Episode 145:

Live at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles

The Satanic Panic of McMartin Pre-School


The Mannequin at the Carnival


Episode 145: Live at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles

Karen and Georgia cover the satanic panic of McMartin Pre-School and the Mannequin at the Carnival.

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The satanic panic of McMartin Pre-School

The Satanic Panic of McMartin Pre-School Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Other Image Sources:

McMartin Preschool 1984 from NewYorkTimes.com

Six Teachers and the Founder of McMartin Preschool at Trial from NewYorkTimes.com

"The McMartin preschool trial was a day care sexual abuse case in the 1980s, prosecuted by the Los Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner. Members of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care. Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990, it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history. The case was part of day-care sex-abuse hysteria, a moral panic over alleged Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1983, Judy Johnson, mother of one of the Manhattan Beach, California, preschool's young students, reported to the police that her son had been sodomized by her estranged husband and by McMartin teacher Ray Buckey. Ray Buckey was the grandson of school founder Virginia McMartin and son of administrator Peggy McMartin Buckey. Johnson's belief that her son had been abused began when her son had painful bowel movements. What happened next is still disputed. Some sources state that at that time, Johnson's son denied her suggestion that his preschool teachers had molested him, whereas others say he confirmed the abuse.

In addition, Johnson also made several more accusations, including that people at the daycare had sexual encounters with animals, that "Peggy drilled a child under the arms" and "Ray flew in the air." Ray Buckey was questioned, but was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. The police then sent a form letter to about 200 parents of students at the McMartin school, stating that their children might have been abused, and asking the parents to question their children. The text of the letter read:

September 8, 1983. Dear Parent: This Department is conducting a criminal investigation involving child molestation (288 P.C.) Ray Buckey, an employee of Virginia McMartin's Pre-School, was arrested September 7, 1983 by this Department. The following procedure is obviously an unpleasant one, but to protect the rights of your children as well as the rights of the accused, this inquiry is necessary for a complete investigation. Records indicate that your child has been or is currently a student at the pre-school. We are asking your assistance in this continuing investigation. Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim. Our investigation indicates that possible criminal acts include: oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttock or chest area, and sodomy, possibly committed under the pretense of "taking the child's temperature." Also photos may have been taken of children without their clothing. Any information from your child regarding having ever observed Ray Buckey to leave a classroom alone with a child during any nap period, or if they have ever observed Ray Buckey tie up a child, is important. Please complete the enclosed information form and return it to this Department in the enclosed stamped return envelope as soon as possible. We will contact you if circumstances dictate same. We ask you to please keep this investigation strictly confidential because of the nature of the charges and the highly emotional effect it could have on our community. Please do not discuss this investigation with anyone outside your immediate family. Do not contact or discuss the investigation with Raymond Buckey, any member of the accused defendant's family, or employees connected with the McMartin Pre-School.

Johnson was diagnosed with and hospitalized for acute paranoid schizophrenia and in 1986 was found dead in her home from complications of chronic alcoholism before the preliminary hearing concluded.

Several hundred children were then interviewed by the Children's Institute International (CII), a Los Angeles-based abuse therapy clinic run by Kee MacFarlane. The interviewing techniques used during investigations of the allegations were highly suggestive and invited children to pretend or speculate about supposed events. By spring of 1984, it was claimed that 360 children had been abused. Astrid Heppenstall Heger performed medical examinations and took photos of what she believed to be minute scarring, which she stated was caused by anal penetration. Journalist John Earl believed that her findings were based on unsubstantiated medical histories. Later research demonstrated that the methods of questioning used on the children were extremely suggestive, leading to false accusations. Others believe that the questioning itself may have led to false memory syndrome among the children questioned. Only 41 of the original 360 children ultimately testified in the grand jury and pre-trial hearings, and fewer than a dozen testified at the actual trial.

