Date: 09 Mar 1998
Memories are fragile things. We like to think that if we remember something it obviously happened, but if you've ever filed a police report you know that when five different people observe the same event, they'll remember five different things.
On top of this, there's the phenomenon of false memories. Ever been completely sure you turned the oven off, and then come to find you didn't? That's a false memory -- and they're not limited to things as trivial as on-off switches.
Recent psychological experiments have shown that human memory is fragile and can be manipulated and faked with little or no effort. Children are the most susceptible to false memories. In one experiment, small children watched Mr. X come in a room and remove a toy. The experimenter asked them who took the toy. Every single time, the children could name the "thief". Then the experimenter told them that they were wrong -- Mr. X had not taken the toy, Mrs. Y had. Children have such great faith in adults that for many, this mere assertion was stronger than their memories. Later interviews showed that approximately half of these children "remembered" seeing Mrs. Y take the toy.
Adults are better, but still not safe. In another experiment, researchers invented false "events" -- a 7th birthday party, say, where someone dropped the birthday cake on the floor. They contacted the family members of their test subject, told them of the false story, and asked them to insist that they remembered it happening. Then the entire family was brought in for other, unrelated testing. During this, the experimenter asked the subject if he remembered the time his birthday cake got dropped at his 7th birthday. Of course, no one did -- it never happened. Then the other family members would chime in and talk about this "event". They seemed surprised that the test subject could not remember this, since it had upset him at the time. By the end of the experiment, approximately one third of adult test subjects "remembered" these fictional events. For some, the memory was so strong they refused to believe the experimenter when he told them it was invented.
That's all it takes to falsify memories. Not brain-washing. Not CIA agents and glaring lights. Just an inept questioner, or a strong need to "remember", or an insecure child/person who wishes to agree with authority figures.
This becomes critically important when we consider the reliability of claims of "Satanic Ritual Abuse" survivors. Satanism "experts" admit a very chilling fact: almost no one remembers being abused by a coven of devil-worshippers *before* they go to therapy. *After* therapy, they have lengthy and elaborate memories of these events. Memories, I might add, that often bear a haunting resemblence to the plots of recent horror movies or the most recent best-selling book on Satanic cults.
If you look closely at the techniques that SRA counsellors use to "recover" hidden memories of Satanic abuse, you'll find they're the exact same methods that psychologists have found to be the most successful ones for creating false memories. And, coincidentally enough, some are techniques used by the Inquisition and other Witch hunters of the Burning Times.
1) Focus on children. Children's memories are the most fragile, the most easily manipulated. Therefore children have long been the staple of Witch hunters. We're all familiar with the possessed girls of Salem. During Sweden's greatest panic, the Blockula craze, most of the evidence against the "Witches" came from the dreams of small children. Same thing happened in the Basque Dream Epidemic, the largest craze of all times. Today, SRA counselors focus on youngsters and tell us we should "Believe the Children".
2) Use leading questions. Many people in the Burning Times didn't know what Witches were "supposed" to do. Therefore in order to produce detailed confessions, Witch hunters had to use leading questions -- questions that suggest the "right" answer. For instance, instead of asking, "What happened Saturday night?" they'd ask "You went to a sabbat Saturday, didn't you?" Psychologists have found that this type of questioning frequently makes people "remember" things that never happened. And leading questions are used by most SRA counselors.
George Greaves ("Alternative Hypotheses Regarding Claims of Satanic Cult Activity: A Critical Analysis") gives this example of bad questioning:
Therapist: Were there many people there?
T: Were there exactly thirteen?
T: Was there an altar?
T: Was there a circle?
T: Was the circle exactly nine feet in diameter?
T: How do you know?
P: Because that's how big it was supposed to be.
T: Were there red candles during this ceremony.
T: Was a baby sacrificed?
T: Were you required to drink urine during this ceremony?
During the Burning Times, this is exactly what badly run trials were like. Witch hunters had lists of yes/no questions. They ran down them, recording whether the Witch answered "correctly" or not. When there were "incorrect" answers, they tortured them until they gave the "correst" response. We don't use torture today (though in some cases children are bullied when they give the "wrong" answer -- they're told that they're dummies and chickens, and that a smart children would remember the "correct" answer...)
3) Creative imagining. This is one technique that doesn't have an echo in the Burning Times -- but it's far and away the best technique for creating false memories. Suspected ritual abuse "victims" are encouraged to imagine what it would be like to be the victim of ritual abuse. The more they imagine it, the more likely they are to "remember" it really happening. However psychologists have found that this is also the best way to create false memories -- the more time you spend imagining something, the more real it seems.
So, SRA counselors use techniques that can frequently create false memories. But how does this start? Why would people who don't remember being abused go through all of this? That's even scarier -- as I'll tell you tomorrow in the tale of my adventures with the "Signs and Symptoms of Ritualistic Abuse in Children" diagnostic test. (Or, how Your Humble Narrator discovered that she was almost undoubtedly the victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse.)