A revised edition of THE COURAGE TO HEAL, by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, includes a new chapter on the "backlash" attempt to discredit claims of real child abuse. As an example, the authors cite the McMartin Preschool ritual abuse case and claim that it must be taken seriously since "tunnels" have been found under the school.
This claim has also recently appeared in the JOURNAL OF PSYCHOHISTORY, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children's bulletin (The APSAC Advisor) and in other venues, where they are promoted by Dr. Roland Summit, of UCLA; and by Katherine Coulbourn-Faller, of University of Michigan.
Following is background on the people who have promoted the claim and of events surrounding the dig. As will be seen, much evidence suggests that the "tunnels" are a hoax. All information herein is documented by the author's research, as well as in published media articles, and in Los Angeles District Attorney and Police Department documents in this author's possession. These are available on request (but please reimburse copying and postage expense).
In 1984, several months after the McMartin investigation began, several children involved in the case started talking about having been taken beneath the school to be molested. Glenn Stevens is a former assistant district attorney who worked on the case and then quit after he decided it was a hoax. Stevens notes that most or all the children who made tunnel claims were going to the same therapist, Martha Cockriel.  DA's office reports support his observation.
By early 1985, a core group of true-believer, highly politicized parents had coalesced who thought that a satanic cult was behind the abuse. In late March, 1985, they descended on the school to dig up the yard. Their intent was to find evidence of the dead animals that children said teachers had killed and buried to terrorize the students.
The DA's office heard about the dig and sent investigators to observe. At some point, a parent who was digging called everyone over and claimed to have just unearthed a tortoise shell. An investigator examined the site and noted that the shell lay in soil of a different color than the surrounding dirt, and that it also contained fresh leaves. The DA's office had a Huntington Beach surveying company ultrasound the school to check for any sign of tampering or tunnels beneath it. No such evidence was found. However, the investigators did find a small note with a diagram of the school drawn on it, with "X's" indicating "Turtle 1" and "Turtle 2." This would suggest that someone had recently buried two turtles and was providing diggers the directions to locate them.
The foregoing suggests that the parents involved in digging were deliberately implanting evidence.
The tunnel issue died down until 1990, toward the end of the second Buckey trial, when the same group of parents (by now with a smaller number of people) decided to do an "archaeological dig." The main activists in this effort were Jackie McGauley and Ted Gunderson.
Jackie McGauley's history is this:
Her daughter was 2 1/2 years old when she attended McMartin for a short period. She was among the hundreds of children who never testified in the trial, many because their claims were beyond any credibility.
Shortly after the investigation started, Jackie McGauley became intimate with a writer for the Daily Breeze, a LA beach communities newspaper. After the two broke up, in 1984, McGauley called the police and reported that her daughter was saying the man molested her. Charges were never filed but they were made public in the LA Times and the writer's career was ruined.
In 1985, McGauley's daughter attended a special daycare at the Richstone Center (a facility where several state-appointed therapists were treating McMartin children). The daycare was only for McMartin children, and they had to be "victims" to qualify. During this period, McGauley called police and told them that her daughter reported that a therapist at Richstone had molested her. Police were unable to get much information from the child; most of it came from the mother. Charges were not filed against the therapist and the incident never became public.
In 1990, Jackie McGauley was living with Ted Gunderson. He is former head of the Los Angeles FBI office. After taking an early retirement in the late 1970s, Gunderson was hired by friends of Jeffrey MacDonald, the Green Beret convicted of brutally murdering his wife and small children. MacDonald's case is detailed in Joe McGiniss' book FATAL VISION. MacDonald always claimed that his family was murdered by a Charles Manson-like cult, and Gunderson located a female street person with a history of severe drug abuse who claimed she had been in the house with the cult when the family was murdered. From this work, Gunderson apparently adopted the idea that the country was overrun with murderous Satanic cults. He elaborated this idea when he was associated with Jackie McGauley and the rest of the McMartin parents.
In the early 1980s, as Gunderson publicized his theories about Satanic cults, he began making bizarre claims to the media. One was that Satanists and the FBI were out to harm him. He once told the LA Times that someone had thrown a crowbar at him as he drove on the freeway. Another time, he said, he was sunbathing in his yard and awoke to find a satanic poem left at his side.
In the late 1980s Gunderson became something of a regular on shows such as Geraldo. In May, 1989, after the Matamoros drug-cult killings, he appeared on Geraldo and claimed that Mason County, Washington was filled with satanist "killing fields" stocked with hundreds of dead bodies. The county went into a panic and parents took their children from school. Extensive investigation revealed no such fields.
McGauley and Gunderson organized the 1990 McMartin dig and hired LA archaeologist Gary Sickel. Information on Sickel's background will be forthcoming. At this point, suffice to say that Sickel used the McMartin parents as the sole excavators of the site. These were people who not only had an agenda about finding something, but who had a history of apparently implanting phony artifacts. This is significant in light of the fact that the artifacts they present now as their chief evidence are two small (easily implantable) items: a Mickey Mouse plastic sandwich bag and a saucer with five-pointed stars painted on it.
The McMartin parents also claim that the tunnels they found are about five feet high, 30 inches wide, with no flooring, wall or ceiling material, and completely filled with dirt and paint chips. Compare this to claims the children made back in the 1980s: e.g. about a "secret room" 10 feet by 10 feet, filled with sofas and flashing lights, leading to an triplex residence inhabited by a little old lady. Construction and contracting professionals whom the media contacted during the 1990 dig pointed out that the McMartin site had been continuously built on since the 1920s (it used to be a stable) and that what was found sounded like the channels dug for plumbing that are normally found under any such site.
Currently, McGauley and Sickel are making Sickel's report on the dig available only to members of the child protection coterie who have made their careers promoting the existence of satanic ritual abuse -- such as Coulbourn-Faller and Summit. The report is not available to the public. McGauley and Summit have said it cannot be released unless someone (a publisher, for instance) pays substantial amounts of money for it. This position contradicts the normal practice in California among archaeologists, which is to archive their reports for peer review and public use.
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