The Third McMartin Trial

The investigation of Ray Buckey should have stopped on September 7, 1983 if not before; there was no valid reason then, nor is there now, to believe that any of the defendants abused a single child. But if Johnson had been solely responsible for what happened after that date, most people living outside of Manhattan Beach would never have heard of the McMartin preschool. Unfortunately, Johnson was only one of the key players behind the McMartin snowball. There were many other noteworthy personalities, including Dr. Summit, who contributed to the school's world-wide infamy.

Despite their combined efforts, two juries denounced the prosecution's evidence and found the defendants not guilty and the District Attorney vowed not to prosecute them again. But a third trial has been going on since the day the last official verdicts were read and Ted Gunderson began distributing copies of the single page preliminary report on tunnels written by E. Gary Stickel. The present trial is unhindered by judicious rules of discovery or cross examination of witnesses. So far, the defendants and their potential defenders have not even been allowed to see the evidence, though Summit and others have referred to it liberally and authoritatively. That evidence is the supposed documentation of underground tunnels, gathered and presented in Stickel's 185-page report commissioned by the Manhattan Tunnel Project (MTP) under the auspices of former McMartin parent Jackie McGauley.

In "Dark Tunnels," Summit revitalizes the McMartin "tunnels" story, once a discredited footnote in the longest and costliest criminal case in U.S. history. It is now backed by "Hard-won documentation of physical evidence," he says, that brings to life the terrifying tales of underground rituals told years ago by the preschool's tiny tots.91 If Summit's story is correct, and the reader may sleep soundly knowing that it is not, the underground tunnels and caverns of McMartin, used for satanic rituals and secret getaway routes, were found exactly where the children said they would be found. The tunnel saga, once thought to be dead and buried, ever since the school was bulldozed into oblivion by a developer in 1990, has escaped from its crypt — ostensibly to save victims and their champions from the "myth" that hundreds of multi-victim/multi-perpetrator cases were conceived without a "shred of evidence."92 If the McMartin tunnels really existed, the theory goes, the alleged child victims may have told the truth about everything else. That in turn, reflects well upon the credibility of alleged child victims and adult survivors of other ritual abuse cases.

Summit has told the story of McMartin's supposed underground tunnels as gospel in public lectures and articles since 1990.93 He also wrote the introduction to the MTP report written by Stickel, whose probe for the underground caverns of McMartin, according to Summit, was more exhaustive and scientifically rigorous than the District Attorney's own effort to look for tunnels.94 Prompted by a handful of parents, Summit claims, Stickel found "solid, scientific evidence" that tunnels had been dug beneath the school and filled back in again.95 This "definitive excavation," as Summit calls it, "meticulously" documented in the MTP report, offers "unprecedented dimensions of truth."96 Given Summit's venerable position among child abuse professionals throughout the world, his high praise for the report doubtlessly gives it a high degree of credibility.

Sadly, this aura of credibility is completely illusory. For like those of Xanadu, the McMartin caverns also proved "measureless to man." The so-called "McMartin tunnels and secret rooms" did not then exist, nor have they ever. And perhaps it is due to this fact that Summit is among the few individuals who have been allowed to read the MTP report. The present writer too has been so lucky.

Jackie McGauley, the McMartin parent who owns the rights to the MTP report, is seeking donations or other suitable payment as a precondition for general release in order to help recoup money she spent to retain Stickel and others for the project. Summit, acting as her agent, told this writer that McGauley seeks a friendly "non-critical" forum for publication.97

Summit and Stickel cite the report in public comments or journal articles to verify their claim that one or more tunnels existed at the McMartin preschool. But they have done so without releasing a single page of the report's supposed documentation for open critical examination. "The fact is," according to one prominent UCLA archaeologist interviewed for this article, "that there is a rumor that a report exists which alleges something. You can't do anything with that."

"It's one thing to make claims," he argues, "[but] it's another thing to present evidence that can be scrutinized and evaluated by people. I certainly wouldn't believe that [the tunnel claims] for a second without seeing that report and going over it with a fine toothed comb. . . . Anything that he [Stickel] has to say [about the alleged tunnels] should become public property and should be subject to the same sort of scrutiny and examination that anything else a scholar says is subject to."

Ethical questions concerning the rights of the exonerated former defendants should arise for any responsible researcher, writer, or lecturer engaged in revisionist history of the McMartin case. It is unconscionable and stretches credulity to make post trial accusations injurious to the reputations of the exonerated parties without presenting supporting documentation. But the inability to scrutinize the supposed evidence has not prevented a zealous coterie of repressed memory therapists, psychohistorians, Holocaust revisionists, and conspiracy journalists from joining Summit and Stickel in citing the alleged tunnel discovery as a well-established fact.

Authors Ellen Bass and Laura Davis devote four paragraphs to the tunnels in the third edition of their best selling book The Courage to Heal.98 Bass and Davis accept the tunnel finding without question: ". . . Stickel found a tunnel exactly where the children said it would be." But the authors do not cite Stickel's report and there is no indication that they have read it. In fact, their conclusion is apparently based on no more than a telephone interview with Stickel. Despite that, the authors accept Stickel's analysis that the tunnel discovery "supports the credibility of the children. If they were right about the tunnels they could have been right about everything else they said."99 An elaborate description is given of the alleged tunnel:

The tunnel ran across the north axis of the school, between classroom #4 and classroom #3, and continued to an entrance under the west wall of the building. It was full of junk and debris— pieces of board, concrete slabs, and cans. Stickel said the most bizarre thing he found in the tunnel were four large containers, one and a half to two feet high, one made of crockery, two of metal, and the fourth a black iron cauldron that he said "would have made a good Halloween prop." All four were standing upright and had obviously been placed by someone in the middle of the tunnel.100

