Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Slow News Week

As the U.S. seethes with racial tension, protestors swarm the streets of Hong Kong, and missiles gut Syria, a few intrepid journos have somehow managed to ferret out the real stories…

  • Say, does anyone remember the absurdly disappointing mystery of those invisible flying creatures known as “rods“? No? Well, let Oklahoma City’s News 9 take you back to ’97 with their hard-hitting report on bad photography.
rods

Fascinating.

Fry Screaming

IKR?

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Ghost Sex, Celebrity Hauntings, and a Convenient Demon

This week, I’m going to labor the point that today’s celebrities just can’t seem to come up with anything original – even in the supernatural realm.

  • In 2011, Lady Gaga reportedly believed she was being followed around by the ghost of a dude named Ryan. A few months later, she told Harper’s Bazaar that the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen wrote her song “Born This Way” from beyond the grave (he had committed suicide the previous year). She might be the first celeb to have a ghost stalker, but she’s certainly not the first person to channel music from the dead. In the ’70s, an English senior by the name of Rosemary Brown released “new” works by major composers, including Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Weirdly, all of them spoke English.

 

  • Demi Lovato claims she has been followed around by the spirit of a little girl named Emily for most of her life. She told Ellen Degeneres she grew up in a “ridiculously haunted” house in Texas. Emily and her co-haunters like to screw around with electronics a little bit and make balloons float in the wrong direction. (Lovato also believes there might be mermaid aliens in the Indian Ocean, based mostly on an “extremely convincing documentary” she saw.)
    Even Ellen was unimpressed by the balloon story. And I’m unimpressed with the whole shebang, because it pales in comparison to the mother of all celebrity hauntings: Elke Sommer’s spooky-ass Beverly Hills house. In the mid- ’60s, Sommer and her husband, Joe Hyams, were hounded by poltergeist noises, ghostly dinner parties, and the spectre of a slovenly middle-aged man.
    While Lovato could produce nothing more than the unimpressive ghost photo you see below, Hyams became a less annoying version of the guy in Paranormal Activity, setting up microphones and even hiring a P.I. to monitor his house while he was away.

lovatoghost

 

  • Lee Ryan, a former member of some band I’ve never heard of,  says he grew up in Kent. But I think he grew up in the wilderness or something, because he didn’t recognize the ghost that visited him (via a psychic medium) when he was in his twenties. The spirit told him to work on his lower range and avoid drugs.
    Turns out it was Janis Joplin. Ryan took her advice about singing and abusing drugs, but may have forgotten to avoid abusing people.
    Michael Jackson did not grow up in the wilderness – though that might have been better for him – and immediately recognized Liberace when the ghost of the fabulous pianist began appearing to him with helpful career pointers. Jackson lined a secret room with mirrors so he could have a special place to commune with “Lee”. Then things got weird.
  • Ke$ha told Jimmy Kimmel that her hypnotherapist found a “ghost in her vagina” by waving a “ghost meter” over her body. She didn’t seem terribly concerned about this, and the whole thing may have been a publicity stunt. It’s not as disturbing as the fact that her mom dresses as a giant penis for her concerts.
    But then there’s B-movie actress Natasha Blasick. “I felt something entered the room. I couldn’t see anybody. Suddenly I could feel that somebody touching me,” she told the British TV show This Morning earlier this year. “Their hands were pushing me against my will and then I could feel the weight of their body on top of me but I couldn’t see anybody.” This sounded like a classic Old Hag encounter, until Blasick went on to say that when the experience occurred a second time she “decided to relax and it was really pleasurable, I really enjoyed it…You don’t see anybody but it’s very pleasant and it made me feel warm and fuzzy…It gave me comfort and support and love, and it did answer questions for me that there is something else out there.”
    Though the media had a field day with these crazy kids and their ghost sex, it’s all been done before. In the late 19th century, the much-persecuted sexual reformer Ida Craddock penned a series of works about her marriage to an angel/spirit she called Soph. For having the audacity to write about women and sex, Craddock was hounded to her death by Anthony Comstock.
    A few decades later, Englishwoman Dorothy Eady began receiving visitations from the spirit of Pharaoh Seti I, with whom she had been lovers in a previous lifetime. The two became lovers again, but Eady committed herself to a chaste life after becoming the unofficial guardian of the temple of Seti I in the ’50s. She took the name Omm Sety, meaning “mother of Seti”.
  • Now we move on to the dark side. Bob Cranmer is a former county commissioner in Pennsylvania. In 2003, he was charged with assaulting his 18-year-old son, punching him in the nose with such force that he was barely conscious by the time Cranmer’s 14-year-old son summoned the police. According to Cranmer’s younger son and wife, father and son had gotten into a quarrel over the bathroom. The charges were ultimately dropped.
    A decade later, Cranmer has a perfectly legitimate excuse for punching his son in the face: A haunted house. In his soon-to-be-released book The Demon of Brownsville Road, he explains that his Victorian home was possessed by a malevolent force that destroyed religious items, made a “blood-like” substance ooze from the walls, and wreaked emotional havoc on the entire family. He claims that his sons had to undergo psychological treatment to recover from the events of 2003-2006, and he has hinted that the demon infestation played a role in the family violence that erupted. What’s particularly odd about this demon is that the Cranmers had already been living in the house for 15 years when it became an “evil, evil entity” (to quote Cranmer).
    Sadly, this spirit-blaming business isn’t a new thing, either. When tomato farmer Maurice Theriault was charged with molesting his stepdaughter, professional ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren tried to pin the blame on an incubus (even after Theriault admitted to his crime). Perhaps keep that in mind if you watch the latest blockbuster inspired by the Warrens’ legacy.

 

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.

datura drzewko-resized

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.

ouija

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.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Detroit Bigfoot & a Possessed Mongoose

mongoose

“Your mother sucks c***s in hell!”

  • The tale of Gef, the talking mongoose, is by far one of the weirdest and stupidest incidents in the history of the paranormal. In the summer of 1931, a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man was invaded by what initially seemed to be a pest animal. James Irving, who lived in the farmhouse with his wife and precocious 13-year-old daughter, Voirrey, took to sleeping with a shotgun in the hopes of killing the creature that wandered around in his walls and hissed at the family. But then the activity escalated to poltergeist-like incidents, and the animal in the walls began talking to James and Voirrey. It sang songs and answered questions in a high voice, speaking perfect English.
    At some point, this talking critter darted into view long enough to be identified as a mongoose. The Irvings named him “Gef”. Gef claimed he had been born in India 78 years earlier, indicating that he was some kind of spirit possessing the form of a mongoose. He could supposedly see things occurring at a distance, and knew things about people without being told. He was antagonistic much of the time, hiding in the walls of the farmhouse to taunt and threaten visitors. At other times he was almost kind, leaving dead rabbits and other tokens of affection for the Irvings.
    This ridiculous local spectacle caught the attention of the era’s most renowned ghosthunter, Harry Price, who wrote a book about Gef (The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern “Miracle” Investigated, 1936) even though he didn’t witness any of Gef’s alleged psychic gifts.
    The solution to the mystery almost certainly lies with Voirrey. She was a bright, curious girl who just happened to be transitioning into womanhood – a common element in poltergeist cases. She enjoyed rabbit-hunting. Evidently a skilled ventriloquist, she could make people believe the insults they heard from the walls weren’t coming from her.
    The only remarkable thing about the Gef affair is how long it lasted: Over 14 years, a very long time for a poltergeist hoax. It ended abruptly in 1945, when James Irving died and Voirrey left Cashen’s Gap with her mother. Gef was never seen (or heard) again.
    Now, 83 years after his squeaky voice first issued from the walls, Gef is the focus of a symposium that will be held later this year at Senate House Library in London.
  • Is the beleaguered bitcoin a failed virtual currency…or a cult fetish? Maybe a little of both?
  • Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around Gothic children’s TV series made in Britain: The Moondial, The Haunting of Barney Palmer, Into the Labyrinth. They all had a “this room is surrounded by film” quality, but who wouldn’t be creeped out by the intro for Children of the Stones? Fangoria has a fabulous rundown of other gems of British folk horror  on TV and film.
  • A Sasquatch squatting in a house in Detroit? Seems legit.

