Stories about vast unknown conspiracies that involve CIA operatives and criminal underground societies, seem more like tired themes for formula films, rather than a subject for serious discussion.

However, as summer ended in New England such subjects became the focus of a conference staged by “abuse survivors” at a hotel in Hartford, Connecticut.

Narratives about secretive Satanists were everywhere at the gathering sponsored by S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-Control and Ritual Torture).

Maybe Scott Peterson’s lawyers should have attended to take notes, which might help fuel their speculation concerning the alleged “cult” they say may have taken the life of Laci Peterson and her unborn child.

Anecdotal stories abounded everywhere at the conference with various villains. Besides the usual Satanic suspects there were accusations against Freemasons, secret CIA programs and the so-called “Illuminati.”

This event was reported with a dose of much needed skepticism by the Hartford Advocate.

“I was going to be part of their satanic world-domination plan,” said one self-proclaimed “survivor.”

“My father handed me over to the cult; I was like his gift,” explained an attendee.

“We were brainwashed by the cult and made to kill firstborn children,” claimed another.

Why were all these victims together in Hartford rather than within a witness protection program?

“Sharing like this is the best way to rid ourselves of…toxic memories,” stated the conference organizer. And of course there are always conference fees, not to mention books and tapes for sale at such events.

Being a “survivor” can become a kind of cottage industry for some.

And for those that think this is funny and comparable to a group of UFO believers waiting for their next “abduction,” think again.

People have suffered, but not from supposed “satanic ritual abuse.” Some stories told by “survivors” have led to false charges and criminal prosecutions that destroyed lives.

This includes witch-hunts like the McMartin pre-school case in California. Taxpayers spent $15 million dollars to find out there was no Satanic abuse at the school, but it ruined the McMartin family.

And there was an alleged “sex ring” in Wenatchee, Washington that was ultimately proven to be bogus after multiple arrests of innocent residents.

Even a police officer was falsely accused in Canada. He was eventually cleared and paid a large settlement for his suffering.

These are the real survivors, falsely accused and damaged by spurious charges and prosecutions.

The FBI once investigated claims of human sacrifice and a network of criminal Satanists. But a report concluded there was no objective physical evidence to substantiate anything.

So why do people want to believe such nonsense and play the role of “survivors”?

According to respected researcher Elizabeth Loftus it’s an “explanation for everything wrong in their lives.”

The noted psychologist sees conferences like the one SMART recently convened as an opportunity to “get together…reinforce each other…give each other a sense of importance.”

And the stories of “survivors” appear to confirm this.

Often their tales put them at the center of some vast and evil conspiracy; its central character, hero or heroine, somehow essential to the plot.

But in the end even those that spin such stories fail to see their own authentic suffering and real situation.

Obviously they are in need of ethical and constructive counseling from objective mental health professionals. But many instead rely upon “repressed” or “recovered” memory therapy and are often estranged from their families.

They “stay unwell and never get help” lamented Loftus.

CBS News Affiliate Channel 2 in Chicago did an excellent two-part story last month about the power of hypnosis and controversial therapies.

Within this compelling piece reported by Pam Zekman viewers actually can observe hypnotherapy sessions and see how suggestible people are, while in a hypnotic trance.

Under the influence of a self-proclaimed “psychologist” participants recall “past lives.”

It is easy to see through this televised two-part series how some bizarre claims of “ritual abuse” and/or “alien UFO abductions” can be created through implanted or false memories.

A virtual subculture exists in America today composed of “satanic ritual abuse” and “alien abduction” “survivors,” many basing their claims upon “recovered” memories brought forth through such controversial modes of therapy.

In what may be perhaps the most ridiculous defense scheme ever concocted in a murder case, Scott Peterson’s lawyers are now suggesting that his wife Laci may have been slain by Satanists, reports WISTV News.

For Football fans this appears to be the equivalent of what is called the “Hail Mary pass,” which is a wild play based upon desperation.

Maybe this ploy by the Peterson defense team should be named the “Hail Satan pass”?

Myths about “Satanism,” “Satanic cults” and alleged rituals including “human sacrifice” were disproved and dismissed long ago.

Perhaps Peterson’s lawyers should have done more research before offering up this theory.

The FBI has studied such claims and issued a definitive report discounting these tales.

Other reports done in Great Britain and the United States have also dismissed fantastic claims about satanic cult activity.

The possibility that any cult was involved in the brutal murder of Laci Peterson is so remote, that only the most dedicated and predisposed conspiracy theorist would even begin to buy into such a story.

It’s hard to imagine what profile for jury selection the defense might contemplate to put this one over.

What’s next?

Laci Peterson was the victim of a UFO abduction/experiment?

Or was she somehow killed as part of a covert CIA operation gone wrong with a subsequent government cover-up?

It seems demeaning to the young woman’s memory and an insult to her grieving family to float such theories.

Scott Peterson’s lawyers must be running on empty if they have scraped the barrel for this one.

Reportedly the defense claims they have a “credible suspect” supposedly involved in “one of the known Modesto cults.”

This sounds more like a witch-hunt than a “credible” investigation.

