IPT Book Reviews

Title: Other Altars: Roots and Realities of Cultic and Satanic Ritual Abuse and Multiple Personality Disorder
Author: Craig Lockwood
Publisher: CompCare Publishers, 1994

CompCare Publishers
3850 Annapolis Lane, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55447
(800) 328-3330

Title: Stripped Naked
Author: Lauren Stratford
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 1993

Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
1101 Monroe Street
Gretna, LA 70053
(504) 368-1175

Title: Satan's Underground
Author: Lauren Stratford
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 1991 (First Published by Harvest House Publishers, 1988)

Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
1101 Monroe Street
Gretna, LA 70053
(504) 368-1175

These three books deal with claims that satanic, ritualistic abuse is real and that there exists a widespread conspiracy of satan worshipers who engage in human sacrifice, necromancy, soothsaying, witchcraft, and orgiastic group sexual abuse. Each advances the claim that purported survivors of these practices give accounts that are true, reliable, and believable. Each acknowledges that there is widespread skepticism and criticism of the claims. Each brands any skeptical view as denial and presents any person who questions the facticity of their assertions as a naive, reprehensible dolt at best and at worst an unprincipled, evil rogue practicing satan worship, cannibalism, necrophilia, and ritually abusing children. The science leading to skepticism cannot be attacked so the persons are attacked. If the reader can be convinced that all the skeptics are charlatans, the scientific data will be discounted.

Each attempts to support the truthfulness of their claims by referring to the same limited group of trials, cases said to involve satanic and/or ritualistic abuse allegations, and a small number of bizarre homicides. The sources for these proofs are largely newspaper accounts and, in the Stratford books, television talk shows. The proofs are highly questionable, such as the tunnels under the McMartin Day School building. Lockwood presents it as fact that the tunnels in which the satanic, ritualistic abuse was said to be done were found and truly existed. He includes one picture that is intended to prove their existence.

A small number of older research reports are cited to support positions about human memory and suggestibility that have been superseded by more recent research. The controversial claims of a biological base for a special kind of trauma memory are referred to somewhat casually. The diagnoses of dissociative, multiple personality, and post-traumatic stress disorders are used to bolster the claims and explain how putative victims cope and survive the repeated violent and horrifying assaults. However, the most important type of evidence is the clinical observations and clinical data based on the experience of therapists. Throughout all three books clinical observations are presented as equal to scientific, empirical, quantified research. It is the ancient argument used against Galileo, "Look, see, the sun moves and goes around the earth."

Lockwood includes several chapters that appear to be historical reviews of aspects of satanic, occult practices. These are on the level of Sunday supplement journalistic treatment that simplifies, levels, and reduces any questionable or speculative interpretations to facts. Stratford's books tell a story that she says is what happened to her. Both authors insist that the stories told by persons claiming to have survived the satanic, ritualistic abuse are credible and must be believed. Stratford allies herself with the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse and implies that they support the claims of survivors. Both offer the same two basic proofs for the veracity of the stories. Nobody would make up such stories because it is too painful. The stories are similar and consistent across people.

While Lockwood mentions the association with a fundamentalist religious approach, Stratford makes it definite and sure. The theological error is the presentation of the devil as powerful and that successful resistance to him is the responsibility of the individual. This amounts to denying the orthodox, conservative Christian truth claim that Jesus rose from the dead, vanquished the evil foe, and that salvation is by God's grace and not by actions of humans that merit or wins eternal life. It is the ancient heresy, condemned by the early Church, of semi-pelagianism.

These three books, and the volume edited by Sinason also reviewed in this issue, represent the range of literature advanced to support claims of satanic, ritualistic abuse. They are of interest and value only as illustrations and examples of the extremity of the claims and the continued existence and survival in the 20th century of primitive, prescientific patterns of thought and belief.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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