2012 Prediction Fail

invincible


The Winner

ibringyoulove

The biggest fail is the late Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero prediction. First published in 1975, it was predicated on McKenna’s complex novelty theory about the cyclical nature of time, and guesstimated that some kind of awesome singularity would occur in December 2012 (the date was based partly on his own calculations and partly on the Mayan calendar). Just how the arcane ramblings of a chemognostic savante ended up on Discovery Channel specials and in Britney Spears videos is beyond me, but the bottom line is: Nothing happened. No singularity. So let’s move on to that dagger-nailed doyenne of prophetic fail…

Sylvia Browne

Browne played it safe last year by making many of her 2012 forecasts hilariously vague. She asked us to “be mindful of trucks”, said she’s “still worried about trains”, and spoke of “airline difficulties” in several states. Which basically amounts to

look-both-ways

She has stayed away from celebrity predictions altogether lately, since her 2009 prophecy about Clint Eastwood’s varicose veins failed to impress.
Her big prediction was that the economy, the job situation, and the housing market would all improve dramatically. Oh, and taxes would decrease. If by “dramatically”, she meant “somewhat”, then I guess this qualifies as a direct hit. Vagueness occasionally works in her favour.
When she was any more specific than that, she bombed. Here are a few of her biggest misses:

There will be a tsunami in Florida in the fall.
A cure for Multiple Sclerosis will be found.
Obama will not be reelected.

wutgif

I’ve skipped most of her weather-related predictions, because they’re basically just variations of “There will be weather”. Glue some fake fingernails on your copy of the Farmer’s Almanac to achieve the same effect.

A few of her predictions did nothing but betray her uneven grasp of the sciences:

Weather stays terribly erratic. We are in a polar tilt.
The hell is a “polar tilt”?
We have to be more cognizant about vaccinations or we are going to have more outbreaks of measles, polio and whooping cough. These vaccines do not cause autism.
You don’t have to be psychic to know this.

A ridiculously safe bet:

There will also be earthquakes in Japan, China and Europe.
There have been major quakes in Japan every year since 2003, and in China since 2008. And there are earthquakes somewhere in Europe pretty much every year.

orsonlikesit

A few of her predictions were just nonsensical:

We will pay more attention to causes for eliminating hunger and animal care.
“More attention” than what? No attention at all?
More people realize this is a new age of enlightenment.
Again with the “more” thing.
We are looking at a time when spirituality is on the upswing.
Dogmatic religions will see their member numbers decrease.

Those last two statements actually contradict each other. Historical trends indicate that in times of economic crisis, spirituality and dogmatic religions flourish. When things get better – as Browne was predicting they would – religious fervour tends to wane. So the chances of a spiritual revival and an economic upswing occurring simultaneously are actually quite slim. Play the odds, Sylvia, play the odds.

Patrick Geryl

Belgian author Patrick Geryl seems to be a cross between the poor man’s Velikovsky and Charles Manson. His website looks sort of sciency, but the core of Geryl’s predictions have nothing to do with science.
Geryl claims he uncovered long-lost prophecies of the ancients by deciphering parts of the Dresden Codex in his own special way.  He combined these prophecies with his own bullshit astronomical observations to come up with the following predictions:

Some kind of solar Armageddon event Geryl called the “killer flare” was supposed to happen on December 20.

Within a few hours, Earth would be surrounded by a plasma cloud with a magnetic field that would “deflect” the earth’s core, causing it to rotate. Since the rotation of the core and the movements of the earth’s crust would be in different directions, massive earthquakes and other upheavals would occur, culminating in something along the lines of

kaboom

Geryl and his handful of followers bunkered up and prepared for the endtimes, thinking they would have to repopulate the ravaged planet and rebuild civilization from scratch. Fortunately for Geryl, all he really has to do in 2013 is get a new domain name.

Ed Dames and other Remote Viewers

On the October 6-7, 2011 broadcast of the paranormal-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM, professional remote viewer Ed Dames predicted a 40% unemployment rate, the imposition of martial law, and mass detainment in FEMA camps within the next two years. He said he didn’t believe there would be a presidential election in 2012 as a result of all this.
Back when he started predicting the “Killshot” (yet another solar flare that was supposed to destroy Earth), Dames’ crack team of remote viewers “saw” a bombed-out stadium and “many thousands” of dead Americans in relation to some unspecified disaster that Dames thought might strike during the Superbowl or the 2012 Olympics. Keep in mind that this guy used to claim a 100% success rate for properly-conducted remote viewing.

In 2008, similar predictions were issued by a team of other military-trained remote viewers working on a project for the Farsight Institute. They were supposed to be remote-viewing climate changes, but instead “saw” a huge meteorite slamming into an ocean, causing tidal waves and volcanic explosions. This would happen by 2013, they said.

NO
For pure psychic lulziness, check out this About.com roundup of predictions from “leading” psychics, ranging from “gold disappoints” to “the Holy Grail will be found”. Here are a few of the highlights:

“Psychic to the Stars” Nikki

These are some of the flat-out weirdest predictions I have ever seen. Nikki seems to be predicting cataclysmic, earth-shattering events on the order of 2012 or Birdemic, but she also takes time out to let us know what will be on TV. Sure, most of us will die, but Ellen stays on the air! And Stallone gets a Tony! So it’s all gonna be okay.

thumbsupnotreally

I’ve tweaked Ms. Nikki’s predictions a little, because as written they look like drunk texts.

An earthquake will destroy most of Mexico City.
There will be a giant earthquake in California.
Animals and birds, wild and domestic, will attack people leading up to the end of 2012.
Someone will find giant prehistoric Sea Monsters under the sea.
There will be major UFO sightings all over the world. A spaceship might land.
North Korea will attack South Korea and Japan.
There will be an attack on the Vatican and the Pope.
Earth will fall off its axis a little more.
The Holy Grail will be found.
A plane crash will crash into the White House.
The map of the world will change because of catastrophic events happening in the world.
Ellen DeGeneres will join the army for one week.
Sylvester Stallone gets nominated for a Tony Award.
Madonna will break a leg.
There will be a National Hockey League for women.

Terry and Linda Jamison, The Psychic Twins

The Psychic Twins look kind of like the little girls from The Shining, all grown up and full of shit. They claim to be the world’s “most documented” psychics, with accurate predictions of 9/11 and the May 2000 stock market crash. So how did the creepy duo make out in 2012?

double

Double your fail!

Terrorist attacks are planned for New York, Washington, Boston, Texas and Florida, but most of them will be thwarted.
Economic growth; no recession; unemployment stays about the same.
Letting go a negative patterns; more acceptance of positive patterns and choices.
Earthquakes in Mexico, eastern and western China, and in Los Angeles in April.

