Against Satanic Panics > Recent scaremongers and debunkers > S.M. Elliot

S.M. Elliot and her blog The Devil Appears

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. General comments
  2. The Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, Louisiana
  3. Miscellaneous alleged SRA cases
  4. Non-"Satanic" Ritual Abuse allegations
  5. "Recovered memories" and the courts:  recent non-SRA cases
  6. "Recovered memories" and the courts:  older non-SRA cases
  7. Real-life crimes in the name of Satan
  8. Religiously motivated crimes by Christians
  9. Roman Catholic Exorcism
  10. African witchhunts
  11. Apocalyptic stuff
  12. Miscellaneous

  1. General comments
  2. S.M. Elliot has a blog titled The Devil Appears, which she says is part of her "effort to write a book about 'Satanic panic', from the witchcraft trials of the fifteenth century to the ritual abuse allegations of today."

    Unfortunately, her blog site does not allow comments except by people with blog accounts on the same site. So, I'll post my comments here. I hope she'll do me the courtesy of linking to this page and perhaps responding to some of my comments.

    First, I'm very glad to see another person keeping tabs on the budding Satanic panic and doing so online. And I learned a few things. She mentioned a couple of court cases I hadn't heard of before, plus a few other cases I'd heard of but hadn't paid much attention to before.

    The one major complaint I have about S.M. Elliot's blog, overall, is that she doesn't tell us her sources for some of the stories she has written about - especially in her earlier postings, though she did get better at this later on.

  3. The Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, Louisiana
  4. On Tuesday, January 31, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted about Recent Allegations of Ritual Abuse in the U.S.. Here she talks about two cases, of which the first is "The Ponchatoula Case." For more information, see my page about The Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.

    S.M. Elliot writes, "The unsolicited confessions of Nicole Bernard and Louis Lamonica lead me to believe that this could be one of the few authentic instances of ritual abuse in the U.S." Well, yes, it could be, but let's not jump to that conclusion yet. A lot of details about the case are murky. S.M. Elliot seems to believe that the Hosanna Church folks are guilty of the alleged sexual crimes against children, though she does ask whether the stories of Devil worship might be just a "Devil made me do it" smokescreen. I don't think we should conclude, yet, even that they're guilty of any sexual crimes. Based on the information that has been made available so far, it is certainly possible that they might be guilty of at least some (though probably not all) of the alleged sexual crimes, but there's also a possibility that they might not be guilty of any crimes at all. As I've pointed out on my page about this case, we really need some good investigative reporters to look into it.

    She posted more commentary about this case on Saturday, February 25, 2006: Ponchatoula Satanists to go on trial "sometime in 2006". She writes: "Meanwhile, this bizarre and disturbing incident of Satanic ritual abuse (one of the few documented ones I've ever encountered) has received no attention from the mainstream press in the U.S." Not quite true - see the links on my page about The Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Admittedly, though, it has not received a lot of attention, and, to my knowledge, there hasn't been any in-depth investigative reporting on this case.

    She briefly mentions the Ponchatoula case again in her blog entry Satanic Panic on Reality TV, posted on Friday, February 17, 2006.

  5. Miscellaneous alleged SRA cases
  6. S.M. Elliot's very first blog entry, on Wednesday, January 04, 2006, talked about a recent domestic-violence case in California involving SRA allegations: The Hamlin Case: Satanic Ritual Abuse in Sacramento. Somehow this case had completely escaped my notice earlier. I've added a page about The case of Richard Hamlin, Susan Siemer Hamlin, and Sydney Siemer.

