Seriously, hell hath no fury...
Linda Blood is quite different from all the former Satanists we've seen so far. She actually was involved (very briefly) with an organized Satanic church, the Temple of Set (ToS), and after leaving it she did not become a born again Christian.
She frankly admits that her time as a Satanist revolved around her love affair (requited or unrequited, depending on who you ask) with Michael Aquino, founder of the Temple of Set and a favourite target of anti-occult conspiranoids.
In the '80s she jumped into the Satanic panic fray, armed with what she believed was damning information about Satanism and occultism, and continued her campaign well into the '90s with the publication of her influential (but misinformation-packed) book The New Satanists.
Aquino as he appeared on Geraldo's Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground in 1989. "Former Satanist" Lauren Stratford also appeared on this program.
Blood's romance with Aquino is not exactly chick flick material. By all accounts, it began with a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and a piece of Star Wars fanfiction.
According to Blood, in 1978 she was 34 years old and had just relocated from Greenwich Village to a New York suburb with her husband of 9 years. She had a successful career as a designer of something-or-other (the details are sketchy). In August of that year, she picked up the latest issue of Famous Monsters at her local grocery store and read one of Michael Aquino's Star Wars stories. She was entranced by its "mysterious and romantic aura" (is it just me, or is that the nerdiest thing you've ever read?).
She began a correspondence with Aquino, and was surprised to learn he was a Satanist serving in the U.S. Army. She was a bit put off by what she calls his "authoritarian politics" and his love of German philosophers like Hegel, but she appreciated his imagination and intelligence. By his third letter, she was "halfway in love with him."
Now let's hold it right here. I don't mean to insult afficianados of fanfiction (well, maybe I do), but who writes to a fanfiction author out of the blue and then becomes infatuated with that person after three letters? This indicates, at the very least, some emotional issues.
These issues become even more apparent when Blood describes the effect her correspondence had on her life. She claims it led her into the "confused and agitated state common to those who become involved with cults." How does writing letters to a Satanist equate to cult involvement? She hadn't yet joined the Temple of Set, and to sever her ties to Aquino (who lived in Colorado at the time), all she had to do was avoid licking a stamp.
I suggest it was not "cult involvement", but Blood's own actions and conflicted emotions that were causing this turmoil to herself and those close to her. She admits her husband, family, and friends were "bewildered and alarmed" by her behaviour during this time.
Her decision to join the ToS was voluntary. Aquino had told her she would have to join to learn more about it, and she did. There was no pressure to join, no cultish recruitment tactics like love-bombing. In its 3 years of existence, the ToS has never been identified as a cult by ex-members or cult watchdog groups.
In fact, Blood offers no evidence that the ToS was a cult. She writes instead of the "clannish and condescending" attitude of some members, likening the temple to an exclusive club. This may be true, but exclusivity does not a cult make. In fact, in their early phases of development, cults will take just about anyone they can get so the leader(s) can establish a power base.
She makes much of the fact that Aquino was a psychological warfare specialist for the army, without documenting any crossover from his working life to his spiritual life (by all accounts, Aquino was professional enough to separate the two).
Blood, who claims she had no prior interest in the occult, immersed herself in the ToS. In June 1979 she attended one of its annual conclaves with about 30 other Setians, and met Aquino in person for the first time.
Blood's marriage ended that year. She claims she and Aquino became lovers during a trip to Washington, and his refusal to leave his soon-to-be wife Lillith caused her great emotional distress.
Since her love object kept his distance from her, she directed her frustration and anger at other Setians. In response, they "emotionally abused" her and ejected her from the ToS.
Her relationship with Aquino continued until early 1981. This was followed by four years of depression. She would phone Aquino and his wife and scream into their answering machine.
To indulge in a little armchair psychology for a moment, I believe what we see here is not a cult victim at all. This is an emotionally unstable woman struggling with unrequited love and rejection, bad choices, and a divorce. She projected her feelings onto Aquino and his group, branding it a cult. This excused all her own mistakes: She didn't emotionally abandon her husband for a gloomy geek - she was lured into a cult by a psy warfare specialist!
In the mid-'80s, years after her SoT experience, Blood was still out for blood. She joined the American Family Foundation (now known as the International Cultic Studies Association)*, which worked closely with the Cult Awareness Network (before the Scientologists took it over), becoming assistant editor of the two organizations' newsletters. Her contacts with other former Satanists, "ritual abuse" victims, and their support networks convinced her that certain forms of occultism pose "long-term dangers" to society. This view culminated in her 1994 book The New Satanists, which we'll examine at the end of this post.
