The Satanic Panic started in 1980 with a book, Michelle Remembers, co-written by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist (and future husband) Lawrence Pazder. Claiming to be the true tale of Michelle’s childhood – as remembered through the now-discredited practice of recovered memory therapy – Michelle said that she was abused by the Church of Satan, starting at the age of five. Among her claims were that she witnessed human sacrifices, was rubbed with blood and body parts of those sacrificed, tortured, and forced to take part in a non-stop, 81-day ritual in an underground room in a cemetery that summoned Satan, removed visual evidence of the abuse she had undergone, and hidden the memories until “the time is right.”
Almost immediately, the debunking began. Most notably, during the alleged 81-day ritual, Michelle still attended school and showed no signs of abuse. Michelle was unable to identify any of the hundreds of alleged participants in the ritual, except for her mother. There was no historical record of a car accident as described in the book. Pazder also never attempted to contact the police to investigate any of the alleged crimes Michelle “remembered.” Despite this, Pazder and Smith became celebrities in their “field.” Pazder was used as a consultant in the McMartin preschool trials, and Smith appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show. Michelle Remembers was used in training material for law enforcement and social workers.
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