Assailing the Tender Age: The Loving Children of an Ungodly Father
In 1973, John, Arlyn and River Bottom left Texas for South America in order to do missionary work for a Christian sect. The ministry’s fifty-four-year old founder, David Moses Berg (left), descended from a long line of Christian clergy going back to the Eighteenth Century. Berg’s mother, Virginia, was a highly respected evangelist with a thriving congregation of her own.
Berg married Jane Miller in 1945, and between then and 1951 had four children: Linda, Paul, Jonathan and Faithy. Sometime during this early stage of child-rearing, Berg joined his father in becoming an ordained minister for the Christian and Missionary Alliance (dates vary from 1948-1954). The church soon expelled him over differences in teaching and an alleged affair with a seventeen-year old church staffer.*
Berg tried to establish his own congregation. After years of futility, he gave up, opting instead to manage his kids’ pop band, Teens for Christ, which traveled throughout the US until winding up in California in 1968. Teens for Christ played in front of captive audiences of west coast beachcombers, and were quite a draw at clubs where Jesus Freaks congregated. Berg eventually collected enough hippie followers to establish his own congregation, which he dubbed the Children of God.**
At first, the Children of God shunned drugs and extramarital sex. Still they participated in protests and other activities one would associate with the counterculture. Police began giving them grief for their political beliefs and aggressive proselytizing, so they left California without so much as a destination. For weeks they drifted about the country, camping out wherever they could, and praying for a miracle. A colleague of Berg’s, first-generation televangelist Fred Jordan, offered them that miracle when granting him use of his 400-acre compound, the Texas Soul Clinic, located in Thurber.
During their stay in Texas, things slowly became unhinged as the 1970s got underway. One of his followers, when leading a prayer group, likened Berg to King David. Berg subsequently began to view himself as the actual reincarnation of Goliath’s slayer. At the same time, he began to develop apocalyptic beliefs. But a vision would mark the start of things to come. As related in the documentary The Love Prophet:
I was lying between two naked women in our camper, when I first received the gift of tongues. The one I was making love to would suddenly turn into one of those beautiful goddesses and I would immediately explode in an orgasm of tremendous spiritual power while at the same time, prophesying violently in some foreign tongue.
After the dream-vision, he wrapped himself in chains and exited the camper. In a very somber tone, he said, in front of amassed followers, “This is what the System marriage will do to you. But Jesus is gonna set us free.” With that, Berg instantly freed himself of the chains in a gesture symbolizing that many of the old taboos and mores regarding sex would be cast off as well.
Soon after, he acted upon this new revelation by dumping his wife, and taking up with his young assistant, Karen Zerby. And from that point, the Children of God evolved into a cult of free love--at least for followers. Unlike other cults, the CoG weren’t shy about spreading that free love to outsiders…for a small price.
*The Family International disputes this as the reason for Berg's firing. According to them Berg was fired because for his attempts to racially integrate his congregation.
**In 1978, Berg reorganized the Children of God, rechristening it The Family of Love. They currently exist as The Family International. Throughout its history, the Children of God/Family of Love has operated under myriad subsidiary organizations, all with different names. When talking about the whole of the group‘s history, I’ll use the term Children of God (CoG), and use the Family of Love (FoL) for actions and events initiated after 1978.
Assailing the Tender Age: Chasing the River’s Bottom
John and Arlyn Bottom, two self-described “flower children” of the 1960s, gave birth to a son on 23 August 1970. The boy they named River began life traveling with them, mostly in South America. By the time the family reached Los Angeles, in 1977, much was different. River now had siblings: Rain, Joaquin, and Liberty--with another (Summer) on the way. His parents, perhaps sensing the complete transformation their lives would soon take, changed the family name from Bottom to Phoenix.
River Phoenix starting acting at the age of ten. By his fifteenth birthday he had gained international attention for his appearance in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. With such popular films as Running on Empty and Sneakers to his credit, he was poised to become a major movie star.
Figure 1. Excerpts from Sneakers, with additional commentary
Off-camera, his peers respected him because of his dedication to hard work, fair play and clean living, as well as his critically sophisticated view of the Hollywood culture machine. As Harrison Ford said of him, “River always stood for something.”
