Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Prodigal Witch Part V: Irene Park, Another Witch That Switched


The late Irene Park is unique among the Christian converts in this series because she claimed to have been a witch for four decades, over twice as long as Doreen Irvine, before becoming a Christian minister. Her story is nearly identical to Irvine's in most key aspects, but it is far more bizarre and disturbing. You see, when Irene was a child of 3 she had an imaginary playmate. At least, she thought she did. This playmate was actually very real, and he was a demon.
He led her into Satanism, sexual abuse, "perversion" (lesbianism), and heroin addiction.
She became the "High Wicked Witch of Florida". She offered blood sacrifices to the Devil. She smuggled and sold drugs.
Then she was saved, and branded herself "the most evil woman in the world" and "the witch that switched".

Follow the Evil Brick Road

Born in 1924 to an itinerant laborer and his wife, Irene had a hard life. At the age of 3 she witnessed police officers beating her father. Filled with rage, she sat beneath a tree to brood. That's when a strange man approached her and introduced himself as her new imaginary friend, Red Horse. He promptly took her to a nearby house to take part in her first Satanic orgy.

Red Horse sounds like a flesh-and-blood sexual predator, but Irene insisted she was the only person who could see him. Not even the other orgy participants were aware of his existence. They simply accepted a toddler wandering into their sex parties on a regular basis, because that (according to "former Satanists") is the kind of thing that Satanists do.

The story Irene later gave to her stepson, Jeff Park, was a bit different. As he told Spy magazine in 1989, her demonic friend was named Indian Joe and she met him at the age of 5. By accepting his friendship, Jeff said, his stepmother unwittingly made a pact with the Devil. Let's just ignore the racist overtones, here, because frankly there's little to be gained from overanalyzing something so profoundly weird.

Imaginary friends: Just say NO

When she was a bit older, a witch in Lake Wales, Florida, began giving Irene witchcraft lessons in a local cemetery (Satanists and witches love to hang out in cemeteries). This unnamed teacher rubbed foul unguents on the girl's body, chanted incantations, mixed up magical potions, and summoned demons. Little Irene was determined to learn as much black magic as she could, so she could get even with the cops who beat her daddy. As she tells it, her magical revenge campaign was mostly successful; several of the cops, and even members of their families, died terrible deaths. She even boasted to Spy magazine - after becoming a Christian - that the law couldn't pin these deaths on her. You would think that if a faithful Christian felt responsible for several deaths, she would turn herself in to police, or at least express some serious remorse.

At 14 Irene ran away from home. This echoes the story of Doreen Irvine, who ran away at 13.
Irene ended up in Tampa and fell in with a band of gypsies who taught her "mind control using a crystal ball", whatever the hell that means. Crystal balls are using for scrying, not for gaining psychic influence over others.
Just like Irvine, Irene Park turned to prostitution and heroin abuse. She also became a thief, smuggler, and drug dealer. She joined a witch coven. Like Doreen Irvine's cult of "black witches", these people focused more energy on defiling and mocking Christianity than on their own beliefs and rituals, which is unusual in the extreme. This would be like a Catholic spending 99% of his time bitching about witches and only 1% of his time going to Mass and confession. It just doesn't compute
Irene told pastor John Osteen that when she was practicing witchcraft she would take blood from a sacrificed chicken, use a syringe to empty the contents of a gel capsule, then fill the capsule with blood. On Sundays, she would go to a Catholic church in Key West and stand up during the service, squeezing the capsule in her hand until it burst. Believing she was a stigmatic, some of the Catholics would "bow and worship her".

As an adult, Irene divorced three times. She apparently didn't have any children of her own, but she claims she carried on the tradition of inducting children into the occult by adopting an Indian orphan named Richard in 1956 and training him to practice "voodoo" and witchcraft. A few years later she adopted a little girl she called Hope.

Despite her alleged devotion to occult perversion, Park realized at some level that Red Horse's Satanic brand of pedophilia wasn't so great, and tried to keep Hope out of his clutches. Sadly, she didn't succeed. She later learned that Red Horse had "seduced" Hope when she was very young.

