I interviewed the memory researcher Dr. Elizabeth Loftus in December of 2020 and corresponded with her via email. In the interview she promised to send me the transcript of her expert testimony related to memory in the Harvey Weinstein trial. You can also read the transcript of my interview with Loftus here. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Loftus and the legacy of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, check out False Memories: The Deception That Silenced Millions by Lynn Crook.
Category: From the Archives
From the Archives: Aum Shinrikyo to Cult Researcher James T. Richardson
Courtesy of the James T. Richardson special collection at San Diego State University, some files related to Aum Shinrikyo, sent from the group’s New York chapter to Richardson in 1995. Also included a paper on the “new neo-religions” of which Aum and Happy Science are only a couple of the politically motivated/activated new religious movements. With Halloween coming up going to try to do at least one video on a “spooky” subject from the rare docs I’ve been collecting over the past year while working on the Kai the Hitchhiker book.
Up next? Expect some MK-Ultra researcher Dr. Louis Jolyon “Jolly” West connection to the rise of the Satanic Panic in the late 80s.
In the meantime, the book about Aum I mentioned was Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura and keep your eyes open for the US release of Aganai (The Cult Leader and Me) by Aum sarin attack survivor Atsushi Sakahara. The documentary A (1998) and A2 (2001) are currently available to view online, including at YouTube.
Speaking of New Religious Movements, I met with Happy Science last month and bought a couple books. The embedded video below is from the Manila International Book Fair directly skip to 17 minutes and 15 seconds to jump to the spot where I get to the Happy Science booth. Keep scrolling for the Aum documentaries A and A2.
Scientology’s Ties to Project Stargate
Project Stargate was centered around SRI International research center and the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOD and multiple US military branches took advantage of the work done there. The work being done was related to “remote viewing” and psychic spying. I was aware that 2 of the 3 main researchers were Scientologists, but until delving into the Ingo Swann special collection was not aware to what extent that Scientology and Dianetics played in the secret spy program.
From the Archives: MK-Ultra Researcher Dr. Jolly Lecture on Hippies
Dr. Louis Jolyon West, or “Dr. Jolly” as he was known to some was a fascinating character. Known today mainly for his work on mind control he was also involved in the civil rights movement, took part in the Jack Ruby investigation, the Patty Hearst Trial, investigated Jonestown, fought Scientology, headed the Cult Awareness Network and much more. I was doing some digging today in regards to an upcoming project that has required me to do a deep dive into rare materials, some unavailable online or only found in certain archives by request. During this search, I found this gem of an artifact. Dr. West, who was mentioned in Tom O’Neill’s book on Charles Manson due to his proximity to the Haight-Ashbury scene where he had a “pad” he lived in to observe the hippies as well as “treating them” in his free clinic, gives a talk in the late 60s entitled “Hippies, Teenyboppers and the Asphalt Sherwood Forest.” After a few minute intro with some background from me you can listen to it in its entirety here.
From the Archives: William S. Burroughs and the Apomorphine “Cure”
I’ve been requesting several files from special collections and archives related to counterculture luminary and attempted social engineer William S. Burroughs. In the first batch I received, among other things, an invoice for purchase of a gram of mescaline sulfate ordered while he was living in London, February 1960.
Today I’ll be focusing on some letters related to an article in London’s Sunday Times about Burroughs’ claims to have beaten his addiction using an alkaloid from the blue lotus flower known as apomorphine.
Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation & The Memory Wars
I interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Loftus regarding the Memory Wars and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation back in December of 2020 just weeks before my spinal injury. Have been meaning to get the interview transcribed and here it is (finally).
PF: First off I want to thank you so much for being willing to talk to me. Also I just want to say if there’s anything I ask that you don’t have an answer for or you’d rather not answer that’s completely fine and please do set me straight if I at any point I’m off in any details.
L: What are you writing or what is your product going to be?
PF: I’m interested in the memory wars of the 80s and 90s and specifically the False Memory Syndrome Foundation which was a key part of what some have dubbed the memory wars.
