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Satanic abuse, false memories, weird beliefs and moral panics

Waterhouse, R.T. (2014). Satanic abuse, false memories, weird beliefs and moral panics. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This critical analysis focuses on my investigations over the past almost 24 years into what I term the ‘Satanic ritual abuse myth’ – or ‘Satanic panic’ – the controversy over recovered versus false memories, and, more recently, the validity of the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder (MPD), now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID). This reflective analysis, written for the PhD by prior publication, explores how my journalism has made an original and significant contribution to knowledge in my own field, investigative journalism, and how it relates to – and has contributed to - the literature in several academic disciplines – the psychology of false memories, the anomalistic psychology of weird beliefs, and the sociology of moral panics. I was one of the first researchers internationally to conclude there was no physical, forensic evidence that Satanic abuse existed. My ‘Making of a Satanic Myth’ feature, published in the Independent on Sunday in 1990, has been cited in the literature, along with key investigations since. I describe the methodology and conduct of research during my continuing investigations into the origins and spread of the ‘Satanic panic’ and related controversies of false memories and multiple personalities. The dissertation itself adds significantly to academic theories and historical accounts of these events from the 1980s until today. Through a wide reading of the literature I have pieced together a forensic chronology which provides a unique overview of a particular era of striking and peculiar phenomena. On reflection, I conclude that my investigations provide evidence for the concept of moral panics created through an ‘explosive amplification’ of anecdote, social and official concern about issues such as child abuse, spread by ‘claims-makers’ and a globalised mass media. Although sporadic claims of Satanic abuse continue I conclude there is still no corroborating evidence.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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