That protective, motherly impulse didn't last long. In 1960, Park purchased a Tampa bar and forced 2-year-old Hope to become a "go-go dancer". Apparently, no one intervened or alerted the authorities. Irene herself never reported her daughter's molestation. Maybe even she realized that telling police your daughter has been molested by your imaginary friend will win you a ticket to the state mental hospital.


I think it's safe to assume that Red Horse or Indian Joe was a figment of Irene Park's very active imagination, or perhaps the product of a troubled mind. But was Park really a witch?
I doubt it. Park betrays her ignorance of the occult again and again. She conflates witchcraft with Satanism, and Satanism with "voodoo". Park's teachings on Halloween are eerily similar to the nonsense spewed by John Todd, with a few weird variations: Each October 31, Irish Druids went door to door wearing grotesque masks, collecting offerings for Satan (rather than sacrificial victims, as Todd said). They carried pointed walking sticks known as "leprechaun staffs" or "fairies' wands", which brings to mind the "elfin fire" mentioned by Todd. If an offering was not to their liking, the Druids would castrate the man of the house with a walking stick. As we'll see later in this series, the history of Halloween as told by "former Satanists" is mostly fantasy.
At some point, Irene was christened the "High Wicked Witch" of Florida, a nonsensical title that doesn't exist in any of the pagan, Wiccan, or Satanic traditions of the 20th century. If Park belonged to any coven, it was a small and highly idiosyncratic one that has left no mark on history.

From Wicked Witch to Reverend

Just like Doreen Irvine, Irene suffered severe, unspecified maladies that brought her to the brink of death, supposedly caused by her heavy drug use, drinking, and sexual promiscuity. Around 1970, she was admitted to Tampa General as a "vegetable", and doctors informed her she would certainly be dead soon.
Irene checked herself out of the hospital and went home to die. But she didn't die. Two Christian women who were looking after her obeyed God's injunction to pray over her and fast for 40 days.( It is extremely dangerous - even idiotic - to fast for this length of time. I don't care who tells you to do it: DON'T.)
Fortunately, the women - if they existed - didn't die. And Park was spontaneously filled with the love and healing power of Jesus. The Wicked Witch of Florida became a born again Christian.

Her fourth and final marriage to a man she called "Pappa" (Jim Park) lasted until his death in 1986.
Though never ordained as a minister, Irene established herself as a preacher in the Tampa area and founded Christ's Deliverance Ministries, Inc. She called herself a reverend.
CDM sold small pamphlets on the dangers and evils of the occult, Halloween, fantasy role-playing games, etc.

In 1980 Park published her memoir, The Witch That Switched. It is still available from Christ Deliverance Ministries, an online ministry started by Herb Pohlmeyer to spread Park's work. His unintentionally hilarious website contains a bio of Park with this description of her legacy: "Irene knew that the enemy of our faith will use any means possible to deceive those that are enticed to learn about any mystical powers, through board games, roll playing, or witchcraft."

Roll-playing: It's just wrong

Irene sometimes preached at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, headed by the late John Osteen (father of Lakewood's current pastor, Joel Osteen). This was a coveted venue for any preacher, and she was not above playing dirty to knock out the competition. When Kenneth Copeland introduced a stigmatic named Lucy Rael to Lakewood, she became a wildly popular attraction at the church. Park immediately denounced her as a fraud, telling Osteen how she used to fake stigmata herself.
Osteen brushed her aside, so Irene rented a conference room near his church and invited his parishioners to attend a sermon about Lucy Rael's fakery.

Now don't get me wrong; Lucy Rael was probably a fraud. She manifested "holy feathers" and diamonds, and performed other common magic tricks that have been used by fraudulent mediums and gurus the world over for generations. But Park was clearly acting out of jealousy. Here we have a fake Satanic witch trying to ruin the reputation of a (possibly) fake stigmatic. Just like Mike Warnke speaking out against John Todd before he himself was exposed as a liar.

Park wasn't above spreading rumours and falsehoods that served her purpose, as well. She actively propagated the legend that Sybil Leek, the world's best-known witch (and somewhat of a fraud in her own right) had been converted to Christianity on her deathbed. There is no evidence that such a thing occurred.

