The above is Johanna Michaelsen’s introduction to her bestselling 1989 book, Like Lambs to the Slaughter, a classic of the “fundamentalist moral panic” genre. That’s a bit like calling an inguinal hernia a classic groin injury, but never mind–if you’re in the mood for Reagan-era anti-educational hand-wringing or gruesome tales of babies getting scarfed down by Satanic daycare workers, this is the book for you!
It’s hard to know if Michaelsen is insane or extremely credulous: in all likelihood, she’s both. A former New Ager, she saw the light and became a born-again Christian some time in the late 1970’s. Unlike other lapsed fundies, however, Michaelsen has never straight-up repudiated her old beliefs. Ouija, spirit guides, ESP, numerology, ghosts, parapsychology–according to her, that stuff’s all real. And it’s all the work of Satan.
Michaelsen’s first book, The Beautiful Side of Evil, was a memoir of her time as a spiritualist and was fairly well-read at the time. But her influence exploded when she became one of the loudest voices in the fight against Satanic ritual abuse. If you’re old enough, you probably remember SRA. Its legacy includes Michelle Remembers, the concept of false memories, and the realization that kids will say just about anything to win the approval of authority figures. At her height, Michaelsen was traveling the country, waxing hysterical about sex cults and babies being butchered in basements. She even got involved with Laurel Rose Wilson, alias Lauren Stratford, a con artist whose three alleged children were victims of snuff films and ritual sacrifice. Laurel Rose lived with Michaelsen until her claims were debunked, then skipped town and re-emerged as Laura Grabowski, a Holocaust survivor. Michaelsen doesn’t seem to have had much to say about this–she was probably too busy throwing up after touching cold spaghetti.
I promise that statement will make sense in due time.