December 3rd, 2006



Strange Foods

The Durian: A ready-made weapon, if needed.


The durian (IPA: [duɾiɑn]) is the fruit of trees of the genus Durio. There are 30 recognised Durio species, all native to southeastern Asia and at least nine of which produce edible fruit.[1] Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market; other species are sold in their local region. The durian fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and a formidable thorn-covered husk. Its name comes from the Malay word duri, meaning "thorn".[2]

The fruit can grow up to 40 cm long and 30 cm in diameter, and typically weighs one to five kilograms. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown and its flesh pale-yellow to red, depending on species. The hard outer husk is covered with sharp, prickly thorns, while the edible custard-like flesh within emits a strong, distinctive odour. Some regard this odour as fragrant while others find it overpowering or offensive. The seed can also be eaten after boiling, drying, frying or roasting.

Durian trees are relatively large, growing up to 25–50 metres in height, depending on species. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, elliptic to oblong and 10–18 cm long. The flowers are produced in three to thirty clusters together on large branches and the trunk, each flower having a calyx (sepals) and 5 (rarely 4 or 6) petals. Durian trees have one or two flowering and fruiting periods each year, although the timing of these varies depending on species, cultivars and localities. A typical durian tree can bear fruit after four or five years. The durian fruit, which can hang from any branch, matures in about three months after pollination. Among the thirty known species of Durio, so far nine species have been identified to produce edible fruits. They are Durio zibethinus, Durio dulcis, Durio grandiflorus, Durio graveolens, Durio kutejensis, Durio lowianus, Durio macrantha, Durio oxleyanus and Durio testudinarum. However, there are many species for which the fruit has never been collected or properly examined, and other species with edible fruit may exist.[3]

D. zibethinus is the only species commercially cultivated on a large scale and available outside of its native region. Since this species is open-pollinated, it shows considerable diversity in fruit colour and odour, size of flesh and seed, and tree phenology. In the species name, zibethinus refers to the Indian civet, Viverra zibetha. There is disagreement regarding whether this name, bestowed by Linnaeus, refers to civets eating durian fruit — which they have been known to do — or to the durian smelling like the civet.[4]

Durian flowers are large and feathery with copious nectar, and give off a heavy, sour and buttery odour. These features are typical of flowers which are pollinated by certain species of bats while they eat nectar and pollen.[5] According to a research conducted in Malaysia during 1970s, durians were pollinated almost exclusively by cave fruit bats (Eonycteris spelaea).[6] However, a more recent research done in 1996 indicated that two species, D. grandiflorus and D. oblongus, were pollinated by spiderhunters (Nectariniidae) and that the other species, D. kutejensis, was pollinated by giant honey bees and birds as well as bats.[7]


Durio zibethinus (Durian, Malaysian) grown from seed from cultivar D24. 6 weeks old. Planted in a flower pot, in Singapore, in September 2006.

Numerous cultivars of durian have arisen in southeastern Asia over the centuries. They used to be grown from seeds with superior quality, but are now propagated by layering, marcotting, or more commonly, by grafting, including bud, veneer, wedge, whip or U-grafting onto seedlings of random rootstocks.

More than 200 cultivars of D. zibethinus exist in Thailand, Chanee being the most preferred rootstock due to its resistance to infection by Phytophthora palmivora. There are more than 100 registered cultivars in Malaysia and many superior cultivars have been identified through competitions held at the annual Malaysian Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Show. In Vietnam, the same process has been done through competitions held by the Southern Fruit Research Institute.

A cultivar of Durio zibethinus, Mao Shan Wang, also known as Cat Mountain King, from Malaysia.

Most cultivars have both a common name and also a code number starting with "D". For example, some popular clones are Kop (D99), Chanee (D123), Tuan Mek Hijau (D145), Kan Yao (D158), Mon Thong (D159), Kradum Thong, and with no common name, D24. Each cultivar has a distinct taste and odour. Among all the cultivars in Thailand, though, only four see large scale commercial cultivation: Chanee, Kradum Thong, Mon Thong, and Kan Yao. Durian consumers do express preferences for specific cultivars, which fetch higher prices in the market.[8]


The durian is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. It is grown in areas with a similar climate. The centre of ecological diversity for durians is the island of Borneo, where it is prized by the local people, a passion shared by the orangutan population. Along with D. zibethinus, other edible species of Durio such as D. dulcis, D. graveolens, D. kutejensis, D. oxleyanus and D. testudinarium are sold in local markets in Borneo.

D. zibethinus is not grown in Brunei, where consumers prefer other species such as D. graveolens, D. kutejensis and D. oxyleyanus. These species are commonly distributed in Brunei and together with other species like D. testudinarium and D. dulcis, represent rich genetic diversity.[9]

Although the durian is not native to Thailand, it is currently one of the major exporters of durians. Other places where durians are grown include Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Florida, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Polynesian Islands, Madagascar, southern China (Hainan Island), northern Australia, and Mindanao in the Philippines. In Mindanao, the centre of durian production is the Davao Region. The Kadayawan festival is an annual celebration featuring the durian in Davao City. There is some debate as to whether the durian is native to the Philippines, or has been introduced.[10] Durian was introduced into Australia in the early 1960s and clonal material was first introduced in 1975. Over thirty clones of D. zibethinus and six Durio species have been subsequently introduced into Australia.[11]

In season durians can be found in mainstream Japanese supermarkets. In the West, they are sold mainly by Asian markets.