PF: And first off, I wanted to ask, just a personal question you recently won the prestigious John Maddox award for science, just one of many awards and commendations you’ve received. What would you say, however, is your greatest achievement or the most proud moment in your professional career?
L: Well those are two different questions, I think the achievement I would answer by saying, I’ve spent a terrific professional life. I get to make scientific discoveries and also apply those discoveries to real world cases and to help people along the way. That’s my greatest achievement.
PF: So you were always interested in, was science always your calling and vocation? When did you realize that’s what you wanted to do?
L: No, it wasn’t I contemplated a bunch of other things, I was maybe going to be a high school math teacher
PF: Oh wow!
L: I always thought that’s what I thought I’d end up doing.
PF: I wanted to be an entomologist until i realized “Oh, wait, you have to touch the bugs?”
L: Oh yeah.
PF: You were one of the original members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation scientific advisory board, what was that experience like?
L: First of all, I was working on these repressed memory cases when I got a call from Martin Orne who was one of the original members, I wasn’t. He asked me if I would join this board since I had been doing research on memory distortion and had already worked on a few cases of claims of repressed memory and was deeply interested in the issues it was just a natural thing for me to do to become a member of what became a very, very large, you know, fifty people or something, scientific and professional advisory board. That happened maybe in 1993ish I might have joined.
PF: Ok, I know you published an article about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Washington Post in ‘91…
L: That was an article, that was written about about a talk I gave, that was written about a talk I gave to the American Psychological Association about false memories and it was covered in the Washington Post. [She did not do an APA presentation in 1991 on memory before the WaPo interview. She was “enthralled” by Ganaway’s presentation in 1991 (p. 84+). She “flew back to Seattle with a sense of purpose and direction.” The WaPo interview was conducted in August and she would present at the APA in 1992.]
Tossed around ideas with her students. Did the WaPo interview that generated a headline in August. Presented on memory at the APA in 1992.
PF: Okay, once again thank you and please correct me on my details because I want to make sure this is as accurate as possible. And I think you answered another question I had, I was going to ask I was going to ask you if the Freyd’s contacted you, perhaps they saw that article but sounds like…. I knew Dr. Orne was your entry… [note: Dr. Martin Orne also worked on the CIA’s MK-Ultra mind control program, Loftus herself was a consultant to the CIA from 2005-2006 and is referenced in the Hoffman Report related to APA ethics issues related to Guantanamo Bay.]
L: I didn’t know them before I got involved in this issue, but I certainly knew who Martin Orne was, he was a very prominent psychiatrist who was very involved in the organization and he’s the one who ended up calling me and asking me if I would join.
PF: Ok here’s another question, do you believe that there are cases of… because this is another one of the controversies in the memory wars, speaking of war. Are you of the opinion that trauma-induced memory loss in Vietnam veterans is something that happens or is that another case of “psychological confusion?”
L: Well, there are lots of reasons why combat veterans have difficulty remembering things. Some of them have to do with the physiological…
PF: Traumatic brain injury for instance?
L: Yeah, injury, exhaustion, you know, starva- you know, hunger, fear, all kinds of things. Lack of sleep.
PF: So in a way, I guess you could say, there are cases of trauma induced memory loss, but its kind of an apples and oranges thing as compared to the FMSF cases with repressed memories.
L: Well, I mean, show me a case where they said ‘I really thought it was a lovely war until I went to therapy and then I learned that no, it was horrible. Those cases don’t look anything like the claims of repressed memories…
PF: Gotya, apples and oranges.
L: …family members who joined the False memory syndrome foundation effort
PF: Ok, now for your work, which of course you’re very proud of, have a right to be proud of, you’ve had a long and distinguished career. You’ve also however received a lot of hate mail, death threats, I know that occurred a lot in the 90s… another two-parter do you think this was primarily due to your work with the foundation and your position on false memory syndrome…
L: Oh no, it was definitely my position on the issues…
PF: Have the hate letters….
L: the skepticism that I was expressing in my speeches and in my writing. (nods)
PF: Because it’s a hot button issue. Have the hate letters and death threats subsided at least?