At the age of twenty-three, River Phoenix had good reason to look forward to a long successful life of fame and fortune. But all that came crashing down when on Halloween 1993 he dropped dead on the sidewalk of a popular Los Angeles nightclub.
Immediately, speculation abounded as to how such a young, tee-totaling man could simply die without any warning signs of illness. In the hours after Phoneix’s passing, some suspected drug overdose as a cause of death, despite the fact that a toxicology report had yet been completed. Mostly everyone who knew River thought that ridiculous. After all, he once chastised a co-star for so much as drinking a Diet Coke. According to others who had business and personal dealings with him, however, Phoenix lived a double life that included massive drug use. An unnamed comedienne who once did live improv with him said that he once showed up to a workshop completely under the influence of something, and couldn’t do good work as a result. The bouncer at the Viper Club, outside of which Phoenix lost his life, almost didn’t let him in because he seemed wasted.
Figure 2. Wil Wheaton on the death of River Phoenix
The toxicology report would later prove that Phoenix had indeed ingested lethal levels heroin, which ultimately killed him.* Alex Constantine noted that there were no needle marks on his body--an expected find in a heroin overdose. Of course, one need not shoot up the drug to feel its effects. One could swallow it, or snort it like cocaine. Others with an aversion to poking themselves might opt to burn the drug and inhale the fumes, a process known as ‘chasing the dragon.’ A few souls might opt for shafting (rectal or vaginal insertion). Still, overdoses most frequently occur through intravenous use because the drug is directly introduced into the bloodstream without metabolism or anything else that could slow down its absorption.
Constantine felt that Phoenix’s death had something to do with events in the young actor’s past. River gave a glimpse of his own weird history in a November 1991 interview with Joe Dulce of Details magazine. He began by promoting his latest movie, My Own Private Idaho. The topic changed to his vegetarian lifestyle, and then his music. At that point, the following exchange took place:
Dulce: Are you a man or a boy?
Phoenix: I’m a lad.
Dulce: Is there anything you did at an early age that you wished you had waited for?
Phoenix: Yes--make love.
Dulce: How old were you?
Dulce: With whom? Another four-year old?
Phoenix: Kids. But I’ve blocked it out. I was completely celibate from ten to fourteen. I haven’t really had sex with many people--five or six. I’ve just fallen into relationships that were fulfilling and easily monogamous. You know, that’s the way it is: monogamy is monogamy until you screw someone else.
Dulce quickly changed the subject. Maybe it stuck him as too weird to pursue. For Constantine and other researchers, however, the casual off-the-cuff remark about having sex at four years of age struck a familiar chord. It didn’t take long for Alex to connect Phoenix’s death to a story then unfurling thousands of miles away: a tale that would include sex cults, theft, murder, sacred prostitution, kidnapping, suicides, a trail of thwarted prosecutions, pornography, fraud, right-wing politics, and, sadly, pedophilia.
For one police detective, the story was nothing more than a giant headache of a case.
*Lethal levels of morphine were also found in his system. Heroin metabolizes and breaks down into morphine. This would indicate a massive dosage, especially if taken non-intravenously.
This past year, meatspace issues consumed my time. I was busy putting together book proposals, searching for teaching positions, and working a temp job that ate up mega hours a week (of which I could only claim 45). So, this year, I posted fewer items than any other. In July, I only posted one just so there wouldn’t be a skip in the archives.
As a result, the blog’s gotten somewhat lonelier, with fewer of you coming by regularly, and me making fewer visits. Of course, for the most part, many of the old gang have graduated to such bigger and better (not to mention less content-consuming) social networking platforms as facebook and Twitter, spending less and less time on the bloggosphere itself. Some of you have found better things to do in meatspace. I totally understand.
A few months back, I embarked on this project that became more of an undertaking than I anticipated it would be. Simply put, I indexed the almost 600 posts of this blog. I plan on putting it up on my test site sometime in the coming months.
If you’re wondering why I did such a thing, truth is I can be damned obsessive at times. When someone asked me what I discussed on the blog, I couldn’t remember every subject, every event, every date off the top of my head. So I got curious as to what all I did cover.