Trade figures

Thailand grows and exports considerably more durian than any other nation, growing 781,000 of the world's total harvest of 1,400,000 tonnes of durian in 1999, and exporting 111,000 tonnes of that. Malaysia and Indonesia followed, both producing about 265,000 tonnes. Malaysia exported 35,000 tonnes in 1999. China is the major importer (65,000 tonnes in 1999), followed by Singapore (40,000 tonnes) and Taiwan (5000 tonnes). In 1999 the United States imported 2000 tonnes, mostly frozen, and the European Community imported 500 tonnes.[12]

Flavour and odour

Writing in 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace provides a much-quoted description of the flavour of the durian:

"A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy."[13]

Wallace cautions that "the smell of the ripe fruit is certainly at first disagreeable"; more recent descriptions by westerners can be more graphic. The English novelist Anthony Burgess famously said that dining on durian is like eating vanilla custard in a latrine.

Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:

"... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."[14]

The unusual odour has prompted many people to search for an accurate description. Comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray, and used surgical swabs.[15] The wide range of descriptions for the odour of durian may have a great deal to do with the wide variability of durian odour itself. Durians from different species or clones can have significantly different aromas, and the degree of ripeness has a great effect as well.[16] In fact, three scientific analyses of the composition of durian aroma — from 1972, 1980, and 1995 — each found a different mix of volatile compounds, including many different organosulfur compounds, with no agreement on which may be primarily responsible for the distinctive odour.[17]

This strong odour can be detected half a mile away by animals, thus luring them. In addition, the fruit is extremely appetising to a variety of animals, from squirrels to mouse deer, pigs, orangutan, elephants, and even carnivorous tigers. While some of these animals eat the fruit and dispose of the seed under the parent plant, others swallow the seed with the fruit and then transport it some distance before excreting it, the seed being dispersed as the result.[18] The thorny armored covering of the fruit may have evolved because it discourages smaller animals, since larger animals are more likely to transport the seeds far from the parent tree.[19]


Durio zibethinus. Chromolithograph by Hoola Van Nooten, circa 1863.

The durian has been known and consumed in southeastern Asia since prehistoric times, but has only been known to the western world for about 600 years. The earliest known European reference on the durian is the record of Nicolo Conti who travelled to southeastern Asia in 15th century.[20] Garcia de Orta described durians in Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas da India (1563). In 1741, Herbarium Amboinense by the German botanist Georgius Everhardus Rumphius (1627–1702) was published, providing the most detailed and accurate account of durians for over a century. The genus Durio has a complex taxonomy that has seen the subtraction and addition of many species since it was created by Rumphius. During the early stages of its taxonomical study, there was some confusion between durian and the soursop (Annona muricata), for both of these species had thorny green fruit.[21] It is also interesting to note the Malay name for the soursop is durian Belanda, meaning "Dutch durian".[22] In 18th century, Weinmann considered the durian to belong to Castaneae as its fruit was similar to the horse chestnut.

D. zibethinus was introduced into Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) by the Portuguese in the 16th century and was reintroduced many times later. It has been planted in the Americas but confined to botanical gardens. The first seedlings were sent from Kew Botanic Gardens of England, to St. Aromen of Dominica in 1884.[23] The durian has been cultivated for centuries at the village level, probably since the late 18th century, and commercially in south-eastern Asia since the mid 20th century.[24] In his book My Tropic Isle, E. J. Banfield tells how, in the early 20th century, a Singapore friend sent him a durian seed which he planted and cared for on his tropical island off the north coast of Queensland.[25]

In 1949, the British botanist E. J. H. Corner published The Durian Theory or the Origin of the Modern Tree. His idea was that endozoochory (the enticement of animals to transport seeds in their stomach) arose before any other method of seed dispersal, and that primitive ancestors of Durio species were the earliest practitioners of that strategy, especially the red durian fruit exemplifying the primitive fruit of flowering plants.

Since the early 1990s, the domestic and international demand for durian in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region has increased dramatically, partly due to the increasing affluence in Asia.[26]

Ripeness and selection

The ideal stage of ripeness to be enjoyed varies from region to region in south-east Asia. Generally, people in southern Thailand prefer their durians relatively young, before they have fallen from the tree. Eaten in this state, the clusters of fruit within the shell are still crisp in texture and mild in flavour. In northern Thailand, the preference is for the fruit to be as soft and pungent in aroma as possible. In Malaysia and Singapore, most consumers also prefer the fruit to fall from the tree and may even risk allowing the fruit to continue ripening before opening it. In this state, the flesh becomes richly creamy, the aroma pronounced and the flavour highly complex.

The differing preferences regarding ripeness among different consumers makes it hard to issue general statements about choosing a "good" durian. A durian that falls off the tree continues to ripen for two to four days, but after five or six days most would consider it overripe and unpalatable.[27] The usual advice for a durian consumer choosing a whole fruit in the market is to examine the quality of the stem or stalk, which loses moisture as it ages: a big, solid stem is a sign of freshness.[28] Reportedly, unscrupulous merchants wrap, paint, or remove the stalks altogether. Another frequent piece of advice is to shake the fruit and listen for the sound of the seeds moving within, indicating that the durian is very ripe, and the pulp has dried out somewhat.[28]

Durians may be attacked by insect pests which lay eggs in the fruit. These develop into worm-like larvae, which burrow into the flesh of the fruit. Visible holes in the outside of the fruit can indicate the presence of larvae inside.



