hook conspiracy documentaries online, including Mark Howitt’s Sandy Hook: The Documentary, “Sandy Hook Massacre: A Closer Look” by Tina Charby (one of several Truthers who has pointed out “suspicious nuns” at Sandy Hook), and Sandy Hook Shooting: Fully Exposed  by “ThinkOutsidetheTV”. That last one went viral, resulting in a long Snopes entry. Press TV (Iran state television) had already decided that Israelis were probably to blame, as had retired professor and conspiracy researcher James Fetzer and the bizarro “anti-Zionist” publication Veterans Today (see Fetzer’s article “Did Mossad Death Squads Slaughter American Children at Sandy Hook?“).
The rush to judgment spawned countless red herrings, like the rumour that Adam Lanza’s father, Peter, was scheduled to testify on the Libor banking scandal at the time of the massacre (here is an example of that rumour in action, from an Infowars forum user). It turned out that Peter Lanza, a GE exec, had no link to the scandal. Max Keiser.com and Occupy Corporatism were among the alternative media outlets that worked to squash this rumour, alleging that it originated with Sorcha Faal, the same peculiar conspiracy-monger who was behind one of the least credible conspiracy theories about Michael Jackson’s death. Another red herring was that Nancy Lanza’s car was actually registered to a man named Christopher Rodia. Truthers went crazy connecting Rodia-Lanza dots (Andrew S. MacGregor even made the Rodia vehicle the linchpin of his FBI-did-Sandy-Hook theory) until blogger Joe Quinn helpfully pointed out that police-scanner references to Rodia had nothing to do with Sandy Hook.

Best evidence

I’m going to leave out the sillier evidence, like the Batman/Sandy Hook connection and the Freemasonic links and the allegations of Satanic ritual sacrifice.

Gun grab
The gun theory of Sandy Hook, which is definitely the most popular one out there, posits that the Powers That Be are so desperate to dismantle the Second Amendment and disarm the people that they stage mass shootings to help ramp up popular support for restrictive firearm legislation.
If that’s the case, then Sandy Hook was a miserable failure. The massacre actually mobilized the pro-gun community, and bills to restrict sales of semiautomatic weaponry and legislate tougher background checks for prospective gun buyers were shot down. In the end, cries of “gun confiscation” were cries of wolf.
There’s no question that elements of both the pro- and the anti-gun lobbies have exploited Sandy Hook and the Aurora incident, but there’s no smoking-gun evidence (no pun) that anyone engineered the massacre just to take away guns. By this logic, any incident involving firearms could be a staged event. And that’s exactly what “media lookalike” proponent Ed Chiarini of Dallas believes; he has stated that not one of the school shootings in the U.S. was a real event. Each and every one was faked.

Actors
The “actor” theory of Sandy Hook holds that no one actually died. The whole thing was an exquisitely stage-managed fake event in which crisis actors and/or other professional performers were hired to portray bereaved family members, eyewitnesses, and even shooting victims.
No one has managed to locate the bogus Sandy Hook students and their families. Are they in Witness Protection? Underground bunkers? Ed Chiarini believes some of them have gone back to work as actors, athletes, and performers. For instance, Robbie Parker (father of 6-year-old victim Emilie Parker) is actually skateboarder Tony Hawk, and the late Emilie is an “actress” who has also “portrayed” the daughters of Bachelorette contestant Emily Maynard and Taylor Armstrong of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Adam’s Lanza’s father, Peter, is really comedian Michael McDonald from MADtv. The part of Lt. J. Paul Vance was played by John Goodman. You get the drift. You can see more of this weirdity on Chiarini’s website.
Henry Makow, a Canadian who used to call his conspiracy site “Save the Males”, believes he can spot the actors’ “handlers” by what kind of purses they carry.
However, many Truthers, like Mark Howitt, dismiss the actor theories as absurd and divisive. Some of them have even become casualties of the theories; Dan Dicks of the Canadian alternative media outlet Press for Truth says he was accused of being a Crisis Actor at one point, and Ed Chiarini has proposed that Sonia of the Truther Girls conspiracy radio show is played by 30 Rock actress Tina Fey. In the description for one of her Sandy Hook-related videos, Sonia sensibly points out that no actor would be foolish enough to impersonate a grieving parent on national television – he/she would instantly be outed by relatives or acquaintances, and if not, recognized during auditions. There goes his/her career. In another Sandy Hook video, Sonia opines that the actor theory provides an easy target for those who wish to undermine Sandy Hook trutherism; who in their right mind is going to believe the Truthers if they go around insisting that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is really Henry Winkler?
Other Truthers, like James Fetzer, are willing to entertain and promote the actor theory without necessarily embracing it. As I have mentioned in my previous posts on Chiarini, I suspect “actor-based reality” theories may be rooted in the Fregoli delusion or something similar.