Michael P. Maloney, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry, reviewed videotapes of the children's interviews. Maloney, testifying as an expert witness on interviewing children, was highly critical of the techniques used, referring to them as improper, coercive, directive, problematic and adult-directed in a way that forced the children to follow a rigid script. He concluded that "many of the kids' statements in the interviews were generated by the examiner." Transcripts and recordings of the interviews contained far more speech from adults than children and demonstrated that, despite the highly coercive interviewing techniques used, initially the children were resistant to interviewers' attempts to elicit disclosures. The recordings of the interviews were instrumental in the jury's refusal to convict, by demonstrating how children could be coerced to giving vivid and dramatic testimonies without having experienced actual abuse. The techniques used were shown to be contrary to the existing guidelines in California for the investigation of cases involving children and child witnesses.

Some of the accusations were described as "bizarre", overlapping with accusations that mirrored the emerging satanic ritual abuse panic. It was alleged that, in addition to having been sexually abused, they saw witches fly, traveled in a hot-air balloon, and were taken through underground tunnels. When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis (the McMartins's lawyer), one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers.

Some of the abuse was alleged to have occurred in secret tunnels beneath the school. Several excavations turned up evidence of old buildings on the site and other debris from before the school was built, but no evidence of any secret chambers or tunnels was found. There were claims of orgies at car washes and airports, and of children being flushed down toilets to secret rooms where they would be abused, then cleaned up and presented back to their parents. Some child interviewees talked of a game called "naked movie star" and suggested they were forcibly photographed nude. During the trial, some of the children's testimony stated that the "naked movie star" game was actually a rhyming taunt used to tease other children – "What you say is what you are, you're a naked movie star," – and had nothing to do with having naked pictures taken.

Johnson, who made the initial allegations, made bizarre and impossible statements about Raymond Buckey, including that he could fly. Though the prosecution asserted Johnson's mental illness was caused by the events of the trial, Johnson had admitted to them that she was mentally ill beforehand. Evidence of Johnson's mental illness was withheld from the defense for three years and, when provided, was in the form of sanitized reports that excluded Johnson's statements, at the order of the prosecution. One of the original prosecutors, Glenn Stevens, left the case in protest and stated that other prosecutors had withheld evidence from the defense, including the information that Johnson's son did not actually identify Ray Buckey in a series of photographs. Stevens also accused Robert Philibosian, the deputy district attorney on the case, of lying and withholding evidence from the court and defense lawyers in order to keep the Buckeys in jail and prevent access to exonerating evidence.

On March 22, 1984, Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray Buckey, Ray's sister Peggy Ann Buckey and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler were charged with 115 counts of child abuse, later expanded to 321 counts of child abuse involving 48 children. In the 20 months of preliminary hearings, the prosecution, led by attorney Lael Rubin, presented their theory of sexual abuse. The children's testimony during the preliminary hearings was inconsistent. Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder, co-authors of the now-discredited Satanic ritual abuse autobiography Michelle Remembers, met with the parents and children involved in the trial, and were believed by the initial prosecutor Glenn Stevens to have influenced the children's testimony. In 1986, a new district attorney called the evidence "incredibly weak," and dropped all charges against Virginia McMartin, Peggy Ann Buckey, Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor and Babette Spitler. Peggy McMartin Buckey and Ray Buckey remained in custody awaiting trial; Peggy McMartin's bail had been set at $1 million and Ray Buckey had been denied bail.

In 1989, Peggy Anne Buckey's appeal to have her teaching credentials re-instated after their suspension was granted. The judge ruled that there was no credible evidence or corroboration to lead to the license being suspended, and that a review of the videotaped interviews with McMartin children "reveal[ed] a pronounced absence of any evidence implicating [Peggy Ann] in any wrongdoing and ... raises additional doubts of credibility with respect to the children interviewed or with respect to the value of CII interviewing techniques themselves." The following day the credentialling board of Sacramento endorsed the ruling and restored Buckey's right to teach.

During the trial, George Freeman was called as a witness and testified that Ray Buckey had confessed to him while sharing a cell. Freeman later attempted to flee the country and confessed to perjury in a series of other criminal cases in which he manufactured testimony in exchange for favorable treatment by the prosecution in other cases, in several instances fabricating jailhouse confessions of other inmates. In order to guarantee his testimony during the McMartin case, Freeman was given immunity to previous charges of perjury.

