Psychology/Psychiatry

The Devil Rides Out

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Halloween link #1: Twenty-one years ago, dozens of children at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, accused their instructors of molesting them in bizarre occult rituals. The lurid stories, which were eventually debunked, set the tone for the satanic panic of the '80s, in which many innocent lives were wrecked by false accusations and overzealous prosecutors. In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, one of the accusers finally recanted.

From Debbie Nathan's introduction to the story:

In the decade and a half since the defendants were set free, research psychologists have shown that it's easy to pressure children to describe bad things that never happened. False memories can feel real, though, not just for preschoolers but for older children as well. But [Kyle] Sapp, now known as Kyle Zirpolo, says he never had false memories: He always knew his stories of abuse were made up. The adults at the McMartin Pre-School "never did anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything," he says today. "I said a lot of things that didn't happen. I lied." 

Halloween link #2: The grotesque abuses at the Bridgewater asylum for the criminally insane, on the other hand, really did take place, and were recorded in Frederick Wiseman's extraordinary 1967 documentary Titicut Follies, the first of several films Wiseman made about life under different total and semi-total institutions (High School, Hospital, Welfare, etc.). The state of Massachusetts banned the movie not long after it was released, and it was kept from public view from then until 1991; to this day, it has been hard to track down a copy. But now you can watch it online.

Halloween link #3: If you want to spice up your Halloween party with literature guaranteed to send a guest to Bridgewater or some other home for the hopelessly mad, here's some Martha Stewart-worthy tips on how to assemble your own Necronomicons. If you just want your guest to keel over dead, skip the Necronomicon and invite his abusive boss.