Sealed case documents and unreleased evidence
This is a prime example of the fallacy that if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Nearly every Sandy Hook Truther has complained at some point in the last nine months that case evidence is being withheld or isn’t being released quickly enough; the authorities must either be hiding it to conceal “what really happened”, or the evidence simply doesn’t exist because nothing happened.
But it is not just the big bad authorities who don’t want the evidence released. The parents of at least three of the child victims have campaigned to prevent case evidence such as crime scene photos from being made public. Dylan Hockley’s mother, Nicole Hockley, said to a Hartford press conference, “What purpose would releasing these documents serve? The shooter is dead and in terms of checking first-responder procedures they have all the information they need. The media won’t learn anything either. I will defend this as long as possible.” Her husband Ian Hockley, Mark and Jackie Barden, and Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene joined her in signing a petition to block the release of certain information related to the murders of their children, including 911 calls. In a letter to the Hartford Courant, Dean Pinto (father of 6-year-old victim Jack Pinto) also urged that the photos and calls not be made public.

If you have to wonder why parents would want to keep crime scene photos and case documents out of the hands of the media, think back to the JonBenet Ramsey case. Did the media use discretion in their handling of autopsy photos and 911 calls? The Globe tabloid triumphantly published six leaked autopsy photos, in full colour. Would you like to see death photos of your murdered child, or friend, or niece, as you stand in line at the grocery store or flip through channels?

The nurse
An unassuming school nurse named Sally Cox has become a central figure in Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.
Because of a large divorce settlement and her son’s educational needs (Adam was mostly homeschooled), Nancy Lanza was not employed. Nonetheless, there were (erroneous) reports that she worked as a schoolteacher. This led to a great deal of confusion in the wake of her son’s spree killings, because there were (erroneous) reports that she was (or had been) employed as a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. There were even (erroneous) reports that Nancy had called in sick that day, and Adam targeted the class she usually taught. Later, there were reports that Nancy may have been a volunteer teacher’s aide for Adam’s class at the school, years earlier.
On the night of December 14, WUSA reporter Andrea McCarren approached Ms. Cox and asked her if she knew the shooter’s mother. Cox affirmed that she did. McCarren then asked her if his mother was known to be a good kindergarten teacher, and Ms. Cox said that she was a very loving woman, good with the children.
Her response truly is a bit baffling, because we now know that Nancy Lanza never worked as a teacher at all, anywhere (she was a stockbroker back in the ’90s). Nor has it been confirmed that she volunteered at Sandy Hook when Adam was enrolled there. It’s quite possible that Cox knew Nancy, but that has never been confirmed, either. Truthers would pounce on this flawed report and some minor inconsistencies in Cox’s accounts of that day, but what does any of it prove? Even if the school nurse lied about knowing Nancy Lanza and/or seeing the gunman – and I’m certainly not saying she did – that would not be evidence of conspiracy.
Another red herring popped up when Truthers revealed that no one named Sally Cox was registered as a nurse in the state, not knowing that “Sally” is an old-fashioned nickname for “Sarah”. Sarah Cox is, indeed, a fully-qualified and registered nurse in the state of Connecticut, and has been employed at Sandy Hook for over 15 years.