Aquino's take on the matter is, quite frankly, more believable than Blood's. He contends that Blood became infatuated with him after reading his fiction, initiated a correspondence with him, and proceeded to pursue him aggressively for the next ten years. When he made it clear that her affection for him was not mutual, she began to leave bizarre, obscene, and abusive messages on his answering machine. Not one of them is suitable for a PG-13 blog like this one, if Aquino's transcriptions are accurate. She even heaped verbal abuse upon Aquino's elderly mother, referring to her as a "Nazi bitch".
Aquino points out that in letters Blood sent to him during her time with the Temple of Set (a few excerpts are here), she expressed delight with the ToS and wrote fondly of her fellow Setians.
At some point in the early '90s, Blood finally stopped leaving nasty phone messages. Aquino assumed she had moved on, until he learned she was working with anti-cult organizations that promoted belief in Satanic crime and Satanic ritual abuse. Then, in 1994, a subsidiary of Warner Books published The New Satanists.
The New Satanists
There isn't room here for a detailed analysis of Blood's book. Let's just say it is rather typical of earlier books on the same topic. Satanic ritual abuse is real, Satanists are dangerous criminals, yadda yadda yadda. The only thing missing is the Christian bias, though Blood's moralizing does veer awfully close to piety at times. She even argues that "occult" crime must be placed into the wider context of warfare, genocide, and terrorism. "Perhaps then we will take effective steps to combat this ancient and pesistent form of evil." (34)
Unlike most authors in this genre, Blood is actually knowledgeable about various Satanic groups in Europe and the U.S., and she makes a few valid points about the creepy links between certain Satanists and neo-Nazi/white supremacist beliefs. However, she goes seriously awry when it comes to that "occult crime". Among the absurdities she gives us:
- "According to law enforcement officials, in addition to child and adult pornography and prostitution, they [Satanists] are involved in drug and arms trafficking and serious forms of while collar crime such as computer scams and insurance fraud." No sources. No examples. People who self-identify as Christians have engaged in all these crimes, so should we also worry about a wave of "Christian crime"? (21)
- Listing examples of weird S&M porn involving dead animals, gore, etc., she asks, "Where does porn end and satanic ritual begin?". (21)
- She attacks skepticism, essentially saying that because of it, guilty men like Robert Kelly and Paul Ingram are being considered falsely convicted. Sadly for her, these are textbook examples of false conviction.
- "In the West Memphis case, the local Crittendon County authorities had been forewarned." Librarians had reported books with sacrifice/cannibalism passages underlined, and there was suspicion of rituals and animal sacrifices in the area. I don't understand how this in any way constitutes "forewarning" of a triple child murder. Does this woman honestly believe such a crime may have been averted by arresting kids who scribble in library books? Should the police have staked out wooded areas to prevent Satanists from legally gathering? The more you think about her statement, the more ridiculous it becomes. (Keep in mind that this book was written before the trials even commenced.)
Hysteria, Hoax, or Cover-up?
In 1986, California parents were seriously concerned about their daycare centres. And you can't really blame them. For the first time in the history of daycare, toddlers were complaining of bizarre forms of abuse involving costumes, movie cameras, the Devil, dungeons and secret tunnels, and murder. In Manhattan Beach, a grandmother and several members of her family stood trial for allegedly molesting and satanically abusing kids, using a secret tunnel beneath their daycare centre to access a specially-constructed ritual chamber. In Berkeley, a psychiatrist and his mentally ill wife were informing anyone who would listen that their son and countless other children had been raped and tortured by a large group of adults wearing robes and masks. It took the boy's mother 20 years to admit the abuse never occurred.
And in San Francisco, a 3-year-old boy informed his mother that "Mr. Gary" had touched his penis and sodomized him with a pencil at the Childhood Development Center, an Army-run daycare located on the Presidio Army base. He was referring to Gary Hambright, a 34-year-old substitute teacher who worked at the centre. Hambright had been substitute teaching in Bay Area schools since the late '70s, without any complaints lodged against him.
Joyce and Mike Tobin did not report the suspected abuse, but an army chaplain who heard the story from Mike relayed it to the base's Criminal Investigation Division (CID). An investigation was immediately launched.
Using an "anal wink" test, now discredited as a tool for diagnosing sexual abuse, Dr. Kevin Coulter of the Child Adolscent Sexual Abuse Referral Center at San Francisco General Hospital determined the Tobin boy had been sodomized.