    On Tuesday, January 31, 2006, S.M. Elliot wrote about The Johny Gosch/Jeff Gannon Incident - admittedly not a case I've looked into in much detail yet. It's not as high on my priority list as (1) recent cases and (2) those cases, such as the McMartin case, which, as far as I am aware, played a key historic role in the 1980-1995 scare. I'm well aware that the Johnny Gosch case is one which the conspiracy theorists have had a field day with, which is another reason why I've procrastinated studying it. I don't enjoy slogging through conspiracy theories; I'd much rather debunk claims by someone who at least purports to be respectable. Anyhow, S.M Elliot has provided what appears (to my admittedly not yet very well-informed eye) to be a good brief introductory summary of the Gosch case. (For future reference, if/when I get around to it, here is a Letter to Ted Gunderson by Michael A. Aquino about the Gosch case.)

  7. Non-"Satanic" Ritual Abuse allegations
  8. In her blog entry Recent Allegations of Ritual Abuse in the U.S., Tuesday, January 31, 2006, the second alleged case S.M. Elliot talks about is that of Hugh Nibley, a now-deceased Mormon apologist who has been accused of ritualized molestation by his grown daughter, Martha Beck, a motivational speaker and columnist for O magazine. Nibley is alleged to have molested his daughter while chanting ancient Egyptian prayers and Bible passages.

    Fortunately, S.M. Elliot does give us a source for this story, Martha Beck's book Leaving the Saints, her memoir of leaving the Mormon church, published in 2005. S.M. Elliot has also given us a link to a website Hugh Nibley Defense, on which Nibley's other children refute Martha Beck's allegations.

    At least this isn't an alleged case of "Satanic" ritual abuse. S.M. Elliot has titled this section "Mormon Ritual Abuse?"

  9. "Recovered memories" and the courts:  recent non-SRA cases
  10. On Sunday, February 12, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted Recovered Memory on Trial, about the case of Ryan Ferguson, who, as recently as October 2004, was convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery - apparently based on no evidence other than the "recovered memories" of his alleged accomplice Charles Erickson. The murder happened in 2001 in Columbia, Missouri.

    S.M. Elliot rightly asks, "Were Erickson's recovered memories accurate? Should recovered memories be allowed as testimony in court if there is no corroborating evidence?" Assuming her account is accurate, I'm even more appalled that a person could even be indicted, never mind convicted, based on no evidence other than the testimony of just one witness, even if the testimony were not based on a recovered memory.

    Was there, indeed, no other evidence? Here are some relevant sites I just now Googled:

    I haven't yet scrutinized the above sites in detail to find all the other purported evidence. So far, I've found the Columbia Daily Tribune article State builds case in slaying by Sara Agnew, Wednesday, October 19, 2005, including the testimony of a witness who identified Ferguson and Erickson as having been at the crime scene. But the defense attorney found inconsistencies in the witness's descriptions of the two young men he had seen.

    If indeed there was no substantial evidence apart from Erickson's dreams and flashbacks, then hopefully the case will be appealed, and hopefully the network of anti-"recovered memory" activists will back the appeal with some fundraising efforts.

    S.M. Elliot concludes, "So far, the outcome of the Columbia case hasn't drawn much criticism from the legal or psychological professions. If the use of recovered-memory testimony isn't examined carefully, the case of Ferguson and Erickson could set a hazardous precedent."

    Indeed it could. Strangely enough, it appears that the False Memory Syndrome Foundation hasn't even noticed the Ryan Ferguson case yet. I just now (on Monday, April 17, 2006) Googled the string "Ryan Ferguson FMS Newsletter" and didn't find an FMS newsletter containing any mention of Ferguson. I also checked the latest newsletter on the FMSF website and found no mention of him there either. Admittedly the Ryan Ferguson case isn't the main type of case the FMSF typically concerns itself with: it involves memories that were "recovered" via spontaneous dreams and flashbacks, not in therapy, and it involves murder, not child sex abuse. Nevertheless I would hope that the FMSF would find this case to be of interest. I've emailed the Ferguson family to suggest that they contact the FMSF if they haven't done so already.