The guns and inaccurate media reports 
Initially, there was a lot of confusion as to which guns Lanza used, and where they were found. Sandy Hook Truthers hold up a few apparent discrepancies in the earliest media reports as solid evidence that the entire official story is a sham, ignoring the fact that early reports are often inaccurate. At first, Adam’s older brother Ryan (who was not even in Newtown on the morning of December 14) was reported to be the shooter (which helped spawn conspiracy theories, of course).
There has been extensive analysis of the media gaffes and spectacularly shoddy reporting that occurred in the hours after the massacre (see, for instance, Paul Farhi’s piece in the Washington Post). In my opinion, the bad reporting on that day serves as evidence against a cover-up, because a massive conspiracy would have micromanaged the media, feeding reporters carefully selected tidbits. Instead, it was the usual media free-for-all, with news outlets so desperate to get something – anything – into print or on the air that they seized upon rumours heard from bystanders, statements taken from traumatized witnesses, and other unreliable sources. This is reflective of a general decline in media standards, as far as I’m concerned, but that’s a whole other post.
Some early reports indicated that only two guns had been found inside the school; this was later amended to three guns, with a fourth left in Nancy Lanza’s car. To make things more confusing, some reports stated all four guns were inside the school, and NBC’s Today Show reported that Lanza shot his victims only with handguns.
These early-report errors were soon straightened out, but the Sandy Hook Truthers continue to use them as a foundation rock of their theories. You can see an example of this in a Veterans Today article by Jim Fetzer and Dennis Cimino, in which they highlight “the Bushmaster hoax”.

Emilie Parker’s Dad
Robbie Parker has been raked over the coals by every Sandy Hook Truther on the planet. Why? Because he laughed, and then cried, at a press conference. That’s pretty much it. He was laughing at something when he approached the mic to speak about his murdered 6-year-old daughter, but within seconds he was weeping and speaking emotionally about what his family was going through. Truthers decided this was a performance. Some even suggested that Emilie wasn’t dead at all; she posed with the President days later (this was actually Madeline Parker, one of Emilie’s two younger sisters).
While excoriating the rest of us for buying into the media’s epic lies, Truthers have whittled the entire spectrum of human emotion down to “sad” and “not sad” – if you exhibit both, you’re screwed. You will be permanently branded a member of the conspiracy. This has happened not just to Robbie Parker, but to several other parents of Sandy Hook victims. The Sandy Hook Hoax website maintained by Jay “New Age Messiah” Johnson has an entire page dedicated to exposing them.
For those who accept the “crisis actors” theory, there is an intriguing paradox here: Wouldn’t professional actors be more convincing than actual grief-stricken people? An actor would already be in character before the cameras even started rolling. Authentic emotion, however, obeys no such rules. Many times, I have seen tears and laughter at funerals and memorial services.
Like the actor theory, this “not sad enough” line of reasoning doesn’t cut it with all Truthers. Sonia of the Truther Girls observed in one of her Sandy Hook videos that it’s difficult to judge people’s emotional responses to the loss of a child, particularly if we haven’t experienced such loss ourselves.

The coroner
Truthers like James F. Tracy point to the answers given by Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver during a December 15, 2012 press conference (see video below)  as proof that he didn’t really do a thorough job of examining the victims’ bodies, if he did so at all. An editor at Global Research finds it “startling” that Carver only conducted seven of the autopsies himself, though it is far from unusual for assistant coroners to do autopsies, particularly when there are mass deaths.
Carver’s answers are rather peculiar, and his behaviour strikes me as awkward and odd, but there’s nothing here that can’t be chalked up to fatigue, and/or a reluctance to reveal information that the police didn’t want to reveal yet. From Carver’s comments, it seems he has had some bad experiences with courtroom testimony in the past and is painfully aware that committing yourself publicly to anything can have serious repercussions. For instance, he knows it would be improper to speculate about the weapons, since that isn’t technically within his field of expertise. Truthers make much of his statement that he doesn’t know if the children were standing or seated when they were struck, but without knowing the layout of the classrooms and the relative positions of the shooter and the victims, that’s not something that can always be determined at autopsy.
In keeping with his “crisis actors” theory, Ed Chiarini attempted to prove that H. Wayne Carver is actually the late “Mafia hitman” Richard “Ice Man” Kuklinski, who died in prison in 2006.