L: Well I testified earlier this year for a very unpopular person in a sex abuse, a sexual assault case and there was a lot of publicity about that so they, I ended up getting a new round of hate mail, but that was early at the beginning of this year. (interview recorded Dec 2020).
PF: I’m going to go out on a limb here, I’m assuming you’re talking about the Weinstein trial. Can you tell me what that ordeal was like and if there were any limits to the testimony you were able to give on the stand?
L: Yeah, I just gave very general memory testimony. I was not permitted to talk about any specific people just general memory testimony about memories and memory distortion and that’s, you know, at some point I could send you a transcript.
PF: Oh my gosh, I would love that!
L: So email me at <breaks up> and I’ll <breaks up>
PF: Oh sorry, you broke up there for a second, but yes I will email and please do. Another question, would you characterize yourself as an advocate of science for science’s sake
L: I’d say I’m a big advocate for science, as a way of…
PF: both pure and applied or do you not take favorites?
L: Well I happen to do scientific work that is both theoretical and has applications.
PF: Ok, here’s another question that I’m dying to know, do you believe there are any cases where people do repress memories that are related to sexual abuse or other types of child abuse that are later recovered either with or without the aid of a therapist.
L: I think that people can not think about something for a long time and be reminded of it. They can even not think about something, you know, awful and be reminded of it. Any memory scientist appreciates the value of a retrieval cue.
PF: Like smells.
L: Ordinary forgetting and remembering, I don’t think there is any credible scientific support for the idea of massive repression. I appreciate Richard McNally, who is a professor at Harvard a clinical psychologist and researcher who calls the repression idea folklore.
PF: Ok, and another important question here, and I’m sure you’ve gone over this many times, but just to get it on the record for my research. What methods are most likely to result in false memory implantation?
L: Suggesting things to people, guided imagination, taking them through imagination exercises when they can’t remember something, sexualized dream interpretation, hypnosis, giving people books to read that advance the theory of repression, putting them in group therapy when they don’t have any memories and they listen to lots of other people talk about abuse, exposing them to other forms of suggestive psychotherapy. These are some of the things I’ve seen in many cases I’ve been involved in.
PF: Now speaking of books, tell me about your thoughts on the book Courage to Heal?
L: Ah, I think Courage to Heal is a book that for people who genuinely were abused could be a comfort for those individuals to make them feel understood they’re not alone, other people have gone through the experience, that’s probably a big part of why the book is so popular. But when it comes to people who don’t have any memories and the book is telling them even if you don’t have memories but you’ve got the symptoms you’ve probably been abused and encourages them to develop memories and encourages and provides a list of lawyers to take their cases if they decide to sue then I think you’re entering into dangerous territory.
PF: So it’s a mixed bag…
PF: And that’s another thing how much of the repressed memory therapy stuff especially as it relates to litigation and people suing their parents how much of that is well intentioned therapists and ministers and criminal investigators and how much of it, I’m going to use a very strong word, grifters and people who are purely in it for financial gain or is that something that we can’t really quantify.
L: Well, I have been very generous about my attribution of motivations, you know, and just assume that the promoters of these techniques and strategies think they’re helping people. They’re, you know, if you talk to Richard Ofshe he’s the one who said…
PF: Yeah, haha…
L: If you can turn a $2000 eating disorder patient into a $200,000…
PF: (laughing) I read that, I read that paper just the other day, that’s what got that idea in my head actually.
L: So that was Ofshe’s view back then, I don’t know how he’s feeling today. But I have been kind of kinder to the therapists in assuming that they just really had one and only one idea of what was wrong with their patient and they pursued that agenda.
