REMEMBERING SATAN: A Case of Recovered Memory and the Shattering of an American Family by Lawrence Wright

REMEMBERING SATAN: A Case of Recovered Memory and the Shattering of an American Family

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Is satanic ritual abuse (SRA) real? In this book Wright (Saints and Sinners, 1993) examines the bizarre case of a family's ""memories"" of abuse and the flawed investigation that followed. The Ingrams of Olympia, Washington, were a hard-working, Christian fundamentalist family. Paul was a deputy sheriff; he and wife, Sandy, were loving partners but strict parents of their five kids. In 1988, 22-year-old Ericka, prompted by a counselor at a church retreat, accused her father of sexual abuse, charges later expanded by younger sister, Julie, to include her dad's poker buddies. The investigators, Paul's juniors in the sheriff's department, accepted the charges uncritically, believing that something must have happened. They quickly elicited a confession from Paul and steered him into implicating two of Paul's friends: all three were arrested. The detectives next brought up Satanism (nobody else had), and the highly suggestible Paul spewed out memories of atrocities he had committed during cult rituals. Later, Ericka claimed to have watched 25 babies sacrificed and, under pressure, Sandy and sons Paul, Ross, and Chad dredged up their own memories -- none of which matched, dismaying the prosecution-hungry detectives. Wright steps back from the yammering to supply a context: the growth of interest in SRA (books, talk shows); research into false memories; the links between the recovered-memory phenomenon; Freud's seduction theory; and the concept of repression. Meanwhile, the prosecution's case collapsed and charges against Paul's buddies were dropped. Paul himself asked for, but was denied, an opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea; he is now serving a 20-year sentence. Wright tentatively concludes that the Ingram daughters' assertions stemmed from their repressed fantasies. This important case could have turned into a witch-hunt, and Wright does an excellent job of making that clear; he has a harder time involving us in the fate of the alleged victims and perpetrators, who -- especially the robotic Paul -- are as colorless as their memories are lurid.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Knopf