The man in the woods
This is one of the genuine enigmas in the case. A WABC news helicopter captured footage of at least one adult male, dressed in camouflage, dashing through a wooded area close to the school, being pursued by police officers. This occurred around 12:24, over two and a half hours after the shooting stopped, according to the ABC News timeline of events. Who was this man?
We know that there were at least two arrests at the school immediately after the shootings – Chris Manfredonia, father of a first-grade student, was apprehended near the school and briefly detained. He reportedly said he was en route to his daughter’s classroom when he heard shooting, so he remained outside the building. A second unidentified man was also briefly detained, and police determined him to be a bystander, according to Snopes. Either of these individuals could be the man that one student reportedly saw handcuffed on the ground near the school.

But the man in the woods remains an unknown. According to the last sentence of a December 27 article in the Newtown Bee, a law enforcement source stated the man in the woods had a gun and was an off-duty tactical squad (SWAT) officer from “another town”. No Truthers have confirmed this, nor have they uncovered the man’s identity, so we have no idea why he was there or why he was apparently running away from police. One witness, seen in this video, told a reporter that he and other observers saw a handcuffed man in camo pants being led out of the woods and placed in a police car. Was this Camo Man, or someone else?
One theory holds that Manfredonia is Camo Man, but why he would be fleeing into the woods has not been explained.

Adam Lanza’s death certificate and inaccurate date stamps
Truthers accessed an electronic version of Adam Lanza’s death certificate (the Social Security Death Index Record) via geneology websites like Ancestry.com and Geneology Bank, and breathlessly reported that Lanza died on December 13…one day before the massacre. Truthers like Jeffrey Phelps are aware that this date is probably a typographical error that might not even exist on the original document, but that doesn’t stop them from presenting it as evidence.

One of the most popular pieces of Truther evidence is that some of the webpages created on behalf of Sandy Hook families seem to have existed prior to the shootings. For example, the United Way Sandy Hook support fund was created three days before the massacre, according to the Google timestamp. But as a Salon article points out, wonky timestamps are more the rule than the exception; one Fox News article on Sandy Hook is dated by Google as having been published in 1983. That’s 13 years before Fox News existed, and 9 years before Adam Lanza was born. Also, webpages are sometimes repurposed.

The drill
Since 9/11, conspiracy researchers have embraced Webster Tarpley’s theory (outlined in his book 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA) that training exercises and drills conducted by law enforcement and military personnel are sometimes used to mask false flag attacks. They will point to training exercises that occurred in proximity to a real event as evidence that someone in authority knew all about it in advance. During a January 18 interview on The Alex Jones Show, for instance, James Tracy said the Newtown massacre was a “drill that went live”. Holocaust revisionist Nick Kollerstrom, in a Veterans Today piece written with Fetzer, attempted to draw parallels between Sandy Hook and the 7/7 bombings in London, another “drill that went live”. Somewhat paradoxically, Kollerstrom opens his article by introducing the possibility that the Newtown shootings didn’t actually happen.

Here’s the deal: On the day of the Sandy Hook shootings, an “active shooter drill” was being conducted at a school in the community of Carmel, New York, by the Putnam County Emergency Response Team (ERT), a unit comprised of specially-trained officers from the sheriff’s office and two area police departments (Carmel and Kent).  This, presumably, is the drill that Tracy contends “went live”.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Two days after Sandy Hook, the Southeast Brewster Patch newspaper reported that the drill was part of regular ERT training, and that the Putnam County ERT commander had phoned Newtown police to offer ERT assistance at the school. He was told the ERT would not be needed, since police had already secured the scene. Nonetheless, Truthers insist the ERT must have been involved. The team even plays a key role in an alternate timeline of Sandy Hook events compiled by Andrew S. MacGregor – though McGregor doesn’t present any actual evidence documenting ERT presence at the scene, because his scenario is wholly speculative.

