It’s a good news/bad news story: the Washington Post reported on 25 August that a couple from Austin, Texas who’d been falsely accused of Satanic ritual abuse back in the bad old days of the 1980s-1990s Satanic panic had finally been awarded financial compensation for the more than 21 years they’d each spent in prison.
Yes, US$3.4 million is a lot of money, and the couple, Dan and Fran Keller, will likely have no financial worries for the rest of their lives. But 21+ years is a lot of years. Fran is now 67, and Dan is 75. They won’t be getting any of those years back, no matter how much financial compensation they receive.
In 1992, the Kellers were convicted of the usual bollocks, after parents of an emotionally disturbed child, parents of other children, quack psychotherapists, and gullible police used “the latest interview techniques” to draw bizarre stories from children who attended the Kellers’ day care centre.
The Kellers were accused by various children (all patients of the same psychologist) of “serving blood-laced Kool Aid; wearing white robes; cutting the heart out of a baby; flying children to Mexico to be raped by soldiers; using Satan’s arm as a paintbrush; burying children alive with animals; throwing them in a swimming pool with sharks; shooting them; and resurrecting them after they had been shot”.
“Satan’s arm as a paintbrush”? Seriously?
And forgive us, but the bit about the Kellers shooting the children and then resurrecting them reminds us of this:
The Post reports that
…one girl claimed that Dan Keller “had come to her house and had cut her dog’s vagina with a chain saw until it bled, that she was taken to a cemetery, where, after a person dressed like a policeman threw a person in a hole, Daniel Keller shot the person who had been thrown into the hole and cut up the body with a chain saw while all the children helped.”
Sure, sounds totally plausible to us.
Actually, no. No, it doesn’t. It sounds no more plausible than the idea that some 170 people could crowd into a school and/or church in the middle of a busy school day to rape, torture, and murder infants and children, leaving behind absolutely no trace of evidence—no blood, no semen, no stray dildos—and completely escaping the notice of all the other students at the school, their parents and teachers, and the various visitors and passersby who might have seen or heard anything during these broad-daylight orgies.
It sounds no more plausible than the bizarre notion that thousands of infants could be shipped from various countries in boxes transported by plane and delivery fan, without the babies either freezing to death or dying of hypoxia in the unpressurised hold of the airplane, without them crying and alerting any of the many, many people who handle package deliveries, without soiling their nappies and creating the most Godawful stench…and that’s not even getting into the difficulties which would arise if a “package” were late in being delivered.
None of it sounds plausible because none of it is plausible.
These fantasies are made up for various reasons—in the 1980s–1990s version, the reason seemed to be a combination of poorly thought out theories of psychology (the idea that multiple personalities could result from severe trauma, for example); poorly trained and indoctrinated psychotherapists who were more attached to their theories than to the well-being of their patients; and an hysterical media, willing and able to churn out headlines like “terror at the day care” or “kids in Satanic sex horror”.
If Dan and Fran Keller were the only couple convicted of insane, implausible, physically or logistically impossible crimes against children, that would be bad enough. But they were far from alone.
The Kern County case in California, the McMartin Preschool case, the Wee Care nursery school case in New Jersey, the Little Rascals case, the Martenville case in Canada, the Cleveland, Rochdale, and Orkney cases in the UK…each of these left a trail of traumatised victims, falsely accused and often convicted on the most spurious claims, backed up by ludicrously sparse evidence.
It’s shocking that the falsely accused and imprisoned are still emerging from prison 25 years after the Satanic panic, the best years of their lives stolen from them. We wonder whether any of their accusers feel even a shred of remorse for the damage they have done. We hope they do.