The "Satanic scare" of the 1980s

Post Office Box 470307, San Francisco, CA 94147

March 26, 1993CE

The "Satanic scare" of the 1980s

In 1980 a Canadian psychiatrist named Lawrence Pazder published Michelle Remembers, a book in which his client / wife Michelle Smith alleged that (a) as a child she had been sexually abused by Satanists and (b) because the experience had been so traumatic, she had repressed all memory of it until Pazder's "therapy" revived it.

On September 30, 1990 London's Mail on Sunday newspaper, as the result of extensive investigation into Smith's background - to include interviews with her father, her first husband, her neighbors, and Canadian occult historians of the 1950s - exposed the book as a fraud. But in the intervening ten years Michelle Remembers inspired a devastating epidemic of copycat accusations directed against legitimate Satanists, non-Satanic occultists, and many other innocent people who had nothing whatever to do with the occult.

A secondary theme - Satanic preying upon children in day-care facilities - was invented by Judy Johnson, a woman diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia by the UC Irvine Medical Center, when in 1983 she alleged that Michelle-style "Satanic sex rituals" had been practiced on her child at the McMartin Preschool in Los Angeles. A witch-hunt, swollen with zealous prosecutors and abuse- finding "therapists", commenced which again provided inspiration for a flood of similar accusations, witch-hunts, massive financial claims, and publicity posturing across the United States. Johnson's role was quickly forgotten. Four months before the McMartin trial started in 1987, police found her lying naked and face-down in her son's bedroom, dead of an alcoholism-related liver disease - her phone off the hook and the Yellow Pages opened to "Liquor Stores". (Los Angles Magazine, October 1989).

A third theme - that of being used as a "breeder" for Satanic- sacrifice children - was most widely sensationalized by a woman named Lauren Stratford in her 1988 book Satan's Underground. Later Stratford's book was exposed as a fabrication by the Christian magazine Cornerstone, but by then the nation abounded with self- proclaimed "breeders".

Professional "ex-Satanist" and fundamentalist evangelist Mike Warnke jumped on the latest bandwagon to claim that in his "Satanic high priest" days he had seen such "Satanic crime" firsthand. In 1992 Cornerstone and the Lexington Herald-Leader exposed Warnke's "Satanic past" as a complete fabrication, and the "ministry" he had built upon it was tax-exemption-revoked and placed under investigation by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

When evaluating the "Satanic crime" myth of the 1980s, one must bear in mind that before Michelle Remembers there was no "Satanic child abuse" - no "Satanic survivors" - no "Satanic breeders" - at all. The 1980s' epidemic of accusations, "recollections", and persecutions was built upon nothing but opportunism, greed, and ignorance. It was simply the latest "urban myth" to follow bigfoot, flying saucers, and Elvis-alive - with one difference: It was not funny. Great numbers of innocent people, including hundreds of children scarred by grotesque sex-indoctrination "therapy" - were the tragic victims.

Modern Satanism and Witchcraft

Prior to the Michelle Remembers epidemic a wide variety of non- traditional religions had flourished in the United States and abroad, among these Satanism (sometimes called "black witchcraft") and Wicca (sometimes called "white witchcraft").

Satanism as an organized, codified religion did not exist before 1966, when Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan. This institution functioned until 1975, when its organizational structure and international membership were replaced by those of the Temple of Set. The Church of Satan considered itself not an inversion of Christian ideal values, but rather an expose of Christian institutional corruption and a laboratory for a new sense of individual responsibility. The Temple of Set emphasized and developed the concept of personal evolution while disassociating its symbolism and iconography entirely from those of Judaeo / Christianity.

Wicca was never represented by a single institution, but came into being in the mid-1960s as the result of interest in the European pagan-history speculations of Gerald Gardner and Margaret Murray. Wiccans considered themselves as nature-worshippers and disclaimed any Christian association or symbolism whatever.

From the outset Satanists and Wiccans generally didn't like one another and avoided interaction.

Satanists considered Wiccans as naive, hypocritical dilettantes who exploit the sinister glamor of the term "witch" but shrink from offending Christian society by acknowledging its Satanic origin or connotation.

Wiccans considered Satanists as occultists who have "gone to dangerous extremes" and "played into the hands of fundamentalists by deliberately flaunting Christianity's evil-terminology".

Fundamentalist Christians cdn't have cared less about such distinctions, but considered all occultism - by which they mean anything not fundamentalist Christian - to be "evil from the Devil" and deserving of persecution and extermination. The Michelle- inspired myth gave them a golden opportunity to launch such a pogrom.