Truthers have also responded negatively to a FEMA course offered under the auspices of the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (part of Connecticut’s Division of Emergency Services and Public Protection), titled “Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters”, that was held six times in November and December 2012, including on the day of the Sandy Hook shootings. Frankly, I don’t know what this has to do with the massacre. The course deals not just with school violence, but with natural disasters, fires, and other emergency situations that could befall any school at any time. I view this as another red herring.

Henry Makow and others have catalogued “evidence” that Sandy Hook was part of some other, unspecified, drill.

The Bottom Line

The Sandy Hook Truthers will continue their investigative efforts, but this will probably be the last post I devote solely to their results. I have five good reasons for this:

1. Twenty children and six women are dead, beyond question. Adam Lanza is dead, beyond question. Nancy Lanza is dead, beyond question. I have not seen any persuasive evidence that the key figures in the investigation are not who they say they are. Keep in mind that hoaxes involving even one fake person always collapse under their own weight. Look at the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, the Kuwaiti incubator babies fraud, and the Catfish case; they were all exposed by just a few diligent people within weeks.
2. The Second Amendment is firmly intact.
3. The noise-to-signal ratio is incredibly high in the world of Sandy Hook Truth. Red herrings vastly outnumber genuine leads. After nine months, we still don’t have viable alternate suspects, smoking-gun evidence of a conspiracy, or anything else of substance. The majority of the Truthers have never been to Connecticut and have not spoken to anyone close to the case.
4. Truthers working in multiple countries have not yet supplied answers to the few unanswered questions that remain about the tragedy. If they can’t even figure out who Camo Man was, I doubt they could expose an epic false flag operation.
5. Bizarre, groundless conspiracy theories pop up after every mass shooting, as I discussed in another post.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Satan, Satan Everywhere

Think Satanic panic disappeared along with Geraldo and acid-washed jeans? Well, not quite. Welcome to the world of Jordanian Satanists conducting ceremonies in college bathrooms, panty-stealing gremlins, demonic mermaids – and the deeply misguided authorities who persecute them. 

Satan Is Real

 