If this is all the defense has in its arsenal, it is probably time to sit down with the prosecution and talk about a plea bargain, in an attempt to keep their client off death row.

Though maybe any hope that the prosecution will cut a deal with Scott Peterson, is as remote as a spaceship coming to spring him from jail.

Yesterday was supposedly slated as the “end of the world.” That is, according to Yuko Chino and her Pana Wave followers in Japan.

But the planet’s destruction has been postponed, reports Mainichi Daily News.

Likewise, Chino’s claim that she is “dying of cancer” seems to be a bit exaggerated. The “cult leader” has reportedly been on the brink of death for at least a decade.

Chino likes to indulge in drama regarding her health as well as the fate of humanity.

Expect the “coming end” to be an ongoing saga in installments. And it looks like media coverage may turn Pana Wave into a mini-series.

All this keeps Chino’s followers preoccupied and attentive.

Preeminent cult expert Margaret Singer has said, “Cult leaders are like con men, only the con never ends.”

Pana Wave seems to be a never-ending story.

What alarms the Japanese is that Chino’s hype about Armageddon reminds them of Aum cult leader Shoko Asahara. He decided to personally fulfill his doomsday predictions.

A former member says Chino is an unstable and delusion ridden woman, which certainly isn’t reassuring. And she loves some type of type of green tea pudding.

Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the suicide cult “Heaven’s Gate,” had a penchant for pudding too. The San Diego UFO group ingested a lethal concoction of vodka and barbiturates mixed into pudding.

But police apparently found nothing to worry about in a recent search of Pana Wave facilities, reports The Strait Times.

It seems that Chino’s delusions revolve around lost seals, dressing everyone in white and television spots.

Hopefully it will stay that way.

This past week many residents of Ohio were led to believe that “a Satanic cult [was] operating” in the area.

“Dogs” were found skinned with their “eyes painted orange,” reported News 5 a local TV station.

One resident said, “It’s a Satanic ritual — something to do with voodoo.”

Never mind.

Days later the same News 5 crew reported that these claims were completely false.

The remains were in fact not even “dogs,” but the carcasses of coyotes marked by construction workers with paint to be readily seen for disposal.

Such stories of supposed “Satanism” have become urban myths much like the tales of “UFO abductions.”

Thankfully, this Ohio yarn was put to rest quickly before it reached epoch proportions.

Cult apologist Susan Palmer likes to call the controversial “Raelians” her “friends,” and proclaims that they are now the “world’s largest UFO religion,” within an article run by Trinity College’s online newsletter.

The Canadian religious studies teacher recounts, “My Raelian friends boasted that membership had skyrocketed from 50,000 to 60,000 since [making their clone claims].”

However, whatever Palmer says must be taken with more than a grain of salt. She is a self-professed “cult lover” who has been paid by such groups to defend them in court.

Palmer chooses to describe Raelian leader “Rael,” as a playboy and a sportsman and a social satirist.”

However, news reports routinely refer to him as a “cult leader.”

In fact, Rael’s own family sees him quite differently than Palmer.

The man’s real name is Claude Vorilhon. And the aunt who raised “Rael” calls him “little Claudy.” When confronted about her nephew’s claims of communication with alien beings from outer space she says Vorilhon is a “cornichon” (pickle), which is French for nitwit.

Palmer disregards Vorilhon’s personal history and seems to be deeply invested in Raelian myths. After all she has a book coming out about the Raelians.

“The [cloning] affair was…an unqualified success. The media…played right into his hands…[and] for the first time elicited a direct response from the Vatican,” says the seemingly infatuated Raelian chronicler.

Palmer doesn’t seem to care that the clone claims were a hoax, or that the group reportedly bilked a couple for a considerable amount of cash. She is impressed by “little Claudy,” even if his family is not.

Don’t expect this religious studies teacher to critically or objectively analyze anything about Rael or his Raelians. Palmer has pronounced the group “benign” and she is invested in that position, despite serious allegations of sexual abuse and various investigations still pending in France.

Perhaps that’s why when the cult apologist “bumped into a group of [Raelians]…they pecked [her] cheeks enthusiastically.”

The “cult” called the “Raelians” staged a “four day seminar” near Lake Mead in Nevada, but they failed to draw much interest.

Only fifty people showed up for their touted “national meeting,” reports the Las Vegas Sun.

It seems the bizarre group that once claimed without evidence it produced a human clone, is now running on empty as its publicity machine plays out.

Apparent megalomaniac and “cult” leader Claude Vorilhon, known to his followers as “Rael,” will no doubt try to come up with a new publicity ploy to generate more attention.

Vorilhon’s need for notice certainly seems insatiable.

First he claimed to be planning an earth embassy for space aliens. Then it was burning crosses to protest the Catholic Church.

The strange “cult leader” finally hit the media jackpot with clone claims, which appear to have been a hoax.

But this time there was no payoff for the Raelians in Nevada.

Has Rael played the media too long? It seems like his ability to work hot news topics is busted.

Vorilhon recently gambled on the Iraq war for publicity. Some of his followers stripped naked at a peace rally, but barely grabbed a mention.

Rael’s streak of luck seems to be over.

