IPT Book Reviews

Title: Remembering Satan: A Case of Recovered Memory and the Shattering of an American Family  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Lawrence Wright
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994

Alfred A. Knopf
201 East 50th
New York, New York, 10022
$21.50 (c)


This is the story of Paul Ingram.  Ingram had been a sheriff for 17 years, was the head of the local Republican party, was active in his fundamental church, and spent time talking to children in schools about the dangers of drug use.  But despite his reputation as a solid citizen, he was not only accused of raping two of his daughters several years earlier, he was alleged to have been part of a satanic ring that met in a barn and that had forced one daughter to kill 25 infants.

When the arresting officers first contacted Ingram and told him of the allegations, he said that he wanted to "get to the bottom of this" and asked to take a lie detector (which was never given).  Although he originally said that he could not remember molesting his daughters, he added that if it did happen "we need to take care of it."  He said he just wanted to discover the truth and he talked to detectives without a lawyer present.  Several hours into the questioning, Ingram's official statement was recorded.  Ingram said that he believed that the allegations did occur and that he probably did abuse his daughters, even though he couldn't remember it.  "I've repressed it."

The detectives provided him with details included in the girls' allegations and assured him that, if he confessed, the memories would return.  Ingram went into a trance-like state and began describing scenes of abuse.  By the time the interview was over several hours later, Ingram had confessed to multiple occasions of abusing both daughters.  As time passed and the interviews of Ingram and his daughters continued, the allegations grew to include several other people and to include ritual satanic abuse. By this time, Ingram's "memory" was being aided by visualizations that the detectives and a local psychologist encouraged, along with prayers and assurances from his pastor that God would not allow for thoughts other than those that were true to come into his memory.

The investigation by the sheriff's department is a classic Keystone Cops story of bungling, ineptitude, and panic.  Two sheriff's deputies were also arrested (one a child abuse expert) but were cleared after 158 days in jail, and are now suing their department for false arrest.  Advice from Kenneth Lanning from the FBI was ignored.  Dr. Richard Ofshe, an expert on cults and mind-control, was hired by the prosecution to see if the cult had used mind-control to keep Ingram from remembering the cult's activities.  But Ofshe concluded that Ingram's returning memories were the result of the interrogation process and a relaxation technique which was a form of self-hypnosis.  He doubted whether Ingram was guilty of anything other than being a highly suggestible individual who went in and out of trance states and who was very eager to please authorities.  But Ofshe's opinions carried no weight with the sheriff's department.

Paul Ingram pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.  Since he pled guilty, his case was denied an appeal hearing by the Washington Supreme Court.  He is now a prison newspaper editor in another state and has adapted to the prison routine.


Paul Ingram asked for a sentence because he "might" be a bad person.  The court, sheriff, and prosecuting attorney were only too glad to comply.  The detectives never considered the possibility that the source of the memories was the investigation itself.  It will never be known if Ingram ever did anything to his daughters, but it was his lack of anger, puzzled response, and readiness to accept that the allegations were true even when he had no memories that convicted him.

Ingram lacked a competent and aggressive attorney, who would have noted and attended to the numerous inconsistencies and difficulties in this case.  He hired a new attorney only after he was convicted.  At the sentencing hearing, one daughter said that her father should get the maximum sentence because he was dangerous, and that the sheriff's department should be sued for failure to supervise its own staff and that even the governor might be involved in the cult.  Only time will tell whether Ingram will be considered for parole after 12 years.

I see several important lessons to be learned from the Ingram case:

1. Law enforcement interviewers must learn how to recognize and deal with suspects who may falsely confess in response to suggestive or coercive questioning or who may be experiencing dissociative reactions during the interrogation.
2. Competent attorneys are essential for anyone accused of sexual abuse and no suspect should agree to any questioning without the attorney present.
3. All interviews by law enforcement (or child protection) should be video- or audiotaped and a copy given to the defense attorney.
4. It is a mistake to trust psychologists provided by the state, who may fall into the role of double agents.
5. It may even be a mistake to trust your own pastor or counselor.
6. We need more good scientific research on memory and suggestibility as it related to situations such as this.

This is a good, well-written book, which provides a warning about recovered memories and their fallout.  It is highly recommended.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, West Virginia University.

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