    But it does appear that memory expert Elizabeth Loftus is aware of the case, judging by the article Memories fail, and innocents can go to jail, by Carol Robinson The Birmingham News, USA, Apr. 1, 2006. Indeed it appears that that Loftus testified as an expert witness at Ferguson't trial, accourding to the local news story Memory expert is final witness: Loftus says police suggested details, by Sara Agnew, Columbia Daily Tribune, Friday, October 21, 2005

  11. "Recovered memories" and the courts:  older non-SRA cases
  12. In the blog entry Recovered Memory on Trial, Sunday, February 12, 2006, S.M. Elliot mentions both a recent case and two older cases, none of which involved any alleged "Satanic" aspect, as far as I can tell.

    One of the older cases was a landmark child sex abuse case: "The infamous Ramona case of Napa Valley ended in acquittal for the man accused of SRA by his adult daughter, who had retrieved unconscious memories of abuse in therapy (Mr. Ramona successfully sued the therapists for malpractice)."

    Actually, none of the of the online articles I've read about this case mention allegations of SRA, just allegations of child sex abuse. Nor do they mention a criminal trial, just lawsuits, first by Holly Ramona against her father Gary Ramona, then by Gary Ramona against his daughter's therapists. The Ramona case is detailed in the book Spectral Evidence by Moira Johnston, which I haven't read yet, though I've read a bunch of online info about it (on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble, and on Powell's Books; reviewed by Edward Greer; see also Moira Johnston's website). See also the following online articles:

    Anyhow, the Ramona case was indeed an important landmark case - the first time a an accused parent successfully sued his child's therapists for implanting false memories.

    The other older case S.M. Elliot mentions is that of George Franklin, who was convicted in 1990 for the murder of a young girl, based on the "memories" of his grown daughter, Eileen. The conviction was overturned in 1996. See the following pages:

    In another blog entry on Monday, February 20, 2006, Another Recovered Memory Conviction, S.M. Elliot tells us about the case of Steven Slutzker, convicted in 1992 of the murder of John Mudd 20 years earlier, based on a sudden flashback by Mudd's son John Mudd Jr.

  13. Real-life crimes in the name of Satan
  14. On Saturday, March 11, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted about some Death Metal Murders and Suicides.

    S.M. Elliot, if you're reading this, you might want to see my collection of links and commentary on Maniacal musicians on my page Tabloid prophecy fulfillers: Satanism's real-life criminal fringe: How should law-abiding Satanists respond?

    Her blog entry ends with a quote from sociology professor Maria Macioti of La Sapienza University: "In the past, there were intellectual Satanists. Today, you'd have difficulty finding people who can write two sentences." (Fortean Times, "Satan Strikes Again", April '06).

    Hey! Evidently, Macioti hasn't had a look at my Theistic Satanism website, or at my Theistic Satanism forums. There still do exist plenty of "intellectual Satanists," although I'll admit that the Satanist scene has attracted oodles of idiots too.

  15. Religiously motivated crimes by Christians
  16. In Christian Visions Led to the Starvation of an Infant, Saturday, March 11, 2006, S.M. Elliot reports on the 1999 case of Karen Robidoux, whose baby Samuel died of starvation because he was being fed nothing but breast milk while Karen was on a weird diet consisting of nothing but almond milk. She had been told to go on this diet by her sister-in-law Michelle Mingo, supposedly based on a vision from God. Karen and her husband Jacques were both charged with murder. Says S.M. Elliot: "Jacques Robidoux was convicted in June, 2004. Michelle Mingo lost custody of her 5 children."

    S.M. Elliot doesn't give any sources, but, fortunately, Googling the string "Karen Robidoux Samuel Jacques" turns up quite a few relevant pages.

  17. Roman Catholic Exorcism
  18. On Monday, January 30, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted a blog entry titled Canadian Priest Staying Mum About Exorcism Class, about the Church's (or at least one particular diocese's) policy of secrecy regarding the contents of the Vatican exorcism course, which one Canadian Catholic priest had attended. (For a bunch of news stories about the course, see Exorcism, the Vatican, and the current Italian Satanic panic on my page about Exorcism, "spiritual warfare," and anti-occultism. See also my page about Italy's current Satanic panic.)