PF: Now speaking of Professor Ofshe, off topic for just a second and I’ll get right back, but I am so thankful for his work exposing Scientology, he was one of the pioneers. It was very dangerous to go up against Scientology especially in the 80s at the height of their power…
L: Oh yeah, he was a big target of them…
PF: Oh yeah! They’re some scary folks. Can I ask you one more, this is another slightly off topic question but I’m just dying for your professional opinion. As a kid I was a huge fan of Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, I loved it, and many years later I cracked open a copy of The Many Minds of Billy Milligan. I personally don’t deny the possibility of dissociative identity disorders but something didn’t sit right even before they bring in the psychiatrist who examined Sybil, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur who was later found to have coached her client, do you feel that it’s possible, as I do, that Daniel Keyes and Dr. Wilbur were so caught up in the excitement of examining a rare, and of course publishable, case that they just believed Billy implicitly despite the possiblity that maybe he’s just a kid from an abusive home who watched 3 Faces of Eve on tv as a kid and was like “hey, I’m gonna do that one day.”
L: Well, I love Debbie Nathan’s book Sybil Exposed and I think her analysis was just brilliant. And, you know, I don’t know the full story of the motivations and so on and I think that was an iatrogenically created case of a multiple.
PF: With Sybil or also in the case of Milligan?
L: I don’t know about Milligan.
PF: We know Sybil but… Eve…
L: What’s that about Eve? I actually met her. We were actually at a conference in London.
PF: Do you believe her case was legitimate?
L: No, not particularly. These people have the symptoms, the question is how did they get that way?
PF: Do you think most cases of DID are iatrogenic?
L: I don’t want to venture there.
PF: Now course the, another question I wanted to get on to is what is your opinion on Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s research?
L: Well he’s a huge promoter of this idea of trauma therapy that there was no evidence for. He was frequently expert testimony on opposing sides of court cases.
PF: Right yeah.
L: And I don’t think there’s any good evidence that the body keeps the score. [The Body Keeps The Score is the title of a best selling book by Dr. Van Der Kolk]
PF: Ah, haha.
L: He’s gotten a lot of mileage out of that meme.
PF: Oh my gosh, wow. Umm, ok, ok, umm, now let’s see, you’ve said, I’m getting ahead of myself here, mentioning Richard McNally, in the Forbes article I was reading it was mentioning Dr. Van Der Kolk and Richard McNally vs Daniel Brown, yourself vs Crook and Dean, Pope vs Kihlstrom and a handful of major players… have the memory wars ended?
L: You should look at a paper that’s linked on my UC Irvine website, which is called “Are the Memory Wars Over” published just a few years ago, an extensive survey of professionals and you’ll see there’s still massive controversy over memory scientists and clinical research academics like McNally tend not to believe in it but certain mental health groups still do and that paper lays out the gap and the controversy that still exists.
PF: Right, ok. Now, another question I have is related to, you know, I mentioned the Crook and Dean paper in Ethics and Behavior and I read your rebuttal as well. Now, in the mall study you said the subjects were asked to read what their relatives have told us about each event. Now how does this apply to what a therapist might tell a client and can we generalize from that or is this another case like Vietnam vets vs child abuse… [One of the issues brought up with the mall study in Ethics and Behavior is the fact that therapists could not claim to be present at the time of an event in the client’s past. The mall study to date is only effective in, at best, less than 1/4-1/3 of cases even with trusted family members claiming said event occurred.]
L: That was a study to show that you could plant an entire memory into the mind of an adult about a childhood event that would have been at least mildly traumatic. Since that time all many other investigators have planted all kinds of whole events in the minds of people.
PF: So that was before the formalized model of study, ok.
L: Yeah, that just happened to be the first one. And you know, of course, it used a strong form of suggestion but many other studies have shown that even milder forms of suggestion can lead people to false memories like guided imagination or dream interpretation or some of the other methods that some therapists were using.
PF: I take it you’re an anti-Jungian.
L: I don’t know much about Jung.
PF: I’m not gonna lie, I was interested in, you mentioned folklore earlier, I am a huge fan of folklore and mythology, I love Bettelheim, I really enjoyed Jung’s book on alchemy and some of that may verge on pseudoscience, but I still find it really fascinating.
PF: But I’m getting off topic again here, I do apologize.
