Rolling in the Green – Friday Fictioneers

WARNING: I’m about to get real about moral panic. Just click the little blue frog and move along if you’re not interested in reading about something based on recent historical events that should honestly chill you to the bone that it happened in our lifetime.

rachel-bjerke

copyright Rachel Bjerke

“The green… the green,” Cynthia murmured under hypnosis.

“Yes,” the doctor coaxed. “How old are you, Cindy?”

“I’m five,” she said. “I’m frightened.”

“You’re safe here with me, Cindy. Tell me — who’s there with you?”

“They’ve taken me into the woods,” she whispered. “My Daddy and my pastor and my teacher and some others. They’re wearing animal masks. They’re touching me. They’re pouring blood on me!”

“Wake up, Cynthia,” the doctor said, and dismissed his patient until the next session.

“The green, the green!” the doctor rubbed his hands together with glee, and dreamed about his book deal.

——

 

So, you’ve heard of the Salem Witch Trials, of course… despicable, foolish people. We’ve evolved so far past that, right?

Guess again.

Fear breeds ignorance like the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.

This story is about a phenomenon that swept the nation in the ’80s and ’90s… and not the 1590s… the 1990s…

I can remember watching Televangelists scream about how the country was full of Satanic cults, and how children were being gang-raped by people who walked the town by day but dressed up in robes by night to summon Satan. In the wake of films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, people’s imaginations were bent on the idea that somehow, there were secret bloodspilling cults all over the place (not a new thing — in the early years of Christianity, both the Jews and the Christians spread rumours of cannibalism about each other. In the 1950s everyone you knew could be a Commie pinko traitor spy. Now, anyone with dark skin must certainly be a sleeper agent for ISIS or Al Qaeda.) It sold lots of seats to talk-show hosts and travelling evangelists alike. Makes for a good horror story, but this was presented as something that was happening all over the country. All sorts of people stepped forward, claiming to have recovered repressed memories and describing in disgusting detail all the things they were forced to do and/or watch. Hell, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michelle Smith (subject of the book Michelle Remembers, all about her supposed abuse by the Church of Satan) in 1989.

People’s lives were ruined as prosecutors took the stance of believing the victims, who were coached expertly by psychiatric professionals or trusted religious figures. Charges were laid, people went to jail. The ironic thing is, that one of the factors that started the downfall of this was that Anton LeVay, the founder of the Church of Satan, threatened to sue Lawrence Pazder (writer of Michelle Remembers) for libel.

Moral panic today seems to have taken other forms — and I’ll not mention them specifically because we’re all civilized and in no way would ever succumb to media-driven hatred or fear of any group of people — but it’s just something to consider the next time you look sideways at someone because you’ve been told they’re out to get you.

Read specifically about how people were actually PROSECUTED and had their lives ruined because of this.

Read about MICHELLE REMEMBERS

Satanic ritual abuse (SRA, sometimes known as ritual abuse, ritualistic abuse, organised abuse, sadistic ritual abuse and other variants) was a moral panic that originated in the United States in the 1980s, spreading throughout the country and eventually to many parts of the world, before mostly diminishing in the late 1990s. Allegations of SRA involved reports of physical and sexual abuse of people in the context of occult or Satanic rituals. In its most extreme form, SRA involved a supposed worldwide conspiracy involving the wealthy and powerful of the world elite in which children were abducted or bred for sacrifices, pornography and prostitution.

———–

I would love to hear your thoughts on this — or your memories about this phenomenon. I can remember sitting in church while an angry speaker held up X-Men comics as evidence that there was a cult conspiracy to brainwash young people into the legions of Hell.