Durian fruit is used to flavour a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice kachang, rose biscuits, cakes, and, with a touch of modern innovation, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes and even cappuccino. Pulut Durian is glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and served with ripened durian. In Sabah, red durian (D. dulcis) is fried with onions and chilli and served as a side dish.[29] Tempoyak refers to fermented durian, usually made from lower quality durian that is unsuitable for direct consumption.[30] Tempoyak can be eaten either cooked or uncooked, is normally eaten with rice, and can also be used for making curry. Sambal Tempoyak is a Sumatran dish made from the fermented durian fruit, coconut milk, and a collection of spicy ingredients known as sambal.

In Thailand, blocks of durian paste are sold in the markets, though much of the paste is adulterated with pumpkin.[31] Unripe durians may be cooked as vegetable, except in the Philippines, where all uses are sweet rather than savoury. Malaysians make both sugared and salted preserves from durian. When durian is minced with salt, onions and vinegar, it is called boder. The durian seeds, which are the size of chestnuts, can be eaten whether they are boiled, roasted or fried in coconut oil, with a texture that is similar to taro or yam, but stickier. In Java, the seeds are sliced thin and cooked with sugar as a confectionary. Uncooked durian seeds are toxic due to cyclopropene fatty acids and should not be ingested.[32] Young leaves and shoots of the durian are occasionally cooked as greens. Sometimes the ash of the burned rind is added to special cakes.[33] The petals of durian flowers are eaten in the Batak provinces of Indonesia, while in the Moluccas islands the husk of the durian fruit is used as fuel to smoke fish. The nectar and pollen of the durian flower that honeybees collect is an important honey source, but the characteristics of the honey are unknown.[34]


In Malaysia, a decoction of the leaves and roots used to be prescribed as an antipyretic. The leaf juice is applied on the head of a fever patient.[35] The most complete description of the medicinal use of the durian as remedies for fevers is a Malay prescription, collected by Burkill and Haniff in 1930. It instructs the reader to boil the roots of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis with the roots of Durio zibethinus, Nephelium longan, Nephelium mutabile and Artocarpus integrifolia, and drink the decoction or use it as a poultice.[36]

In 1920's, Durian Fruit Products, Inc., of New York City launched a product called "Dur-India" as a health food supplement, selling at US$9 for a dozen bottles, each containing 63 tablets. The tablets allegedly contained durian and a species of the genus Allium from India and vitamin E. They were claimed to provide "more concentrated healthful energy in food form than any other product the world affords".[37]

Durian typically contains (per 243 grams): [38]
Energy: 357 calories
Fat: 13.0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium 5mg: 5mg
Carbohydrates: 65.8g
Dietary fibre: 9.2g
Protein: 3.6g

Durian customs

In some Asian countries, durian is believed to have warming properties liable to cause excessive sweating. The traditional method to counteract this is to pour salted water into the empty shell of the fruit, after the pulp has been consumed, and drink it.[39] An alternative method is to eat the durian in accompaniment with mangosteen that is considered to have cooling properties. People with high blood pressure or pregnant women are traditionally advised not to consume durian.

Another common local belief is that the durian is harmful when eaten along with alcoholic beverages. This belief can be traced back at least to 18th century when Rumphius declared that one should not drink alcohol after eating durians as it will cause indigestion and bad breath. J. D. Gimlette claimed in his Malay Poisons and Charm Cures (1929) that it was said that the durian fruit must not be eaten with brandy. In 1981, J. R. Croft wrote in his Bombacaceae: In Handbooks of the Flora of Papua New Guinea that a feeling of morbidity often follows the consumption of alcohol too soon after eating durian. Several medical investigations on the validity of this belief have been conducted, with varying conclusions.[10]

The Javanese believe durian to have aphrodisiac qualities, and impose a strict set of rules on what may or may not be consumed with the durian or shortly after.[40] The warnings against the supposed lecherous quality of this fruit soon spread to the West. The Swedenborgian mystic Herman Vetterling was particularly harsh on durian:

These erotomaniacs remind us of the Durian-eating Malays, who, because of the erotic properties of this fruit, become savage against anybody or anything that stands in their way of obtaining it. Fraser writes that upon eating it, men, monkeys, and birds 'are all aflame with erotic fire.' It is a blessing that this fruit is not obtainable in the West, because our store of sexual lunatics is already full to overflowing. We might perish in the foulest of mucks.[41]

A durian falling on a person's head can cause serious injuries or death because it is heavy and armed with sharp thorns, and may fall from a significant height, so wearing a hardhat is recommended when collecting the fruit. For this reason the durian is sometimes called the most dangerous fruit in the world, along with its name in Vietnamese, sầu riêng, meaning "private sorrow". However, there are actually few reports of people getting hurt from falling durians. Durian farmers spread large nets under the trees to catch the fruit when it falls naturally, precisely because of the dangers of falling fruit; the nets are elastic and placed sufficiently high to prevent the fruit from hitting the ground. While there is a belief among locals that the durian "has eyes" and will not fall on a person, it is probably because fruits on a durian tree don't fall at the same time, which significantly decreases the possibility that it will hit a passerby. The Malay saying Durian runtuh, which can be translated as "Fallen Durian", is used to describe the sudden occurrence of a rare event. A similar saying in Indonesian, "mendapat durian runtuh", which translates to "getting a fallen durian", means receiving an unexpected luck or fortune.

