Mulitple Personalities and Satanic Cults--Victims of Memory

By Mark Pendergrast

                            Excerpts from
                          VICTIMS OF MEMORY
                         by Mark Pendergrast
                 Second edition.  Upper Access, 1996.

     From the chapter, "Multiple Personalities and Satanic Cults"

  At the 1977 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association,
Cornelia Wilbur chaired the first organized panel on MPD and invited
Ralph Allison to present his views. Allison brought along Henry
Hawksworth -- an MPD patient who later wrote his own book -- as a
surprise guest. Subsequently, Allison was asked to chair the panel the
next year.

  Soon, however, the California psychiatrist was eased out of power by
younger colleagues, including Bennett Braun and Richard Kluft, who
were determined to lend an air of scientific credibility to the
diagnosis. Allison, with his shamanistic belief in demons, proved to
be an embarrassment and was effectively shut out of the movement.

  By the mid-'80s, under the influence of Kluft and company, an entire
MPD industry had arisen, with its own societies, authorities,
specialized journals and newsletters. Because of Eve, Sybil, Ralph
Allison, and other interested therapists, multiple personality was
included in 1980 in the third edition of the American Psychiatric
Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM), which meant that an MPD diagnosis could draw insurance
payments. In the early 1980s, a core group of therapists -- Bennett
Braun, Richard Kluft, Eugene Bliss, George Greaves, David Caul, Colin
Ross, and Frank Putnam -- cranked out articles on MPD. Several
prestigious psychological journals published special issues devoted to
the topic. In 1984, the International Society for the Study of
Multiple Personality & Dissociation was founded. In the late 1980s,
more popular books and professional articles on multiplicity poured

  It is not surprising, then, that Sheppard Pratt is not an isolated
example. Bennett Braun's dissociative disorders unit at Rush
Presbyterian-St. Luke's in Skokie, Illinois, is apparently also
fertile ground for MPD contagion. Pat Burgus, once Braun's prize
patient, along with several other former patients, is suing Braun and
his colleague Roberta Sachs for abusive therapy. Her life was nearly
destroyed by the process. She became convinced that she had been a
high priestess in a satanic cult. Not only that, but her two sons,
then four and five, were also diagnosed as MPD cult members and were
hospitalized for nearly three years. The children were given stickers
as a reward for coming up with grotesque fantasies. The Burgus family
tragedy, which cost an insurance company $3 million, is told in detail
in "Therapy of a High Priestess," a chapter in Richard Ofshe and Ethan
Watters' compelling 1994 book, Making Monsters, and in the 1995
Frontline documentary, "The Search for Satan."

  Braun was clearly fascinated and moved by his clients' bizarre
revelations. Sometimes he would cry along with Burgus. Other times, he
apparently became sexually aroused during her lurid descriptions of
sexual assaults. With the encouragement of Braun and Sachs, Burgus
eventually came up with memories of lit torches being pushed inside
her, being buried for days on end, and having to eat the body parts of
two thousand people a year. While they ate dinner one night in the
hospital, Braun asked Burgus if the cottage cheese reminded her of
anything, then wondered aloud whether she had ever opened a human
brain. He believed that flowers sent to patients in his unit were
really dangerous triggers. "Red roses or white baby's breath means
bloody suicide. Pink roses mean hanging," he told other therapists in
a 1992 presentation.

  And Bennett Braun is not just any psychiatrist. He has been the
acknowledged leader in the diagnosis of multiple personality in the
United States, the expert's expert. Typical of the cutting edge MPD
gurus, Braun prides himself on his courage and adventurous spirit,
testing the frontiers of human experience. He enjoys skydiving,
technical rock climbing, scuba diving, and horseback riding. He once
tried fire walking. He appears to get a kind of paranoid thrill from
his belief in widespread satanic cults. "About 20 patients have told
me they were sent to kill me," he told one reporter.

  Another former patient, Mary Shanley (her real name), echoes much of
Angela's experience. As a 39-year-old first grade teacher, she entered
an inpatient unit under Bennett Braun's supervision in the Chicago
area early in 1990. She disliked Braun intensely. "He thinks he's
God," she told me, "and you'd better think so, too." But Shanley
admired Roberta Sachs, her psychologist. Under Sachs's tutelage,
Shanley came to believe that her mother had been the high priestess in
a satanic cult, and that she, Mary, was being groomed for the
position. "I remembered going to rituals and witnessing sacrifices. I
had a baby at age 13, supposedly, and that child was sacrificed. I
totally believed all of this. I would have spontaneous abreactions,
partly because I was so heavily medicated. I was on Inderal, Xanax,
Prozac, Klonopin, Halcion, and several other drugs, all at once. No
wonder I was dissociating."

  After eleven months, Shanley finally got out of the hospital for
three months. Then Roberta Sachs called her and asked if she would
consult with psychologist Corydon Hammond, who was coming to town to
give a workshop. After a hypnotic session during which Hammond tried
to get Shanley to name Greek letters and identify a Dr. Green, he
announced that she was so highly programmed and resistant that she was
not treatable. Her nine-year-old son, however, might still be saved if
he was treated in time. Otherwise, the cult would kill him.  Shanley's
husband believed Hammond, and a week or two later Mary Shanley was
taken to the airport, not knowing her destination.

  There is hope, however. In 1995, Shanley's horror story was featured
in a Frontline documentary, "The Search for Satan," making it
painfully clear that she was a victim of terrible therapy. Two lawyers
-- Zachary Bravos of Wheaton, Illinois, and Skip Simpson of Dallas,
Texas -- are representing Shanley and several other patients in suits
against Judith Peterson, Roberta Sachs, Bennett Braun, and others.
Because of their willingness to take her case, Shanley feels some hope
for the future.

  When Steck's insurance had almost run out, Bennett Braun flew in
from Rush Presbyterian in Chicago to evaluate her. Braun's 500-page
report, which discussed her abuse and suicide attempts in detail,
allowed the doctors to declare Steck a "catastrophic case," so that a
special rider on her insurance kicked in to continue to pay for
treatment. Later, Richard Loewenstein came from Sheppard Pratt to
confirm the diagnosis.

  In our own time, that generalization holds true. Ph.D. clinical
psychologists and psychiatrists -- trained as physicians and then
mind-healers -- are the primary agents to spread authoritative stories
of ritualistic abuse and conspiracy. Psychiatrist Bennett Braun
explains that "we are working with a national-international type
organization that's got a structure somewhat similar to the communist
cell structure." He asserts that cult members are "trained to
self-destruct" if they remember too much.

  In the United States, however, specialists such as Bennett Braun,
Corydon Hammond and Colin Ross have received enormous support from
books, articles, and conferences where the myths of satanic cults are
repeated and elaborated. In the final analysis, such therapists
believe in the cults because they want to believe. The sessions in
which menacing, evil alters appear provide the same thrill which
exorcists experienced hundreds of years ago. It is challenging,
exciting, frightening work -- a far cry from the humdrum existence of
the routine mental health professional who listens to a boring litany
of drab complaints all day long. Yes, it's difficult work --
dangerous, in fact, because the cult members may even try to
assassinate the therapist. But for the intrepid mind explorer, savior
of souls, healer of splintered selves, it is all worthwhile.

  For endnotes and footnotes, see the book.

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