Questions Concerning "Satan's Underground"
Question 1: Did the researchers discuss their findings with Stratford and Harvest House (the publisher) before "going public?"
Answer: The writers contacted both Stratford and Harvest House on a number of occasions with problems concerning Stratford's story. They were only told that there was "hard evidence" that the story was true but were not told what that evidence was.
Question 2: What was the motive in "exposing" someone who is working to stop Satanism?
Answer: There was never a planned attempt to "expose" Stratford. Actually (ironically) Eric Pement, an staff member of Cornerstone Magazine's parent ministry, invited Stratford to speak at a large Cult / Occult symposium in Chicago, the Rockford Conference on Discernment and Evangelism."
As plans became known, someone contacted Pement with reservations about Stratford along with her real name (Willson) and her mother's name and address. Only then, did they begin to question the wisdom of having Stratford speak at the conference. The subsequent investigation revealed serious discrepancies. It was the conclusion of the team that if the story was fictitious, it would be ultimately harmful for them and others to continue to promote a false testimony. They felt that the best help that could be given victims of fraud and deceit was truth.
The real question is, do the ends justify the means? Is it good to promote something not true that good results may occur? The classic Christian response to this question has always been no.
Question 3: What was the response of Stratford and Harvest House?
Answer: Stratford has made no public statement to my knowledge concerning the article. However, in a cover letter dated January 31, 1990 Harvest House stated, "...after carefully reviewing all aspects of he situation, we believe it is in everyone's best interest to discontinue our publication of Ms. Stratford's books."
The letter introduces a 3 page press release explaining their pre-publication verification process stating, "...through character references, corroborative documentation from experts in the fields of abuse, and careful observation of Ms. Stratford's behavior, we concluded there was a reasonable basis on which to proceed."
The release further stated: "The journalists (of the Cornerstone article), in their attempt to verify Ms. Stratford's story, used the opinions of people in Lauren's past and certain public events of Lauren's life. In addition, by securing public documents pertaining to Ms. Stratford's family, they located some inconsistencies in the chronology presented in the book. Based on their research they concluded that the story was not true."
They concluded that, "Unfortunately, neither the approach used by the journalists or Harvest House conclusively established the complete truth regarding the life of Lauren Stratford. This is not the fault of the journalists, Harvest Hoses, or Lauren Stratford as objective evidence is frequently unavailable to establish the more unusual and private aspects of child and ritual abuse."
They finally added, "Therefore, after carefully reviewing all aspects of the situation surrounding Satan's Underground, we believe that it is in the best interest of all concerned to cease publication of Satan's Underground and I Know You're Hurting (Stratford's second book) effective immediately. Returns of both books may be made without prior written notice to he publisher."
Question 4: Could part of the story and some of the facts and details be false while the overall story is still true?
Answer: The authors did suggest that Stratford could have been the victim of some type of abuse. The problem is that some of the most powerful parts of the book have been brought into question by the new evidence. If, for instance, she did not have any children, and therefore those children could not have been sacrificed in satanic ritual, then what other facts covering those same months of her life are now also questionable?
The sad reality is that part of Stratford's story may be true. But now we will never know what part -- if any -- ever really happened.
When the events that can be documented are not true, it taints every unverifiable statement as well. Frank Peretti, author of This Present Darkness, has proven that fiction can be a powerful medium for a Christian message. But Satan's Underground was not presented as a powerful work of fiction but as a "true story." And this is the problem.