In early December, about two weeks after the CID investigation began, a strategy group was formed to address the possibility of multiple victims, though there had been no other complaints against Hambright. This may have been prudent, but the CID's next move was not. Just as police did in the McMartin case, the Army mailed letters to every parent who had a child in Hambright's care at the Childhood Development Center - 242 people. This letter may have sparked hysteria among parents, causing them to see warning signs that didn't really exist. Presidio parents began to see nightmares, bedwetting, masturbation, and other normal childhood events as evidence of sexual abuse.
Five of the roughly 60 preschoolers who may have been molested tested positive for chlamydia at Letterman Army Medical Center. However, it later emerged that the wrong kind of culture was taken and the tests were invalid.
The stories told by the children included bizarre, "ritual" elements. One child alleged that Hambright dressed up as a "bad lobster". Another claimed Hambright murdered and resurrected him. Others spoke of guns being fired, animals being slaughtered, and sex acts being filmed by Hambright and other adults at the CDC. Yet no physical evidence was uncovered during the course of four separate investigations (by the CID, San Francisco police, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco).
Nonetheless, Gary Hambright was arrested in late '86 and charged with abusing the Tobin child. The charges were dropped three months later, after Judge William Schwarzer refused to allow hearseay statements from parents to be used at trial. The U.S. Attorney's office decided that without this inadmissable hearsay evidence, the case against Hambright was simply too weak to take to trial.
I'll note here that Blood gets many basic facts of the case wrong. She tells us that Hambright was arrested and charged in January '87, when this actually occurred in December '86.
That should have ended the matter, but things were about to get far stranger at the Presidio. After Hambright's arrest, Army chaplain Larry Adams-Thompson reported that his 3-year-old stepdaughter (real name Kinsey, here called "Lisa") was wetting the bed and having nightmares. She had been under Hambright's supervision four or five times in '86.
Questioned by the FBI, Kinsey denied that anyone had touched her inapppropriately. However, a therapist at Letterman Army Medical Center said she spoke of being abused by Hambright, a man named "Mikey", and a woman named "Shamby", on several occasions.
On August 12, 1987, 4-year-old Kinsey spotted Lt. Col. Michael Aquino at the Presidio Post Exchange and hid behind her stepfather. Larry and his wife, Michelle, asked her if she knew the man. "Yes, that's Mikey," she reportedly replied. In the parking lot, Larry Adams-Thompson saw Lillith Aquino, pointed her out to Kinsey, and asked if she recognized her. "Yes, that's Shamby," Kinsey allegedly told him.
Kinsey was re-interviewed by FBI Special Agent Clyde Foreman the following day. This time she described being abused by the three adults in "Mr. Gary's house", which had black walls and a "plastic lion's foot tub". She was taken to the 2400 block of Leavenworth Street to see if she would recognize the Aquinos' house, and she did indeed point out the residence, calling it "Mr. Gary's house."
When San Francisco police searched the Aquinos' house, they found that the living room was painted black. Despite a yearlong investigation by the SFPD, however, no evidence of wrongdoing by either Aquino was found. The case was closed in April of '88.
Michael Aquino was re-assigned to Missouri because of the adverse publicity the investigation attracted. In its November 16, 1987 issue, Newsweek ran a story on Aquino headlined "THE SECOND BEAST OF REVELATION". For the first time, Aquino appeared on TV to discuss his religion, in an effort to allay fears that Satanists like to abuse, torture, abduct, and eat children. This is when several preschoolers supposedly recognized him and told their parents he was one of the adults who ritually abused them in various daycare centres throughout the U.S. (What Blood doesn't mention is that no criminal charges were filed in these cases, due to lack of evidence. They include allegations against sisters Barbara and Sharon Orr at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.)
Hambright was rearrested and once again faced federal charges (because the alleged abuse occurred on a military base). This second set of charges was dropped six months later for lack of evidence. The federal investigation into the Presidio allegations was shut down in September of '88. By that time, a group of Presidio parents led by Larry Adams-Thompson were loudly crying cover-up. In June, some of them filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army, seeking $55 million in damages. A settlement was reached, and the family of Kinsey Adams-Thompson received over $300,000.
It's not unheard of for the military to hush up deviant behaviour on the part of officers. For instance, the prime suspect in the 1959 murder of Lynne Harper should have been Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt. Alexander Kalichuk, but civilian police were not informed of his arrest for attempting to entice preteen girls into his vehicle. The army kept a lid on that, allowing a 14-year-old boy to be falsely convicted and sentenced to death.