Some durian are sold "thornless". These fruits have the thorns sheared off when young rather than being naturally thornless. Some durians really do have almost no spines, i.e. less than 5 mm high.

Cultural influence

The durian is commonly known as the "king of the fruits", a label that can be attributed to its formidable look and overpowering odour.[42] Due to its unusual characteristics, the durian has been referenced or parodied in various cultural mediums. To foreigners the durian is often perceived as a symbol of revulsion. The 19th-century American journalist Bayard Taylor said of the fruit, "To eat it seems to be the sacrifice of self-respect."[43] It can also be seen in the Japanese anime Dragon Ball, which features the loathsome villain Dodoria, whose name and appearance have been derived from the durian fruit. Dodoria, a large pink alien with short spikes on his head and forearms, was given an unattractive role which required slaughtering numerous characters and was eventually killed himself. The TV series Fear Factor featured the durian during a challenge in which participants were required to face the "Blender of Fear": a concoction of ground-up pig brains, rooster testes and cow eyes, and durian juice as the side beverage.

In its native southeastern Asia, however, the durian is an everyday food and portrayed in the local media in accordance with the different cultural perception it has in the region. The durian symbolised the subjective nature of ugliness and beauty in Hong Kong director Fruit Chan's 2000 film Durian Durian (榴槤飄飄, Liulian piao piao), and was a nick name for the reckless but lovable protagonist of the eponymous Singaporean TV comedy Durian King played by Adrian Pang. Likewise, the oddly shaped Esplanade building in Singapore is often called "The Durian" by locals. In Malaysia, there is a slice-of-life comic strip by C.W. Kee which has Sunday colour editions called It's A Durian Life.

One of the names Thailand contributed to the list of storm names for Western North Pacific tropical cyclones is 'Durian',[44] and has been used twice thus far.

Being a fruit much loved by a variety of wild beasts, the durian sometimes signifies the long-forgotten animalistic aspect of humans, as in the legend of Orang Mawas, the Malaysian version of Bigfoot, and Orang Pendek, its Sumatran version, both of which have been claimed to feast on durians.[45][46]

In accordance with its reputation as an aphrodisiac, the durian's flavour has been used in condoms. In Thailand, durian-flavoured condoms used to be sold at 7-Eleven nationwide.[47] Indonesia began selling durian-flavoured condoms in 2003. According to the director of DKT Indonesia, the country's leading condom distributor, 150,000 of the durian-flavoured condoms were sold in their first week on the market.[48]



Brown, Michael J. (1997). Durio — A Bibliographic Review. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. 92-9043-318-3. Information All chapters (PDF format)
Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan. ISBN 1-56159-001-0.
Marinelli, Janet, ed. (1998). Brooklyn Botanic Garden Gardener's Desk Reference. Henry Holt and Co.. ISBN 0-8050-5095-7.
Morton, J. F. (1987). Fruits of Warm Climates. Florida Flair Books. ISBN 0-9610184-1-0. Full text Durian chapter
Soepadmo, E. and Eow, B.K. (1977). The reproductive biology of Durian zibethinus. Gdns'Bull. Singapore 29: 25-34. (12.1.68)
Whitten, Tony (2001). The Ecology of Sumatra. Periplus. ISBN 962-593-074-4.


^ Botany and Production of Durian (Durio zibethinus) in Southeast Asia (PDF). Retrieved on 2006-03-05.
^ Via durion, the Malay name for the plant. Oxford English Dictionary 1897; Huxley 1992.
^ Brown, 1997.
^ See Brown, p. 2; also, see Brown pp. 5–6 regarding whether Linnaeus or Murray is the correct authority for the binomial name. .pdf format
^ Whitten, p. 329.
^ Soepadmo and Eow, 1977.
^ Bird-pollination of Three Durio Species (Bombacaceae) in a Tropical Rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia, Takakazu Yumoto, American Journal of Botany 87(8): 1181–1188. 2000.
^ Brown p. 77; also List of Malaysian durian clones from Durians Online (retrieved 5 March 2006.)
^ Tropical fruit production and genetic resources in Southeast Asia: Identifying the priority fruit species - by M.B. Osman, Z.A. Mohamed, S. Idris and R. Aman
^ a b "Durio - A Bibliographic Review" URL Accessd July 1, 2006.
^ Watson, B.J. (1983). Durian. Fact Sheet No. 6. Rare Fruits Council of Australia.
^ Production and trade figures from the FAO (2001). (Retrieved 4 March 2006.)
^ Printed in volume 8 of William Jackson Hooker's Journal of Botany, 1856. Text online from the Alfred Russel Wallace page.
^ Winokur, Jon (Editor) (2003). The Traveling Curmudgeon: Irreverent Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes on Dismal Destinations, Excess Baggage, the Full Upright Position, and Other Reasons Not to Go There. Sasquatch Books. ISBN 1-57061-389-3. p. 102.
^ Davidson, p. 263.
^ Brown p. 29. .pdf format
^ Brown pp. 46–47 and Table 5 pp. 43–45.
^ Marinelli, p.691.
^ McGee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking (Revised Edition). Scribner. ISBN 0-684-80001-2. p. 379
^ Brown.
^ Brown.
^ Davidson, p. 737.
^ AgroForestryTree Database URL Accessed July 10, 2006.
^ Alim et al. 1994
^ Banfield, E. J, (1911). My Tropic Isle. T. Fisher Unwin.
^ Brown, 1997.
^ Morton. "Keeping Quality".
^ a b Durian & Mangosteens URL Accessed July 1, 2006.
^ (URL accessed 3 March 2006)
^ Morton.
^ Singapore Science Centre — Question No. 18085: Is it true that durian seeds are poisonous? (URL accessed 20 March 2006)
^ Morton.
^ Crane, E. (ed.), 1976. Honey: A comprehensive survey. Bee Research Association.
^ Morton.
^ Burkill, I.H. and M. Haniff. 1930. Malay village medicine, prescriptions collected. Gardens Bulletin Straits Settlements 6: 165-321 (p. 176-177).
^ Morton.
^ Durian on Calorie count
^ Washing hands with this water is also said to help remove the strong odour.
^ Davidson, p. 263
^ Vetterling, Herman (2003 (first printed in 1923)). Illuminate of Gorlitz or Jakob Bohme's Life and Philosophy, Part 3. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4788-6. p. 1380.
^ The mangosteen, called as the "queen of fruits", is petite and mild in comparison. The mangosteen season coincides with that of the durian and is seen as a complement, which is probably how the mangosteen received the complementary title.
^ Meaning of typhoon names (Japan Meteorological Agency)
^ Stalking Bigfoot (pdf version) URL accessed 4 March 2006.
^ Do 'orang pendek' really exist? URL accessed 19 March 2006.
^ Ziv, Daniel and Sharett, Guy (2004). Bangkok Inside Out. Equinox Publishing. ISBN 979-97964-6-6. p. 37.
^ "Now, durian condoms" URL accessed March 2006