Ok, regarding the Crook and Dean case again, she lodged an ethics complaint saying you misrepresented her lawsuit to the media and then you resigned from the APA. Now was this incidental, were you pressured or was it completely unrelated? [Jennifer Hoult also filed an ethics complaint against Loftus in 1995 for misrepresenting her successful lawsuit in The Skeptical Inquirer]
L: Well first of all, what she… I made a couple of remarks to a journalist about a case that I worked on and she recognized herself in one detail in the case. She sued…
PF: Wait, is she Jane Doe? [Loftus’ Jane Doe case study with Melvin Guyer resulted in the Taus v. Loftus lawsuit which was settled in Taus’ favor]
L: No this is not Jane Doe.
PF: Ok, because I know there was a big deal about a Jane Doe and…
L: That’s different. That came later.
PF: Ok sorry for the confusion and thank you for setting me straight. Speaking of the Jane Doe case, can you tell me a little about that because initially she was working with you… I’m so sorry, please finish.
L: So anyhow. She complained about an anonymous reference I made.
L: To a journalist who was writing an article for Psychology Today magazine and she, and that started this long, obsession that she developed about me where she just, you know, uh, just emerged over and over to the point where I felt like I was being stalked. [Crook learned from Loftus’ deposition that Loftus dropped the first 6 mall study subjects which was the impetus for her academic rebuttal of the study from an ethical standpoint. Apart from a few scholarly papers that take issue with ethical and other issues with Loftus’ research there is no evidence of “stalking.”]
L: Ah, so you feel she’s held a grudge since that initial lawsuit.
PF: Oh absolutely.
L: She claims she filed an ethical complaint but APA never confirmed or denied it and I resigned from APA at about that same time but it had nothing to do with her complaint. [This claim is disputed in the Hoffman Report, claiming that Loftus was given forewarning by the APA]
PF: Wow, I did not know that about the, so there’s no corroboration to your knowledge of an actual ethics complaint being lodged.
PF: I can’t even remember where I read that, I will have to check. My notes are all out of whack right now. This is week two of research so I haven’t even begun to put things in stacks yet. Ok, now, so in an email you referred to her as “dangerous and deceptive” do you feel that there’s genuine malice in her crusade against you.
L: Oh heck yeah, I do.
PF: Yeah? So it’s personal in your opinion.
PF: Ok. Now um, are you familiar with Professor Ross Cheit at Brown University who wrote the book The Witch Hunt Narrative.
L: He pronounces it CHITE
PF: Cheit! Oh my gosh, Oh the curse of the autodidact I can never pronounce anything right. Now have you read the Witch Hunt Narrative and what do you think?
L: Uh, I just think it’s an exaggeration but its mostly about the child cases where the kids are still kids. You should talk to Steve Ceci and Maggy Bruck because they are the main target of his attack in that book.
PF: And how do you spell Ceci?
L: C E C I , he’s at Cornell.
PF: And Maggy Bruck. Thank you so much.
L: Steve Ceci.
PF: Now when I was reading that book, I will give him great credit that, to his credit he points out a lot of the issues with the interviews. A lot of those interviews they were absolutely like the children were led, but at the same time I do somewhat agree that once this idea that “oh well the children are being led” do you think it’s possible that that led to some child abuse victims who were legitimate not being believed once that idea had been popularized?
L: I don’t know, I think Debbie Nathan would be another good person for you to talk to if you can about because she covered those kinds of cases so thoroughly. She’s written extensively.
PF: Well I emailed her and she gave me full permission to quote but basically said as far as the memory wars project that wasn’t her forte.
L: She didn’t want to talk about it. She’s busy I guess.
PF: Now, let’s see, here’s a two parter and this one’s a little more hardball. Now there were some ethical issues that have been lodged against some of the scientists who were involved in the false memory syndrome foundation. I’m talking about Dr. Louis West particularly and some others who were involved in the CIA’s MK-Ultra. Now to invoke the trolley dilemma thought experiment, do the ends justify the means if the suffering of a single person or a small group of people result in the amelioration of the pain of millions. That’s more of an ethics question but…
L: Yeah, well that’s an ethical question, I’m a memory person. People are going to resolve that depending on their, you know, morality and ethical feelings but I don’t want to venture outside of my expertise.