Even though I admittedly had a somewhat bizarre motivation for indexing my blog, the effort was worthwhile for a host of other reasons. First of all, it gave me an opportunity to do massive editing. After three template changes, articles that looked fine when I originally posted them didn’t look so good in the current format. Secondly, it allowed me to make new connections within the subject matter. While I can easily keep track of the big names, I started to realize that some of the more obscure ones kept popping up in different stories.
Most important, I gained an even greater appreciation for the contributions of all of you to these pages. Looking back, I see a group of folks with keen insights, a variety of skills, complementary knowledge sets, and a diversity of ideological and socioeconomic backgrounds coming together to figure out puzzles, give me guidance, and provide whatever expertise they had--which in this bunch is considerable. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have enjoyed your presence both here and on your sites.
Early on, when I started The X-Spot, I quickly learned that when you examine the lives and actions of people here on the Internet, they sometimes look back at you. This year, some of the best comments were made by people who saw themselves mentioned in the archives. In some cases, I received additional information that led me to change what I originally posted. In large part, I learned quite a bit from the exchanges. In the previous post, Jackie McGauley offered very substantive commentary and important information that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I’ve followed up on this and will cite it later on. Also Dr. Stuart Bramhall gave me even more to think about when she linked to a couple of articles, both of which mentioned someone I knew. It behooved me to review some of the correspondence (well, as much of it as I could find, anyway) I’ve had with this person, and it definitely casts that part of my life into a new weird light.
In a post from the John Lennon series, Bluejay Young had given me an excellent source concerning a detail in my timeline. Later, someone who was on the scene at that time, elaborated on Bluejay’s source, painting a far more interesting portrait of those times than I did. A bit earlier, I also got some feedback on the Manson series from someone who obviously knew Charlie rather well. Although I could document one minor story from more than one source, she gave me reason to suspect that the datum is either untrue or exaggerated.
For me, the most meaningful exchange was one I had late last summer with this author, whom I had cited as a source in the International Church of Christ series in this post and the previous one. I had confused him with another author of the same name, so he kindly pointed out the error, and I corrected it. He then took issue with one of my observations, and this led to a fascinating discussion, in which he helped me (re)solve a rather painful personal mystery. I can’t thank him enough for that.
As the year progresses, I’ll be delving ever deeper into this topic that started with McMartin. It’s going to get darker for here. I hope that some of you are still around to keep me company. After all, I’m afraid of the dark.
Assailing the Tender Age: Self-Funded Commentary on McMartin
Warning: disturbing content.
One thing that strikes me about the McMartin Preschool case is the early involvement of Dr. Lawrence Pazder (left). Pazder received a degree in tropical medicine at the University of Liverpool in 1962 after receiving an MD a year earlier at The University of Alberta. Upon graduation, the Edmonton native immigrated to Nigeria where he set up private practice for a couple of years. He then returned to Canada to study psychiatry at the prestigious McGill University in Montreal from 1964-1968.
The connections between the psychiatry department of McGill University and the Central Intelligence Agency are, by now, not only well known but thoroughly documented. Most of the attention given to this relationship centered on the career of Dr. Ewan Cameron, whose “depatterning” experiments on unwitting subjects laid the foundation for a CIA manual on the use of psychological torture and interrogation, two congressional investigations, a couple of class-action suits and hundreds of devastated lives.*
Cameron resigned his position in 1964, shortly before Dr. Pazder arrived at McGill. But that didn’t mean that the Agency’s connections to the university ended. Dr. Donald Hebb served as chair of the psychology department from 1948-1959, and continued to teach there until his retirement in 1972. In a 2007 paper published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Alfred McCoy identified Hebb as another person at McGill who had extensive contact with the CIA. As he explained in a later interview:
Oh, it's very simple. Dr. Donald O. Hebb of McGill University, a brilliant psychologist, had a contract from the Canadian Defense Research Board, which was a partner with the C.I.A. in this research, and he found that he could induce a state of psychosis in an individual within 48 hours. It didn't take electroshock, truth serum, beating or pain. All he did was had student volunteers sit in a cubicle with goggles, gloves and headphones, earmuffs, so that they were cut off from their senses, and within 48 hours, denied sensory stimulation, they would suffer, first hallucinations, then ultimately breakdown.