Draconis Blackthorne, shadowgram, Dracomet

20/20: The Devil Worshippers

Satanic Panic Archive

20/20 program on the devil-worship hysteria circa mid-80's. This is what it was like.

This presentation pre-dates Geraldo's "Exposing Satan's Underground", and really got the bandwagon wheels rolling on the fictional phenomina. The FBI has since proven the SRA allegations false, and these tales remain an urban legend. Preserved here for archival purposes.

As tends to be the typical case, with the exception of The Church of Satan segment, the key word remains "devil-worshippers", or heretical reverse christians, not actual Satanists. It is maintained that there are Satanists, then there are nuts.

* See: this article.

Satanic ritual abuse

Satanic ritual abuse, or SRA, is an alleged practice of an organized network of Satanists engaging in brainwashing and abuse of victims, especially children, throughout the United States or even the world. The term Satanic Ritual Abuse is often used interchangeably with Sadistic Ritual Abuse, a broader term that refers to any and all ritualistic abuse. This is especially the case in psychology. Claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse remain controversial and law enforcement sources, criminologists, psychologists, and religious affairs commentors generally consider this belief false or at least grossly exaggerated. At present, press and media figures and much of the public treats claims of Satanic ritual abuse with great skepticism. Many sociologists class the public outcry in the 1980s concerning SRA as an example of a public moral panic.


Those who believe that there is organized Satanic ritual abuse going on in the United States claim that large numbers of people there are ritually murdered annually. Some sources claim Utah State Prison psychologist Al Carlisle estimated between 40,000 to 60,000 people are ritually murdered annually in the US.[1][2] However, Al Carlisle was quoting another person's estimate, and acknowledged the figure would have to be much lower.[3] The FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) statistics list only 16,504 total homicides reported to law enforcement in 2003. See Crime in the United States - 2003.

There is no generally accepted evidence of a statistically significant number of murders due to SRA. Despite widespread claims, no firm evidence of any organized network of Satanic ritual abuse has been presented in court. The panic slowly faded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance concludes: "In the early 1990s, we analyzed reports on SRA from both believers and skeptics. We tentatively concluded that the skeptics are correct; there is no international Satanic conspiracy ritually abusing and murdering children. We have been tracking the SRA movement ever since, and have not seen any hard evidence to change our conclusions." [4] In addition, the FBI has concluded that a widespread SRA conspiracy simply does not exist.[5]

The Church Of Satan condemns the ritualised abuse of children or any that are unwilling to participate in any activities. It also seriously condemns any illegal activites, unless fully justifiable.

Historical origins

The belief that certain people worship evil principles or entities, and use magic powers against others, commonly known as witchcraft, is probably as old as mankind and can today still be found in many cultures. For example the early Christian writer Epiphanius of Salamis in the fourth century CE accused the Gnostic sect of the Borborites of abortion and consuming the babies.

The earliest claims that organised groups systematically and repeatedly torture and kill others in the context of devil worship can be found in the European witch-panics. For instance, in 1334 there was a trial of 63 presumed witches in Toulouse, France, who were accused of worshipping Satan, eating infant flesh, engaging in sexual orgies with others and with Satan himself. Eight of them were burned and the rest imprisoned. Earlier witch panics are usually not well documented, especially when there was no official trial. Witchhunting in Europe reached a peak in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many mass trials against presumed worshippers of Satan took place.