PF: Ok that’s fine, now were you aware of MK Ultra and their research at the time you were on the board with them.
L: I, I think that… I did read this bizarre speech by Cory Hammond, but I don’t know about that. That’s not anything I ever was involved in.
PF: I stick to stuff like the Church Committee hearings, uh, (laughing) a lot more, I think Cory Hammond, that’s the guy who I’ve read some of his stuff too, something about different colors and beta kitten mind control slaves and mk monarch programming and I’ve read the FOIA documents ok, I’ve got no doubt that MK Ultra exists. You know Bill Clinton apologized for the Canadian experiments that Dr. Cameron did but a lot of what Hammond spoke about there’s zero evidence for most of his claims so yeah. Now and here’s another tough one, I’m sure you weren’t aware at the time, but what are your thoughts on the Ralph Underwager Paidika scandal where he made that regrettable quote regarding pedophilia and are…
L: I don’t… I, I, he made some regrettable quote, but I didn’t really follow it that closely.
PF: It, it was like, you talk about Hammond it was equally, equally, nuts “I believe it is God’s will that there be closeness and intimacy and unity of flesh beyond people and pedophiles can… (Loftus: over the quote: “yeah he probably regretted saying that). You know what blows my mind is that, you know, the foundation said denounce what you say, say you were wrong and he refused to he said there’s no scientific evidence to bear that child abuse is harmful and so he was asked to step down. Do you think that his involvement could have cast any kind of a pall on the organization and its work?
L: I don’t have an opinion about that, but the board or whoever decided it would be better that he not be in a prominent position for them to be able to achieve the goals and mission then that’s their decision.
PF: And yes, definitely, it would have been a PR nightmare to keep him on after that. Umm, now uh, Dr. Martin Orne, he uh, very much to be commended exposed serial killer Kenneth Bianchi, who was also malingering attempting to use DID as a defense for unspeakable crimes. Do you know anything about his, one of his mentors he cites, Dr. G.H. Estabrooks. [Estabrooks wanted to induce alter personalities via trauma in order for the purposes of espionage, his work was influential to MK-Ultra]
PF: Yeah, ok, never mind then. I was going to see if you knew anything about that. Estabrooks actually was charged with the military to attempt to use trauma to create alternate personalities as for whether that went anywhere there’s no, uh, there’s no way of knowing. And now what would you say to people like Mike Stanton who claimed in the Columbia Journalism Review that the False Memory Syndrome Foundation was a “PR machine?” What’s your rebuttal to that?
L: (pause for a few seconds) Well, I don’t even know what that means. It was a group of people who were very concerned with a problem in society that they were seeing and they sought to try to do something about it.
PF: I think his, the gist was, the effectiveness in marshalling both the media, and the courts and in some cases didn’t some of the work that the foundation do influence not only the number of litigations against parents but once therapists started getting sued changed the way what you referred to as “recovered memory therapy” was done. I guess in a way you could definitely say that the foundation was a lobby even though it was probably more of a think tank.
L: I don’t know, you, I mean it it’s people who, uh, I mean, would you say that people who, who… are concerned um, uh about pancreatic cancer and form a foundation to try to deal with it, and support research and educate people that they’re a lobby?
PF: Uh, yeah. I personally would…
L: Well maybe you have a broad definition of lobby that has a kind of connotation about it…
PF: Ah, I understand, I understand, maybe lobby is the wrong word.
L: That’s why I, I, just would not like to use that word. A group of people, of families who were devastated and professionals who were concerned on their behalf to come together to try to work on a societal problem.
PF: Well that’s a great answer. What are your thoughts on, I call it the strange bedfellows effect. The odd alliances that sprung up. Who ever would have guessed that Gloria Steinem and Pat Robertson would be working side by side uh, during the satanic panic era to discredit FSMF
L: …to promote satanic ritual abuse and put it on the cover of Ms. Magazine but that was an unpleasant moment in this whole, you know, saga.