  • We’ll get to Satan, but first: Yet another alien body has surfaced, this time in China. In what appears to be the Eastern version of the Dr. Reed Microwave Burrito Alien hoax, a man identified only as Li claims he witnessed a UFO crash near his home on the Yellow River in Binzhou, Shangdong province, on a night in March. The next day, checking his electric rabbit traps, he found the remains of a lightly fried entity roughly four feet tall, with pebbly white skin, a bulbous head, and what appears to be female genitalia. Li took the alien lady home and stowed her in his freezer, where local police officers made a landmark scientific discovery: Somewhere in the cosmos, there exists an alien race made entirely out of rubber.
  • Since 2011, four women have filed lawsuits against Mark Schwartz, founder of the Castlewood Treatment Center for eating disorders in Ballwood, Missouri. The former patients allege that in the course of treatment Schwartz and his partner, Lori Galperin, persuaded them to “recover” (false) memories of Satanic ritual abuse, cannibalism, and even murder. Schwartz has stepped down as the director of Castlewood.
    This is practically an instant replay of a case that erupted over 15 years ago in Chicago. In the mid-’90s, Dr. Bennett Braun was sued by several former patients after he and members of his staff at the Dissociative Disorders Unit of Rush Presbyterian Hospital convinced the women they were recovering repressed memories of belonging to abusive, powerful Satanic cults. Though Braun and his colleagues were trained and licensed medical professionals, their methods weren’t much better than those of the bizarre faux-psychotherapy cult of Okie pastor Doug Riggs, and the outcomes were identical: Dozens of people came to believe their loved ones were actually demented Devil worshipers who had enslaved them through a combination of ritualistic abuse and sophisticated mind control programming.
    I’ll be posting about the Schwartz and Braun cases at Speak of the Devil in the near future, because there’s far too much weirdness there for a mere roundup.
  • Also in the ritual abuse category, a Dutch woman named Toos Nijenhuis has declared that child sacrifices are taking place in Holland. She recently told a group of independent researchers that a sinister international cabal, which includes such prominent members as Prince Bernhard of Holland and British royals, has been ritualistically abusing and experimenting upon children for some arcane purpose. Nijenhuis led the researchers to a rural forest near Zwolle where she claims ritual child sacrifices have been committed as recently as November of 2010. Her claims are virtually identical to those made by some of the former witches and Satanists I wrote about in the Prodigal Witch series, particularly Arizona Wilder (who has retracted her claims about a clan of Satanic lizard-people ruling the planet) and alleged Illuminati slave Cisco Wheeler. The Canadian-based citizens’ group called the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) and allied organizations plan to investigate Ms. Nijenhuis’ allegations and possibly issue  “court summonses” to the royals and high-level clerics she has named.
  • In Etwatwa, South Africa, a 14-year-old boy stands accused of murdering four members of his family with an ax. Police have reportedly called in an occult expert to determine if the boy was connected to Satanism or Satanists, but no link has been discovered so far. That hasn’t stopped neighbours and South Africans in general from declaring the murders a Satanic ritual sacrifice, as shown in the video report below and in this tabloid article, which cites a detailed confession allegedly given by the boy. The boy’s family, on the other hand, seems to think drugs were involved.
  • Many reports out of Africa draw parallels between the Etwatwa ax murders and the “Satanic” stabbing murder of schoolgirl Keamogetswe Sefularo in March, which brought up memories of the “Satanic burning” of teenager Kirsty Theologo two years ago. Two 18-year-old boys were convicted of Kirsty’s murder last March, sentenced to 17 years each.
  • Also in Africa, a 2-year-old Northern Cape girl drowned in late May after she was allegedly pushed into a dam by a female 12-year-old cousin who reportedly had a history of doing the same thing to other young children. Family members promptly blamed Satanism, telling the press the girl was possessed and “doing the Devil’s work”. Before they start shopping for an exorcist, they should perhaps ptry adopting some appropriate water safety and child supervision practices.
  • Parts of Zimbabwe have been aflame with Satanic panic in the past year. In Bulawayo’s suburban Cowdray Park last October, a teen girl confessed to participating in 16 murders committed by a neighbourhood cult of Satanists, causing deep rifts and panic in the community. Around the same time, at least three schools in the country were closed after students were stricken with bizarre symptoms they attributed to Satanic spells. Then there are the evil mermaids. Last March, Zimbabwe Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate oversight committee that mermaids had been terrifying workers at reservoirs in Mutare, Gokwe, and Manicaland, causing them to flee their work and refuse to return. Many Zimbabweans consider mermaids to be demonic creatures, and a man named Justice Manyonga even claims to have been held captive by them for two years. To remedy the mermaid infestation, Nkomo summoned traditional chiefs to perform exorcisms at the Gokwe and Mutare dams.
    In Gokwe, Underpants Gnomes made an appearance around the same time. A 62-year-old man declared that a rash of missing ladies’ undergarments in his neighbourhood was caused by a panty-stealing goblin he had somehow acquired years earlier. Incredibly, this is not the most bizarre goblin story to come out of Zimbabwe in the past year. In January of this year, an explosion in Chitungwiza, Zumbabwe, killed 5 people in a single house. The home was owned by a traditional healer, and he claimed the explosion occurred because he was attempting to behead a goblin on behalf of a client. Just like the owner of the Underpants Gnome, this guy says he bought a goblin to help bring himself good luck and prosperity, but it ended up being a major PITA. So if you buy a goblin through Kijiji or Craigslist, make sure you get a warranty on that sucker.
  • In March, five students at Al al-Bayt university in Mafraq, Jordan, were accused of burning pages from the Koran as part of a supposed Devil-worship ritual conducted in a campus bathroom. They were promptly arrested for desecrating the Koran, but no charges were filed against them, prompting Human Rights Watch to call for their release. This resulted in immediate charges against  the students. They were tried before a military tribunal in May and acquitted of all charges, but the incident caused tremendous strife and distress throughout Jordan, with extremists demanding the students be lynched and others bewailing the lack of freedom of religious expression in a country that has been presented to the world as relatively open and progressive.

merman