    The one Canadian priest who attended the course is not allowed to talk about it. The alleged reason, according to the priest's bishop, is, "As the devil likes to be an object of curiosity and sensationalism...I don't want to give him any more attention than he deserves." Yeah, right. For some reason, the Catholic clergy seems to feel a lot freer to talk about exorcism in Mexico and even here in the United States than in Canada. My guess as to the real reason is that, in Canada, a larger proportion of the population is skeptical, and the church doesn't like exposing itself to skeptical scrutiny. Even here in the U.S., though, the Church tends to be reticent about the details, throwing the public just enough tantalizing tidbits to arouse curiosity. Oh, well.

    I've written the above on the assumption that S.M. Elliot's quote from the bishop is accurate. Unfortunately, as usual, S.M.Elliot doesn't tell us her source for the quote.

    On Tuesday, January 31, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted The Real "Emily Rose" and Vodoun Bunk: The Fatal Exorcism of Anneliese Michel. Regarding the real-life exorcism on which the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based, S.M. Elliot writes:

    The symptoms of epilepsy are nearly identical to the "symptoms" of supposed demonic possession.

    Audiotapes were made of Anneliese's exorcism. In addition to the usual sounds of possession (growling, clicking, hissing), she spoke in the voices of the various spirits who inhabited her body: Hitler, Judas Iscariot, a murderous Jewish doctor, etc. The tapes are revealing. The accent used for Hitler differed dramatically from his real one, and none of the spirits revealed any knowledge that couldn't be gleaned from textbooks and the Bible.

    Fascinating. To S.M. Elliot, if you're reading this: Could you please tell us your source regarding the contents of these audiotapes? I'd really like to learn more about this, and I'm sure others would too. Googling "Anneliese Michel audio tape" brought up lots and lots of pages, which I really don't feel like slogging though to find the specific impressions you've mentioned here.

  19. African witchhunts
  20. On Monday, February 13, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted African Children Victims of Satanic Panic, containing a link to a horrifying story Thousands of child 'witches' turned on to the streets to starve:  Kinshasa sects make fortunes from exorcisms by Richard Dowden, The Observer (U.K.), Sunday February 12, 2006. I've added this to my collection of links on Witchhunts in Africa today on my page about religious trends.

    On Wednesday, March 08, 2006, she posted Ghana's Witch Camps, stating that "At least 1000 elderly women in Ghana are being forced to reside in "witch camps" because they have been branded witches by their neighbors." She gives a link which, unfortunately, appears to be out of date. (Either that or the page is incompatibel with my browser, or something.)

  21. Apocalyptic stuff
  22. On Tuesday, January 31, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number, about the possibility that the number "666" in the Book of Revelation may have actually been "616."

    For most of what she says in this blog entry, she does give sources - at least in a general way, though I wish she'd give more specific citations. But then she says, without giving any source at all: "But some Satanists have stated that if the Christians switch over to 616, they'll follow suit."

    Well, it's not hard to believe that some Satanists would indeed say such a thing. Personally, I don't put much stock in apocalyptic prophecies at all, be they Christian prophecies or theistic Satanist variants thereof. For nearly 2000 years, there have been Christians who have said that the end was going to arrive any day now, and it hasn't arrived yet. If/when the end ever does arrive, I would expect a closer resemblance to Hopi prophecies of the "great cleansing" (essentially a human-made disaster) than to any Christian prophecies.

    On Saturday, February 11, 2006, S.M. Elliot posted Take the AntiChrist Quiz!, referring us to a quiz on the PBS Frontline website.

  23. Miscelleneous
  24. In Da Vinci's Other Code: Priests Become Perverts Because of...Art? Tuesday, March 28, 2006, S.M. Elliot talks about the move Rape of the Soul. I've added a link to her blog entry on my page about Subliminal "Satanic" imagery in Roman Catholic church art?.

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