 

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56 responses to “Rolling in the Green – Friday Fictioneers

  1. In no way at all am I joking about this. My step-uncle would not let his daughters, my cousins, watch cartoons like The Smurfs because they were full of evil. But they could watch movies like Savannah Smiles and Raising Arizona. (Not that I have anything against those movies-they’re classics). His reasoning was that, despite the fact a child was kidnapped, the wrong-doers saw the evil of their ways and repented. It was also this man who tried to convince my mother that the music I was listening to as a teen was full of brainwashing messages and were evil and she should stop me from listening to it. But country music was ok. And Mozart was on that list I shouldn’t listen to. Basically, anything his preacher told him was evil was from Satan and I was apparently being influenced by the devil. I’m surprised he allowed his daughters around me. LoL.
    I grew up in a Southern Baptist area so I totally understand. Fear is the mind-killer, it really is. The Westboro Baptists, the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis….it’s all one and the same. You hurt what you fear, whether it’s rational or not. And people are out there who will take advantage of it, whether true or not. It’s an unfortunate truth that will continue to haunt the human race until the end of existence.

    • The rise of the conservative Christian right in the US is fascinating and disturbing. I could write several books on the subject and I would have a hard time convincing people that it wasn’t fiction because it some of the things are so ludicrous

  2. This is a scary story, even more so considering the psychologist’s greed. We didn’t have this type of thing in the Nineties in Germany, not that I’m aware of anyway. We did have a lot of child abuse by clerics, which is something that gets revealed reluctantly only now.

    • Germany had its own problems with the rise of Neo-Nazis and Chanceller Kohl’s difficulty in dealing with them in the ’90s as I recall. Thank god you didn’t have this on top of that.

  3. I remember it well. Horrifying that it could happen in “modern” times…but then, we say that about so many things, don’t we? And I expect people always have said it.

    Nice piece, by the way!

    • Thank you. Whenever I hear people talking about the barbaric past, I remind them that people once thought the earth was flat and thought that perfectly reasonable. In my lifetime, lobotomies were performed to cure such things as alcoholism or homosexuality. What will we find barbaric tomorrow?

  4. Moral panic, salem witch trials, you’re taking it all on today, aren’t you?! I’ll tell you what I think…

    False accusations are a terrible thing. They destroy the lives of the falsely accused, but also they make us doubt true victims when they come forward, and create a culture and a world where rape and assault are some of our worst crimes but very difficult to prosecute.

    In the UK in recent years, celebrity after celebrity has been accused of decades-historical sex crimes. Some of the accusations are almost certainly real, some are almost certainly false, but how on earth can anyone expect to separate fact from fiction now?

    More victims too – a few years ago, my husband volunteered with a ‘Big Brother’ style charity to help disadvantaged youths. Most of his male friends / coworkers thought he was crazy – why would a man risk his reputation on the chance, however small, that the ‘little brother’ he was helping might turn around with a false accusation. There are insufficient male teachers and male role models for these kids, and false accusations are one of the reasons why.

    As for your story, I hope you’ll forgive me if I say it’s not your best – you covered a lot of ground here and perhaps it was a little ambitious. From the story alone, it was hard to tell that the girl was an accomplice and not a victim, and what exactly the doctor was writing in his book. It felt like part of a bigger story and would have run well as such, but in this cramped little space, it felt more like a well-written extract than a whole story in itself.
    BUT this is an issue that you could easily and worthily turn into a much longer story and I’d love to see you do it.

    • Jen — No, definitely not my best — a can of worms squeeze untidily into 100 words. I’m 100% with you — you’ve just described my feelings about victims/accusations nearly to the exact thought — false accusations muddy the waters of those who are truly victims.

  5. Dear Helena,
    I’ll take a moment to thank Jen for coming in and saying (quite well) most of what I have been thinking about this post since I read it this morning right before a friend showed up for a date at the National Archives . . . That gave me time to think about what to say, and I am also conflicted. I’m annoyed that so many false accusations flew in the 1980s and 1990s. But I’m also annoyed that so many people are reticent to believe those of us who really were traumatized by religious leaders of one stripe or another. Hard stuff and not easily settled–perhaps not ever settled in this world. When one person cries wolf another wounded child goes unheard, perhaps unrescued forever.

