Satanist survivors

by Rex Springston

[The following is a June 1988 excerpted article from the Richmond, Virginia "News Leader".)

Cassandra Hoyer said she was being thrown to the ground by 30 Satanists when a woman drove by and stopped her car to help. "They dragged her into the woods, hung her on a cross and sacrificed her by fire," Ms. Hoyer alleged. Another time, Ms. Hoyer and a teenager were harassed and dipped into vats of blood, she said. She claimed that both rituals occurred in the summer of 1987 in a rural part of Goochland County, Virginia, she said.

At the time, investigating Police found nothing -- no car, no missing person report, not even a drop of blood from the vats, said chief deputy Leslie Parrish. Does he believe the stories? "I'm a little 'iffy' on it," he said. Sue Bane says she has witnessed 50 to 70 human sacrifices by Satanists in the Richmond area. The most recent occurred about six months ago in Henrico County when a baby was sacrificed on an altar, then cut up into pieces, she said. The police have found nothing.

Hoyer, 42, and Bane, 28, call themselves survivors of Satanic cults. They are representative of hundreds of such "survivors" across the country. Both have had intensive psychotherapy, and both suffer from multiple-personality disorders, their psychiatrists say. Neither has physical evidence to support her contentions. "Survivors" across the country have told extremely similar stories of torture and sacrifice without corroboration by physical evidence, experts say. The stories -- given great play on talk shows and in the mainstream press -- help feed the notion that Satanic cults are conducting sacrifices with regularity across the country. Many experts say that notion is a myth.

Two outspoken local advocates of the Satanic-conspiracy theory, Richmond police Lt. Lawrence Haake and Hanover County "private investigator" Patricia Pulling, say "survivors" are key sources of their information. "People are saying the same thing all over the country, and those people are totally unrelated to one another, but what they say is consistent -- to me that is a degree of credibility," said Haake.

Some mental health professionals say the survivor accounts are simply delusions suffered by mentally disturbed people and passed to the public as fact by unskeptical therapists, police officers and news reporters. The delusions may be reactions to genuine, but non-Satanic, abuse they received as children, experts say. "The true cult is the people who believe in this," said Dr. Park Dietz, a Newport Beach, CA forensic psychiatrist.

Ms. Hoyer, a toy-store cashier who was brought up in New England and has lived in Richmond since 1980, has spoken in public meetings and in news stories of being chased by a Satanic cult, being repeatedly raped and being forced to witness two local sacrifices. Her story was the basis for a January 1988 feature article in "Style Weekly", a weekend newspaper insert. Mrs. Bane has spoken about Satanism to Richmond police training groups, according to her and Parrish. She is writing a book, "Freedom from Satan's Horror".

She revealed she had 17 personalities, and some of them wanted to be in the cult. She said therapy and faith in God fused her 17 personalities into one. "I prayed, and through a miracle, I was completely integrated," she said. Her husband, Nathan, a 35-year- old plumber, said the whole thing had been a "nightmare." He said he never saw the rituals; his wife would slip out at night to go to them. Ms. Hoyer and Mrs. Bane said they began to realize they were Satanic cult victims while undergoing psychotherapy in recent years.

Adults are not the only ones to describe Satanic rituals. According to officials, a dozen or more children in the Richmond area have described them, as logged by various Virginia state and local departments. The children reported -- or indicated through play and passing comments -- seeing sacrifices, dismemberment and other bloody rituals.

"They are not saying they witnessed it. They are talking about it as if they know about it, and that's what makes us suspicious," said Bettie Kienast, a Social Service director. She said her department had dealt with four such children in about four years.

The stories are consistent with unconfirmed reports from children across the country. Many experts say the children may have picked up the stories from adults or other children or even from movies and other popular culture. The stories also may be fantasies or false reports induced by leading questions, experts say. In some cases, the children may have been victims of real but non-Satanic abuse, or of abuse by pedophiles who use the trappings of Satanism as a means of control, some experts say.

Kenneth Lanning, the FBI's chief expert on sex crimes against children, has been consulted in more than 299 case involving Satanic themes. He would not discuss specific cases but he said he was aware of claims of sacrifice in the Richmond area. He said he knows of no bona fide Satanic cult sacrifice -- not only in Central Virginia, but nationwide. Regarding Mrs. Bane's story, Lanning said, "It's unlikely that a group of individuals could come together, commit 50 to 70 human sacrifices, and no one ever finds any evidence, no mother of a (sacrificed) child ever has second thought . . . nobody ever makes a mistake."

[Note the great similarity in reports of Satanic ritual and UFO abduction reports.]

Copyright © 1990 BAY AREA SKEPTICS. Reprints must credit "BASIS, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco, CA 94122-3928."

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