Sensory deprivation was a technique Dr. Cameron utilized in his CIA-funded depatterning experimentation. While this alone doesn’t prove that Dr. Hebb himself had been funded by the Company, it is clear that he knew who wanted the research, and who wanted it kept secret. In a speech made at a Harvard symposium in June 1958, he stated:
The work that we have done at McGill University began, actually, with the problem of brainwashing. We were not permitted to say so in the first publishing.... The chief impetus, of course, was the dismay at the kind of 'confessions' being produced at the Russian Communist trials. ‘Brainwashing’ was a term that came a little later, applied to Chinese procedures. We did not know what the Russian procedures were, but it seemed that they were producing some peculiar changes of attitude. How? One possible factor was perceptual isolation and we concentrated on that.
Although one can note the fact that Dr. Pazder attended an institution that had deep connections to CIA, that doesn’t mean that Pazder himself had a CIA connection--and that’s assuming he knew Hebb, Cameron, or anyone else who might have assisted their mind-control work.
On the other hand, I can also note Dr. Pazder’s role in creating not only the panic evident at McMartin and elsewhere, but in crafting the dominant narrative of Satanic Ritual Abuse. As stated earlier, public attention first focused on SRA after Dr. Pazder’s 1980 bestselling book Michelle Remembers, co-written by his former-patient/mistress, future wife Michelle Smith. In a review of Michelle Remembers for the website Witchvox, Det. Constable Charles Ennis, a British Columbian police investigator specializing in child abuse cases (who writes under his Wiccan name, Kerr Cuhulain), noted some very interesting things. First, Dr. Pazder had a fascination with Sub-Saharan African traditions, and would often regale people he knew with tales of bizarre local rituals, many of which he sensationalized, distorted, or otherwise got confused. Second, Pazder falsely characterized many of the these rituals as satanic. And third, a number of the satanic rituals described by Smith appear to be grotesque distortions of these African spiritual practices. Det. Ennis hypothesized that Michelle could have heard some of Dr. Pazder’s stories and used them as a basis for confabulation, for they had no precedent in any previous writings on Satanism and the occult. Other parts of her story could have come from more longstanding lore depicted as fact in mondo documentaries as early as the 1960s.
Whatever the case, Pazder created an SRA orthodoxy, a standard by which believers would measure future ritual abuse claims. That he deliberately injected this element into allegations against the staff of McMartin, no one can deny. Those insisting that SRA occurred at McMartin can only defend him. As Dr. Roland Summit wrote in “The Dark Tunnels of McMartin”:
In questioning how ‘large numbers of literate, secular people’ could be duped into a Christian fundamentalist ‘paranoia about satanism,’ Ms. [Debbie] Nathan iterates what Dr. [David] Lotto reiterates: the publication of Michelle Remembers. The article reveals ‘there is evidence that the details in ritual abuse charges came more from grown-ups than from children: co-author Pazder consulted with the police and met with parent Jackie McGauley during the early days of the investigation.’ That is hardly news, nor ‘evidence’ though it has been slow to be touted by the conspiracy theorists of rebuttal. I met with Dr. Pazder at that time too – when he had come to Los Angeles to appear with several parents on a nationally syndicated television news magazine and after he had addressed a public meeting in Manhattan Beach parents wanted to meet Dr. Pazder not to acquire details of ritual abuse but to make sense out of them, because their child were telling them stories of blood ritual with satanic trappings. [emphasis original]
Dr. Summit would have us believe that the parents were actually getting this information straight from the children and reporting it to him in order to get clarification on what might have happened to them. But as we have seen earlier, specifically in his account of “Joannie” and her knowledge of the tunnels, he has made statements in this paper that contradict what he has said earlier. Here, it’s more probable that Dr. Pazder introduced SRA into the discussion of McMartin either directly in consultation with parents, or indirectly from McMartin parents who had read Michelle Remembers.
Whereas a connection between Dr. Pazder and US Intel is speculative at best, another connection between Intel and the McMartin parents is not. As a former SAC, intelligence collection was a formal part of Ted Gunderson’s job. And to this day, he continues to trumpet the SRA story created by Dr. Pazder not only with respect to McMartin but elsewhere.
Figure 1. Ted Gunderson on the McMartin Case
As you will see in subsequent series, Gunderson makes an appearance in a lot of these cases involving SRA and other forms of pedophilia. He also plays critical roles in a number of other espionage/conspiracy stories, most notably the Octopus Conspiracy.