    All my best,
    MG

    • Just to be clear MG these were not people claiming to have been diddled by their priest. These were people that were literally claiming that their parents and their relatives and their minister and their grocery store clerk were all members of a secret Satanic cult that was literally taking them out into the woods and having crazy Satanic orgies with them.

  6. I was very shielded from all of this growing up. Never heard of it. Of course, I grew up in a very strict religious home, one that wasn’t perfect but never approached, thought about or condoned such behavior. A couple of our junior pastors got caught having affairs, but that was as raunchy as it got.

    • I heard of it growing up, but never had any first-hand experience with it. My interest in it came from a sociology course I took in University about groupthink and other social pressure phenomenons. I learned a lot about the difference between real psychiatric disorders and those portrayed by Hollywood. It was really quite fascinating and great story material.

  7. Dear Helena,

    Reminded me of The Heart of Darkness. Which may be the only kind of heart we have. Others have gone on at length so I will strive to average things out. Well done.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  8. Dear Helena,

    You said you were opening a can of worms and so you have. Perhaps we should all take them and go fishing. There’s much I could say, but way too much has already been said. Well done on your story.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • I am sure you and I could have a lengthy and terrible conversation about this — and I suspect I know where your mind went with this. The Jewish people have been the victim of moral panic campaigns for centuries. If you ever want to have that discussion, you know how fascinated I am with your knowledge of history.

  9. I remember this mania. I also remember how Procter & Gamble was targeted. They were accused of using the “sign of the devil” as their icon on their products (star and a moon). The rumor was this was a sign of Satan. People started boycotting P&G because of this. It was madness.

    I enjoyed reading your story.

  10. It seems like Jessica could really run with this. As usual, you manage to take a few words and load them with meaning. On it’s own, this was a great story but it was interesting with the attached social commentary. I think people are aware of the broader idea but you have such a memory for specific details. Thanks for making us think!

    • I like the bookends of the story — the green the green… but the middle needs to be scooped out and perhaps I’ll explore this as a bigger piece. I’m fascinated with the blurred lines between horror fiction and what people really believed was happening — you could never be sure if you were reading a “Based on Actual Events” story or a piece of fiction. Again, I’ve seen things and met people that you wouldn’t believe — people who have told me with a straight face that they had raised people from the dead. It’s a strange world, Hannah. It truly is. Nothing surprises me much anymore.

  11. What Jess said – Fear is the mind-killer.

    And all churches are full of people who are angry and afraid of something. And they get stuff wrong. Doesn’t mean that faith is wrong, it just reflects very badly.

  12. God, how dark. It did scared me to bones just to think this happened at all, let alone that it has happen in such recent times. When I was reading about the animal masks, it did remind me of Salem (The TV show, which I know it embarrassing but I just happened to be watching it a few weeks back.) and then you mentioned first in the explanation below.
    The story itself it’s very well written. I liked how you said so much in so little and how at the end the doctor seemed to be mischievous himself, maybe he was only thinking about taking advantage of the story to self-profit from it, or maybe he actually hides a darker related secret. Who knows? Like that little ambiguity there.
    Great job, I’m following you!

    • I’m not sure how I feel about Salem. I, too, succumbed to the temptation and watched a couple of episodes on Netflix. What bothered me about it is that it’s supposing that there were actual evil women doing terrible things (and that they are, in fact, supernatural things that conjure actual demons with a dark agenda to take over the world). This may make for fun entertainment, but it sort of sweeps under the carpet the fact that there is no such thing as magic, or hexes or whatnot, and that the people put to death as witches were just women. The real villains were just stupid, ignorant, misogynist religious fanatics. There are no monsters. No real ones. No, the evil that walks the earth is not some person being driven by some literal demon, but rather, sick fucks that hide behind whatever dogma or creed or political or patriotic stance to justify their behaviour.
      I get that it’s a re-imagining — what if there really HAD been “witches” (and that witches are no more supernatural than jews, buddhists, christians or muslims is another conversation altogether) but it just seems to whitewash the actions of our not so far away past, and justify horrible atrocities.
      But yes, I realize that if I spoke to the creators of the show, they’d likely shrug and say “So what, dude, it’s getting killer ratings.” because there is no such thing as integrity or responsibility anymore.
      End rant. Sigh.

