Phantoms, Daemons and Finders
They got mystery written all over their forehead
They kill babies in the crib and say only the good die young - Bob Dylan
The first week of May, 1981, Daniel O'Connell, the Investigative Counselor of the Boston Public School Board, alerted the district's principals that "it has been brought to the attention of the police department and the district office that adults dressed as clowns have been bothering children to and from school. Please advise all students that they must stay away from strangers, especially ones dressed as clowns."
Several days later, in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 5, two clowns using candy as lures tried to entice children into their black van parked near Lawrence Elementary School. According to Loren Coleman in Mysterious America, police had a good description of the vehicle: it was an old model with ladders on the side, a broken front headlight and was missing its hubcaps. The following day the Boston police, "responding to persistent complaints, warned that men in clown suits were harassing elementary children." One, driving a black van, was seen to be dressed as a clown only from the waist up; from the waist down he was naked.
"By May 8th," writes Coleman, "reports of clown men in vans harassing children had come in from East Boston, Charlestown, Cambridge, Canton, Randolph, and other cities near Boston.... 50 miles south, in Providence, RI, reports of clown men disturbring children were coming to the attention of psychiatric social workers counseling the city's youth."
Encounters with "evil clowns" proliferated quickly westward. Pittsburg children began reporting being pestered by two men dressed as clowns driving a van. Mid-May, frightened Kansas school kids told of a clown who had chased them home and threatened them to get in his van. On the afternoon of May 22, in Kansas City, Missouri, chased a "knife-wielding clown in a yellow van that had been reported at six different elementary schools":
Earlier in the day, at 8:30, a mother had watched a yellow van approach her children as they walked to a school bus stop. The van stopped and someone inside spoke to her two girls who then screamed and fled; the vehicle sped away. The children told their mother that a man dressed as a clown and carrying a knife had ordered them inside. By noon the police had received dozens of similar reports - of a clown in a yellow van. The calls did not taper off until five o'clock that afternoon.
Coleman quotes LaTanya Johnson, a then-sixth grade student at Fairfax Elementary School, who told the Kansas City Star of her sighting of the clown:
He was by the fence and ran down through the big yard when some of the kids ran over there. He ran toward a yellow van. He was dressed in a black shirt with a devil on the front. He had two candy canes down each side of his pants. The pants were black too, I think; I don't remember much about his face.
That Spring, scared children in Nebraska, and in Colorado, and elsewhere, spoke of being menaced by knife-wielding clowns who ordered them to get in their vans. No suspect was apprehended, and perhaps most significantly, no child was abducted. Frustrated police departments began backtracking, and discounting the allegations. Besides, most of the witnesses were young children - how much could their word be trusted? As the sightings petered out, and as children were merely terrified and not missing, "group hysteria" was floated as an explaination, and eagerly seized upon by most. But Coleman makes a significant observation that suggests something else was going on:
The story of the phantom clowns went unnoticed on a national scale until I began getting a hint we were in the midst of a major flap of a new phenomenon. Slowly, after contacting fellow researchers by phone and mail, I discovered the phantom clown enigma went beyond Boston, Kansas City, and Omaha. Indeed, the reports filtering into me demonstrated that a far reaching mystery was developing. In the individual cities, the local media were not aware they were living through a series of puzzling events that were occurring nationwide.
Phantom Social Workers
In the early months of 1990 a similar pattern played out in England, though instead of clown costumes, they came disguised as social workers.
Patrick Harpur writes in Daimonic Reality:
Reports poured in to the police, describing "health workers" or "social workers" who called to examine or take away children, but who hurriedly left when the householder became suspicious. The visitors were mostly one or two women, but sometimes a woman and a man. The women were typically in their late twenties or early thirties, heavily made up, smartly dressed and of medium height. They carried clipboards and, often, identification cards. "They looked professional," said one witness. "Like doctors." Few of them had local accents. Some even telephoned in advance to make appointments.
Twenty-three separate police forces combined to launch Operation Childcare, dedicated to tracking down the bogus social workers. By May, the incidents were so widespread that police feared that up to four organized gangs were involved. (On 6 May there were three separate incidents in Nantwich, Cheshire, alone.) They were thought to be gangs of pedophiles. But clearly there were signs that the matter was far from straightforward: the pedophile theory was weakened by the involvement of so many women, who are rarely implicated in pedophilia (except in cases of alleged satanic ritual abuse.)
By early August, 251 incidents had been reported. As with the "Phantom Clowns," no child was abducted, no suspect was apprehended, and dispirited police began to talk of "social panic."
We'll make you cry wolf
In their respective studies of the clown and social worker flaps, both Coleman and Harpur use them to draw similar conclusions regarding Satanic Ritual Abuse. To Coleman, the allegations belong to the realms of the Fortean and folkloric; Harpur, that they are the product of the daimonic imagination. Harpur goes so far as to suggest that the "social workers" were themselves daimons: tricksters perpetrating practical jokes on the merely human and, like the so-called Men in Black, not doing any real harm.