Don’t be sad that the good predictions didn’t pan out. I’m sure the Grail, sea monsters, and “positive patterns” will turn up this year. And even if they don’t, there’s still lots of fun stuff in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to mocking the hell out of Mike “The Health Ranger” Adams’ 20 Dark Predictions for 2013, the Year of Oppression and Insanity, in 2014.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

Fake nuns with fake Anthrax, real vampires, UN conspiranoia, hateful lies about hate speech, and Bigfoot’s disgusting ancestry

  • After years of top-secret lab work, Dr. Melba Ketchum has announced the results of her DNA analysis of alleged Bigfoot hair and tissue samples (including, perhaps, the “Bigfoot steak” that was central to the Sierra Kills hoax). The upshot: Bigfoot isn’t an ape or a human. It’s descended from an unknown primate and a human female, who mated about 15,000 years ago. Ew. Ketchum is calling for Bigfoot to be afforded full Constitutional rights, as an aboriginal. Best title about this, to date: “Boffin claims Bigfoot DNA reveals BESTIAL BONKING“. Not even avid Sasqwatchers are wholefootedly accepting Ketchum’s results, though; Bigfoot Lunch Club, for instance, shares a few of the same reasonable doubts expressed by the Houston Chronicle‘s “SciGuy”, Eric Berger (and the rest of the scientific community).
  • In the Serbian village of Zarozje, a different inhuman beast is supposed to be amuck. The mayor and the village council have warned locals that Zarozje’s legendary vampire, Sava Savanovic, might be pissed off and looking for blood now that the abandoned mill where he has dwelt for years untold has finally collapsed. In all apparent seriousness, officials have advised villagers to stock up on garlic and religious paraphernalia to keep Savanovic at bay. But given the vampire’s tourist appeal, garlic might not be the only thing that smells in Zarozje…
  • “Big Brother is watching, and he really is gay.” That’s the title of a chapter in Dr. Michael Brown’s book A Queer Thing Happened to America. In a recent webcast of an interview with Brown, Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries claimed that at a Christian conference he attended in Switzerland last summer, Swiss attendees refused to use the words “wife” or “husband” to describe their spouses. Instead, they used the word “partner”.  Asked why, a Swiss man supposedly informed Joyner that gender-specific titles for your significant other are classified as hate speech in Switzerland; you can actually go to jail for saying you have a wife or a husband. I’m calling BS on this one. Such radical restrictions on free speech would raise an international outcry, and there simply isn’t one. Either Joyner was misinformed, or he’s lying. His claims are remarkably similar to hate crime urban legends and misinformation that have been circulating in the Christian community for years: Hate crime legislation will prevent pastors from preaching against homosexuality, gays are trying to ban straight marriage, legislation could forbid homeschooling parents from sharing their opinions on gay marriage with their kids, etc.
    When it comes to human rights, gays are not at the top of the list, as a particularly nasty bit of proposed legislation in Uganda shows.
  • The last time I wrote about fake nuns, there was a serial killer/cult leader involved. This time, a fake nun in England simply sent some white powder to politicians and aristocrats because she was annoyed by their worship of Satan. Over the summer and autumn, 71-year-old “Sister” Ruth Augustus mailed envelopes stuffed with some harmless substance to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Baroness Scotland, Baroness Kennedy, and MP Edward Leigh.  On the envelopes Augustus had written “devil worshipping”, “freemason”, “sex with 30 plus women”, “stop this evil devil worshipping”, and “stop these evil devil-worshipping freemasons.” The one addressed to Baroness Scotland also bore a swastika.  Augustus refers to herself as a disabled Catholic nun who works for a children’s charity, but she does not actually belong to any Catholic order, and does not seem to be employed by any charity organization.  For sending “noxious substances” through the mail, she has been ordered to undergo mental health treatment and serve a two-year community order.
  •  Also this autumn, the entire town of Gypsum, Colorado, rallied behind a 9-year-old cancer patient named Alex Jordan, a boy no one in the community had ever met. According to a Jordan family friend, Alex’s parents relocated to Gypsum earlier this year so the boy could spend his final days in the mountains. He was dying of leukemia, after defeating it two years earlier. From his hospital bed, Alex enthusiastically followed the local high school football team, the Eagle Valley Devils, over the Internet. As soon as they learned about their number one fan, team members signed a football for Alex, began displaying the letter A on their helmets, and even wrote his name on the fence that surrounds their field. Soon, hundreds of other locals joined a Facebook page in support of Alex. When they learned at the end of October that Alex had died, Gypsum residents mourned the brave little boy who had become the Devils’ unofficial mascot. But, as in the cases of Kaycee Nicole Swenson, Jonathan Jay White, and Anthony Godby Johnson, a few people wondered why no one had actually seen this kid or his parents. The only individual with a known connection to the Jordan family was that mysterious family friend who had first mentioned him to local reporters and football parents, 22-year-old Briana Augustenborg. As it turned out, Augustenborg had created “Alex” out of thin air, for reasons that are not entirely clear (she didn’t attempt to raise any money, and didn’t accept any gifts or donations). Alex Jordan now joins a long list of cancer-related hoaxes that preyed upon the tenderhearted.
  • Meanwhile, UN conspiracy theories are in full bloom – and they’re actually getting a bit of mainstream attention. A small but vocal coalition of U.S. senators led by Rick Santorum is opposing ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, arguing that it will impinge upon parental rights, if not actually make every disabled child a ward of the New World Order global superstate (a view shared by the Home School Legal Defense Association and other homeschooling advocates). Other Republicans have succumbed to Agenda 21 paranoia, believing the UN and Obama are conspiring to forcibly relocate rural dwellers, and/or control their minds.

I would love to combine all these stories into a TV series about a gay, undead Bigfoot. He must defeat a bogus nun who pretends to have cancer and sends hate mail to the UN.

 

The Prodigal Witch Part XVIII: Today’s Former Satanists

The tradition continues….

Jeff Harshbarger

Jeff Harshbarger is a South Carolina minister who claims he was a teenage victim of Satanic deception and demonic possession. In 2005 he published an autobiography about his years as a Satanist, From Darkness to Light: How to Rescue Someone You Love From the Occult.
His Refuge Ministries educates others about Wicca, Satanism and the occult, with the goal of persuading them to abandon those practices in favour of Christ. His new book featuring the testimonies of other “exes”, Dancing with the Devil, is due to come out next year.
Refuge is a member of the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, and has some connections to Reachout Trust U.K., the organization that promoted the false Satanism stories of Audrey Harper and Derry Mainwaring Knight and drummed up Satanic panic throughout the UK in the late ’80s (Reachout member Doug Harris was one of Harshbarger’s teachers at Bible college).

Jeff Harshbarger with wife Liz

On The 700 Club, Harshbarger explained that an evil presence was first drawn to him when he was a child, after he and his brother played with a Ouija board their parents had given to them. Experimenting with the board on his own, he felt increasingly closer to this presence. This harks back not only to The Exorcist, but to the dire warnings about Dungeons & Dragons and Ouija boards issued by John Todd, Doreen Irvine, and other “former Satanists” of the ’70s and ’80s. After all those lizardpeople from Mars and Illuminati blood rituals, I have to admit it’s kinda refreshing to return to that quainter time when Satan used mass-produced boardgames to capture kids’ souls.

If you screw around with this particular board, you’ll end up possessed and depressed.

As Jeff entered his teens, the evil presence gave him psychic powers and the ability to travel outside his body.
In a promotional video for Refuge Ministries (below), Harshbarger gives only the vaguest details about how he actually became a Satanist. In 1978, when Jeff was 17, “another guy” (elsewhere described as an 18-year-old assistant manager at the store where Jeff worked part-time) invited Jeff to his apartment and told him all about the wonders of Devil worship. Awed by this charismatic older teen, Jeff was eager to sign on. The two boys prayed to Satan for Jeff to be possessed by demons, and voila! Insta-possession! The demons gave him a rush of power, but over time they sapped his strength and betrayed him. He could hear them speaking to him and through him, and over time he was able to see them, too.