One peace movement leader said, “I just don’t take [Raelians] seriously.”

Very few people take Rael and his seemingly mindless “cult” clones seriously these days, which appear to be the only “clones” he ever really produced.

Maybe the French expatriate, whose estranged family once called him “little Claudy,” should pack up his hokey costumes and perform elsewhere?

Interestingly, before becoming a “cult leader” Vorilhon was a failed entertainer. His act doesn’t seem much improved.

Free lounge shows in Vegas are likely to be less boring.

In fact, the only place Rael’s act is likely to be booked, is within his “cult” compound called “UFO Land” in Canada.

Hopefully “little Claudy” will stay there for an indefinite and exclusive engagement.

Harvard Professor of Psychology Richard J. McNally recently presented definitive research, which demonstrated that emotional trauma, can come from imagined experiences, such as UFO abductions.

McNally seems to think such claims are actually only “false memories” produced largely through “the power of emotional belief.”

But apparently another academic at Harvard thinks otherwise.

John E. Mack, a professor at Harvard Medical School runs “The Center for Psychology and Social Change” and his spokesperson disputed McNally’s results, reported the Harvard Crimson.

Instead Mack’s man announced that “a spiritual reality…exists apart from the material and the non-material.” He added, “McNally assumes that the alien encounters are just beliefs…but that’s not clear-cut.”

Huh?

Of course Mack’s center cited no objective evidence to substantiate its statements.

In 1995 Mack was warned about his questionable research. The professor was told it was “affecting the academic standards of the Medical School.” Harvard’s affiliation with the Mack center was subsequently withdrawn.

The editor of the New England Journal of Medicine said John Mack’s approach to research is rather to “only gone through the motions.” He quipped, “If I were dean, I might have said to him, ‘John, for God’s sake, take a look at what you’re doing, you’re making a fool of yourself.’”

So it seems that the ranks of “true believers,” who accept without meaningful proof such strange imaginings as UFO abductions, are not only naïve, uneducated, unsophisticated folks or X-Files fans.

At least one believer, who apparently thinks the “truth is out there,” is a tenured faculty member of Harvard Medical School.

Incredibly, four million Americans now believe they were once abducted by beings from outer space.

And these alleged kidnap victims share a “common recipe,” reports the BBC.

Researchers say people that make such claims typically have a similar profile of “pre-existing new-age beliefs…bio-energetic therapies, past lives, astral projection, tarot cards” and very often suffered “episodes of apparent sleep paralysis accompanied by hallucinations.”

Many then saw therapists who “would frequently suggest alien abduction as a cause–an explanation.”

Of course there is no objective evidence to prove such claims.

But nevertheless, these anecdotal stories have become the premise for urban legends, television programs and a fixture within American pop culture.

You then might ask, “What is a ‘UFO researche’ then’”? This may seem like something of an oxymoron?

Why?

Because UFO enthusiasts appear to be simply “true believers” and not really concerned with science, other than science fiction.

And alien beings from outer space have become principle players that animate their belief system, which is based upon subjective stories about strange encounters, alleged cover-ups and abductions, rather than scientific facts.

But those who believe, truly believe.

Researcher and Harvard Professor Richard McNally noted the “power of emotional belief” within his presentation before the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

McNally said, “If you genuinely believe you’ve been traumatized and recall these memories, you’ll show the same psycho-physiologic emotional reactions as people who really have been traumatized.”

This conclusion may also explain “faith healers,” though repeatedly proven to be frauds, still produce apparent results through those that believe they have been “healed.” They too “genuinely believe,” regardless of the absence of any objective physical evidence.

Likewise, millions of true believers around the world follow cult leaders that claim some supernatural power, but actually rely upon the same “emotional power” McNally has identified.

This is certainly a “common recipe” within most cults.

“Cult” leader Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself “Rael,” now tacitly admits the obvious. And if cloning claims made by his Raelian Bishop Brigitte Bosselier are a “hoax” he’s happy anyway, reported Associated Press.

Rael said, “If it’s not true…it’s wonderful. Because…the whole world knows about the Raelian movement. I am very happy with that.”

Right.

By the way, no DNA testing or any meaningful independent verification will be allowed to verify Raelian cloning claims. Of course there were excuses offered. And a Raelian “cloning machine” recently exhibited was only loaned out on the condition it not be examined.

So the man who claims he is the descendent of a space alien is now acknowledging what should have been clear to the media from the beginning. That is, the whole cloning thing was a contrived publicity stunt to gain the ego-driven “cult” attention.

The apparently delusional Rael now sees himself as a player on the world stage. He recently made statements about the pending possibility of war in Iraq and pronouncements about the UN, reported The Calgary Sun.

The seeming megalomaniac said, “I’ve informed the entire planet of my message.”

Uh huh.

It looks like it might be time for Rael to return to his compound called “UFO Land.” Or maybe he should just hop a spaceship and go back to the planet where he claims to have met Jesus and Buddha. The “cult” leader certainly doesn’t appear to be grounded in the reality of this world.

Isn’t it time for the media to stop reporting about Rael? Why does the apparent faker continue to rate so much ink and attention?