When Satanic panic spread to the UK, Audrey Harper become England's version of Lauren Stratford: A real, live "former Satanic witch" who could help the righteous root out other dangerous devil worshipers.
Insanity in the UK
In the '80s and '90s, a woman named Audrey Harper made many appearances on behalf of the Christian organization , a major proponent of Satanic panic in the UK. She claimed that in the '60s, she belonged to a murderous Satanic cult in London. Her story was similar in theme to TrustDoreen Irvine's 1973 book From Witchcraft to Christ, and that may not have been a coincidence; reportedly, Irvine and Harper were both converted to Christianity by the same evangelist, Eric . (3) And both women, as living examples of "what Satanists do", were integral to the anti-occult crusade spearheaded by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, Diane Core of , and Maureen Davies of Trust. (1)
Though it has the same basic structure and many common elements, Audrey Harper's story was much darker than Doreen Irvine's. While Irvine witnessed nothing more "deviant" than some bird murders and gay orgies in the early '60s, Audrey was party to child sacrifice and other extreme forms of brutality during the same time. It's odd that they didn't cross paths until becoming Christians, as they may have belonged to the same international "black witch" cult.
Their backgrounds were even eerily similar. Though Audrey had a more privileged life than Doreen (she was adopted by a doctor and his wife), hers was a loveless childhood. She fell into drug addiction and prostitution at a young age, and things only went downhill from there. Her boyfriend died, she gave up their baby for adoption, became an alcoholic. Homeless, she fell in with a gang of hippies in Circus and became a chronic pill-popper and pot-smoker. (2)
Then everything changed. In 1961 Audrey was invited to a glamorous Chelsea party, because homeless hookers who reek of weed and booze get invited to these things all the time.
After the party, the beautiful people inducted her into a coven that met monthly in the upscale village of Virginia Water (where, ironically, some Harry Potter scenes have been filmed). On Halloween night she signed a parchment pledging herself to Satan (just like Irvine), and drank the blood of a sacrificed rooster (just like Irvine). Then she was sexually initiated on the temple altar by the cult's head "warlock" (the same term used by Irvine). This is the story she told to the London paper Sunday Sport in one of her first interviews (March 13, 1988). (4)
The "warlock" soon enlisted Audrey to recruit other vulnerable youths for the cult. The kids were gathered in a room scented by "heroin candles" and given hallucinogen-spiked drinks, which invariably led to orgies and the filming of porn. Ritual abuse and infant sacrifices were routine.
The cult also engaged in a range of petty crime, from church desecration to robbery.
Audrey remained with the cult for five years.
Like Irvine, Audrey never gave a name for her cult nor identified any of its members (at least, not publicly). She used the terms "witchcraft" and "Satanism" interchangeably, implying there is no distinction between earth religions and devil-worship. She was vague about her cult's religious beliefs. She didn't mention any scripture, like Irvin's massive Book of Satan, nor any rituals that didn't involve drugs, sex or murder. But she did describe the supernatural powers she developed, including the ability to levitate and the very handy skill of occult furniture arrangement: "I could bring down the powers of darkness to move furniture about". (2)
Irvine had developed the same skills during her years as a "black witch". Sadly, everyone forgot to take pictures.
Drug-addicted and mistreated by cult members, Audrey ended up in and out of mental hospitals, where she gave birth to her second child. She gave up this baby for adoption as well, fearing the head warlock would sacrifice it. (2)
Her addictions, combined with personal intervention by the Devil himself, served to keep Audrey tied to the cult. "Satan could direct me to the coven by remote control," she later explained. "There was no resistance. I had to go." Even after leaving the cult, she continued to believe that all her self-harming actions and poor choices had been the direct result of Satanic interference. Every time she injected an overdose of heroin, or walked to a cemetery where babies would be slain and women raped on altars, it was all the Devil's idea. This near-total abdication of personal responsibility is so common to the testimonies of "former Satanists" that it begins to wear very thin after you've heard a few of them. It's hard to believe that even the most hopelessly drug-addicted, beaten-down person would passively watch gruesome atrocities committed under her nose month after month, year after year, without making any effort to extricate herself from the situation. (2)
Of course, because this is first and foremost a Christian testimony, it was God and His people who provided Audrey with a way out of Satanic slavery; she finally resolved to leave the cult after a stint in a Christian rehab centre in 1966. Her escape was effected without any repercussions, just as Irvine's departure from the black witches had been. Somehow, though she was not yet born again, her telepathic link with Satan was weakened.
Audrey married, had a third child, and attended church regularly. But she was consumed by guilt and rage until 1986, when she was exorcised by Roy Davies of Emmanuel Church in . Freed from the demonic aftereffects of witchcraft, she was finally born again (Doreen Irvine, too, was exorcised after leaving her witch cult).
In 1988, Audrey decided to go public with her story.
