Some proponents of the Demonic Hypothesis of UFO have made a big deal about a study presented on the third night of an MIT (yes, THAT MIT) alien abduction conference held June 13-17, 1992. During that conference, California therapist Gwen Dean noted forty-four parallels between alien abduction and Satanic ritual abuse (SRA).
According to CDB Bryan’s Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T., Dean began her presentation by saying, “Although there is no satisfactory definition of ritual abuse, there are striking similarities between accounts of ritual abuse and alien abductions.”
Let’s stop right there. If there’s no satisfactory definition of ritual abuse, how can we know we’re accurately comparing it to anything else? Just saying.
She then threw a transparency on the overhead projector.
She claimed to have found 44 parallels between the two phenomena.
The next day (according to Bryan), religious historian J. Gordon Melton remarked, “Satanic ritual abuse stories and alien abduction stories emerged at approximately the same time. And there are a number of parallels. The format of retrieved memories is similar.”
Think about that. Both emerged as widespread phenomena in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and both often use hypnosis to recover lost or suppressed memories. The scenarios and narratives offered by alleged abductees and SRA victims feature similar elements. Are they related?
Proponents of the Demonic Hypothesis of UFO overwhelmingly concur that they do. By the end of this article, they may regret that opinion.
For those not familiar with the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) phenomenon or the more general term Satanic Panic, I offer this summary in the form of the back cover text of Jeffrey S. Victor’s Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend:
“Again and again we are told — by journalists, police and fundamentalists — that there exists a secret network of criminal fanatics, worshippers of Satan, who are responsible for kidnapping, human sacrifice, sexual abuse and torture of children, drug-dealing, mutilation of animals, desecration of churches and cemeteries, pornography, heavy metal lyrics and cannibalism. This popular tale is almost entirely without foundation, but the legend continues to gather momentum, in the teeth of evidence and good sense. Networks of “child advocates,” credulous or self-serving social workers, instant-expert police officers and unscrupulous ministers of religion help to spread the panic, along with fabricated survivors’ memoirs passed off as true accounts and irresponsible broadcast “investigations.” A classic witch-hunt, comparable to those of medieval Europe, is under way.”
A more detailed synopsis of this moral panic that swept the US in the 70s and 80s can be read here: https://www.vox.com/2016/10/30/13413864/satanic-panic-ritual-abuse-history-explained
Here is the takeaway.
It’s two primary sourcebooks, the Satan Seller by Christian comedian Mike Warnke and Michelle Remembers by Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his psychiatric patient and later wife Michelle Smith, have been thoroughly discredited.
Despite a plethora of religious and clinical experts, government, citizen and police task forces, myriad court cases, and a whole lotta hype, the FBI’s January 1992 Lanning Report determined that there was no evidence for the existence of Satanic Ritual Abuse except perhaps as a psychological phenomenon. Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth V Lanning concluded:
“Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the public should not be frightened into believing that babies are being bred and eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being murdered in human sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over America’s day care centers or institutions. No one can prove with absolute certainty that such activity has NOT occurred. The burden of proof, however, as it would be in a criminal prosecution, is on those who claim that it has occurred. The explanation that the satanists are too organized and law enforcement is too incompetent only goes so far in explaining the lack of evidence. For at least eight years American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating the allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is little or no evidence for the portion of their allegations that deals with large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies. Now it is up to mental health professionals, not law enforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don’t seem to have happened.”
So with these lovely facts in mind, let’s, um, look at those parallels between SRA and alien abduction accounts.
Everyone admits that SRA and alien abduction phenomena both began around the same time; furthermore, the alleged incidents are most often recalled through hypnosis.
Hypnosis is problematic, at best. Many experts concur that hypnosis makes someone suggestible. For example, Fred Frankel, at the time a Harvard Medical School professor and psychiatrist-in-chief at Boston’s Beth Israel hospital, stated:
“Hypnosis helps you regain memories that you would not have otherwise recalled… But some will be true, and some will be false. The expectation of the hypnotist and the expectation of the person who is going to be hypnotized can influence the result.”
Dr. Jacques Vallee believes that hypnosis can create “abductees”:
“I think that the way abductions are being handled is wrong. It’s not only wrong scientifically, it’s wrong morally and ethically. I’ve been telling people, don’t let anyone hypnotize you if you’ve seen a strange light in the sky. I think a lot of those people prominent in the press and in the National Enquirer and in the talk shows and so on are creating abductees under hypnosis. They are hypnotizing everybody who’s ever had a strange experience and telling them they are abductees by suggestion. And they are doing that in good faith. They don’t realize what they are doing. But to my way of thinking, that’s unethical.”
It is interesting that Dr. Gwen Dean herself was once accused of creating a Satanic Ritual Abuse victim through hypnosis. The allegation was published in an article called “County Panel Scrutinized for Satanic Claims,” appearing in the Sunday, December 13, 1992 edition of the LA Times.
The article concerns criticism of the Ritual Abuse Task Force of Los Angeles County, which reads in part:
“Some blame therapists for spreading the cult story. They say a group of therapists became fascinated several years ago with the phenomenon of multiple personality and proceeded to discover it in their patients. They then attributed it to brainwashing satanists who were so sophisticated that they could expunge memories and program the unwilling to have children for Satan.
“Our hypothesis is, many of these people may be making suggestions” to vulnerable patients, said Pamela Freyd, executive director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia.
The foundation began operating in March and has received 2,000 calls from parents who claim that they were falsely accused by their children of ritual abuse. The largest percentage, 315 calls, came from California…
Some critics charge that the task force has caused harm to people by spreading false stories of satanic abuse.
A Redondo Beach woman, Carol Conaway, said her family was nearly ruined by a therapist with the task force who said several family members were multiple personality victims.
Conaway also said therapist Gwen Dean influenced her son to identify her husband as a high priest of a satanic cult and hospitalized her husband and son.
“This task force operates in an environment of total paranoia,” Conaway said.
Dean, a marriage and family counselor, denied the allegations, saying she did not diagnose the family. She said the satanic abuse allegations were raised by a family member, not her. She also said Conaway has a vendetta against her.
“This woman is out to destroy my practice and out to destroy me,” Dean said. She said Conaway has spurred an investigation by the State Board of Behavioral Science.
Kathleen Callanan, executive officer of the board, which oversees marriage and family counselors and clinical social workers, said she could not comment on the investigation, but said reports of therapists planting suggestions in patients is “a matter of concern.”
Please note that the accusation of suggesting SRA to the child of Carol Conaway occurred in the very same year Gwen Dean presented her list of 44 parallels between SRA and alien abduction.
It is here that we add the 45th and most important parallel between Satanic Ritual Abuse and Alien Abduction: People alleging “things that don’t seem to have happened.” Or more bluntly, No evidence anything really objectively happened.
Perhaps we could add a 46th parallel: the phenomena is made out to be much bigger than it is.