Magonia 39, April 1991
The Rochdale 'Satanic Abuse Case' refered to in the last issue of Magonia, in which seventeen children were taken into care has ended with a court hearing after which all the children were returned to their parents, except one where a suspicion of non-ritual child abuse still existed. Although the hearings were held in private, the verdict of the judge as published contained some interesting information.
The case had begun when a child in school had told stories of ghosts and knowing of a 'ghost family' who gave him a drink which made him fly. Later tales had apparently included one involving "a monster with a big eye" and even a very UFO abductee-like tale of floating out of a window to meet beings in silver clothes.
The judge ascribed such tales to the viewing of horror videos by the children. Without having heard the proceedings it is hard to know what evidence there was for such a suggestion, which seems quite plausible. However, playground rumours of sinister and supernatural events are much older than videos. A 1954 case in which a mob of children invaded a Glasgow cemetery to do battle with "a vampire with iron teeth" was at the time blamed on the influence of horror-comics. Indeed, screaming skulls and the like are long established themes of oral tradition, and it may be that in some communities such traditions are more active than many realise. In particular a figure mentioned by one of the Rochdale children, 'The Black Ghost of Huddersfield', seems straight out of the world of 18th century chap-books.
A figure mentioned by one of the Rochdale children, 'The Black Ghost of
seems straight out of the world of
18th century chap-books
It was also revealed at the hearing that the parents of the child with whom the tales had begun had some years earlier reported the presence of a poltergeist in their council flat. This had been exorcised by a clergyman. While this seems unlikely behaviour for Satanists it does indicate how easily the type of stories told in Rochdale may be transferred from one frame of reference to another. It might also give pause to those clergy who are prepared to give credence to exorcism and tales of Satanism.
The process whereby such tales develop is illustrated by two newspaper items that have appeared recently. The Guardian (20 February 1990) quotes extracts from the diaries of the children in the Nottingham case. Although the writers accept the reality of Satanist abuse, the diary extracts printed suggest the nightmares of children traumatised by non-ritual sex abuse are being moulded into something more plausible. Thus at one point a child describes witches pouring blood into a jug, and adds "they have a lion in there. It jumps at us." The foster parent expresses disbelief, and when the child returns to the subject of the lion two weeks later she adds: "It's a person dressed up". The article states also that a girl in the Nottingham case who claims to have had her stomach cut open in a Satanic ritual, but says nothing about the claims of the Nottinghamshire police that these scars had in fact been traced to an early childhood stomach operation. (Peter Rogerson has suggested that some Satanic abuse stories and some abduction reports may be related to the traumatic effects of hospitalisation on young children
A rather different account of an investigation appeared in the Independent on Sunday (30 December 1990) describing the story of Caroline Marchant, a young woman from a disturbed background who became a member of an evangelical Christian group. She told members of the group a series of grotesque tales about her previous involvement with Satanic human sacrifice, 'snuff movies' (which incidentally have all the characteristics of another contemporary myth), gun runners, the IRA and the Baader-Meinhoff gang. These fantasies were taken seriously by the anti-Satanist Christian group ReachOut who offered Caroline their own 'counselling'. When this took the form of a letter telling her she was 'an instrument of death, murder and destruction" and instructing her to confess her sins or wander the earth like Cain, she committed suicide.
In spite of this article Reachout still seems to be taken seriously, merely by other Christians, but by some social workers. Its influence is alleged in the latest ritual abuse case which as we go to press [April 1991] is taking place in the Orkney Islands. Unlike the Nottingham and Rochdale cases, this seems to involve articulate, middle-class families who seem to have considerable support within the local community, where protest meetings have been held in support of the parents, whose children have been taken in 'dawn swoops' by officials arriving by plane at remote islands.