At college, Jeff and the Other Guy formed a teen coven, recruiting half a dozen boys to take part in “elaborate rituals” with them. All of these kids subsequently became possessed by demons. Pangs of conscious and a growing conviction that Satanism was wrong almost led Jeff to commit suicide in 1981. When he actually attempted to shoot himself, however, he couldn’t pull the trigger. His attempt to hang himself also failed (on his website, he mentions that he offered himself up to his fellow Satanists as a human sacrifice, an offer they evidently refused). Instead, God spoke to him audibly. Jeff fell to his knees and accepted Christ. He had been a Satanist for just four years.
It was surprisingly easy for him to get rid of the demons. “Black witch” Doreen Irvine had to undergo seven months of grueling exorcism, but all Harshbarger had to do was go to a church and ask a member to pray over him. As soon as the woman commanded the demons to leave, they did. Poof! Insta-exorcism!

Harshbarger gives a typically flat, stereotypical portrayal of how Satanists think and behave. They all want power more than anything. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that this describes a good percentage of teenagers who don’t worship the Devil.
He was, admittedly, a self-styled Satanist. He and his mentor didn’t belong to any organized group, assembled their rituals in willy-nilly fashion, and took part in juvenile stunts like Bible desecration (though Irvine, Mike Warnke and others insisted – falsely – that this is something practiced by authentic Satanists).

The Refuge Ministries promo page for Dancing with the Devil actually contains a blurb from “former Satanist” David Berkowitz. Son of Sam has long insisted that his crimes were committed at the behest of a violent Satanic cult, and he now claims to be a Christian (though his correspondence with another serial killer would indicate this, too, is a ruse designed to attract attention and sympathy). Sadly, many gullible folks have bought into this.

Harshbarger takes a Bible-based approach to the occult, and doesn’t seem to employ any of the fire-&-brimestone hyperbole or absurdly tall tales we’ve seen from Bill Schnoebelen and Mike Warnke. Nor does he have a criminal record or a history of deception, like John Todd and Derry Mainwaring Knight. He doesn’t claim to have been the leader of thousands of devil worshipers, or part of a worldwide Illuminati conspiracy, or a third-generation warlock. In fact, he comes across as a pretty low-key guy who probably did dabble in some form of Satanism in his younger days. But his story matches nearly every point of the familiar outline laid down by the original, bogus ex-Satanist testimonies (Doreen Irvine, Mike Warnke).

– A deprived childhood (his father was a violent alcoholic, his parents divorced)
– An absence of time markers (in Harshbarger’s case, there are virtually no details at all. We know only that he practiced Satanism from 1978 to 1981)
– Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (Harshbarger mentions only a craving for power and wealth), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (invoking demons, communicating with spirits).
– Helplessness. Rather than being led into Satanic evil through his/her bad choices, the protagonist is usually a naive and vulnerable innocent victimized, lured, or coerced into sin by more worldly people.
– Supernatural abilities and events (Harshbarger communicated with demons via Ouija board, manifested ESP, astrally projected, and was later possessed by demons)
– A remarkable conversion experience (after God intervened in his suicide attempt, he embraced Christ and demons were expelled from his body with minimal effort)
– Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
– Expert advice on the occult. After sharing his/her testimony, the ex-witch or former Satanist gives us pointers on how to avoid occultism, prevent children from becoming involved in it, and/or how to expunge it from our communities. There are typically warnings about Ouija boards, Halloween, and occult literature.  Harshbarger dumps Eastern religion and New Age beliefs into the same pot as Satanism.

Perhaps the number one reason why Harshbarger’s story isn’t believable is that it exists in at least two different versions. On The 700 Club and in the promotional video below, he describes his initiation into Satanism as a demonic possession. But in a written version of his testimony available online, he claims he started out with LaVeyan Satanism – which has nothing to do with literal demons, nor even a literal Satan – then worked his way up to demonology. So which is it?


Refuge Ministries promotional video

Betty Brennan

Betty Brennan is a Brooklyn-born New Yorker who claims she was a Devil worshiper for most of her adult life. She is the only practicing Catholic in this series. That’s quite ironic, given that many of the other “former Satanists” included Catholics in their lists of Satanic baddies. Bill Schnoebelen stated that all Satanic high priests are required to become Catholic priests.  Leo Zagami declared that each and every Catholic works as a spy for the Vatican, which is at the head of the Satanic Illuminati.

Brennan’s message is so meticulously tailored to suit fellow Catholics that I doubt it would be of much interest to the evangelical Christians that ordinarily flock to these conversion stories. She has even told her audiences that Satanists are anti-Catholic (she herself was a “real persecutor of the Church”), and are imbued with Satanic powers that allow them to pick out consecrated communion wafers from unconsecrated ones.
Chosen faith aside, Brennan’s tale fits perfectly into the the ex-Satanist testimony template. Let’s take a look:

A Dickensian childhood. Betty’s father died when she was a child. Unable to cope with her grief and raise a family at the same time, her mother shipped Betty and her brother to overseas Catholic boarding schools, where they lived isolated and unhappy lives.
An early introduction to Jesus that would pave the way for salvation later in life. Betty’s mother was a devout Catholic, and raised her children to follow in her footsteps. They went to church, received religious instruction, and attended only Catholic schools.
An absence of time markers. In her speeches, Betty always mentions how long she has been out of Satanism. But she provides no other dates at all. We don’t even know when she was born.

After graduating from boarding school, Betty returned to the States and married. One of her children was born with a terminal brain disease that resulted in a slow, agonizing death just two years later. Her daughter’s death devastated Betty and caused her to become furious with God.
Betty was a professional cellist. Shortly after her daughter died, she joined an orchestra that contained four or five Satanic priests. One of them, an older psychologist, befriended her. They had long, heartfelt chats over coffee, and she became emotionally dependent on the man.
One night, Betty insisted on accompanying her friend to a “party” held in an old barn. Reluctantly, he took her along with him, but asked her to remain outside. It didn’t take her long to figure out that a Satanic ceremony was being conducted. Instead of running away, she felt compelled to join her friend’s coven. In this respect, her story diverges from the standard testimony, in which a dewy innocent is lured into a cult.

Betty didn’t tell anyone she was a Satanist. She continued to pretend she was a Catholic. We have seen this subterfuge again and again in this series, yet in the world of real Satanism, adherents are proud of who they are and feel no need to hide their lifestyle. They certainly don’t feel obligated to pay lip service to another religion.

Betty is careful to note that although she was deeply immersed in the “upper echelons” of Satanism, she stopped short of human sacrifice, implying that others did engage in it. One wonders if she has reported this to the proper authorities – no one else in this series every bothered to do so. Just like Brennan, they shielded alleged homicidal Satanists by refusing to divulge their names. Betty does not even give the name of the form of Satanism she supposedly practiced.

Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (scripture, philosophy, etc.), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (sacrifice, crime, etc.) This is particularly true in Brennan’s case. She conflates witchcraft with Satanism, and portrays the two belief systems as little more than magic shows for narcissistic, wayward people
Supernatural events and paranormal abilities are common. As mentioned above, the Satanists Betty knew could tell if a host was consecrated or not just by looking at it (sensing the presence of Christ’s flesh, I guess). Betty developed telekinetic powers and ESP. Later, she experienced spontaneous levitation, like Edna Moses supposedly did.
A remarkable conversion experience. Betty was working as a substitute teacher, carpooling with a colleague who happened to be Catholic. When this woman’s car broke down, she asked Betty to drive her to a healing Mass. Betty accompanied her into the church with the sole intent of interrupting the Mass by supernatural means. First she caused the lights to go out, but the priest produced candles. All her other tricks were foiled, as well. Eventually, the priest recognized that something was not quite right about Betty, and  gently confronted her. With very little coaxing, she confessed her Satanism.

Betty returned to Catholicism for real, but her deliverance from evil was a protracted affair. At each Mass she attended, she would invariably awe the other congregants by levitating.
Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
Expert advice on the occult. Betty has been very active in warning other Catholics about the dangers of anything non-Catholic, and urging them to gird themselves against occult influence with their faith. One of her talks is titled “The Family Under Attack: The Sacraments as Our Defense“.