PF: Ok, and uh, now you have represented some incredibly controversial figures. Ted Bundy, Jerry Sandusky, Harvey Weinstein… would you say that your work on the defense was it more in the service of science rather than simply to defend these people or did you honestly believe that they might be innocent.
L: Well first of all Ted Bundy, he was accused of aggravated kidnapping in 1976 no one knew even who Ted Bundy was then. All he was was a first year law student at the university of Utah law school who was accused of trying to kidnap a woman out of a shopping mall parking lot in broad daylight.
PF: And a member of the Young Republicans of course.
L: I didn’t know he was.
PF: No he was a member of the Young Republicans specifically.
L: And there were issues about that identification, was made like 9 months later under some questionable circumstances and I talked about, you know, eyewitness identification and what we know about it.
PF: So you didn’t necessarily feel that they were innocent uhhhh…
L: Oh no, I don’t decide somebody’s is innocent or guilty.
PF: Right and in America that’s how things work everyone has a right to the best defense possible.
L: Well we are innocent until proven guilty under this wonderful system of ours and even very unpopular people have right to a defense.
PF: Yes, yes, that’s the rule of law and when we break down the rule of law because x,y,z group are unpopular then that’s a very dangerous slippery slope I would definitely personally agree.
PF: Now speaking of controversial figures, were you at all acquainted with the Eberles who also were involved in the foundation.
L: I don’t even remember them being involved in the foundation. Weren’t they… They wrote a book about…
PF: The Politics of Child Abuse yeah.
L: I don’t remember them being on the advisory board.
PF: Oh no no no, I don’t believe they were on the scientific advisory board at all and in fact may have been more like Debbie Nathan where they extensively used quotes and attended some of their meetings and, organizational meetings and things…
L: I don’t know that I ever met them.
PF: Ok, I was going to ask if you thought they were being railroaded by the LAPD who apparently…
L: Oh no, I don’t know anything about that.
PF: This is something I kind of went over already. Dr. Pamela Freyd on PBS, I think it was Frontline, said part of the reason for the foundation was because everyone has a right to defend himself or herself and have those accusations examined. And I will happily concede that there are certainly multiple cases where with the aid of hypnosis or other you’ve mentioned that memories can be implanted. Do you feel there could be a conflict of interest though, considering that some of the scientists, Dr. West was working with MK Ultra, one of their objectives was learning how to implant memories, do you think there was any possible conflict of interest.
L: I, I… (pause) I, uh, the scientific and professional advisory board, a number of people who have different, completely different expertise that they bring to (clears throat) thinking about this problem.
PF: Did you know Dr. West personally?
L: I don’t, I’m not sure if ever met him.
PF: I find him an incredibly fascinating figure. I can’t agree with all he did. I appreciate his work against Scientology, some of the things that are on the record in the Church Committee hearings are unconscionable of course, but I still uh, as far as science for science’s sake, I don’t believe he was an evil person per se, I do find him incredibly fascinating. Now in an interview a couple years ago, Dr. Pamela Freyd was asked if she thought that the foundation had achieved its goals and she said something along the lines of how the, she thought that it had basically done its work and they could quote slowly disappear. Do you agree with Dr. Freyd there? Is the work done?
L: I wish they were still around because they were a fantastic resource for these desperate, grieving family members and they helped so many people giving them advice, directing them to good therapists or directing them to good lawyers or directing them to other family members who could give them comfort and understanding. So there’s a gap because there’s still people who need those resources and the foundation isn’t there to provide it anymore. Except for the website that they maintain. Especially the archive of its newsletters which I think would be very handy for you.
PF: Oh yes, thanks so much and by the way, thanks for so many extra leads. So, it’s the fact that the Freyds are no longer available to lead the organization that you attribute its closing last December then?
L: I think they’re retired now and somebody’s got to want to put the time and ,yaknow, energy to keep it going. And this is the solution after however many decades.
PF: Ok, awesome. Now…
L: Twenty five years or whatever.