I find it interesting too that the person approached by Gunderson was also the person first approached by Dr. Pazder: namely, McMartin mom Jackie McGauley. Gunderson lived with McGauley from 1987-1991, during which time she claims she suffered emotionally, financially and physically because of that relationship.** Most important is her contention (mentioned earlier) that Gunderson claimed credit for her research and investigative efforts.
Commentary by McCauley in an open letter to Gunderson written by Barbara Hartwell--who claims to be "Former CIA (NOC Psychological Operations)"--reveals a connection to yet another person with a documented connection to US Intel:
[Hartwell writes:] Ted Gunderson You claim[:] [']the families who had funded the balance of the cost for the dig which ended up costing somewhere between $55,000 to $60,000. Jackie McGauley, for your information, did not contribute one dime to the cost of the dig.[']
[McGauley comments:] ted [sic] got those figures from a report I prepared for Gloria Steinam [recte: Steinem] who paid 1/3 of the cost of the preparation of the formal report. Is there no end to his thieving of my information?
My personal credit cards were used to pay for supplies in the first days of the project before I hired Dr. [Gary] Stickel. Other parents also bought supplies. I am not looking to be reimbursed. I was on medical leave from my job when the project was done so I was able to be at the site during the day. Other parents traded off days overseeing the project, most notably Bob and Marilyn Salas. Financial records were kept by another parent and MASA.
Noted feminist Gloria Steinem worked for the Independent Research Service, a “CIA-funded” organization during the 1950s and 1960s, and later worked with Samuel S Walker Jr., a former Vice President of Radio Free Europe, another CIA-funded organization. Although she has admitted to her service at the Agency, the fear within feminist and leftist circles remained that she might have continued to work for the CIA long after her stipulated departure in 1967.***
Steinem actively supported not only the McMartin abuse story, but also similar scandals. So in that respect, her funding a third of the costs necessary to prepare Dr. Stickel’s original 186-page report should come as little surprise. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with doing something like this. In fact, concerns about the welfare of children are noble. Yet, given the anti-feminist tone of some of the talk centering on SRA in daycare centers, support of that hypothesis by arguably the world’s most famous feminist strikes me as somewhat ironic.
Something else strikes me as strange in regards to McGauley and her daughter. As John Earl wrote:
Mid August, 1984: McGauley contacted CII again to report that her former boyfriend may have molested or pornographically photographed her children. The possible molestation began in May, just after she had left her husband and during a month long period when she and her children lived with the boyfriend. McGauley's suspicions arose, she said, after noticing that her daughter's vaginal area was red, and after finding child pornography belonging to the boyfriend. But the time the vaginal redness (which is not necessarily indicative of sexual abuse) supposedly occurred did not coincide with the boyfriend's stay at McGauley's home. (McGauley also told Kee MacFarlane that her children had visited their father over the weekend and that when they returned home her daughter cried while using the bathroom. Once again, McGauley observed that her daughter's vaginal area was ‘red and inflamed.’)
The child pornography was allegedly contained among adult pornography in a box of magazines and magazine photos stored in McGauley's garage. One of the magazines, McGauley told MacFarlane, was called Lolitots and some of the alleged photos showed adults having sex with animals. But the alleged pornography was found and reported two months after the boyfriend had left. And instead of calling the police, McGauley handed the kiddie porn over to Bob Currie, for ‘safe keeping.’ Currie called CII and told Kee MacFarlane that he had the photos. She advised Currie to inform the Manhattan Beach Police Department and he refused — insisting that four or more of its officers were involved in the alleged McMartin ‘porno ring.’
The context of this passage is in regards to a number of actions, taken by McGauley, which the author characterized as “increasingly bizarre.” In other words, he used her complaint against her ex-boyfriend to discredit her by making it seem as though she had simply began making reckless accusations against anyone and everyone. Yet, when you take a closer look at them, McGauley's allegations here have merit. While her interviewing skills might leave something to be desired, Dr. Astrid Heger confirmed the condition of the child’s genitalia, as McGauley first reported. And despite Earl's contention, redness and inflammation of that area in girls that age can result from excessive masturbation--a very clear sign of sexual abuse.
