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Searching for Satan: Miscarriages of Memory, Fractured Families, and Satanic Panics

How far can we rely on memory? Join our speakers as they discuss the sinister implications of warped memory.

Discover how the unreliability of memory has led to grave miscarriages of justice, including panics about Satanic abuse. Can memories really be ‘recovered’ by therapists? To what extent can we rely on the memories of witnesses in historic abuse cases? Some deeply disturbing cases will be investigated.


11:00 Chris French and James Ost – ‘What people believe about memory ain’t necessarily so’
Surveys show that a large proportion of the general public hold many beliefs about memory which are wrong. Even more more worrying, so do psychotherapists, psychologists, and professionals involved in legal services, a situation that can lead to miscarriages of justice. Chris French and James Ost summarise our current understanding of the nature of memory. (NB: This presentation includes a quiz for you to assess your own level of understanding – so bring pen and paper!)

12:15 Barbara Hewson – ‘False memories, false accusations and torture: Satan’s work?’

A recent case about alleged satanic ritual abuse in the Family Division highlights the dangers of not learning lesion from history. But it also confirms that to instil false memories of abuse can amount to torture, contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is also a heinous wrong. So the stakes could not be higher of professionals working to prevent abuse, but also false allegations of abuse. Britain’s current focus on historic abuse allegations, coupled with political demands to give victims greater rights, risk brushing common sense away to keep monsters at bay. How can the law fight back to achieve justice?

13:15 – 14:15 – Lunch

14:15 Kevin Felstead – When Satan Came to Town- Carol Felstead: a true story of false memories

After visiting her doctor about a headache, Carol was subjected to hypnotic therapy, sedated and brainwashed, Carol’s childhood memories were eradicated and her mind was re-ordered. Assigned a new identity, Carol fell into the iron grip of psychotherapists who obsessed about ritual abuse. A myth was created which helped stoke the entire Satanic Abuse Panic in the United Kingdom.

15:30 - Close


Dr Stephen Law | talks | www
Professor Chris French | talks | www
Dr James Ost | talks
Barbara Hewson | talks
Kevin Felstead | talks


Date and Time:

6 June 2015 at 11:00 am


Half Day



Goldsmiths College, University of London
Goldsmiths College
New Cross
SE14 6NW
+44 20 79 19 71 71
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Organised by:

British Humanist Association
See other talks organised by British Humanist Association...



General: £10.00, Members and Students £7.00 (members of the British Humanist Association and friends

Available from:


Additional Information:

About the British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

About the Centre for Inquiry UK
CFI UK's primary aim is education, with a focus on science-based policy and to defend and promote academic freedom.

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