How hysterical parents, incompetent therapists and malicious prosecutors destroyed the lives of seven innocent
North Carolinians – and have yet to admit they were wrong

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family


  • Were tales any taller in Salem than in Edenton?

    161204schiff200Dec, 4, 2016

    “The testimony [in the Salem witch trials] is full of tall tales, unless you happen to believe – as one woman confessed, having vowed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – that she flew on a stick with her church deacon and two others to a satanic baptism, and that she had, the previous Monday, carried her minister’s specter through the air along with her, having earlier conferred in her orchard with a satanic cat….”

    – From “The Witches: Salem, 1692” by Stacy Schiff (2015)


  • Transgender movement compared to hysterias of 1980s and ’90s

    161121corradiNov. 21, 2016

    “Transgenderism would refute the natural laws of biology and transmute human nature. The movement’s philosophical foundation qualifies it as a popular delusion similar to the multiple-personality craze, and the widespread ‘satanic ritual abuse’ and ‘recovered memory’ hysterias of the 1980s and ’90s. These last two involved bizarre accusations of child abuse and resulted in the prosecution and ruined lives of the falsely accused.

    “Such popular delusions are characterized by a false belief unsupported by any scientific or empirical evidence and have a contagious quality that overrides rational thinking and even common sense. …”

    – From “Psychiatry Professor: ‘Transgenderism’ Is Mass Hysteria Similar To 1980s-Era Junk Science” by Richard B. Corradi at the Federalist (Nov. 17)

    Dr. Corradi is professor emeritus of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, where his opinion of transgenderism is “in no manner shared by this department or by Case Western Reserve or… the American Psychiatric Association or mainstream psychiatry.”  A more widely accepted view: “You would think that a professor of psychiatry would know better” by David Cary Hart at the Slowly Boiled Frog (Nov. 18)

    But what you won’t see debated among 21st Century psychiatrists and social scientists is Corradi’s characterization of  “satanic ritual abuse” as “a popular delusion.” Perhaps one day the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children will decide to join them.


  • Prosecutors must recognize vulnerability to cognitive flaws

    Michael Shammas

    Michael Shammas

    Nov. 17, 2016

    “It’s no secret that we humans grant far too much confidence to our opinions. But when powerful people do this, the dangers compound. Zealotry replaces fair-mindedness. The worst excesses happen when prosecutors forget they’re flawed humans, like anyone else, and that as a result they’re subject to cognitive flaws like tunnel vision, racial bias, and the desire to reduce cognitive dissonance through ‘cognitive consistency’ even at the expense of complicated, nuanced, self-contradictory, paradoxical truth….

    “Cognitive bias and overconfidence touch us all. Only a conscious awareness that we might be wrong can counter unthinking heuristics, biases, and schemas that lead to imperfect conclusions….

    “Wisdom counsels not the confident use of power, but the wise use of power. The first step of wisdom is recognizing how little we know….”

    – From “ ‘Making a Murderer’ Attorney Highlights Our Troubling Rate of Wrongful Conviction — and Suggests a Solution” by Michael Shammas in the Huffington Post (July 12)

    And the latest on the still-imprisoned Brendan Dassey.


  • Three centuries later, witch trials remain uncomfortably relevant

    150721BishopOct. 31, 2016

    “Historical truths emerge only with time, after which they are ours, particularly on Halloween, to mangle.

    “Early on, the Salem witch trials disappeared from the record; a hush descended over 1692 for generations. ‘The People of Salem Do Not Like to Be Questioned in Regard to the Witchery Affair’ reads a Philadelphia Inquirer headline – from 1895. It fell to others to resurrect the ‘witchcraft,’ as the South did during the debate over slavery. Then came Arthur Miller, who made off with the story, or at least a version of it.

    “A lush mythology grew up around the trials, one that reassured us that these events took place in a remote land in no way resembling our own. In truth, they are deeply woven into the American fabric. They are more relevant than the lore suggests – our earliest instance of conspiratorial fantasy and reckless demonizing, of the brand of national distemper that grips us in anxious times.”

    – From “Five Myths about the Salem witch trials” by Stacy Schiff in the Washington Post (Oct. 30)

    Fifteen years ago today: Massachusetts officially exonerates five women hanged as witches in Salem.



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The Little Rascals Day Care Case in brief

In the beginning, in 1989, more than 90 children at the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, North Carolina, accused a total of 20 adults with 429 instances of sexual abuse over a three-year period. It may have all begun with one parent’s complaint about punishment given her child. Among the alleged perpetrators: the sheriff and mayor. But prosecutors would charge only Robin Byrum, Darlene Harris, Elizabeth “Betsy” Kelly, Robert “Bob” Kelly, Willard Scott Privott, Shelley Stone and Dawn Wilson – the Edenton 7.

Along with sodomy and beatings, allegations included a baby killed with a handgun, a child being hung upside down from a tree and being set on fire and countless other fantastic incidents involving spaceships, hot air balloons, pirate ships and trained sharks. By the time prosecutors dropped the last charges in 1997, Little Rascals had become North Carolina’s longest and most costly criminal trial. Prosecutors kept defendants jailed in hopes at least one would turn against their supposed co-conspirators. Remarkably, none did. Another shameful record: Five defendants had to wait longer to face their accusers in court than anyone else in North Carolina history.

Between 1991 and 1997, Ofra Bikel produced three extraordinary episodes on the Little Rascals case for the PBS series “Frontline.” Although “Innocence Lost” did not deter prosecutors, it exposed their tactics and fostered nationwide skepticism and dismay. With each passing year, the absurdity of the Little Rascals charges has become more obvious. But no admission of error has ever come from prosecutors, police, interviewers or parents. This site is devoted to the issues raised by this case.