Although as acknowledged Satanists the Temple of Set bore the brunt of the fundamentalist attack, Wiccans quickly learned that they were hated and targeted just as much by fundamentalists. This climate of persecution forced the Setian / Satanic and Wiccan / neopagan communities into a necessary if uneasy alliance in which doctrinal distinctions were set aside in favor of cooperation against the common fundamentalist threat. Cooperative efforts such as the Alliance of Magical and Earth Religions (AMER) did much to expose and discredit the fundamentalist agenda.

Not all Wiccan groups approved of such a joint effort, the common threat notwithstanding. The Wiccan Church of All Worlds sought rather to serve up Satanism as a sacrifice to the fundamentalists, hoping thereby to appease them. In 1989 CAW issued its Witchcraft, Satanism & Occult Crime booklet, endorsing the fundamentalist hate- stereotype of Satanism while vehemently disassociating Wicca / neopaganism from this same stereotype. The booklet quickly gained a reputation as the classic model for a cowardly sell-out to the forces of fundamentalist intolerance.

Somehow the Temple of Set was not consulted for the preparation of the first four editions of this booklet. Editor Tim "Otter G'Zell" Zell now tries to alibi this with the excuse tht the time he "had no contact" with the Temple - although its address was public knowledge and very easy to find. [In the case of the 4th edition, Zell cited two of its office addresses dating back to 1987 inside the back cover.]

Instead "a brief history of Satanism" was written by one "Reverend" Donald Frew, a "Wiccan Priest and Elder". Although it was not mentioned in the booklet, Zell asserted privately that Frew had a "past connection with the Church of Satan". 1966-75 membership records of the Church dt include Frew's name as either a Priest nor a member, nor was he ever mentioned in its Cloven Hoof newsletter. His "history" compares favorably with Geraldo Rivera for accuracy, objectivity, and depth of research - which managed not to include contact with the Temple of Set either. It's amazing how difficult we are to find.

An inflammatory "cult danger evaluation frame" by Isaac Bonewits was included in and promoted by the booklet. Again not mentioned in the booklet, Bonewits was an early member of the Church of Satan who was thrown out of it in disgrace by Anton LaVey and thereafter embarked on a personal vendetta of self-justification and misrepresentation of LaVey and the C / S. In 1991 Bonewits wrote a venomous article for Zell's Green Egg magazine emphasizing the "sacrifice Satanism to the fundamentalists" theme to its Wiccan target audience. Once again Zell somehow neglected to mention Bonewits' past C / S involvement, disgrace, and expulsion.

Zell's "glossary of witchcraft, paganism, and the occult" uniformly paints Wiccan terms in the most rosy pastels, and just as uniformly gives Setian / Satanic terms their most Christianized, negative, and destructive connotations.

The Michelle-theme of "adult survivors of ritual abuse" is pandered to by the ludicrous, degrading "volunteering" of assorted Wiccans to provide "therapy" to such "survivors" in yet another "Do- it-to-them-not-us!" plea for fundamentalist mercy from a 1988 CAW- convention. Although the medical term "Multiple Personality Disorder" (MPD) has been vulgarly misappropriated and distorted by Michelle-exploiters as a further v for their scam, Zell endorses this farcical tabloid-trash by promoting it in the booklet as well.

A particularly charming grotesquerie of the booklet is a June 1989 letter from Sandi Gallant, affirming that Satanism and neopaganism may not be criminal after all. Gallant neglects to mention that, more than any other single person in the United States, she was the original "cult cop" who not only promoted the Michelle-hysteria in the early 1980s but also privately profited from it by the active merchandising of lectures and video / audio-tapes exploiting the theme. At the time Gallant wrote the letter for Zell, she was under investigation by the San Francisco Police Commission's Office of Citizen Complaints for deliberately creating a distorted and defamatory image of Satanism to both law enforcement and the public, a finding which was formally sustained by the OCC on November 22, 1989.

The booklet finales with Wicca-not-Satanism endorsements from a Christian theologian from the University of Southern California, the United Campus Ministry Colorado State University, and yet another "Satanic ritual abuse survivor". It is difficult to judge which of the three is the most comical.

But at least as bizarre is Zell's 1993 invitation to the Temple of Set to legitimize this obscene booklet by participating in it and "noting whatever changes you would like to see made in the various references to Satanism ... your recommendations will receive serious attention." w that the Michelle-scam - aided, abetted, and commercially exploited by Zell's booklet for four years - has finally been exposed and discredited nationwide, not just by the Temple of Set and reputable occult scholars but also by such authoritative / disinterested sources as the FBI (Investigator's Guide to Allegations of "Ritual" Child Abuse, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, 1992), Zell wants to be buddies. "I can understand that some of the references to Satanism would not sit well with you."

The Temple of Set, grateful for Zell's notice, is accordingly pleased to contribute this letter [only] to the fifth edition of his booklet.

Go Back to Shy David's Satanic Hysteria Page.