In 1990, after three years of testimony and nine weeks of deliberation by the jury, Peggy McMartin Buckey was acquitted on all counts. Ray Buckey was cleared on 52 of 65 counts, and freed on bail after more than five years in jail. Nine of 11 jurors at a press conference following the trial stated that they believed the children had been molested but the evidence did not allow them to state who had committed the abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. Eleven out of the thirteen jurors who remained by the end of the trial voted to acquit Buckey of the charges; the refusal of the remaining two to vote for a not guilty verdict resulted in the deadlock. The media overwhelmingly focused on the two jurors who voted guilty at the expense of those who believed Buckey was not guilty. Buckey was retried later on 6 of the 13 counts, which produced another hung jury. The prosecution then gave up trying to obtain a conviction, and the case was closed with all charges against Ray Buckey dismissed. He had been jailed for five years without ever being convicted of committing any crime.

Shortly after investigation into the McMartin charges began, the funds to research child sexual abuse greatly increased, notably through the budget allocated for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN). The agency's budget increased from $1.8 million to $7.2 million between 1983 and 1984, increasing to $15 million in 1985, making it the greatest source of funding for child abuse and neglect prevention in the United States. The majority of this budget went toward studies on sexual abuse with only $5 million going towards physical abuse and neglect.

Federal funding was also used to arrange conferences on ritual abuse, providing an aura of respectability as well as allowing prosecutors to exchange tips on the best means of obtaining convictions. A portion of the funds were used to publish the book Behind the Playground Walls, which used a sample of children drawn from the McMartin families. The book claimed to study the effects of "reported" rather than actual abuse but portrayed all of the McMartin children as actual victims of abuse despite a lack of convictions during the trial and without mentioning questions about the reality of the accusations. Another grant of $173,000 went to David Finkelhor who used the funds to investigate allegations of day care sexual abuse throughout the country, combining the study of verified crimes by admitted pedophiles and unverified accusations of satanic ritual abuse..."

— Source: McMartin Preschool Trial Wikipedia

The Mannequin at the Carnival

The Mannequin at the Carnival Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Gabor Barbely on Unsplash

Image Source: Elmer in his coffin from Wikipedia Commons

"Elmer J. McCurdy (Washington, Maine, January 1, 1880 – Osage Hills, Oklahoma, October 7, 1911) was an American bank and train robber who was killed in a shoot-out with police after robbing a Katy Train in Oklahoma in October 1911. Dubbed "The Bandit Who Wouldn't Give Up", his mummified body was first put on display at an Oklahoma funeral home and then became a fixture on the traveling carnival and sideshow circuit during the 1920s through the 1960s. After changing ownership several times, McCurdy's remains eventually wound up at The Pike amusement zone in Long Beach, California where they were discovered by a film crew and positively identified in December 1976. In April 1977, Elmer McCurdy's body was buried at the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

McCurdy was born in Washington, Maine, on January 1, 1880. He was the son of 17-year-old Sadie McCurdy who was unmarried at the time of his birth. The identity of McCurdy's father is unknown; one possibility is Sadie's cousin, Charles Smith (McCurdy would later use the name "Charles Smith" as an alias). In order to save Sadie the embarrassment and shame of raising an illegitimate child, her brother George and his wife Helen adopted Elmer. After George died of tuberculosis in 1890, Sadie and Helen moved with Elmer to Bangor, Maine. Sadie eventually told her son that she, not Helen, was his mother and that she was unsure of who his biological father was. The news disturbed McCurdy who grew resentful and became "unruly and rebellious". As a teenager, he began drinking heavily, a habit he would continue throughout his life.

McCurdy eventually returned to Maine to live with his grandfather and became an apprentice plumber. He reportedly was a competent worker and lived comfortably until the economic downturn in 1898. McCurdy lost his job and, in August 1900, his mother died of a ruptured ulcer. His grandfather died of Bright's disease the following month. Shortly after his grandfather's death, McCurdy left Maine and began drifting around the eastern United States where he worked as a lead miner and plumber. He was unable to hold a job for an extended period due to his alcoholism. He eventually made his way to Kansas where he worked as a plumber in Cherryvale. McCurdy then moved to Iola where, in 1905, he was arrested for public intoxication. He then relocated to Webb City, Missouri.