PF: 27, yeah.
L: Oh, 27.
PF: Have you seen, I’ve been reading, I’ve been interested in the memory wars situation for years and in the past few weeks I’ve been kind of intensively into research and I’ve been trying to be as objective as possible and looking into both sides and getting as much information from both camps. And I watched Mary Knight’s documentary that actually featured an interview with you. Did you see that interview?
L: That was awful.
PF: Oh no, yeah? So you were not a fan of the documentary.
L: No it was sort of ridiculous, I don’t know why she had this camera on me with this side view the whole time, and uh it was very, I felt very sort of misled. And sorry I cooperated.
PF: Do you feel you were misrepresented?
L: No, just misled. I don’t know. I thought she would be more open minded.
PF: So there wasn’t any selective editing or anything like that.
L: Well probably, it was completely edited.
PF: Well of course, but ok, what I meant was edited to cut out anything specifically to make you look good and her look bad.
L: I well, anyhow, it’s been a while since I saw it so I don’t remember it and its certainly a very long time since I talked to her so I can’t tell you what was cut out and whatever but it certainly was not the whole interview.
PF: Another person who was in the interview that, by the way, you were able to keep your cool and calm unlike Eleanor Goldstein. Oh my goodness. She seemed to blow up in the interview a bit. What are your thoughts on Goldstein and her books on false memory syndrome.
L: I understand that Goldstein was, you know, one of those devastated family members and if they have a kind of anger about what happens in their family you almost can’t blame them.
PF: I get that, I just can’t gibe with, the one quote she made, that it’s even in the trailer, it gave me goosebumps when she basically said sexual touch in regards to children is not the horror of horrors that it’s made to be and children need to be responsible at some point which smacks of victim blaming to me. I can understand being upset if she was falsely accused, I know her daughter says she was a victim of abuse, so I can understand the anger I can not however understand saying oh child abuse is not that bad, handwaving it away and saying don’t hold a grudge.
L: You’re going to have to talk to her about that whether it was a very unfortunate…
PF: That would be good to know. I tried to send her an email but couldn’t find her contact information if you have her contact info…
L: I think Pam Freyd would know how to reach her.
PF: Oh my gosh, if you could get me in touch with Dr. Freyd that would be so amazing.
L: Well when you email me, I can send you Pam Freyd’s email but we’ll have to wrap this up I have an event tonight, I budgeted an hour for this and it’s already an hour.
PF: Yes ma’am. One last question then, at this point would you consider false memory syndrome “settled science” as the popularized phrase goes.
L: Well, I don’t use the false memory syndrome, I study false memories.
PF: Aha so that’s another misrepresentation.
L: False memory syndrome is the name of an organization or its a condition that John Kihlstrom defined at some point, but I don’t think you need the expression. People can develop false memories and I know a great deal about how that happens.
PF: Well it’s been excellent speaking with you and I apologize for my nervousness and taking up so much time…
L: You know those archived newsletters will give you all kinds of ideas because as they cover people’s speeches, people’s articles and so on, for other people that you might want to interview.
PF: Thank you so much Dr. Loftus, you have an excellent rest of the day good luck in your event later and hopefully we can keep in touch.
Loftus: Ok, byebye.
From the Archives: Dr. Louis “Jolly” West Docs On Possession, Dissociation & Alien Abduction
CIA MK-Ultra researcher Dr. Louis Jolyon West, known to some as “Dr. Jolly” was one of the foremost figures studying mind control. Today I am going through some of the most recent documents I’ve had released from the UCLA special collections. Huge thanks to William Ramsey of William Ramsey Investigates who used alumni status to help me get some of these files released sooner.
Background music “John Carpenter style synth mix” courtesy of White Bat Audio, royalty free music.
Currently working on the Kai the Hitchhiker book and after that will get back to the “6 degrees from Ted Kaczynski to Epstein” book but I will continue to collect as much of the LJW special collections and hopefully in a couple years will be ready to start working on the first definitive biography of one of the leading CIA MK-Ultra researchers.