Later in life, Park branched into conspiracy theories. For instance, she speculated that Pat Robertson's '88 presidential campaign was thwarted by a black magician in the George H.W. Bush camp.

Park died in 2007. The fate of her two adopted children, Richard and Hope, is unknown. There is, of course, a strong possibility that they were as phantasmal as Red Horse/Indian Joe.

Irene's Legacy

Irene Park's books and pamphlets are still widely disseminated among certain Christians, and her misinformation about the origins of Halloween is frequently cited by anti-Halloween preachers like Pastor David L. Brown.
Her testimony added more "evidence" to the growing fundamentalist belief that all forms of occultism lead to depravity, criminal behaviour, drug addiction, and even child molestation. The latter issue would soon become very prominent in the stories told by "former Satanists" and their alleged victims.

The same year The Witch That Switched was published, an imaginary friend made an appearance in the first account of Satanic ritual abuse, Michelle Remembers. Michelle Smith, in the course of therapy with the late Dr. Lawrence Pazder, vividly "recalled" Satanists murdering and dismembering her imaginary playmate. Despite this and other implausibilities in the book, Michelle Remembers was embraced by many as an accurate account of modern Satanism. Irene Park's story helped pave the way for it.

14 comments:

laila said...

I stumbled across this blog a few weeks back looking for information on the Anthony Godby Johnson story, and have been slowly working my way through the archives ever since. I especially enjoyed the series of posts on 'Fake Teens' and 'Ghostbusters', as well as the posts on literary fraud, and I am really enjoying the current series, too. Thank you for all the excellent posts - I'll definitely be checking back.

Eugene said...

So let me get this straight, someone walked up to her and told her he is her new imaginary friend? I've never had an imaginary friend but I'm pretty sure that's not how imaginary friends work...

Highland Host said...

More unrealistic fantasy! What staggers me is that ANYONE believes this sort of nonsense. At least, until I recall that there is always a market for books confirming our unreasoning hatred of the 'other', whether that other is non-white, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian or Muslim.

S.M. Elliott said...

@Laila, thank you. The Godby hoax is one that still affects me...who says hoaxes are always harmless?

@ Eugene, my imaginary friends were based on rag dolls; I don't think they could have walked if they tried.

Even at the level of an inspirational conversion story, Park's story is too weird and upsetting to accept. A pedophile demon taking the form of a Native American and posing as an imaginary friend (presumably because Indians are demonic heathens), a woman admitting she exploited her adopted toddler-age child in a sexual manner without repercussions, two adopted children simply vanishing, and a woman knowing nothing about the occult after immersing herself in it for over 40 years.

The mind boggles.

Daniel Cecil said...

Have you ever tried sending the link to your site to publishers? It seems to me that you've got all the material for an interesting book. It would just be a matter of organization and a touch of editing to lash it all together.

son of gaia said...

I also, particularly enjoyed & appreciated the series of posts on 'Fake Teens'.
This site is indeed a treasure-trove of invaluable info on diverse subjects.

I'm intrigued about claims, from fraudulent testamonialists like Park et.al. in this current series, of having been involved in prostitution and/or porn industries whether 'underground' or above board. These claims could be false - as some preposterous embellishments to these claims surely are.

On the other hand, so many girls/women really have had experiences as Sex Trade Workers (voluntarily or involuntarily), that such claims might be among the more plausible ones these people have made.

I've been noting recently, as an informal observation, several instances of 'mind control victimization claimants' who verifiably are now or have been STWs. I'd be interested to know the percentage of fraudulent testamonialists/fraudulent victimization claimants involving this subject matter, who really were or currently are STWS.

Anonymous said...

Love this blog, (as I've commented before), and yes, the Godby Johnson affair is not only one of my favorite "mysteries" featured on STC, but my favorite mystery of them all, (why are there no non-fiction books about him yet?), mainly because there is no real answers, only more questions. If Vicki came out tomorrow and admitted to the hoax, there would be no mystery anymore. Same goes for any mysterious case.