Even though some religious fundamentalists continue to believe in the occult power of witchcraft, most religious leaders deny that actual magic exists and denounce these accusations.[citation needed] They typically characterize the accused to have been singled out for being mentally ill or otherwise different.[citation needed] The Roman Catholic Church continues to appoint exorcists and teach that Satan is "the prince of this world", and that the work of mediums and spiritualists, even when not ordered directly towards Satan, is opening the door to him. Prominent exorcists like Father Gabriele Amorth believe that witchcraft is the source of 90% of demonic afflictions.

Modern times

Reports of SRA began occurring as early as the 1960s and coinciding with numerous cattle mutilations in the southwest of the USA. [citation needed] Following the publication of books purportedly by survivors or perpetrators, concern over SRA became more prominent, and in the 1980s a "Satanic panic" appeared to descend on some American Christian communities. According to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, an "SRA industry" sprang up in this period, with self-appointed experts taking money to educate law enforcement and private citizens on the alleged threat.

During this period, evidence for SRA primarily took one of two different forms:

questioning of children who, according to investigators, reported being the victims of SRA.

"recovered memories" of adults who discover allegedly repressed memories of Satanic ritual abuse, when they underwent various forms of psychotherapy.

Claims of SRA have included many different elements, but most often include shocking and disgusting behavior, inappropriate and violent sexuality, and the suggestion of imaginative cruelty:

  • Ritual sacrifice of animals and people of all ages including carrying out sacrifices in the British House of Commons.
  • Cannibalism, including forced cannibalism including cooking babies in microwaves

    Torture, including:

  • Keeping people naked in snake-filled cages
  • Inflicting spider bites
  • Urinating into the victim's mouth or over their body
  • Burying people alive
  • Crucifixion and similar tortures
  • Electric Shock
  • Chemical Injections
  • Drugs
  • Summoning supernatural beings
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Sensory deprivation Tanks
  • Black Masses
  • Mock Marriages
  • Forced pregnancies
  • Pornography
  • Brainwashing
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual abuse, including ritual sexual abuse of children of all ages
  • Murder (estimates go up to 10,000 a year and higher)
  • Necrophilia (sex with the dead)
  • Rape
  • Infiltrating politics, the police, and the legal and medical profession
  • Funding research into the false memory syndrome

A number of people claiming to be experts on SRA appeared on popular television programs in the 1980s and early 1990s. Wiccan investigators have pointed out that reports of the supposed procedures of Satanic abusers are inconsistent between these individuals and believe that the promoters are either lying or mentally ill. Others suspect that the promoters of SRA claims are simply very good at appealing to viewers' morbid curiosity; programs detailing SRA have often had large audiences.

In 1987, Geraldo Rivera hosted the first of a series of special reports on his primetime television program discussing alleged epidemics of Satanic ritual abuse. He stated that: "Estimates are that there are over 1 million Satanists in this country [...] The majority of them are linked in a highly organized, very secretive network. From small towns to large cities, they have attracted police and FBI attention to their Satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography and grisly Satanic murders. The odds are that this is happening in your town."

Following this series of programs, outbreaks of SRA-based hysteria occurred in towns and cities across the United States, particularly concerning allegations of Satanic practices by teenagers, and accusations of Satanic practices at nursery schools. Rivera's programs were very important in expanding popular belief in SRA.

Specific cases

The first case of alleged SRA occurred in Kern County, California in 1982. Initially, two couples were accused of having formed a sex ring to abuse their children; in the end some 60 children testified to the truth of various bizarre allegations. Long prison sentences resulted, all of them being overturned on appeal, largely because the children had been subjected to suggestive interrogation techniques, many had later recanted, and there was no physical evidence. The two couples spent 12 years in prison before being released; one defendant in a similar Kern County case waited 20 years for his release. Another defendant remains in a mental hospital for sex offenders because he had a prior conviction of child abuse. See Kern county child abuse cases for details.

One famous false case of SRA involved a large number of children at McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California in 1983. Under interrogation techniques such as the Reid technique, which was originally designed to trick adults into confessing, small children told police they had been sexually abused, forced to murder infants, and drink blood (see blood libel). They also recalled being flushed down the toilet and abused in sewers, taken into an underground cavern beneath the school, flying through the air, and seeing giraffes and lions. The original accuser appears to have been an alcoholic schizophrenic whose claims derived from her mental illness. Eventually the case collapsed under its own weight, but several completely innocent people were ruined financially and socially by association with the case.

Beginning in 1983, a series of abuse claims were made in the small town of Jordan, Minnesota. Twenty-four adults were charged, but ultimately exonerated. The case was popularized in part by Big Black's song, "Jordan, Minnesota."

About forty similar incidents have occurred elsewhere, mainly in the United States, including the town of Edenton, NC, but also in Martensville, Saskatchewan. The remains of a small infant girl, first dubbed 'Baby X' and later 'Kristina Angelica James,' were discovered near Rupert, Idaho in the early 1990s, and the body was considered evidence of SRA activity. Yet no unambiguous evidence linking the girl's death to SRA was ever found.

Several "mass child abuse" scares took place in Germany (in Coesfeld, Worms and Nordhorn), where violent rituals and underground tunnel networks were sometimes alleged; all the accused were later acquitted. Two widely publicized cases of similar mass hysteria occurred in the north of the Netherlands, one in Oude Pekela in which a clown was the alleged main perpetrator and another in Emmer-Erfscheidenveen in which the common theme of secret tunnels and basements featured prominently. No trace of evidence was ever found and all the accused were exonerated.