Unexamined assertions about tunnels are also treated as indisputable facts in the December 6, 1990 issue of Random Lengths, a "progressive" alternative biweekly published in San Pedro, California. The tunnels are discussed in the article "McMartin and the Media," based largely on unsubstantiated claims and wild speculation. The article claims the existence of a CIA led conspiracy to use the news media to influence public opinion on defendant Ray Buckey's behalf.101 Referring to the June 12, 1990 Village Voice article, "What McMartin Started: The Ritual Sex Abuse Hoax," by writer Debbie Nathan, Random Lengths writers Alex Constantine and Susan Spencer accuse Nathan of reverting to "falsehood" for stating that the tunnels mentioned in the children's tunnel stories were never found. "In fact," the writers claimed without question, "30 days before Nathan's article appeared, the parents had discovered tunnels beneath the preschool, verifying the testimony of the children." Based on Stickel's one-page preliminary report, a detailed description of the tunnel project by the writers read as follows:

The project employed a team of archaeologists from local universities, two geologists, a professional excavator, a carbon dating specialist, and a professional photographer to document the dig's progress and findings. The longest tunnel discovered, six feet beneath the McMartin preschool, ran 45 feet from the south-west wall eastward, and 10 feet along the north wall. The tunnel walls were held in place by support beams and a roof of plywood and tar paper. One tunnel led to a nine-foot chamber [the "secret room" described by children?]. Another extended from the preschool to the triplex next door. Forensic tests on hundreds of objects found at the site are currently in progress.

The sand lot, next to rooms I and II.  (Photo courtesy of Peggy Buckey)

Lears, a popular feminist magazine available nationwide, also accepted Stickel's tunnel claims without question in a special incest edition (Feb., 1992) written by Heidi Vanderbilt. Some of her comments follow:

Stickel says he began the dig skeptical of the charges against the Buckeys. But three days before the building was demolished, he and his crew found the tunnels and the chamber exactly where the children had said they were. The spaces had been filled in with dirt. Objects found inside included a plate from a child's tea set, inscribed and painted with three pentagrams arranged in a pattern known as the witch's foot — a cult symbol — and four large containers, including a breakable ceramic crock and a large iron cauldron. The diggers also found a plastic Walt Disney bag with a copyright date of 1982, which indicates that the tunnels had not been filled in by then. Significantly, that was the year before the charges were lodged. . . . In my conversation with Stickel, he expressed regret and frustration that even though the (second) trial was still going on when his dig was completed, the district attorney refused to enter into testimony evidence about the tunnel's existence.102

Stickel's excavation is the subject of a lengthy feature article in the Spotlight, a nationally distributed weekly (75,000 circulation) considered to be the extreme right's version of the National Enquirer.103 The article is based on an interview with Stickel and two organizers of the excavations, former FBI agent Ted Gunderson and McMartin parent Jackie McGauley, transcribed from a nationally syndicated am radio program, Tom Valentine's Radio Free America.104 The radio broadcast and the newspaper are sponsored by the Liberty Lobby, a "populist" political organization that founded America's Holocaust revisionist movement and uses racial supremacy and bizarre conspiracy theories to promote a far right political agenda.105

Gunderson and Stickel told their stories, to radio listeners and Spotlight readers, unhindered by critical questions or contrary opinions. This time Gunderson claimed that the main tunnel was 35 feet long (on other occasions he said 45 feet), and that 200 presumably incriminating animal bones were found.

Stickel criticizes what he calls the "abortive" 1985 attempt by the district attorney's office to find tunnels and recounts his version of how the tunnel investigation progressed:

The parents had tried to find the tunnels, but, of course, they were searching in the wrong place in an adjacent lot and not underneath the school, which is where the children had said the tunnels were.

The tunnels were exactly where the children said they were. In fact, the day before we found the main tunnel, one of the children took one of my assistants around to show her where she had entered the tunnel and where it ran beneath two rooms, classrooms three and four in the school above, and that's exactly where the tunnel turned out to lie.

Of course, these tunnels [by this time] had been filled in.

Archaeologists, by their training, are accustomed to looking for buried features that have been filled in by man on purpose or otherwise buried by nature.

We look for very subtle evidence, but in the McMartin case, the evidence wasn't subtle. It was very apparent because a lot of the tunnels were chock full of artifacts that had been used as filler.

Additionally, the tunnels could be distinguished by different colors of soil — generally it was darker within the tunnel [and therefore from a different location] — and soil around the tunnels was lighter in color, and harder in texture.

The tunnel actually had a roof, and you could walk into it at certain points. It ran between classroom four (which was Ray Buckey's classroom) and classroom three.

There was even an arched area in the roof of the tunnel where the tunnel went underneath a dividing wall in the foundation between the two rooms above.

There were four large containers of broken bottles and tin cans that had obviously been hand-placed into this area.

The Spotlight article was reprinted in part and used as a source for "Satanic child abuse cover up" in the summer 1994 issue of Paranoia, a "zine" devoted exclusively to conspiracy theories. Gunderson is quoted, speculating that the tunnel evidence was suppressed because, "Among the people [the children say molested them outside the school grounds] were household names: actors, sports figures, politicians." The article points out that among the prominent people who were accused without substantiation, were a Los Angeles city attorney and Kung-Fu movie star Chuck Norris. But writer/editor Al Hidell asks, "Given the recent allegations made against pop star Michael Jackson, is this really as impossible as it first sounds?"

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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