Earl himself wrote that McGauley later obtained the aforementioned copy of Lolitots from Currie, and handed it over to Hermosa Beach Police, who subsequently found the ex-boyfriend's fingerprints on it. Note, this was after the ex-boyfriend left the house. Thus we can only conclude that he actually had the rag in his possession, and read/consumed it as one would any other bit of print pornography. It's not that far of a stretch to suspect that he had some degree of pedophilic ideation that could have crossed the line into actual child abuse.
I finally traveled to California on July 1, 1976. Duncan brought Tammy and Lisa over to my motel where I was staying. That day, I could not have the children alone to myself because Duncan had arranged for another member of the ring to molest them. Several days later, Duncan and I molested Tammy and Lisa in my motel room. Then we went to a nearby park where I pushed the girls on some swings. While we were there, Duncan met with Yvonne's father in the park and apparently was arranging for me to rent his daughter.
A few days later, after paying Duncan the $100 that we agreed would be given to Yvonne's father, I had this 8-year-old to myself for about 6 hours during which time I molested her. When I was unable to take Yvonne home that night because I didn't have a car, Yvonne's father phoned my motel room and said that since I was keeping her overnight, it would cost me another $100.
By now, you’re probably wondering why I took this sordid little digression into the history of something so despicable as Lolitots. The answer: because most likely you've never heard of it.
Or to sum up this post, two persons with possible intelligence connections, and two people with definite intelligence connections, promoted the McMartin story to the point where it achieved massive international media exposure, despite the fact that it had little if any merit. They then peddled the same story in similar cases that were just as weak. Meanwhile, a real honest-to-goodness organized pedophile ring, complete with rape of prepubescent victims, coerced prostitution, and forced participation in pornography--with tons of evidence in the form of eyewitness accounts, perpetrator confessions, documentation, and hundreds upon hundreds of images--went virtually unnoticed by the public.****
And that’s what piques my curiosity about McMartin.
*In 1988, surviving depatterning victims received from $56,000-$80,000 (US) each (depending on the source) in a class action suit filed against the CIA in Virginia. In 2006, a court ruled that as many as 250 survivors and estates could participate in a separate class-action suit against the Canadian government, which had illegally condoned and supported the research. Seventy-seven parties settled for about $100,000 (Canadian) each in 2007.
***Noted feminist Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, hinted that Steinem and Bella Abzug might have conspired to keep her out of the leadership of the New York State Women’s Political Caucus, according to a Village Voice article dated 4 July 1976.
Also, the Redstocking Movement, a far-left feminist collective, attempted to publish their concerns about Steinem’s service to the Agency in a book published by Random House. Due to legal action brought about by Steinem’s attorneys, and pressure brought by such politically connected friends as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, Random House excised references to Steinem’s CIA past. In response, the Redstockings issued a statement to CounterSpy magazine in 1980, reading in part:
We feel that we must respond to the latest in a series of attempts to suppress the inquiry into the details of the nature of Gloria Steinem’s association with the Central Intelligence Agency. We are alarmed that the most visible commentary on these events has come from several well-known figures in the feminist movement, who not only condone, but endorse this suppression. Because feminism’s appeal and impact spring from a fundamental intellectual honesty, it is particularly distressing that the suppression of dissent may be seen as some kind of official feminist position.
In 1975, after Redstockings researched Gloria Steinem’s affiliations, and raised questions about her political past, Steinem published a ‘statement’ in connection with her activities on behalf of the Independent Research Service, a CIA-funded group. Many feminists found this document neither entirely credible, nor to the point, and they have persisted in seeking more enlightening answers.
Because of the consciously counter-revolutionary role the CIA has played at home and abroad over the years, it makes sense to expect a participant of the woman’s movement, especially one who has come to symbolize it, to fully discuss her past relationship to the CIA. We are still waiting to hear Steinem’s opinion of the Agency. The last one she gave [to the New York Times, 21 February 1967] characterized the CIA as ‘liberal’ and farsighted.
****In case you’re wondering, Joseph Henry, Eric Cross, John Duncan, as well as their associates Tim Wilcox, Pete Windsor and Yvonne’s dad Charles Hughes were arrested for and convicted of their crimes.