Three widely publicised cases in the United Kingdom were in Rochdale, Orkney, and Nottingham. In the Nottingham case, social services investigations into a Broxtowe Estate family with multigenerational child sexual abuse and neglect became sidetracked into a wild goose chase looking for Satanic cults, with wilder and wilder allegations being investigated. Nottingham council organised an inquiry into the events of this case, which cast so poor a light on the competence of the social services that the council unsuccessfully tried to block distribution of the final report. The authorities in the Orkney investigation were criticised for carrying out dawn raids to 'rescue' suspected victims from their families, without explanation, then taking them by helicopter or boat to the Scottish mainland, only to later have to return them after the accusations turned out to be groundless.

In 2004 the naked body of an apparently African male child was found in the River Thames, in London, and allegations have been made that the child was sacrificed in a ritual, either Satanic or animist in nature, and that many other Third World children had met like fates having been brought into the UK as child asylum-seekers, or displaced distant relatives of people who had recently immigrated. Subsequently reports have been made concerning children of African-immigrant families who have been abused because members believe them to be possessed by devils (strictly speaking, in these cases, the abuse is inspired by a version of Christianity, not Satanism, since the victims, not the perpetrators, are believed to be satanically influenced). (See Torso in the Thames)

The West Memphis Three is another case involving SRA accusations.

In 2004, the legal defense team of Scott Peterson, charged in the murder of his wife Laci Peterson, alleged that the real killers may have been members of a Satanic cult. They never produced any evidence to support these claims and Peterson was found guilty of the crime.

In 2005 after a string of child abuse cases were discovered in Finland, the media claimed the actions to be satanism -related, which was later debunked.

Questioning children

The key problem in cases of SRA relying on children's testimony is the methodology by which such testimony is obtained. Children are very suggestible and will generally try to please the adult who interacts with them. On the other hand, social workers and therapists working with children believed that children would not openly talk about the abuse they suffered because of shame, or that they might even have repressed the memories of the abuse and that these memories would have to be recovered. In general, investigators worked under the assumption that the abuse had happened and needed to be discovered through aggressive questioning over a prolonged period of time. Investigators also sometimes relied on "diaries" where children were supposed to relate their experiences, or on the interpretation of drawings and of doll play. All these techniques are now regarded as highly problematic as they rely strongly on the interpretation of the investigator and encourage the child to mix fantasy and reality.

The questions asked were typically yes/no questions: "Did person X touch you there?" Even if the child answered no, the next question might be something like "When he touched you, did you like it?" No matter what the child answered to the second question, it was taken as evidence that the abuse had happened. Negative answers, on the other hand, were interpreted as "denial" (in the Freudian sense of a defense mechanism) and had to be penetrated. As such, the children's testimony was in reality very much based on the adults' world view. This type of questioning is based on the Reid technique.

Some perpetrators of the SRA panic were themselves mentally ill. Diana Napolis, an outspoken online advocate of the idea of the existence of SRA (under the pseudonym "Curio"), and personally involved in several SRA investigations as a social worker, was committed to a mental institution in 2003 after harassing and threatening Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Love Hewitt and claiming that she was controlled through "psychotronic weaponry."

Hypnosis and false memories

Beyond the Satanic ritual abuse scares which were directly based on questioning children, a large number of adults came forward in the 1980s and 1990s and claimed to have recovered memories of severe, often Satanic ritual abuse in their childhood. Later investigators diagnosed many of these adults as mentally ill. While criminal charges were rarely pressed because of the long time that had passed since the alleged abuse, media coverage of these adult testimonies nevertheless contributed to the belief that Satanic abuse was, in fact, a widespread phenomenon.

Many of the women who reported such memories had previously seen therapists specializing in child sexual abuse, or read books like The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, which encouraged them to recover their allegedly existing memories of severe abuse in their childhood. At the time, some child abuse therapists used a technique known as recovered memory therapy (RMT), which worked from the presumption that the patients were so severely abused that their memories of it were repressed in childhood and could only be recovered by a specialist. This approach has involved hypnosis and drugs to stimulate the recovery of memories of abuse.

Critics of recovered memory therapy, like Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters (Making Monsters. False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria), view this practice as fraudulent and dangerous. They base this assertion on several claims:

Traumatic experiences which obviously have happened, such as war time experiences, are not "repressed"—they are either forgotten or remembered clearly in spite of attempts to suppress them.

The "memories" recovered in RMT are highly detailed. According to RMT literature, the human brain stores very vivid memories which can be recalled in detail, like a video tape. This belief contradicts virtually all research on the way memories work.

The patient is given very extensive lists of "symptoms" including sleeplessness, headaches, the feeling of being different from others etc. If several of these symptoms are found, the therapist suggests to the patient that they were probably sexually abused. If the patient denies this, they are "in denial" and require more extensive therapy.

During the questioning, patients are openly encouraged to ignore their own feelings and memories and to assume that the abuse has happened. They then explore together with this therapist, over a prolonged period of many months or even years, how the abuse happened. The possibility that the abuse has not happened at all is usually not considered.

According to these critics, RMT techniques used for "reincarnation therapy" or "alien abduction therapy" are comparable to the techniques used in Satanic ritual abuse therapy. To verify the false memory hypothesis, researchers like Elizabeth Loftus have successfully produced false memories of various childhood incidents in test subjects. This is viewed as further evidence that comprehensive false memories can be produced in therapy.

