Remembering Satan

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Devil and his works are big news these days, but is America really under siege by satanic cults? Lawrence Wright looks at the question in the larger context of “recovered memory syndrome,” the popular idea that certain life experiences buried deep within the subconscious may sometimes resurface years later, often with traumatic results.

Paul Ingram was arrested in 1988 on child abuse charges brought against him by his two grown daughters, Julie and Erika. The girls fleshed out their accounts with descriptions of somber rituals involving chanting, sexual abuse, and midnight abortions. More arrests were made, but as the investigation continued, it soon became clear that there was less to this case than what was suggested by the witnesses’ stories. The physical scars that should have been present were nowhere to be found on Erika and Julie. For lack of such evidence, and because of the girls’ inconsistent testimony, the matter was finally dropped, but not before the credibility of the police department was seriously impugned and the Ingram family utterly destroyed.

Recovered memory syndrome enjoys the support of many psychotherapists, yet despite the crusading spirit that has grown up around it, the condition exists only in theory. The Ingram case was pounced upon by mental health professionals, most of them true believers. Wright shows us quite effectively what can happen when believers take over and reason goes by the wayside. REMEMBERING SATAN is a genuinely frightening account, a brilliant piece of reporting.