The Beginning

The longest and most expensive criminal trial in United States history had a modest beginning. On May 12, 1983, 40-year-old Judy Johnson dropped her two-and-one-half-year-old son off at the front of the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California without notice and drove away. The school's teachers cared for the unknown "pre-verbal" boy in the hopes that his mother would return for him at the day's end.1

Although temporarily deserted by his mother, the boy was surrounded by a wide range of play objects that would have appealed to any toddler's imagination. The items of inspiration included child sized wooden animals, some of which had been shaped and painted — complete with mouths, eyes, and ears — by Charles Buckey, the husband of Peggy Buckey. The latter owned the preschool jointly with her mother, Virginia McMartin. The animals were placed in the play yard, turning it into a child's fantasy menagerie that included a giraffe, several rocking horses, a camel, octopus, dinosaur, and ducks (that children could sit and rock on), and at least one rabbit's face-on profile placed on the wall by the door of the front office.

Mixed in with the animals were other objects for children to play on, or play in. A commonplace slide stood next to a makeshift helicopter that children could sit in and pretend to fly. A wooden structure dubbed "Fort - Issimo," resting upon a large wooden platform accessed by two wooden steps, could be driven by one of the two steel steering wheels placed on its opposite ends. A "jungle gym," made of connecting steel pipes, was available for children to swing on. A wooden car allowed children to pretend they were driving (they could even fill up the tank with "gas" from a nearby wooden gas pump). A wooden playhouse with the door removed was available for playing house.

The front of the McMartin preschool (including part of the play yard), as could be seen by 17,000 passing motorists every day from Manhattan Beach Boulevard.  (Photo courtesy of Peggy Buckey) Friendly looking wooden animals, not real roaring lions, guarded the entrance to the McMartin "tunnels," seen here in the background.  (Photo courtesy of Peggy Buckey)

Perhaps the most imaginative play item invented and built by Charles Buckey for the preschool children was a set of above-ground "tunnels." Formed by brightly colored connecting wooden boxes and extending about 18 feet in various horse shoe formations, the "tunnels," as they were called by the children, provided a fun place for adventurous toddlers to crawl through.2

These so-called "tunnels" were the only tunnels that ever existed either above or below the premises of the McMartin schoolhouse and schoolyard — or above or beneath any property adjacent to the McMartin property.

Out of empathy for Johnson and her son, and unaware of the ensuing catastrophe that awaited her entire family and the school's other teachers, Peggy Buckey signed the boy up for June classes. Buckey did not know that Johnson's odd behavior on the day she left her son was the act of a woman who had a history of emotional problems serious enough to affect the judgment of any mother. Johnson had been out of money since separating from her husband for the second time two months earlier. On top of those problems she was despondent over her other (13-year-old) son's inoperable brain cancer. Sometime during the summer, according to friends, Johnson began to drown her problems in alcohol.3

Prior to the time Johnson's son was enrolled at McMartin, the preschool had been one of the most prestigious and respected businesses in Manhattan Beach. School founder and 76-year-old co-owner Virginia McMartin, Peggy Buckey's mother, had earned four public citations for outstanding community service including the city's highest honor — the Rose and Scroll award.4 The school was so popular that applicants usually had to wait six months before their children could begin classes.5

The Dark Truth About the "Dark Tunnels of McMartin"

bulletThe Beginning
bulletThe Accusation
bulletThe Letter
bulletChildren's Institute International
bulletHysteria Spreads
bulletNews Media Coverage and National Hysteria
bulletFollowing the Money
bulletDr. Roland C. Summit
bulletSatanic Trappings and the Search for The Secret Rooms and Tunnels
bulletIncredibly Weak Evidence
bulletSummit Defends MacFarlane's Interviews of the McMartin Children, Without Reviewing the Interviews
bulletJudy Johnson's Increasingly Bizarre Behavior
bulletThe Trial Verdicts
bulletParents Begin Search For Tunnels
bulletRevisionist History: Judy Johnson and The Dark Tunnels of McMartin
bulletThe Third McMartin Trial
bulletEthics, Professors, Indiana Jones, Switzerland, and Early (Very Early) Man
bulletTunnel Precursors
bulletBob Currie
bulletOrigin of a Secret Room
bulletFrom Santa Claus To Lions
bulletMultiple Molestations: Devils, a Dead Baby, and a Ghost
bulletTunnel Therapy
bulletThe District Attorney's Excavation
bulletAnalysis of the Report on the 186 (minus one page) Manhattan Tunnel Project (MTP) by E. Gary Stickel
bulletMTP Archeological Methodology Employed by E. Gary Stickel
bulletSite Contamination By Manhattan Tunnel Project
bulletPhotographic Documentation of the MTP Archeological Procedures
bulletStickel's Conclusions About the Evidence He Claims to Have Obtained from the Archeological MTP Project
bulletThe Missing Tunnel
bulletEstimating Dates of "Tunnel" Artifacts

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