      • I mean, I understand where you’re coming from. It actually took me several tries to watch the show. lol But I don’t think it simply “sweeps under the carpet” the real issues. Within the episodes you can clearly see that the fact that they “believe” that witches exist is what feeds their irrational believes, and what to them justifies all they do.
        Now, I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time researching what really happened in Salem, but who’s to say that their perspective doesn’t hold a little true in it? I know it’s proven that they were just crazy fanatics blaming and hanging innocent girls, and you see that on the show, but I think that it’s a brilliant perspective to say that the reason behind blaming innocent girls was that the real witches were behind those accusations to save themselves.
        I might be being naive here, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to completely close possibilities, after all, what do we really know? So I’m not about to say with such convictions that real magic and other things don’t exist, but I also agree that the kind of evil you are describing is also part of the world we live in and we see it every day.

  13. Your story reminded me of the Satanic daycare scare we had in the 80s and 90s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-care_sex-abuse_hysteria. I remember the McMartin case very well, thinking how incredulous it was that children could be abused in such ways without any witnesses or apparent physical evidence. Children were still the victims in these cases, however, since they were often prompted by their own parents and the lawyers to lie. What were they supposed to do as they grew up and realized that their memories were just lies and that they were used to destroy the lives of innocent people? What a burden to live with. Another form of child abuse.

    • Yes, that was all part of it, Marie. So many lives were damaged, some because of real abuses and others because of paranoia. With all the rape accusations in the news today, I was reminded of this, and wondered how many accusations are real and how many aren’t, and who the real victims are — and I realize that we will never know. And it’s a terribly slippery slope to start down once you start doubting accusers and forcing traumatized people to prove themselves.

      • Well said. We seem to be an all-or-nothing society. Either all accusations are true or they are all lies. It’s particularly harmful when it comes to children.

  14. This decade it’s terrorists. Rewind a bit, WMD’s. Rewind more, drugs. Commies. Negroes. Nazis. Boozers.
    And there are *always* politicians and media more than willing to herd the stampede of ignorance and fear at any given time.
    Would help if we weren’t so easy to drive.

    • Not that I think Michael Moore is completely unbiased at all, but I remember a fascinating part of his Bowling for Columbine film where he interviewed Marilyn Manson, all about a culture of fear. Fear is control. Trust your leaders, they’ll look after you!

  15. Well written post that really brought out some deep comments, meaning you hit a nerve that we all could relate to. This is a story that will stick with the reader. You can’t ask for more than that. Good job.

  16. That’s make for pretty heavy reading Helena. I agree that the “Meja” does spin everything as out of control, seeking to increase sales by scaremongering. But on the flip side, dark things do happen behind closed doors. The difficulty is in not judging everyone as guilty if they fit a certain profile. But as the saying goes, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance! But how vigilant must you and a society be, and where is the line drawn. Heavy stuff indeed

  17. Helena, I’m late to the party– but not surprised that you’ve been digging in the dirt, and finding worms. Your head is a wonderland of broad topics and amazing stories– horrific that this is not fiction. I land squarely in Jen’s court; she said it all quite well. 😉

  18. Dear Helena, You are always there on the edge and giving us all something interesting to contemplate. I think that anyone who uses children for evil purposes and purports that is for religion are the worst of beings. Your story was great! Nan

  19. Helena, what this brought to my mind is the difficulty of finding the truth. When people suddenly remember, through hypnosis or therapy, they were abused (or whatever), is it real or not?? Were their lives ruined or are they about to ruin, without basis in truth, lives of parent/pastor/doctor/whomever? Difficult issues, including all those mentioned above.

    janet

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