But was there a military cover-up in the case of the accusations against Aquino? Probably not. Here are a few factors militating in favour of Aquino's innocence:
- Aside from Kinsey Adams-Thompson, the kids identified him only after seeing him on TV. They did not give descriptions of him prior to that time - and let's face it, anyone who sees this guy is going to remember him.
- His alibi has never been challenged. He was all the way across the country when the abuse supposedly occurred. During the time that Kinsey Adams-Thompson was in daycare (September 1 - October 31, 1986) he was attending daily classes at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
- Is it likely that Aquino and his alleged cohorts could usher screaming, crying children in and out of Aquino's house without being noticed? The Aquinos lived in a fairly quiet neighbourhood, and did not have children of their own.
- Prior to the '80s, no one complained of sexual misconduct on Aquino's part. He had no known interest in children at all, much less sexual interest. This would be quite unusual for a pedophile.
- There is absolutely no evidence that Aquino was acquainted with Gary Hambright, nor anyone else at the Child Development Center. One has to wonder how a civilian Baptist and an Army Satanist would even meet.
- Because the alleged abuse occurred off-base, in the Aquinos' home, it was a civilian matter. For a military cover-up to occur, the Army would have had to effectively interfere with the SFPD and the FBI. Not likely.
- As the events below demonstrate, the Army itself was suspicious of Aquino and wanted to get rid of him.
Again, this should have ended the matter. But the accustions of cover-up, together with public outrage over Aquino's religious affiliation, left the Army feeling uneasy. In late 1988, CID investigators reviewed documents related to the Aquino investigation and picked out what they felt were the six strongest allegations against him. Investigators assembled "lineups" using Oprah footage and footage of Aquino lookalikes/soundalikes, and the children (number not given by Blood) unerringly picked out the real Aquino.
For this reason, the Army "titled" Aquino for indecent acts with a child, sodomy, conspiracy, kidnapping, indecent acts, and false swearing.
There are no easy answers in the Presidio case. Because most of the children were too young to remember their daycare experiences as adults, even they don't know for certain if they were abused.
But I do have a theory about what may have happened here. I suspect that Hambright's homosexual orientation terrified several parents at the Presidio. Giving in to fears that gay men who look after children could be pedophiles, some of these parents looked too hard for evidence of sexual molestation - and of course they found it. Everything from temper tantrums to bad dreams could be chalked up to abuse-related trauma. Once the CID investigation began, hysteria took over.
The allegations against Aquino may have been of a very different nature, though. Aquino maintained from the start that Larry Adams-Thompson fabricated Kinsey's allegations, and the later behaviour of the Adams-Thompsons unfortunately points in that direction.
After receiving their $300,000 settlement from the government, they placed half the money in trust for Kinsey, stipulating that she would become a co-trustee when she turned 18.
Kinsey moved in with her biological father at the age of 13. When she turned 18, the lawyer retained by her mother and stepfather assured her she would be given a copy of the trust documents to review before she signed on as a co-trustee. She had one month to sign. If she did not sign in that time, the money would default to the Adams-Thompsons.
Larry Adams-Thompson promptly filed a lawsuit against his teenage stepdaughter in an attempt to delay the signing process and secure the trust fund for himself. Luckily for Kinsey, a probate court terminated the trust. She was given not only her share of the trust monies, but compensation for her legal expenses, as well. This is documented in an appeal stemming from the lawsuit Kinsey filed against her stepdad's lawyer.
It is my opinion that any man who would attempt to screw his teen stepdaughter out of her trust fund is the same kind of man who would fabricate abuse allegations in order to sue the government.
Aquino was an easy target, because his Satanism was known beyond his inner circle of superiors and peers. Who would the authorities believe: An Army chaplain, or a devil worshiper?
After his Satanism became a subject of nationwide interest, more "ritual abuse victims" crawled out of the woodwork to accuse Aquino. In the early '90s, a young male prostitute named Paul Bonacci even accused him of purchasing Johnny Gosch, a 12-year-old boy abducted in Iowa in 1982. That allegation was too groundless to warrant investigation, and Bonacci was never charged with his supposed role in the Gosch abduction. But the story continues to be propagated by numerous conspiracy researchers (and Johnny's own mother) as part of the "Franklin cover-up".
Linda Blood's book, though now outdated and discredited, remains influential. It is often cited as a source in other anti-occult literature.
* Some of Blood's work, such as this 1991 paper co-written with deprogrammer Kevin Garvey, is available on the ICSA website.