I agree with much of what Harpur says about hidden and non-human agencies, but I think he's well off the mark here. And I think it's because he, like Coleman, and so many, deny a priori the mundane realities of ritual abuse, and naturally therefore make no allowance for the complicity of elements of both US and UK state apparatus in the perpetuation and cover-up of occult crime. Harpur even notes that the involvement of women was unusual in matters of suggested pedophilia, except in cases of alleged Satanic Ritual Abuse. But because such things don't really happen in Harpur's world, then he needs to invoke an otherworldly explanation for the bogus social workers. Sometimes, as I've suggested many times, we need to go there, but we needn't go there this time.
So what was going on? Coleman writes that "something quite unusual was happening in America in the Spring of 1981." One unusual thing was the dawning general awareness of Satanic Ritual Abuse and its possible links to institutions and individuals of authority. Perhaps a "clown op" was run to discredit the testimony of children ("a black shirt with a devil on the front," said LaTanya Johnson), and to lead the public towards discounting even more nightmarish mysteries.
In Britain in November 1989, just two months before the first incident of a phantom social worker, genuine social workers had removed 17 children from their homes on the grounds that they were being sexually abused in satanic ritual. Perhaps another "op" was run to vilify those who meant to protect children and to sow distrust, demonizing them in the public imagination as abductors themselves.
Maybe, it's about putting on a wolf costume to scare little children. Maybe, it's about making them cry wolf. For the next time.
"No further information will be available"
The Finders provided one of those next times, as documented by a US Customs Service report:
On Thursday, 2/5/87, the duty agent, SS/A [deleted], received a call from SS/A [deleted], USCS, Tallahassee, Florida. SS/A [deleted] was seeking assistance in contacting an appropriate local police agency to coordinate a child abuse investigation in with the Tallahassee Police Department.... U.S. Customs was contacted because the police officers involved suspected the adults of being involved in child pornography and knew the Customs Service to have a network of child pornography investigators, and of the existence of the Child Pornography and Protection Unit. SS/A [deleted] stated the two adults were well dressed white males. They had custody of six white children (boys and girls), ages three to six years. The children were observed to be poorly dressed, bruised, dirty, and behaving like wild animals in a public park in Tallahassee. The police were notified by a concerned citizen and all eight persons were taken into custody. The subjects were living out of a white 1979 Dodge van, Virginia license no. XHW 557. Upon being taken into custody, the adult white males refused to cooperate, one of whom produced a "business" card with a name on one side and a statement on the other. The statement indicated that the bearer knew his constitutional rights to remain silent and that he intended to do so. Upon interviewing the children, the police officers found that they could not adequately identify themselves or their custodians. Further, they stated that they were enroute to Mexico to attend a school for "smart kids." SS/A [deleted] was further advised the children were unaware of the function and purpose of telephones, televisions and toilets, and that the children had stated they were not allowed to live indoors and were only given food as a reward.
The photographs were nudes, believed to be of members of the Finders. There were numerous photos of children, some nude, at least one of which was a photo of a child "on display" and appearing to accent the child's genitals. I was only able to examine a very small amount of the photos at this time. However, one of the officers presented me with a photo album for my review. The album contained a series of photos of adults and children dressed in white sheets participating in a "blood ritual." The ritual centered around the execution of at least two goats. The photos portrayed the execution, disembowelment, skinning and dismemberment of the goats at the hands of the children. This included the removal of the testes of a male goat, the discovery of a female goat's "womb" and the "baby goats" inside the womb, and the presentation of a goat's head to one of the children. Further inspection of the premises disclosed numerous files relating to activities of the organization in different parts of the world. Locations I observed are as follows: London, Germany, the Bahamas, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Africa, Costa Rica, and "Europe." There was also a file identified as "Palestinian." Other files were identified by member name or "project" name. The projects appearing to be operated for commercial purposes under front names for the Finders. There was one file entitled "Pentagon Break-In," and others referring to members operating in foreign countries. Not observed by me but related by an MPD officer were intelligence files on private families not related to the Finders.
During the course of the search warrants, numerous documents were discovered which appeared to be concerned with international trafficking in children, high tech transfer to the United Kingdom, and international transfer of currency. PAGE 2 OF 2 DETAILS OF INVESTIGATION: On March 31, 1987, I contacted Detective [deleted] of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). I was to meet with Detective [deleted] to review the documents seized pursuant to two search warrants executed in January, 1987. The meeting was to take place on April 2 or 3, 1987. On April 2, 1987, I arrived at MPD at approximately 9:00 a.m. Detective [deleted] was not available. I spoke to a third party who was willing to discuss the case with me on a strictly "off the record" basis. I was advised that all the passport data had been turned over to the State Department for their investigation. The State Department in turn, advised the MPD that all travel and use of the passports by the holders of the passports was within the law and no action would be taken. This included travel to Moscow, North Korea, and North Vietnam from the late 1950s to mid 1970s. The individual further advised me of circumstances which indicated the investigation into the activity of the Finders had become a CIA internal matter. The MPD report has been classified SECRET and was not available for review. I was advised that the FBI had withdrawn from the investigation several weeks prior and that the FBI Foreign Counter Intelligence Division had directed MPD not to advise the FBI Washington Field Office of anything that had transpired. No further information will be available. No further action will be taken.
Perhaps they might as well have been phantoms. Spooks, even.