From the Toronto National Post, last week:
A controversial police investigation into suspected sex abuse of children by the late British prime minister Edward Heath, with related claims of Satanic rituals and murders, originated in Edmonton in 1989, when a Canadian psychologist hypnotized a woman and helped her “recover” suppressed memories, according to a confidential police consultant report obtained by the National Post.
Cheryl Malmo, an Edmonton psychologist who retired in 2016, hypnotized a woman to treat her for depression, which she suspected was related to abuse from her childhood in Wiltshire, England, according to the report. What followed was a litany of horrific tales, seeping slowly from the woman’s memory, growing in lurid detail over time, “guided and influenced” by Malmo’s hypnotherapy, according to the consultant criminologist.
…They include stories of helping her mother kidnap a boy, who was raped by her father on a church altar, then suspended from a rope, as the woman’s mother cut his penis with a knife and drained his blood into a gleaming metal bucket. After apparently suppressing these memories all her adult life, the woman, then in her late 40s, told stories of rape, candlelit black magic rituals, cannibalism, child murder and bestiality — stories that were initially about her parents, but in time grew to include one of the most powerful men in the world.
The “confidential police consultant report” was by Dr Rachel Hoskins, and the fact that the National Post has a copy is less of a sensation when it is noted that the same report formed the basis for a front-page splash that appeared in the Mail on Sunday in November, under the headline “Heath Accuser ‘Is a Satanic Sex Fantasist'”. Hoskins went public due to concerns about the direction of the police investigation. I discussed the background here.
The late Ted Heath was only added to the abuse story years after the accuser’s association with Malmo:
The case was resurrected only in the last year or so, with the added detail of Heath’s alleged participation in some of the abuse, but not the Satanic rituals. One sister told police she had seen his face on the news and “trusted my gut.”
Heath was on the news at that time because other individuals had accused him of child sex abuse (discussed by me here), and the police had decided to launch an investigation with a dramatic announcement outside Heath’s former home in Salisbury in August 2015.
Hoskins referred to the therapist as “Fiona”, and claimed that she had been mentored by none other than Lawrence Pazder, author of the infamous hoax Michelle Remembers. However, it’s not clear where Hoskins got this detail from, and there is no link between Malmo and Pazder that I can see. Malmo maintains in the National Post that “solid research and sound critique by many experts” has “disposed” of the idea of false memories.
Malmo and “Valerie”
After the National Post article was published, I sent off for a copy of Malmo’s 1990 book Healing Voices: Feminist Approaches to Therapy with Women, which she co-wrote with Toni Ann Laidlaw and other associates (published by Jossey-Bass of San Francisco; the authors each wrote their own chapters). The book includes Malmo’s account of working with a patient called “Valerie” (pages 308-311), which Malmo wrote up as a case of “dissociation for survival”.
Valerie was middle-aged and suffering from marital problems, and she “wondered whether her having been sexually abused by her father, about which she had no feelings, could be a factor in her difficulties.” Malmo told her that this “undoubtedly” was a factor, and the subsequent therapy included hypnosis:
Over a period of eighteen months, [Valerie] uncovered numerous memories of having been sexually, physically, and psychologically abused by her father and physically and psychologically abused by her mother as well.
…One day Valerie brought into her therapy session some postcards, a Bible, and a prayer book on which were inscribed messages to her from her father. Valerie and I both perceived that in all of the messages there was the facade of a loving relationship making an undercurrent of threats, seduction, anger, guilt, and hypocrisy…
In a later session, Valerie had an image in her mind of her father making someone called “Karen” pose for pornographic photographs. She eventually realised that this “Karen” was the part of herself who had been sexually abused but ignored.
At length, she also came to “remember” Satanism:
Early in therapy, I taught Valerie to image [sic] a safe place… and a spirit guide to assist her to feel safe. Valerie found a sense of peace and calm when she sat by (or imagined sitting by) a window where the light or sun was streaming in. In the beginning. we did not know the significance of this safe place. The full meaning emerged months later, when Valerie began uncovering extreme abuse in a satanic cult in which her father and mother were high priest and priestess. Valerie was compelled to partake in sexual activities and in animal and human mutilations and sacrifices. She realized that the sunlight felt calming to her because the morning marked the end of the ritual abuse, which took place at night.
Eventually, Malmo used hypnotism to lead Valerie into an imaginative exercise in which her father presented himself as “a man in a yellowish-brown monster suit with a mask and tail, a lionlike devil performing in some sort of ritual.” In the exercise, Valerie stood up to the monster, cut off its tail, hit her mother with it, and told the other participants to “Go home”.
This is exactly the same progress as described in the National Post report: “a litany of horrific tales, seeping slowly from the woman’s memory, growing in lurid detail over time, ‘guided and influenced’ by Malmo’s hypnotherapy.”
Taking Malmo’s account of Valerie at face value, we see a progression from the plausible (abuse by the father) to the implausible (a murderous satanic cult) to the explicitly fantastical (the father as a literal monster). Where exactly along this scale did imagination displace memory? It seems to me that Valerie’s disgust at her father’s alleged hypocrisy over the Bible and Prayer Book might well have made her – and/or Malmo – susceptible to imagining the father in a role where he would be exposed as embodying a thoroughgoing inversion of Christianity: as the high priest (and not just a member!) of a satanic cult.
Valerie appears to be distinct from the Heath accuser (given the name “Lucy” in the Mail on Sunday) . Thus Malmo on at least two occasions found herself dealing with a patient who ended up “remembering” Satanic murders. One wonders how many others there were, and whether she ever started to wonder about the likelihood of coming across multiple instances of such bizarre and extreme crimes.
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