Sources:

1. Undated, abridged speech by Betty Brennan @ Gloria.TV (this is from a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD titled “Former Satanist Becomes Catholic“)

The Prodigal Witch Part XV: Stephen Dollins

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Stephen Dollins left Satanism for Christ in 1978, becoming a preacher and a crusader against the occult, but it wasn’t until the late ’90s that he gained prominence as a powerful enemy of Harry Potter and the Tooth Fairy.

The following comes from a talk Dollins gave to The Prophecy Club in 1998 or ’99. I must say, his killer mullet-and-tie combo makes him one of the most striking PC speakers in recent memory.

Dollins was born in the late ’50s to a policeman and a nurse, who for some reason put him up for adoption in his infancy. He was adopted by a Christian couple in Oklahoma. His adoptive father was a professor of psychiatry and head of education at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. This would probably be the late Dr. Joe Dollins.
Dollins believes there may been generational witchcraft in his family (he doesn’t specify which one, the biological or adoptive) because as a child he could “make bad things happen to other kids”, Carrie-style. As we have seen with many of the witches and occultists in this series (for instance, Johanna Michaelsen), some fundamentalist Christians believe that any form of occult practice can imbue a person with supernatural powers of a demonic nature, and that these powers can be passed on to descendants like a curse.

Dollins’s troubles with the Devil began in 1969, with an innocent high school assignment on comparative religion. He decided to write his paper on the inefficacy of witchcraft. This led him to a young hippie couple, Kenny and Christie, who not only introduced him to a wide range of illicit substances, but gave him his entré into Satanism. They said a group of their friends would tell him all about the powers of witchcraft if he attended one of their meetings, which were of course top-secret and invitation-only. “When they call, be ready to go,” the hippies warned.
One month later, a coven priestess called Alexandria phoned Stephen just before midnight. He found some pretext to slip out of his house, and was conveyed to a private home in another neighbourhood (this was presumably in or near Alva, Oklahoma, where the university is located). The house had been converted into a ritual space. Nude women were singing around a circle-in-a-pentagram on the floor. The air was already charged with spirits by the time Stephen arrived, so he was instructed to sit in the centre of the circle for his own protection.
The witches obligingly answered all of his questions about hexes, spells, and charms. If they were weirded out by some strange kid doing his homework assignment during one of their rituals, no one said so. In fact, they took a liking to him because of his “inborn powers”, and invited him to another meeting.

This second meeting was held in a ritzier neighbourhood, in a house decorated with an inverted cross and paintings of Hell. Dollins was surprised to find that one of his old biology teachers was the high priest. He was even more surprised to learn that the Satanic witches wanted to recruit him. “We’ve been watching you very carefully,” the biology teacher told him. They tried to entice him into joining their grotto, offering up buffets of coke, mescaline, heroin, and women on demand. But their talk of human sacrifice ultimately scared Stephen away.

In September 1970, Dr. Joe Dollins died. Stephen says he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike.
This tragedy drove Stephen straight into the arms of Satan. He wanted nothing to do with a God that would allow his father to die such a cruel, untimely death. He renounced Christianity and filled out an application to join the Church of Satan, formed just three years earlier in California.

He somehow ended up in Clarksville, Texas (the one the Monkees didn’t sing about). He established himself as a high priest in the Church of Satan there, summoning demons to do awful things to people who annoyed him.
He once tried to hex an elderly Christian women by summoning Astaroth. The demon appeared to him in the form of his worst childhood fear: The Wolfman peeking out of an orange cloud. And it was not happy. “Don’t you ever send me after a Christian again!”, Astaroth-Wolfman bellowed.

This sort of incident is repeated again and again by former witches; their demonic powers prove worthless against Christians, before whom even the most powerful minions of hell quiver. You can send demons against anyone, even heads of state, but woe betide you if you send a demon to a pepperpot with a Bible.
These incidents also indicate that demons are not unionized and have to make their own labour complaints.

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Dollins seems a bit confused about which Satanic organization he joined. At first he calls it the Church of Satan, but later in his talk he identifies it as the Brotherhood, the same nationwide cult to which Mike Warnke supposedly belonged in the mid-’60s. The “denomination” he describes is certainly not the Church of Satan. He mentions that his former co-religionists believe Satan will triumph at Armageddon, and Church of Satan members believe in neither Armageddon nor a literal Satan.

Dollins doesn’t give the size of his Satanic network (perhaps he learned a lesson from the Warnke affair), but he does hint at a massive Satanic conspiracy of the sort John Todd described. He claims the police and sheriff’s departments of a certain town in Texas were in the pockets of local Satanists, and tells us that one Brotherhood member of his acquaintance took part in animal sacrifice and child abduction (he doesn’t tell us if he reported this guy to the proper authorities or not, but given later events and Mike Warnke’s example, we can safely assume he did not).

In Topeka, Kansas, Stephen wed his high priestess. This is where the powers of Hell abandoned him (apparently, even Satan doesn’t like Kansas). He ended up broke and suicidally depressed. Then he remembered reading Mike Warnke’s memoir, The Satan Seller. The book had been given to him by the same Brotherhood member who sacrificed animals, after he was saved by a Christian ministry called Crisis Answers.
Thanks to Warnke’s book and his child-kidnapping buddy, Dollins realized he could leave the Brotherhood.
Remember, this talk was given in the late ’90s, six or seven years after Warnke’s lies were exposed by Cornerstone magazine. Tying his story to Warnke’s was a serious tactical mistake on Dollins’s part. More than anything else, this indicates that his story is 100% fictional. Sure, maybe he met some hippies in Oklahoma who smoked hash and dabbled in witchcraft, but he didn’t become a high priest of the Brotherhood. There is no Brotherhood. It was Warnke’s invention.

Anyway, Dollins phoned up his animal-sacrificing friend and learned, to his amazement, that a group of Christians had been praying for his salvation for the past seven years. The friend arranged for him to meet with two pastors who love-bombed the hell out of him, literally. He was saved on Groundhog Day, 1978.
This part of the story jives perfectly with the other remarkable conversions we’ve seen in this series. No former witch or reformed Satanist is content to say, “I worshiped the Devil for x number of years, then I got bored with it and became a Christian.”

Though Mike Warnke faced the threat of assassination after leaving the Brotherhood, Dollins mentions no retaliatory measures. That’s to his credit. In the stories of John Todd, Doc Marquis, “Elaine” (Edna Moses), and Warnke, it’s very hard to believe that an enormous cult with the powers of Hell at its beck and call can’t manage to bump off a few unarmed guys who regularly appear in public without so much as a single bodyguard. It makes for some compelling Christian testimony, but in the realism department it gets a big, fat zero.

Dollins has dedicated his Christian life to warning against the hazards of the occult. Now you would think by “occult”, I mean summoning Wolfman demons and putting curses on old women and whatnot, right? Well, Dollins doesn’t get quite that far. Just like the anti-occult crusaders and former witches of the ’70s and ’80s, he decided that the best way to keep kids out of Satanism is to make sure they aren’t exposed to any occult influences at a tender age. Don’t let your kids read the Harry Potter books. Don’t hang dreamcatchers over babies’ cribs; Native spirituality is not Christian, therefore it is demon-inspired. Don’t tell your child about the Tooth Fairy.

Wait, what? The Tooth Fairy?

Yes, the Tooth Fairy. Dollins asks his audience, in all seriousness, “How many know fairies are demons?”, then tells us, “When you talk to your child about the Tooth Fairy, you’re actually telling them about a demon.” *

I thought we were giving kids a convenient explanation for why we take their teeth and replace them with small amounts of money.

