PHOTO CAPTION: "Detail of the cover of Michelle Remembers, which kickstarted a global panic that scores of children were being murdered by underground Satanist cults. "
GIST: "A two-decade nightmare just ended for Texas’ Dan and Fran Keller. The couple, who owned a daycare, spent 22 years in prison on the utterly baseless charges that they had served blood to children under their care, forced them to witness infant murders and flown them to Mexico to be raped by soldiers. Although they were released in 2013, only this week was the couple officially declared innocent and granted $3.4 million USD from a state fund. “No more nightmares,” said Fran Keller, now 67. And the Kellers’ case was not unique. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, hundreds if not thousands of other innocent people would fall to varying degrees of similar fates. British Prime Minister Edward Heath was falsely accused of being a member of an underground cult that murdered and ate 16 children. A California daycare was shut down and its staff arrested after police received false reports that children had been forced to witness ritualistic killings of animals and babies. In the small town of Martensville, Saskatchewan, more than a dozen people were formally charged as the members of a Satanic cult that locked children in cages and forced them to witness brutal murders.
There wasn’t a lick of proof to back up any of this: No photos, no guilt-ridden former Satanists stepping forward to confess their crimes, no forensic evidence of the thousands of purported human sacrifices murdered by these cults. It was, quite simply, a case of temporary global insanity. And it all started with a single lurid Canadian book. “You never see him all at once—he’s always distorted and he’s not quite substantial, more like a vapor … It turns to look at me and it’s all uhhh l-l-l-like all black …I’m scared! Scared. I’m scared!” goes the passage in Michelle Remembers describing Michelle Smith’s encounter with Satan. Published in 1980 and written by Smith’s psychiatrist, Lawrence Pazder, it is the purported “true story” of Smith’s childhood as the prisoner of a Satanic cult in Victoria in the mid-1950s. The entire book comes from 600 hours of Smith’s testimony in Pazder’s office, delivered in the voice of a child while she was in a trance-like state. In halting half-sentences, Smith told Pazder of being driven into a Satanic cult by her mother at five years old. “You’re not mine anymore, Michelle. You belong to the Devil,” her mother reportedly says. Over months of imprisonment, she is forced to drink urine, eat cannibalized flesh, bathe in the blood of dismembered babies, participate in ritual murders and endure a cage filled with snakes and spiders. In the climax, Smith encounters Satan himself in a “Feast of the Beast” organized by her oppressors, but is ultimately saved by the direct intervention of the Virgin Mary. The book even came complete with a statement from Remi De Roo, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Victoria. “I do not question that for Michelle this experience was real,” wrote De Roo. But in a chilling warning, De Roo added “in such mysterious matters, hasty conclusions could prove unwise.” Unfortunately, the world quickly decided not to take De Roo’s advice. What followed is now known to history as the “satanic ritual abuse” panic. Soon, hundreds of similar “Michelles” across the Western world were similarly recalling bone-chilling details of Satanic ritual murder and abuse. It would largely be the fault of a phenomenon known as “false memory syndrome,” in which patients under hypnosis can be led into fabricating elaborate false memories. Parents. Daycare providers. Teachers. Police officers. Nobody was safe from the sudden accusation that they were guilty of unspeakable crimes. A common investigative pattern emerged. Children suspected of being Satanic abuse victims would be interviewed and asked leading questions by investigators. As the number and intensity of the interviews progressed, children were led into delivering ever-more elaborate stories of witchcraft, blood-drinking, secret tunnels and ritual murder. In one case in Rochdale, England, all it took was a small boy to tell his teachers he had been dreaming of ghosts. Soon, social service workers were taking children from their parents in the misguided belief that they were breaking up a Satanist abuse ring. “One afternoon in 1990 I got a call from my wife telling me our three kids had been taken away because of witchcraft and satanic abuse … I still can’t believe this has happened,” one of the parents, John Herstell, told the Guardian in 2006.......Read on (at the link below) to learn the effect of the panic on its victims - like Fran and Dan Keller -  and how,  "In the wake of so many false accusations, law enforcement had to completely rewrite their procedures for identifying and investigating legitimate child abuse cases. No longer could the mere testimony of a child be trusted." My favourite line in the article: "But if there’s one positive legacy of Michelle Remembers, it’s to serve as a guide to everything a psychiatrist should not do."

The entire story can be found at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.