In 1907, McCurdy joined the United States Army. Assigned to Fort Leavenworth, McCurdy was a machine gun operator and was trained to use nitroglycerin for demolition purposes (the extent of this training was likely minimal). He was honorably discharged from the Quartermaster Corps on November 7, 1910. McCurdy then made his way to St. Joseph, Kansas where he met with an Army friend. On November 19, McCurdy and his friend were arrested for possessing burglary paraphernalia (chisels, hacksaws, funnels for nitroglycerin and gunpowder and money sacks). The St. Joseph Gazette reported that during their arraignment, McCurdy and his friend told the judge the tools were not intended for burglary purposes but were tools they needed to work on a foot operated machine gun they were inventing. In January 1911, a jury found McCurdy not guilty. After his release from county jail, McCurdy's short lived career as a bank and train robber began. His robberies were generally bungled affairs due to McCurdy's ineptitude.

McCurdy decided to incorporate his training with nitroglycerin into his robberies. This often caused problems as he was overzealous and failed to correctly determine the proper amount to use. By March 1911, McCurdy had again relocated to Lenapah, Oklahoma. He and three other men decided to rob the Iron Mountain-Missouri Pacific train after McCurdy heard that one of the cars contained a safe with $4,000. They successfully stopped the train and located the safe. McCurdy then put nitroglycerin on the safe's door to open it but used too much. The safe was destroyed in the blast as was the majority of the money. McCurdy and his partners managed to net $450 in silver coins, most of which were melted and fused to the safe's frame.

In September 1911, McCurdy and two other men robbed The Citizens Bank in Chautauqua, Kansas. After spending two hours breaking through the bank wall with a hammer, McCurdy placed a nitroglycerin charge around the door of the bank's outer vault. The blast blew the vault door through the bank destroying the interior, but did not damage the safe inside the vault. McCurdy then tried to blow the safe door open with nitroglycerin but the charge failed to ignite. After the lookout man got scared and ran off, McCurdy and his accomplices stole about $150 in coins that were in a tray outside the safe and fled. Later that night, the men hopped a train which took them to the Kansas border. They split up and McCurdy made his way to the ranch of a friend, Charlie Revard, near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He stayed in a hayshed on the property for the next few weeks and drank heavily.

McCurdy's final robbery took place on October 4, 1911 near Okesa, Oklahoma. McCurdy and two accomplices planned to rob a Katy Train after hearing that it contained $400,000 in cash that was intended as royalty payment to the Osage Nation. However, McCurdy and the men mistakenly stopped a passenger train instead. The men were able to steal only $46 from the mail clerk, two demijohns of whiskey, an automatic revolver, a coat and the train conductor's watch. A newspaper account of the robbery later called it "one of the smallest in the history of train robbery." McCurdy was disappointed by the haul and returned to Revard's ranch on October 6 where he began drinking the demijohns of whiskey he stole. By this time, he was also ill with tuberculosis (which he developed after working in mines), a mild case of pneumonia and trichinosis. He stayed up drinking with some of the ranch hands before going to sleep in the hay loft the following morning.[ Unbeknownst to McCurdy, he had been implicated in the robbery and a $2,000 reward for his capture was issued.

In the early morning hours of October 7, a posse of three sheriffs, brothers Bob and Stringer Fenton and Dick Wallace, tracked McCurdy to the hay shed using bloodhounds. They surrounded the hay shed and waited for daylight. In an interview featured in the October 8, 1911 edition of the Daily Examiner, Sheriff Bob Fenton recalled:

It began just about 7 o'clock. We were standing around waiting for him to come out when the first shot was fired at me. It missed me and he then turned his attention to my brother, Stringer Fenton. He shot three times at Stringer and when my brother got under cover he turned his attention to Dick Wallace. He kept shooting at all of us for about an hour. We fired back every time we could. We do not know who killed him ... (on the trail) we found one of the jugs of whiskey which was taken from the train. It was about empty. He was pretty drunk when he rode up to the ranch last night.

McCurdy was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest which he sustained while lying down..."

— Source: Elmer McCurdy Wikipedia