Dollins also warns against Pokemon (because it encourages children to become “masters”, seems to involve cute little demons with occult powers, and may cause seizures), Sarah Coventry jewelry (“occult” designs), and role-playing games. “The more you get into the fantasy world, the more it seems real, and all of a sudden now you don’t know what’s real and what’s not,” he says without the faintest trace of irony.

Dollins actually wrote an entire book about the dangers of Harry Potter, Under the Spell of Harry Potter (Global Distributing Services, 2002). It’s not the only one, of course, but it does seem to contain the least amount of integrity. In the intro, Dollins quotes two young Harry Potter fans as “anonymous sources”, implying that these were children he personally interviewed. In reality, the quotes came directly from two San Francisco Chronicle articles, as pointed out by the pro-Potter website Dollins Debunked.

To sum it all up, there isn’t much to say about Mr. Dollins. He wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own Satanic cult mythos; he just recycled discredited stuff from the ’70s, threw in some weirdness about demonic fairies, and jumped on the anti-Harry Potter bandwagon with numerous other fundamentalists. He followed a script, laid down by Doreen Irvine in the early ’70s, that is now extremely familiar:

– A Dickensian childhood full of abuse, exploitation, and deprivation (Dollins skipped this step, as his adoptive parents were perfectly nice Christians).
– An early introduction to Jesus that would pave the way for salvation later in life
– An absence of time markers (the only two dates Dollins provides are the year of his introduction to devil worship and the date of his conversion to Christianity)
– Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (scripture, philosophy, etc.), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (sacrifice, crime, etc.). Dollins mentions absolutely no scripture at all, not even the fictional tome called The Great Mother that Warnke’s Brotherhood used.
– Helplessness. Rather than being led into Satanic evil through his/her bad choices, the protagonist is usually a naive and vulnerable innocent victimized, lured, or coerced into sin by more worldly people. Once ensnared, escape is impossible. Teenage Dollins was heavily dosed with drugs before being enticed into Satanism. He was just a nice, normal kid trying to finish a school assignment.
– Supernatural events and paranormal abilities are common. Demons and angels materialize, Satanists use death curses against their enemies, and sometimes Satan himself makes an appearance. Dollins caught the attention of Satanists because he possessed inherited supernatural powers, and later trained himself to physically summon demons.
– A remarkable conversion experience
– Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
– Expert advice on the occult. After sharing his/her testimony, the ex-witch or former Satanist gives us pointers on how to avoid occultism, prevent children from becoming involved in it, and/or how to expunge it from our communities. There are typically warnings about Ouija boards, Halloween, and occult literature. Or in Dollins’s case, fictional boy wizards and the freaking Tooth Fairy.


*
Please note that Dollins did not mention telling your kids about Tom Noonan. So feel free to do that.

Other "Former Satanists" of the ’80s

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The two men described below didn’t have the same impact as Lauren Stratford or Audrey Harper, but they contributed to the anti-occult hysteria of the late ’80s in their own corner of the world, Texas.

Ken McBride

Ken McBride’s only notable appearance on the anti-occult scene was his central role in an obscure straight-to-video documentary produced in 1989, Dave Roever Presents: Exposing the Satanic Web.
Roever is a Texas preacher, so the video focuses heavily on alleged Satanic crime in Texas, while trying to convince us that Satanism is a nation-wide scourge. McBride estimates there are 40,000 Satanists in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, not including witches and pagans. By 1990 census numbers, that would be over 1% of the population.

McBride, and everyone else in the video, believes that the recruitment of young people into violent forms of Satanic worship is taking place everywhere. No teenager is safe. Not even toddlers are safe; several times, children’s crayon drawings of “ritual abuse” are flashed on the screen while McBride or someone else relates anecdotes about Satanic crime.

McBride was supposedly in a Satanic cult from the late ’60s until the mid ’70s, for about seven years (between the ages of 21 and 28). He says he left Satanism fourteen years earlier (around 1975). He doesn’t give us any specifics about this cult. He just says their rituals would terrify outsiders, because no Hollywood film has accurately portrayed the full horror of Satanism (which must have been news to “former Illuminati witch” John Todd, who said The Dunwich Horror was an accurate portrayal of Satanic witchcraft).
Ken and his fellow Satanists had powers that would make Captain America look like a 3-year-old with a water pistol. They could spontaneously start fires and kill people by uttering a single word.
He doesn’t explicitly say this was witchcraft, but he does claim that just prior to a filming, a Wiccan told him he was afraid to leave the Craft because he feared the awesome power of the Satanists, implying that Wiccans and McBride’s Firestarters are one and the same (which is news to me, because the Wiccans of my acquaintance have to use matches and lighters). Or perhaps he’s implying that Satanists sit at the top of a religious pyramid, dominating earth religions that haven’t mastered the art of magical murder. Whichever scenario he’s laying out, it’s bullshit. No Wiccan is afraid to leave Wicca because a Satanist might retaliate against him, because the two belief systems are not interlinked.

He tells us that politicians, police officers, lawyers and Christian ministers secretly practice Satanism. The police cult members cover up occult crimes.
All Satanists use drugs. McBride says he can barely recall his seven years of hideous devil worship, because he was drunk and/or stoned on Percodan and Valium most of the time.
And then he blurts out something truly chilling: “You’re no longer dealing with human beings as you and I know them.”

McBride informs us Satanic crimes are occurring all the time, and are bound to increase (“Matamoros was just the beginning,” he says ominously). Unfortunately, those silly police detectives with their stoopit “forensic evidence” just don’t know how to spot an occult crime when it’s right under their faces. He gives the example of a murder victim who had “ZEN” written on her chest. “ZEN”, he says, is a bastardization of the name of the powerful demon Zaden. The police would know that if they weren’t so ignorant, if they would just put aside their little “crime scene analysis” for a damn minute and listen to people like Ken, who know what’s really going on in the world. Today, we hear the same complaint from “occult crime experts” like Dawn Perlmutter.

The thing is, there is no demon called Zaden. Zaden was a deity of ancient Georgia, one of those abandoned religious figures that could have appeared on Mencken’s list of forgotten gods. True, one culture’s gods often become another’s demons, but it’s quite a stretch to assume that when a twentieth-century murderer writes “zen”, he’s harkening back to an Iron Age fertility god. He could just be referring to, I dunno, maybe zen? (Incidentally, I can’t find any trace of an unsolved murder matching this description.)

So, to recap: Satanists are violent, drug-abusing, intimidating, immoral, corrupt, devious people who are barely even people. They can’t be trusted at all. Unless, of course, they claim to be born again in Christ. Then you must heed every word they say, even if they admit their memory has been grievously impaired by heavy drug and alcohol abuse, or you’ll be sorry. Your children will be sacrificing babies before you know it. All it takes is one heavy metal album, one Dungeons & Dragons session, one peace sign T-shirt…

Thankfully, McBride melted back into obscurity before Oprah or Geraldo caught wind of him.

Jerry Reider

Jerry Reider became known through an anti-occult organization called Exodus (not to be confused with the “ex-gay” ministry), which was founded in 1985 by San Antonio mother Yvonne Peterson. The group specialized in educating parents about the hazards of the occult, keeping teens away from Satanism and all its tentacles, and what Peterson referred to as “de-indoctrination” of Satanists. Exodus claimed that up to 60,000 Americans were being sacrificed to Satan every year, and presented testimony from several anonymous ritual abuse survivors who said they witnessed such sacrifices. Not one prosecution resulted from these anecdotal accounts.
Peterson makes a brief appearance in the video mentioned above, Dave Roever Presents: Exposing Satan’s Web.

