The Great Fort Bragg Witch Hunt
by Bruce Anderson, May 22, 2002
Isn’t it just like Lucifer to plunk his evil self down in a pretty little Mendocino County mill town of forested hillsides, ocean bluffs, and rivers running to the sea?
Life was good in Fort Bragg, population 7,000 when Beezlebub set up shop out on Airport Road. It was 1983. The town's largest employer, Georgia-Pacific, was running its big mill round the clock, the employable were employed, the salmon fleet down in Noyo Harbor was prospering, the high school football team was winning. If people were lying awake at night worrying about what Satan was up to they kept it to themselves.
Twenty years later, and many miles away, a woman falsely accused of being Satan’s handmaiden does not have fond memories of Fort Bragg, but she can’t forget the town, and someone in Fort Bragg can't forget her.
"The phone will ring late at night," Barbara Orr begins, "and a voice will say something like, 'We know where you are, and we'll always know where you are.' There are people in Fort Bragg who are still after me. They're still after my sister, too. And even Kelly, my sister's daughter, who was only a little kid when all this started, they're still after her, too."
The 'theys' were never after Pam Hudson. She grew up in a comfortable Sacramento home, graduating from high school in the same class as the famous American writer, Joan Didion, whom Hudson would later describe to acquaintances as "a snob." As a better-than-average student whose parents could afford the expensive tuition, Pam Hudson went off to Mills College For Women in Oakland. From Mills, she went on to Columbia University where she obtained a master's degree in social work. Returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, the liberal Democrat was employed as a mental health counselor and case-worker in social service bureaucracies.
In Fort Bragg, where she’d relocated in the early 1970s, the twice married but now single Ms. Hudson found a job with the Mendocino County Department of Mental Health. Her specialty was disturbed children. In her free time, Hudson co-founded the Gloriana Opera Company in whose first Gilbert & Sullivan production she played one of the three little maids.
"She was an attractive woman who always managed to look twenty years younger than her real age," a Fort Bragg woman remembers. "She could play the sweet innocent well into her fifties," the acquaintance continues. "I believe she had been married at least twice, and I know she had many gentlemen friends. Pam was a cultivated person. I know she had season tickets to the San Francisco Opera for many years. She also won some bit parts in 'Murder She Wrote' episodes filmed in Mendocino. She liked drama, and I don't mean that as a criticism of her; it was just part of her personality."
Early in 1983, Barbara and Sharon Orr, neither of them much past 30, opened a daycare center on Airport Road in Fort Bragg. Barbara Orr invested her life savings in the purchase of the property. The sisters were not college graduates, and they were not "cultivated" in the sense of expensive women's colleges and opera tickets. Barbara had earned an AA degree in early childhood education by going to college part-time. The Orr Sisters, daughters of the working class, were formidably large women who'd always supported themselves.
The Orr Sisters, and Barbara Orr’s little girl, Kelly, had arrived on the Mendocino Coast about the same time as Pam Hudson. They’d come to Fort Bragg from Forestville in West Sonoma County where Barbara had owned and operated a popular and well-respected daycare center. Before Forestville, the sisters had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, having headed west from their childhood home in Illinois.
"California was the place where everything exciting seemed to be happening," Barbara says, echoing a sentiment felt by tens of thousands of young people in the late 1960s. "It wasn't Illinois, in other words. I landed in Oakland in 1971 and every year afterwards I moved a little farther north. I moved to Sonoma County, then to Fort Bragg in 1981. I bought the place on Airport Road and opened a day care home. I also opened a cafe downtown because I like to cook. Some people who'd worked for me in my day care business in Sonoma County moved to Fort Bragg with us. I called the day care ‘Jubilation Day Care’ and the cafe the ‘Jubilation Cafe.’"
Barbara Orr was the mother of a little girl named Kelly. Kelly's father had abandoned Barbara when he learned she was pregnant. Kelly was 7 years old when her aunt and her mother moved to Fort Bragg.
In 1983, the stylish, sophisticated Pam Hudson, and the less stylish Orr sisters still hadn't met, but in Fort Bragg, like many other areas of the country, rural and urban, a kind of low-intensity hysteria had begun to build fueled by rumors that Satan had kicked off a renewed national offensive, that communities of devil worshippers were thriving everywhere in unsuspecting America. Not only had The Horned One made a big comeback through rock and roll, pornography, drugs, and devil-inspired hedonism of all kinds, he'd taken control of day care centers where his followers regularly debauched toddlers as part of their services. Children, some of them infants, were being consumed in Satanist rituals! And now Lucifer had set up shop in Fort Bragg out on Airport Road at a place called Jubilation Day Care.
One wouldn't expect a graduate of Mills College or a District Attorney, or any other college-trained professional, to believe that children could be molested, even murdered, in complicated rituals on the premises of day care centers during business hours, but Fort Bragg was home to one Mills College graduate who not only believed it, she became minor league famous for combating it. And district attorneys around the country, including the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, had already managed to parlay the testimony of pre-schoolers into major felony prosecutions of day care proprietors and workers.
"In Fort Bragg, everyone seemed to believe that something very weird was going on out at Jubilation," is how one long-time Coast resident explained the gossip that seemed to preoccupy the town in 1983. "The rumors got so bad I knew people who were talking about killing the Orrs."