Anyway, I'm still dying for you to examine the ENTIRE Silkwood saga, including the events leading up to her death, and then those taking place after her death, the latter being like something out of some conspiracy pulp novel, (read: "Who Murdered Karen Silkwood"). Of course, there's so much of this case to sift through that it'd probably take 3 months just to figure out how to streamline the first 10 parts, (no joke!)

Anyway, I'm also hoping you'll do a feature on the Tania Head case some day, aka the fake 9/11 victim/fiancee of a victim. She's a whole nother bag of nuts to marvel at.

Keep up the good work!

S.M. Elliott said...

SOG, you wrote "I'd be interested to know the percentage of fraudulent testamonialists/fraudulent victimization claimants involving this subject matter, who really were or currently are STWS." That's a very interesting observation, because there does appear to be some correlation between false memories/false SRA claims/etc. and the sex trade. For instance, Eileen Franklin was an escort before "remembering" that her father George killed a little girl (and there was definitely sexual abuse going on in the Franklin household, whether Eileen was directly involved or not). It's a connection worth exploring.

S.M. Elliott said...

Anon, I have a mind-boggling backlog of material for this blog, and hopefully life will allow me to unroll some very juicy stuff in the coming months. I would love to really dig into the Silkwood case. Maybe a series on nuclear power, depleted uranium, and theories surrounding the deaths of Karen Silkwood and Hilda Murrell is in the cards...

Anonymous said...

I seem to have stumbled across another ex-Satanist believer: this time, a Roman Catholic one. She's called Betty Brennan, and you'll find audio files of her story (apposite word, that) here:

http://www.trosch.org/the/eucharist.html

S.M. Elliott said...

That's a new one to me! And it seems she's quite popular on the Catholic lecture circuit.

Sean T Poindexter said...

I knew this name (Irene Park) sounded familiar. Of course I recognized Dr. Brown, I own a copy of her book I read for research into the "Satanic Panic" and I still very occasionally see copies of it at a local book store. Park's name faintly rang a bell and shortly after digging into your post about her, I realized where I'd heard of here. When we were young, my brother and I would get our hair cut by this lady named Joyce. She was a FIRM believer in all of this, including end-times theology and even claimed to be an ex-witch. And she frequently mentioned (and claimed to have met) Irene Park. It was the "witch for 30 years" and the name of the imaginary friend that finally made me realize that was who you were writing about.

Joyce was a nice lady, and a good hair stylist...and cheap (we didn't have much money) but she always pestered us about our musical tastes (my brother and I were always into heavier music) and how our love of fantasy literature would destroy our lives (i'm now a published fantasy author, so much for THAT theory) and playing Dungeons and Dragons would get us possessed by demons. When I turned 16, I stopped going to get my hair cut with her as soon as I was able to drive and pay for my own haircuts. My brother continued getting his hair cut by her into his early 20s because he enjoyed how insane her stories were.

By the way, I only discovered your blog yesterday when a friend on Facebook pointed me to it. And I'm absolutely enthralled. Thank you!

--StP
www.seanpoindexter.com

Anonymous said...

Now I KNOW for sure you're just like that idiot QuackWatch guy. What do you know about fasting? Zilch, obviously, from your ignorant comment re 40-day fasts. It is NOT dangerous & people do it all the time (water only fasting). There are fasting retreats all over the world. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, have fasted 40 days & longer (90 for lung cancer). Education on the subject first, definitely water is required, get certified fasting supervision if you're a chicken to go it alone, & last but not least, breaking the fast on raw fruit/veggie juices, slowly, then raw whole fruit/veggies. In other words, don't run out & eat a hamburger or pizza after a long fast. Now THAT will kill you, lol.

Seriously, you really should keep your opinions to subjects you actually know something about. Otherwise, you come across as an ignorant dummie. Are you one of those meat & potatoes gals who thinks they will die without 3 square meals a day? You've got a lot to learn Missy.

S.M. Elliott said...

Sorry, Anon, my stance on fasting isn't changing. I've seen the results of 40-day fasts, and they are not pretty. They can even be fatal. DON'T DO IT.