RMT critics also point to the bizarre nature of Satanic ritual abuse stories and claim that, in many cases, such stories are provably untrue. They believe that all or most SRA memories are produced by the therapists through extensive suggestive questioning. Some of them also believe that multiple personality disorder is primarily or exclusively a product of that therapy or self-suggestion. RMT practitioners generally deny such claims, or hold that they are only true in a minority of cases, and believe that their work is sound when practiced properly. However, critics respond that the failure of mental health professionals to distinguish false memories from real ones abnegates this entire line of therapy.

Popular culture

Main article: Allegations of Satanism in popular culture

The SRA panic also targeted role-playing games, especially Dungeons & Dragons, as a cause of ritual abuse. Science fiction writer Michael Stackpole has written an extensive report about this movement. [6].

Patricia Pulling, who claimed that her son killed himself because he played Dungeons & Dragons, had stated that these games are secret instructions for suicide and Satanic abuse, or a "back door to Satanism." She later obtained a private investigator's licence and launched a crusade against roleplaying (although she often appeared to erroneously believe the term was interchangeable with 'Dungeons & Dragons', the dominant game on the market).

One of the best known and most parodied of Jack Chick's tracts, Dark Dungeons, echoes this viewpoint. First published in 1984, the tract remains in print as of 2006, although it has been revised (the original version also claimed that the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis were "occult books", because they could be found in occult book stores.)


The earliest modern account of Satanic ritual abuse can be found in Freud's letters regarding his therapeutic work with a patient named Emma Eckstein. Eckstein described to Freud experiences similar to the ritual abuse survivors of the last few decades, which included sexual abuse and ritual bloodletting. Freud was so disturbed by these disclosures that he theorised "we may have before us a residue of a primaeval sexual cult".

A more recent account of ritual Satanic torture was the book Michelle Remembers, written by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist (and later husband) Lawrence Pazder and published in 1980. It was accompanied by features in People magazine and the National Enquirer, as well as numerous appearances on radio and television. Smith claims to have memories of seeing ritual human sacrifice, various forms of torture, and contact with supernatural beings. She has not produced corroborating evidence of these allegations, and both of Michelle's sisters and her father have denied everything in her book.

This book was followed in 1987 by Nightmare: uncovering the strange 56 personalities of Nancy Lynn Gooch authored in collaboration by Gooch, Emily Peterson and Lucy Freeman; and in 1989 by Suffer the Child by psychologist Judith Spencer, who described a patient with similar memories. Both of these books were best-sellers.

Lauren Stratford's 1988 Satan's Underground, which detailed her supposed childhood Satanic abuse, was the first book (aside from the 1965 novel Rosemary's Baby) to describe in detail allegations that cultists force young women to serve as "breeders" of babies raised for sacrificial purposes.

Stratford's account is one of the more thoroughly investigated claims of such abuse. Lauren claimed to have given birth to three children in her teens and early twenties. Yet, none of her friends, relatives, or teachers recalled these births or ever seeing her pregnant. However, they did recall her engaging in self-mutilation, while Lauren claimed that her scars were the product of her torture at the hands of Satanists. The year of her father's death was also inconsistently reported: Stratford claimed it was 1983 while the official record and all other testimony pointed to 1965 as the correct date. The team of journalists who discovered these inconsistencies published them in Cornerstone magazine as Satan's Sideshow in 1990. Satan's Underground was subsequently withdrawn from print by its publishers.

In her book Ghost Girl (1991), child psychologist Torey Hayden writes about a girl named "Jadie" who attended her class for mentally ill children. Jadie repeatedly spoke about participating in events which may have been either satanic ritual abuse, or a series of films about same in which she had taken part. The book's focus is not ritual abuse, but rather the difficulty professionals have in interpreting bizarre or unusual behavior. Authorities never discovered the truth about Jadie's claims, but she was eventually taken away from her parents and placed in a foster home. The book was a source in a case of false accusations of incest and ritual murder in Sweden in 1999.

A 1995 German book Vier Jahre Hölle und Zurück (Four Years of Hell and Back), by an author using the pseudonym "Lukas", describes purported first-hand experiences of a teenager who inadvertently became a member of a Satanist sect and later escaped. He wrote that he was subjected to various forms of torture and was forced to commit crimes.

In 2006 David Frankfurter publishes Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Ritual Abuse in History.

Many other personal accounts of Satanic ritual abuse exist, some of which allege the existence of an SRA conspiracy. With the rise of the Internet, stories of Satanic abuse, often very graphic and disturbing, can be found online.

Parallels to reports of alien abduction

California-based therapist Gwen Dean noted 44 parallels between alleged alien abductions and Satanic ritual abuse. Both emerged as widespread phenomena in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and both often use hypnosis to recover lost or suppressed memories.

Furthermore, the scenarios and narratives offered by abductees and SRA victims feature many similar elements:

Both are typically said to begin when the experiencer is in their youth.

Both are said to involve entire families and to occur generationally.

The alien examination table that is reported is similar to the Satanic altar in those accounts.

Both phenomena feature a strong focus on genitals, rape, sexuality and breeding.

Witnesses often report that the events happen when they are in altered states of consciousness.

Both phenomena feature episodes of "missing time" when the events are said to occur, but of which the victim has no conscious memory. (Bryan, 138-139)

Contrast & Compare

To clear the pallet, watch Speak of The Devil: The Canon of Anton LaVey: