Throughout the 1980s, Satanic cults were widely believed to be terrorizing and torturing children. There were hundreds of false allegations and countless lives torn apart — but never any real proof. Uncover: Satanic Panic is out now. Subscribe at cbc.ca/uncover
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Throughout the nineteen eighties strange phenomenon with sweeping North America They were in a panic and like people in a panic. They want solutions, allegations of underground, satanic cults, torturing and tear, rising children. The thing is, there were no satanic cults, preying on children and near Thirty years later, the people touched by at all are still picking up. This is a work of fiction. This is the work of history, satanic panic The latest CBC uncover available. Now This is a CBC podcast. This is very unnatural. For me to speak to the media, I don't on TAT really have a lot of interest in having anything to do with the media. I'm sitting across
Claudia Brighton, in a hotel room, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, scattering its meeting that, after months of back and forth, I didn't think was- can happen But the reason I'm here mainly is: what's partly because you're a very tenacious woman s Claudia is long out of policing, but she still carries herself, like a cop with a street spined confidence? She measures her words carefully. Merely thirty years ago. Claudia was at the centre of an infamous case in the tiny, every town of Martens but she's kept quiet since Until now, I feel like
Now is a good time with the first time, in a very long time that its felt right, the investigation start out very simply and started out small. Like you know, a lot of large cases do and there were no signs of anything, really unusual at the beginning. It was it was just a matter of no apparent. Boarding that their child had been abused and that's where it began. What's started with a single allegation, grew into something bigger and farther reaching than any. And could have imagined interviewing children. It's tough and are listening to them is hard and watching them cry as they talk
and seeing their parents off sitting in the distance crying and, of course you have me now I needed to stay composed. I still have scars on the inside of my cheeks. I would swallow my own blood in the middle of interviewing children, because I did not want to show that this was not difficult for me to work to get through as well, and so I have permanent scars from biting down to stir to try to get through things. After months of investigation, gruesome details begin to emerge of sexual abuse and torture and of rituals as terrifying as they are bizarre and these details we connect Claudius case to a rash of others across this continent
and beyond its like a bad dream capital, small council, catch twenty seven years later sitting here? Recalling these things, it is possible to think of his stuff that went on to work a fiction. This is the work of history. It pleasant lack. Robert of evidence, concern me. It was the lack of cooperative evident when they should have been evident. How do you know what our labour gone a reputation as a job is gone, but it seems to be a memory that everyone still carries sitting here today. All these ruefully, I don't wanna hear that does not mean I never did it, but that is what you saw seated with me until I gave him a good looking for coming and still some children and rituals
I'm LISA Bryn Rundle, and this his uncover satanic panic episode one. It was such a perfect place, throughout the eighties. A strange phenomenon with sweeping North America, underground, satanic cults, were believed to be torturing. And terrorizing children forcing them to take part in sadistic rituals, then deftly covering their tracks scores of perpetrators, allegedly committing the most heinous crimes that actionable against hundreds of children. A new term point to describe this emerging epidemic, satanic, ritual abuse,
Rachel ritual abuse. In addition to solving a child physically and sexually. There is an attempt to turn the child around in terms of what a child's Billy The system is cases pop. In Jordan. Minnesota current count and Manhattan Beach. California, they have been indicted on the belief that they sexually assaulted enterprise, northern underage children. In your care, then, in Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, she and her three old brother were involved in numerous sex acts with their parents and others and were forced.
Take part in rituals where animals were sacrificed and the devil was summoned. The judge was told about allegations of murder and mutilation. There were thirty. Sixty a hundred child victims targeted by seven perpetrators for twenty four four thirty six and it spread further still taking root in cosy Canada. The sensational child abuse case rip the city of Hamilton for sixteen months, as the revelations of too little Girls grew more and more bizarre. They said they were forced into sexual activity, pornography, even cannibalism, the allegations were horrifying, but the truth was almost as disturbing after dozens of exhaustive investigations, no concrete.
Some evidence of these crimes was ever found anywhere but there were trials and convictions and people did go to prison some for decades, it was a world turned upside down the result, of a strange kind of mass panic that swept up police prosecutors, psychologists, social workers, journalists, parents and children, fear conjured into being a new kind of truth, one that didn't require proof. But was fuelled instead by another capable belief alone and that- needed very real for all involved,
including those of us who were just watching from afar the eightys was the decade. I went from being a little kid to a photo adult and Satan was really everywhere, There were so many stories about cults and sacrifices and rituals and worse- and I didn't really question any of it, It just wasted its way into the Rubik's cube of my consciousness and stayed there unsolved by ninety. Ninety two founding puzzled would make its way to the quiet Prairie town of my swell scattering the chaos that follow.
Became, known as the Martens will nightmare and nearly thirty years later, the people touched by at all are still picking up the pieces So tell me the story, if we were at a dinner party- and I said: oh you more in Martens. Will around that time what happened? while I hope we can complete dinner when Randy Chuck moved Martens fill in the late Amy's. He liked the place immediately, a kind of snug oasis under the great dome of prairie sky.
It was smaller community. Just north of The tune. Very quiet immunity was often mean highway and really tight knit group. Of people that lived in that community Martins, attracted so many young families, people started, calling it diaper bill there were somewhere shy of four thousand people living there at the time, but the town had its own municipal police service and ran was pretty happy to become one of its handful of officers. Ah, you know but I thought I was gonna be in Martinsville will, for my whole career, honestly, I was a sight. It was such a plan, place coasts the big city, but you didn't, of all those big city problems. People were
really really nice and welcome me and my family, and we made some good friends there and the guy thought I I was gonna be there for for a long time, but it wasn't all perfect in nineteen ninety one as summer descends into fall. The Martin civil police service is a bit of a mess. According to the provinces Police Commission, long standing problems are coming to a head files, mishandled or misplaced altogether, generally shoddy police work and mismanagement, one officers, often suspension, and so is the chief another officer is off with an injury, all of which leaves the modestly staffed Martens, hopefully service pretty much. Unable to serve. I was
one of a number of constables were hired, help Phil Holes, Claudia Brighton. Is home in Saskatoon caring for her to young children when she gets a call asking if she can help does. It was only supposed to be forty six weeks right, very temporary, Claudia. Had started her law enforcement career at a small detachment of the royal Canadian mounted police, the Arcy empty one prairie province over and Manitoba. It was the kind of posting where you might The only law enforcement officer for miles where you can find yourself, weekly on your own, facing any number of calls from Reagan's to assaults two murders. It was tough work. The Claudia found great purpose in it Nevertheless, seven months in when her husband also a cop, got a job in Saskatoon, Claudia resigned, and so
two small children at home. She, been planning to go back to work right. Yes, I I hadn't into martens, will in all until Oh. I was there to nice before because I was sworn in with a few other people, but I didn't know. Martens will at all so. My first shift, was an orientation shift and taken to the sterling home for coffee that would be the home IRAN and Linda Sterling, Ronnie, assistant, deputy director of a correctional centre not far out of town, his buddies with some The local police officers and the stars The house is a frequent hang out Linda Sterling, runs a home day care. For some reason, it was very important for We need to be taken her. The first night, you know they were very friendly.
You know said I could come there any time for coffee and they offer to babies. My kids, if I needed a day care- and I say thank you- know- I've got that covered when I imagine Claudia and and Linda Meeting, for that first time they all seem so small, oblivious to the storm gathering above them and the vast inscrutable sky it was about to hit hard and fast ending their lives in the last days of September, nineteen. Anyone, a Martin so mom, a nurse notices. Agnes and broken skin on her child's bottom. The girl is two and a half
and she's had some diarrhoea, but why her mother sees strengths are as something angrier than a typical diaper rash. She asked her daughter what happened. The girl says The stranger had quote, been poking her. Later that evening, her mother asks about it again. The toddler says the stranger poked her with a pink rope was Thursday on Friday, when her Other asked again, the girl tells her the stranger lives at Linda's, Linda Sterling's. Where she goes to day care over the weekend parents, ask more questions and the girl provides more details. By Monday, they reach out to the Martens, will police The girls father explains that based his daughters descriptions. He believes
She has been sexually assaulted by IRAN and Linda's. Adult son Travis Sterling. The parents take the child to a doctor who sees no signs of abuse. But they remain convinced. I tell people, you know it's a good thing. I didn't know what was coming because I would have run. I would have been gone officer. Claudia Brighton is handed the file on October, first she's, just a day into her investigation. When the station secretary hands her team changing little rectangle of paper and index card from the stations filing system for all cases they had verdicts, Those are rarely things and they have the names of accused in this rolodex and We have gone through there and she found it was Travis Sterling's name on it.
There was just very basic information, so his name is data birth, Andy allegation. Sexual assault, Travis Sterling, have been accused of sexual assault by someone else Claudia goes looking for the old case file and finds a single page companies and torn shoved in the back of a filing cabinet. You know as an investigator when you, when you trip across an old complaint like sends up a big red flag, and I had a very bad feeling you know, and that feeling only got worse when I found actually located the physical file and discovered that nothing had been done. The complaint dates back to nineteen eighty eight a nine year old girl had reported being groped repeatedly well at the sterling daycare. According to a deep.
We reported magazine story, police did interview, Travis, but charges were never late. One of the investigating officers said the parents didn't seem inclined to proceed, but the girls mother said she never heard back from the police. And by the time Claudia, went looking. The paperwork had gone missing, It's actually a miracle, in my opinion that that complaint was even found and so I dug through and there it is oh it out, and it is not three pages. It's one answer people in the top right hand. Corner are three tiny little pieces of paper with some handwritten scribbles on it, and so file had been opened, the coup
it was identified dunno on the report. The accused was identified in the report, but no police work. Was done. There was no statement from the child victim? There was no statement from the child's parent no Nothing has been done. Not even the most basic of police work has been done. Two days later, twenty two World Travis Sterling is arrested and charged with one count of sexual assault. In relation to that, one thousand nine hundred and eighty eight complaint. The next very next priority, of course, was to identify as best as possible other potential victims, It was, it was a problem to have this day care still operating. While we were active, we investigate in these types of complaints, we had a duty to protect the public, Claudia,
contacts as many families as she can, whose children have been to the day care and alone with the growing case there are great wing challenges I got the Arcy M P there are. No detailed policies are procedures for what she's facing and Martin spill there's the difficult work. Of interviewing children? Almost all under ten years old, and then there are the challenges coming from her new colleagues. I was not treated very nicely by some of the members in the office. There is and to me because So I think simply I was a woman. I was exercising MP and I was in their space right, a corporal from the Saskatoon police comes to assist with the interviewing of kids at first
The children have nothing to report, nothing bad happened, but over time they begin to offer different answers, pointing the finger at Travis. Parents RON and Linda one child accuses wrong. Forcing him into a sexual act at gunpoint. Another ledges, Linda, forced him to take his clothes off and took pictures run and Linda are ultimately found to be innocent of all crimes but that wouldn't happen for a long time. More charges are laid this time against Travis and Wrong and Linda Multiple, counts of sexual assault, uttering threats,
pointing firearms? Then the children say there are others who hurt them and the number of suspects just keeps climate. One Saturday morning in June, ninety ninety nine fifteen year old, shoe and undeveloped, disappeared and never came home no one has ever been charged with her murder. But there was a suspect I met a man like him. I'm a shepherd. This
season on uncover. I don't recall making that calm. That's fine! If you don't recall that I'm telling you that's! Why uncover charming available? Now? Where do you get your pockets. This case is, you, know, started out very simply in very small, within our pretty short period of time. It grew and ah I could see that in all the needs of this file we're going to be significant and it wasn't long. It was only a few weeks into it, where the actual physical size of the file was becoming unmanageable, mostly file. Long after Claudia started working the case. Suspended martens for police chief is forced to resign for unrelated misconduct
a chief from a neighbouring police service takes over temporarily, but he works twenty five minutes away in the rural municipality of forming part and he doesn't commoter Martin, so much I was thirty. Two years old, I had little bit of experience in my back don't coming in to this whole, situation, and I quickly good night, and I you wouldn't need a lot of experience to recognise that this case needed a lot of attention, a lot of expertise, a lot of bodies and so in I began asking I Surely early on, you know, are we doing this a common question. I would ask: are you sure we're doing, everything we need to be doing. An EU is: oh, yes, yes, and are normal time would pass and ask him again in old: can we get the Arcy MP involved in this way? He was adamant.
But that was never going to happen in court. The interim chief would dispute this. But a leader review by outside investigators, confirmed that quote. The first duration that has been articulated by Claudia Brighton appears to be legitimate and compounded by the fact that she received no consistent direction either from please supervisors or crown prosecutors and so it was troubling for me because by November I was literally drowning in this file, then The case takes a hard turned into a known territory. Children start talking about rituals and sacrifices they report being taken to a blue building out of town, so call it the Devil church.
There. They say they were injected with drugs and tortured the children alleged. They were forced to watch people being dismembered even killed. They say they saw people have their eyes plecto and were forced to drink blood. They describe enduring manner of abuse. According to court records wasted in cages locked in freezers and forced to perform sexual acts with the adults and with each other. Each horrifying story builds on the next sterling's and others are accused of belonging to a secret cult, the brotherhood of the room and if you think it couldn't possibly get any worse, there's this first one child, then another tell Claudia that the other adults or uniforms like hers
police uniforms. The children had said officers were involved, but couldn't always specify which ones it could be any cop at what point did you realize that you, and colleagues of yours were under suspicion. Probably wasn't and till about two three months into the investigation and remember: Randy check the cop who loved Martens Phil, He's now working alongside Claudia we're all brought then to the Chiefs office, and we were all hold that we were subjects of the investigation as a result of the interviews and at that point in time,
kind of really shocked, because none a bus while myself- and I know to the other to the members that I worked with at that point in time had basically, no knowledge of this day care or any other children that even went to it. What did that few link to told that you were in essence being investigated initially, I was very madam I when I meet Do whatever you want, but I'm part of this. I'm not involve never been involved in our Europe in accused of not only bein a pattern. File or involved, and child abuse, but you're also accused of being in a say, tat. I called- and I mean just it
Apparently it's it's an amazing. Unreal taper situation, but put them together, it was was. It was almost to the point where it was unbelievable. What was the mood around the office. You try and go both Do your job the best your ability, but You look at everybody differently. Everybody gone they involve an end, It not only became very hard to work. Might be in the office being the station, but it was also very hard trying to do your job in the community what was it like going for groceries, walkin around town it was hard there
your comments and your own obviously people once people When does this investigation than and everything else like that, they looked at the police department completely different and he always had the had the lux of mice, does he involved? Bird is Does he know what's going on or or any of that stuff? And you know people just treated treated. Me differently and I know couple, the other members they were treated? differently Lee as well as answer was their families. So here the funny thing about a very small police department, there are so few officers and the IMF. Instigation is so big that they have to
hurry up and clear some of them, so they can help with the investigation so Randy, let's himself get hooked up to lie. Detector. To my knowledge, I'm the only one that took the polygraph, am I pass polygraph and was cleared and he moves from being a suspect in the case to helping work at all hardens into winter. The unrelenting cold makes it hurt just to breathe. The investigation has taken over Claudius life. I was working around the clock. On something I should have been working on in an office at work when I was trying to manage my my home
I had two little children and a husband and the house to care for and Anna at one point you know the file was in in a kind of a vulnerable position than I had. You know there was a. Need to secure it, and I was left holding the bag on that vulnerable, because the physical file with all the notes from the investigation lived at the Martens filled least station surrounded by potential suspects. And falsehood ended up in our basement and we are basically tie to our house. It was never really regarding it. Well, it was never vulnerable to you know. It just meant that one of us was always at home. It never should have been there. I used to feel also two in the morning from apparent that was in two here is because their child had just had a nightmare and had run him, and you know this
as such, it was the file grew quickly because of the number of people that became envy I had a duty to serve and protect those people Personally, I was some very difficult. It was some exhausting. When did the Satanism part first come to your attention So this would be in our ninety ninety two problem, they starting in February or March. The kids green, regular counselling, who you know who want. Better whose parents you know what it was made available to them, and I got a phone
from one of the counsellors when I was at work one day and she asked me questions about ritual abuse. If I had you know was I had, I ever heard of it to her, and I said no Then I hadn't, you know it was nothing. I have ever had an interest in. Finally, a new chief of police might Johnston. Arrives in Martin Swell and for his leadership, the invest negation focuses in on possible satanic connections. So. The chief was fielding calls from members of the public and he was receiving information and that's where, the term brother heard of the room. I first heard that, after
my Johnson had received information from the public, and so you know here, acted on information. That was coming in as he saw fit in order to run the police services and protect the town ninety ninety two and as the great thought spring is finally under way. A tip comes in from a local pastor. He's heard that a group of Satan worshippers has its sights set on martens will they would arrive in the dead of night? They be armed and bent on destruction. The chief dispatches an urgent memo to his officers, putting them on high alert they brace for a fight.
And the author eyes us to go ahead and bring in our own guns. This is heavily armed as possible. The time I've gotta method had never been were scared. My life Martin, so police officer, makes one in two thousand and three CBC interview atone for mine, summed it up in a way that David make sure Barbara get through look after Randy. Tredick also remembers that name we're gonna be attack, basically, is what he said. So we had to be on the alert and that we were gonna be, and indeed it with things, and we would have to deal with them. Basically, they were gonna come in and tat the town and burned things down in an attack, all the churches and they were going to come in and still some children and use them for their rituals going through everything that happened and then getting this. It just shake your foundation and since sharers Dounia back, then you start to think. Well, maybe this is what really. Maybe there is some truth to all animals before long nine people which
Face merely a hundred and eighty of the most terrible charges, only two of which would ultimately stand both against Travis Sterling and neither having anything to do with satanic ritual abuse, so where did the panic come from in mountains will and beyond? Who did a hysteria managed to cloud the thinking of so the otherwise rational people. And if we don't understand that, could it happen again coming up,
on, say, tanning panic. Everything looked suspicious. This blue buildings everywhere that it and if that's it, what do we do that we roll up? What if they grab me cut my head off I am reading. In the twentieth century, the seventeenth century Salem when trial Who dare suggest this was all made up. I would fear for your safety when you're, not guilty of anything Where did anything what he can say The next morning, my grandma and my aunt. At the door and picked me up. It was early and show they came as soon as they could. I've heard, since how terrific that night was for them because they didn't know either. They never see me again
uncover satanic panic is written and produced by me. We surrender and Alina goes mixing and sound design by Evan Kelly Chris Open is our story. Editor are it'll producer is Emily Canal. Having a guard video producer, original music, Bolivia, Pass Corelli, Tanya, Springer, Is the senior producer of CBC Podcast Arthur. Is our executive producer special thanks to Mitchell Stewart? whether you lived through the satanic panic or if this is the first time
peering about it either way. We'd love to hear from you find a sun, Facebook and Twitter at CBC, podcast for more CBC original podcast go to sea BC, dossier, slash original podcast,
Transcript generated on 2020-02-21.