Jerry Reider performed the same function for Exodus that “former black witches” Doreen Irvine and Audrey Harper did for the UK organization Reachout Trust later in the ’80s; he was the in-house reformed Satanist. As a two-for-one bonus, he was also a reformed heavy-metal musician who could warn kids away from Satanic rock.

Reider’s story is fairly simple: Sometimes in the ’70s, he got into Satanism via heavy metal. Then he married the high priestess of a Texas cult, who ritually sacrificed their infant daughter. And she got away with it, because Reider apparently never bothered to report this supposed crime.
Their cult (which Reider didn’t name) lured teens into their clutches with – what else? – sex and rock music.

Not only did Reider have difficulty remembering his time as a Satanist (thanks to drug use), he couldn’t even seem to remember his present. He claimed to be an ordained minister, but couldn’t recall his denomination or who had ordained him.

The Prodigal Witch VIII: "Elaine"

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The two-for-one account of Dr. Rebecca Brown and “Elaine” plays out like every B movie you’ve ever seen. Satanic nurses out for blood…a marriage to the Devil…snoozy Midwestern towns run by witches…a hospital showdown between the forces of light and darkness…

The “Elaine” hoax was wholly facilitated by our old friend Jack Chick, the same guy who incorporated John Todd‘s nonsense into comic books about a vast conspiracy of murderous Satanic witches, and continues to spread Bill Schnoebelen’s warnings about the occult dangers of Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I have yet to find a Chick source who wasn’t a hoaxer or crank. It’s like the man is allergic to accurate information.

So it isn’t hard to believe that in the mid-’80s, when two women approached Chick with a mind-boggling story of Satanic conspiracy and evil, he bought it wholesale.
The two women identified themselves as Elaine, the former high priestess of a Satanic cult based in Indiana, and Dr. Rebecca Brown, a GP who ran a small practice in the same state. Both women were in their late thirties.
Dr. Brown had been taking care of Elaine, emotionally and physically, since her escape from the cult. She was Elaine’s housemate, physician, protector, and spiritual mentor. Elaine suffered leukemia at this time, and was often confined to bed. They evidently felt it was essential to share Elaine’s story with the world before her time ran out, and Jack Chick was just the man to help them do it.

Elaine’s Story

Even by ex-witch standards, Elaine’s story was incredibly bizarre. It involved a literal marriage to Satan, summer camps where children were forcibly initiated into Satanic witchcraft, and nearly every form of diabolical misdeed imaginable. She was even schooled in the art of bomb-making by her Satanic superiors.

On examination, however, her testimony appears to be culled from all of the other stories we’ve seen so far in this series. The werewolves and the marriage to Satan come from Bill Schnoebelen. The witch camps are quite similar to the witch schools described by John Todd, and the notion that all rock musicians must sign themselves over to Satan comes straight from him. Elaine’s crowning as a witch queen perfectly mirrors Doreen Irvine‘s account. And according to Elaine, she belonged to The Brotherhood, the same cult Mike Warnke supposedly joined in the ’60s. She also claims The Brotherhood is described in Hal Lindsey’s 1972 book Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth. These are telling statements, because Hal Lindsey was of the belief that Warnke knew nothing about the real Satanic/Illuminati network, and Satan Is Alive and Well… described general trends in various forms of occultism, rather than a single cult.

Chick sold his audio interviews with Elaine and Brown as two cassette tapes, Closet Witches 1 and Closet Witches 2.

Typically, Elaine’s account contains virtually no time markers or specific names (not even her own), so verifying any of the events she describes would be a tough task. What we do know is that Elaine was born around 1947 to the Knost family of New Castle, Indiana. She spent most of her life in that area. (2)
Elaine said she was unwittingly bonded to Satan by her own mother when she was a small child, who offered up a tiny amount of Elaine’s blood in exchange for surgery to correct her cleft palate. A nurse told Mrs. Knost the blood would be used for experimental purposes, but it was actually used in a Satanic ceremony in which Elaine’s soul was “sold” to Satan without her knowledge. As we’ll see, this was just one part of a vast conspiracy involving Indiana hospitals.

Elaine did not have the same sort of dismal, abusive childhood described by most of the other ex-witches in this series; her life was normal and relatively carefree until her teen years. Sometime in the early or mid ’60s, she made the fateful decision to visit a “witch camp” with her friend Sandy. Though Elaine didn’t name this place, her description of it as a community of fortunetellers and psychics indicates it was probably Camp Chesterfield, Indiana. It was here, Elaine alleged, that she was initiated into the Satanic witch cult known as The Brotherhood (once again, a “former Satanist” fails to distinguish between Satanism and witchcraft). She refused to join at first, so the palm readers locked her in a closet and brainwashed her with an audio loop that told her Jesus was dead and Satan was king. (2)

Like Warnke, Doreen Irvine, and Bill Schnoebelen, Elaine signed herself over to Satan in blood without being fully aware of what she was getting herself into. This is quite different from real covens, in which initiates are required to have at least some rudimentary knowledge of the tradition to which they are pledging themselves.

Elaine got with the program right away, though. She devoted herself to occult study and rose quickly through the ranks of The Brotherhood (not as rapidly as Mike Warnke, of course; he became a high priest in about six months). She became a high priestess and was assigned a powerful demon guide called Man-Chan. She was appointed to the International Council of Witches. (2)
At some unspecified time, she took part in a national witchcraft competition and beat out all her opponents to become the cult’s “top witch”. This part of her testimony is nearly identical to Doreen Irvine’s story of winning a magical contest and being made “queen of the black witches of Europe” for one year.
In Irvine’s account, she was given a crown of “pure gold” and ensconced on a throne, with the other witches prostrated before her.
In Elaine’s account, a crown of gold was placed on her head and the other cult members “bowed down and gave homage” to her. (2)
The Brotherhood was like Irvine’s UK cult in that it focused primarily on subverting Christianity. Elaine and cohorts infiltrated Bible-believing churches and worked to undermine the faith of members. She and Brown described to Jack Chick how the first church Elaine attended after becoming a Christian was infiltrated and systematically destroyed by a high priest masquerading as a born-again believer. He lured the church’s members to weekly Bible studies with appeals to patriotism and godliness, then gradually undermined their religious faith until they were spiritually bankrupt. (3)

Even the brutal human sacrifices performed on each “Black Sabbath” centred around mockery of Christianity, taking the form of bloody crucifixions. Keep in mind that Mike Warnke witnessed no such rites as a high priest of The Brotherhood. (1)
In no other ways does Elaine’s alleged cult resemble Irvine’s. While Irvine remained in a life of heroin addiction and poverty, selling her body on the streets of London, Elaine was given royal treatment not unlike that supposedly experienced by Mike Warnke when he was a high priest of the Brotherhood in California. It’s interesting that the two never met, if they both held high positions in the same nation-wide cult and traveled widely to network with other members. They were even the same age (both graduated high school in 1965). Clearly, the left hand had no idea what the left hand was doing.

Elaine did have one thing in common with Irvine, though: Awesome superhero powers. Thanks to the protection of a demon horde, she could levitate, stop bullets in midair, turn animals into other animals, and astrally project herself anywhere in the world. She could beat up high school bullies nearly three times her size. She could even injure and kill people while out of her body, though she apparently attempted astral murder on only one occasion. She and the other out-of-body witches were prevented from harming their intended victim by a perimeter guard of angels.

Who had the witches been intending to kill? Jack Chick, of course. Satan viewed his comic books and mass-produced tracts as serious threats to his empire.
So, yeah. Um, the Devil apparently reads Christian comic books. (3)

Warnke was booted from The Brotherhood for being a paranoid speed freak in ’66, while Elaine’s Satanic star continued to rise. She was such a special specimen that her higher-ups (the Illuminati?) selected her for the ultimate honor: Getting hitched to Satan.