How Audrey's Story Was (
Geoffrey Dickens latched on to Audrey Harper immediately, supporting her and helping her spread the news that, to her knowledge, English Satanists were still sacrificing children. Dickens was one of two Tory (the other being David ) engaged in anti-occult agitation during the late '80s. actually called for witchcraft laws to be re-instated, and Dickens campaigned for occult literature to be restricted or banned. Complaining that "perverted cults which worship the devil can freely publish guides on how to dabble in the occult," he opined, "The Home Office must act." (1) He worked closely with , a Hull-based organization that used every opportunity to warn the public about Satanic ritual abuse in England. Its founder, Diane Core, declared that up to 4000 English children were being sacrificed by Satanists annually. She publicly aired bizarre stories from alleged SRA survivors, like the "breeder" who claimed her cult froze sacrificed babies so members could defrost and eat them later.
declared in the House of Commons that Satanism 'is about the ritual mutilation and torture of people, particularly children." (1)
Audrey Harper fit right into this crusade. Along with SRA survivor Cassandra "Sam" , she gave numerous interviews and became a darling of the tabloid media. Both women were aided and abetted by Dickens, , Core, and Davies of Trust, all of whom politely ignored the glaring inconsistencies in Ms. various accounts. (1)
Police looked into the possibility that Harper's baby-killing cult was still active, but Audrey gave them so little to go on that the investigation was soon dropped. If her story had seemed credible to law enforcement, it's quite possible that Audrey herself would have been charged in connection with infant murders. This aiding and abetting is a very peculiar feature of ex-Satanist testimony, and it's one that gets overlooked by many Christians. Few people have pointed out that Mike (if his story had been true) should have been charged with abduction and rape, that Lauren could have been prosecuted for allowing her three children to be killed by her associates, or that Doreen Park deserved jail time for sexually exploiting her children. It's bizarre that the people who tried to flush out occult criminals embraced self-described occult criminals when they encountered them, instead of demanding they be prosecuted. These "whistleblowers" were simply re-classified as victims and enlisted in the fight. But being a does not absolve you of participation in awful deeds.
Fortunately, not one of these " " was telling the truth.
In spite of a years-long crusade against Satanic crime, no evidence of the mass murder of children by Satanists ever surfaced. The entire campaign was based on anecdotes, recovered memories, and uncorroborated stories from "former Satanists" and "ritual abuse survivors".
Harper did a significant amount of work for this campaign. Alongside Irvine, she joined the Investigation Committee of the Evangelical Alliance, dedicating to compiling evidence of ritual abuse and other occult-related crime. (3) She appeared on the talkshow After Dark in April '88, to confront neo-Pagans about their evil ways. (6) She met with a parent involved in the Nottingham case to discuss ritual abuse. She collected the testimony of other "survivors" of Satanism to share with her audiences, including stories from coven "breeders" (women forced to give birth to babies specifically for ritual sacrifice). No criminal charges resulted from the sharing of these stories, because Harper did not know (or did not reveal) the full names of the alleged victims. (2)
The UK effort was closely aligned with the one going on in the U.S. For example, Harper, David , Doreen Irvine, and Maureen Davies appeared in Caryl documentary Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism. You may recall that was one of the people who encouraged "Lauren " to write her 1988 memoir of violent Satanism, Satan's Underground.
Was any part of Audrey Harper's Story True?
Aside from the magical furniture-arranging and whatnot, there's nothing in Harper's story that couldn't have happened. It is, of course, entirely possible (but not likely) that a kooky band of "witches" and "warlocks" were conducting some weird ceremonies in Virginia Water during the very early '60s and that Audrey participated in them. But her accounts of Satanic crime don't stand up to the slightest scrutiny. For one thing, she couldn't bring forth a single person to corroborate any part of her story. She claimed that her life as a Satanist was so secretive, no one outside the cult was even aware of her involvement.
For another thing, her story changed dramatically during the first two years of her public appearances. Undoubtedly, the changes stemmed from her involvement with a group of activists who were desperately trying to convince the world of the reality of Satanic ritual abuse. Audrey's stories, told to tabloid reporters, didn't contain much of that. By late '80s standards, her Irvine-inspired material was bland and unhelpful. If she wanted to retain the interest and support of her allies, she had to offer up some "evidence" that would aid their campaign. So that's exactly what she did.
In 1990, Harper and reporter Harold Pugh published her story of redemption from Satanism, Dance with the Devil: A Young Woman's Struggle to Escape the Coven's Curse. Suddenly, the sacrificed rooster used in her initiation ceremony was a sacrificed infant. Geoffrey Dickens, who wrote a foreword for the book, must have noticed the discrepancy. Perhaps, as would later do, he convinced himself that Audrey had simply been misquoted in the tabloid press. Some inept yellow journalist must have scribbled " " in his notes when he meant to write "baby". Happens all the time.
As recently as 2005, Trust republished Harper's book and continued to defend its integrity. They claim that two members, Doug Harris and Mike Thomas, have investigated Audrey's story and concluded she has been truthful. It's possible that Harper believed her own stories, but it's the truth, not "honesty", that is at issue in Satanic horror stories like Audrey's. A perfectly sincere person can declare that tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered by devil worshipers every year, without having a single fact to support that statement. Doreen Irvine, who comes across as earnest and sincere in her presentations, was diagnosed as having schizophrenia.
It is our responsibility to learn if such statements have any factual basis before even repeating them, much less demanding action from legislators, citizens, and clergy (as , did in the '80s and '90s)
now states it does "not support the myth of SRA [Satanic ritual abuse]." Evidently, its members learned some hard lessons after the hysteria helped create destroyed lives, careers, and families throughout the UK.
Nonetheless, the organization still offers Dance with the Devil for sale on its website, at a significantly reduced price, along with Jeff memoir of Satanism.
Harper herself has apparently moved on.
1. For more information on the UK anti-occult crusade, see this timeline . The UK crusade has also been extensively documented by the Sub-Culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation (SAFF)
2. Dance with the Devil by Audrey Harper and Harold Pugh (
3. "Satan in Suburbia" by Gareth J. . Publications, 1990) Times. Nov. 2001. ,
4. Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001)
5. "Christian Authors" (part 5) by Kerr . .com. Retrieved July 29/11.
6. "The Devil Rides In: Charismatic Christians and the Depiction of a Satanic Menace in Contemporary Great Britain" by Philip Jenkins. Religiologiques. Spring 1995.