According to Elaine, there are five to ten Regional Brides of Satan within the U.S. at any given time. It’s a very great honor for a high priestess.
We don’t know when this marriage occurred. As researchers would later learn, Elaine was married to a human in 1966, when she was 19 years old, and divorced him the following year. The marriage to Satan presumably occurred after this. (1)

The Devil manifested as a normal-looking dude for the wedding, and rented a Presbyterian church in which to hold the ceremony. If this makes any sense, let me know.
For irony’s sake, apparently, the groom wore a white tux and Elaine wore a white dress.

After the honeymoon, Elaine’s status in the league of Satan naturally rose. She became her husband’s official delegate to the Vatican (where she met personally with the Pope), oversaw international arms deals, traveled to the Far and Near East, and met with associates in Mecca and Israel. This indicates that the Brotherhood was organized on an international level, at the very highest levels of government, which is somewhat at odds with Warnke’s description of a nationally-organized cult controlled mostly by witches.
Elaine also met with many rock musicians to oversee the signing of their pacts with Satan, just as John Todd described. (2)
Weirdly, though, Elaine didn’t mention the Illuminati, which Warnke identified as the power behind The Brotherhood.

Elaine’s dramatic conversion story, like her dramatic Satanic initiation story, is nearly identical to Doreen Irvine’s. She entered a Christian church in order to infiltrate it, but the spiritual power of the congregation was so strong that Elaine’s demons tried to get her out the door as quickly as possible. They were too late. Elaine had already read a Chick tract (The Contract!), and now fully understood that her pact with Satan was null and void. She was saved. (3)

Elaine’s relationship with Satan was more or less over by 1980. He was so furious over her betrayal that he cursed her with a serious illness. She was admitted to Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie and made the acquaintance of Dr. Rebecca Brown, a GP who was busily combating the powers of darkness in and around Muncie.

Brown immediately sensed that Elaine was surrounded by a demonic presence, and demanded to know if she had been involved in witchcraft.
Eventually, after Dr. Brown had earned her trust, Elaine told her all about her cult experiences and expressed a desire to break away from the Satanists. She said her (human) husband, also a member of the cult, had recently abandoned her and their mentally disabled daughter, Claudia. This was not true; she had divorced in 1967.

While she was in hospital, the Satanists tried to kill Elaine by slipping Pavulon into her IV. Fortunately, God informed Brown of this plot. She and a doctor were able to save Elaine just in time.
Brown discovered “firebombs” resembling dynamite inside her stereo, her car, and even her phone. Elaine showed her how to dismantle them. God also warned Brown that her food and coffee were being poisoned by other hospital staffers, and on some occasions miraculously removed the poison. A nurse later confessed she was in on the poisoning plot, and expressed amazement that Brown had survived after eating a poisoned lunch. (4)

After Elaine’s release, she and Brown both received a letter from the cult, indicating that their every move was being observed. If they didn’t cease their anti-cult activities, the writers warned, they would be ritually sacrificed at an Eastertime Black Mass. Neither woman reported her threatening letter to the police, because they knew the chief of police (along with the mayor of Muncie and other public officials) worshiped Satan.

Dr. Brown was a Christian, so she prayed for guidance on how to deal with Elaine’s situation. God immediately told her to take Elaine and 12-year-old Claudia into her home, warning her that Elaine would kill herself rather than surrender to the cult. Though Elaine had embraced Christianity, her faith was still too fragile to give her the strength she needed to stand up against a powerful coalition of Satanists who wouldn’t tolerate defectors. As we’ve seen, John Todd and Mike Warnke both had to dodge a few bullets after betraying the Satanists, while Irvine and other ex-witches faced no repercussions at all. These “well-organized” Satanists are anything but consistent.

Brown then became a one-woman conversion machine, operating a sort of underground railroad for former Satanists. She claimed to have saved about 1000 witches from murderous covens in the first half of the ’80s. Her greatest success story, however, remained Elaine and Claudia.
They persisted in their mission even though the Brotherhood tried everything in its power to frighten the two women into silence, including breaking into Brown’s home and slaughtering all their pets.
They bravely revealed that Catholics and Freemasons are devil-worshipers, that Dungeons & Dragons is Satan’s favourite game, and that Eastern religious practices like yoga are of the Devil. Never mind that every other ex-Satanist in this series said the exact same things around the exact same time.
Elaine may have been unique in her relationship to Satan, but everything else she said was boilerplate anti-occult stuff. Chick had already churned out a multitude of tracts and comic books dealing with these subjects. Still, he was so awed by Brown and Elaine’s story that his Chick Publications printed two books by Brown, He Came to Set the Captives Free (1986) and Prepare for War (1987). The first book detailed Elaine’s years as a Satanic witch and her rebirth in Christ, while the second served as a manual on how to combat the Satanic menace with spiritual warfare. He Came to Set the Captives Free contains some truly bizarre scenes, like Brown’s encounter with a talking werewolf. Prepare for War is full of weird anecdotes about all the ways people can become afflicted by demons, as well as the reasons why Catholicism is actually a form of witchcraft.
Brown’s later books deal extensively with purging or blessing demonically-infested “unclean objects” (geisha paintings, role-playing games, tattoos, museum exhibits, certain hairdos, secondhand items, the citizenship papers of ancestors, rosaries, etc.). This preoccupation with transmitted evil is sometimes referred to as “curse theology”. It offers a profoundly paranoid and negative view of the world, in which most cultural and religious artifacts that aren’t Christian are vessels of the demonic.

Chick also incorporated Elaine’s information into several of his comic book tracts: The Poor Little Witch, Why No Revival?, Satan’s Master.
In Poor Little Witch (1987), an outcast named Mandy is lured into witchcraft by one of her schoolteachers. She learns to cast spells by the power of “Bruth”, and witnesses the ritual murder of a baby “especially conceived” for sacrifice. She is told the chief of police is a Satanist. Meanwhile, the local church the schoolteacher attends turns out to be a Satanic coven in disguise. Its members are able to manipulate and exploit their new pastor, Reverend Smiley, because he isn’t a fundamentalist. Mandy runs to this church for help, but of course Smiley is in the pocket of the witch-cult and turns her away. So she seeks help from a former witch, Mrs. Grayson (who somewhat resembles Rebecca Brown). Grayson attends a real church, of the Bible-based storefront variety. Its members are able to save Mandy’s soul in just three panels.
Why No Revival? (1986) contains this note: “Most churches have been successfully infiltrated by witches.” This reflects claims made by both Elaine and Bill Schnoebelen.

In 1987, Brown and Elaine appeared on one of Geraldo Rivera’s shows about Satanism. Perhaps significantly, they were not included in his ’89 special Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground. By that time, the most popular ex-Satanist testimony was that of “Lauren Stratford”. She’ll be the subject of the next post in this series.

Brown’s books appealed strongly to daytime TV viewers and Chick’s target audience (naive, slightly paranoid Christians of the fundamentalist strain). Outside those circles, however, they raised deep skepticism in readers.

Part II: Dr. Brown’s Story and the Exposure of “Elaine” and Brown

Sources:

1. “Drugs, Demons, and Delusions: The ‘Amazing’ Saga of Dr. Rebecca Brown” by by G. Richard Fisher, Paul R. Blizard and M. Kurt Goedelman. Originally published in The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach. Vol. 9, No. 4, October-December 1989. (reposted @ Cult Help and Information)
2. He Came to Set the Captives Free by Rebecca Brown, M.D. (Chick Publications. Chino, Calif., 1986)
3. Closet Witches summary @ Monsterwax.com (reposted @ James Japan’s homepage). Retrieved June 25/11.
4. Prepare for Warby Rebecca Brown, M.D. (Chick Publications, Chino, Calif., 1987)