32800 Airport Road property had been purchased by Barbara Orr in 1981. Satan's alleged Mendocino County headquarters consisted of several ramshackle buildings arrayed over three acres within sight and sound of the Pacific. The main house is only a few feet from the busy road running along side the three acres. A barn sits a few feet from the main house. Several small outbuildings rounded out the devil's workshop. The property is unfenced and all its structures are clearly visible from nearby, heavily traveled Airport Road. It is a highly unlikely venue for infanticide. The ever-enterprising Orrs, with lots of help from members of their Caspar church, fixed the place up to meet licensing standards.
"Gary Linden and a bunch of people from church remodeled everything," Barbara Orr remembers. "My clientele," Barbara says with a sigh at the recollection, "consisted of a lot of cocaine addicts, heavy drug users and alcoholics. Legally, Jubilation Day Care was just in my name because I met all the requirements for a state license. One thing they tried to pull on me later was that I wasn't there 80% of the time as the law requires of the licensed person. But because I was open 24 hours a day, I did the mornings and I did the nights; I was there 80% of the time. And I had some good employees. I had really good employees. Most of them had been with me before in Forestville. And they all lived with me in Fort Bragg at some time or other."
The enterprising Orrs also opened up a cafe in downtown Fort Bragg.
"The restaurant was just another passion of mine,” Barbara says. “I saw that the women around me needed employment. They could work at the restaurant, get paid a small wage and they got tips. They could also work in the daycare center in exchange for childcare. We did a lot of bartering. So that's why I did it all, out of necessity for those around me, my community. I was paying people six bucks an hour to work. I thought it all worked until this stuff started circulating."
“This stuff” were the rumors that the Orr Sisters and little Kelly Orr were witches, witches and Satanist-inspired child molesters, maybe even baby killers.
Backed by the conservative congregation of the Orr Sisters' Caspar church pastored by Art Jones, Barbara Orr had also started a crisis pregnancy center, advising young women that there were options to the abortions promoted by the Coast's large contingent of liberal feminists who, at the time, were operating their own pro-abortion women's shelter in Fort Bragg.
The pro-abortion shelter was called CAARE or Community Assistance for Assault and Rape Emergency. CAARE had been established in Fort Bragg in 1978 to assist victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. It was defunct by July of 1990 because of internal conflicts among its directors, several of whom teamed up against Sandra Henderson, the center's young bookkeeper, to bring false charges of embezzlement against her to disguise CAARE's incompetent management.
CAARE had obtained an array of public grants and was sanctioned by the local courts. The county’s judges routinely assigned Coast victims of domestic violence to stay at CAARE. The women who dominated CAARE's board of directors were and are active in Coast politics with the Democratic Party. But CAARE, ironically, was not popular with traditional Fort Bragg because, like the Orr Sisters, it was dominated by women viewed as unconventional and, it isn't unfair to say, so rabidly hostile to men that one CAARE staffer refused to include roosters among her flock of backyard chickens.
There was indeed a perceptible anti-male bias at CAARE. As one Fort Bragg man assigned to CAARE by the courts for family counseling put it: "They weren't trying to get me and my wife back together; they were trying to get my wife to leave me."
Pam Hudson, at the height of her fame and influence as an expert on the non-existent phenomenon of child abuse in Satanist settings would be celebrated by CAARE as its "Woman of the Year."
The CAARE women didn't like the Orr Sisters. Even if the Orrs were independent women, they weren't the right kind of independent women with the right kind of "left" politics prevalent on the Mendocino Coast. Nevermind that the Orr Sisters were caring for fractured parents and their disturbed children round-the-clock, and providing work for some of their mothers downtown at the Jubilation Cafe, the Orrs were opposed to abortion and thus enemies of good.
The Orr Sisters were too busy to hear the building gossip about them. It wasn't until they were between an unyielding rock of self-appointed Satan fighters and a very hard place of an unsympathetic and influential bloc of Mendocino Coast liberals, that they began to realize they'd become targets for a virtual mother lode of irrational fears.
"All the local liberal women who were in that mindset," Barbara Orr remembers, " all the pro-abortion ladies, wouldn't come to the restaurant any more; they were boycotting me. And then I got a cook in there who...I don't know... was irresponsible, and one day the microwave blew up, and I closed the restaurant. It had been open for 18 months."
Excited gossip that the sisters were operating a devil's playground on Airport Road continued to circulate, and as the rumors circulated they became ever more dire. And vile. The rumors said that children were being molested and murdered out on Airport Road! Right here in Fort Bragg!
The nightly news of the time was dominated by accounts of uniquely perverse crimes alleged to have been committed against children at a daycare center in Manhattan Beach, the upscale ocean view Los Angeles suburb. The targetted daycare providers were a respectable family named McMartin who'd lived in the town since the end of World War Two. The McMartin family's sudden descent into grotesque unwholesomeness caught Manhattan Beach, and the nation, by surprise. How could it be? Not only were the McMartins long-time residents of the town, the quality of their daycare was so widely esteemed that two generations of upwardly mobile parents signed waiting lists to get their children into the home. McMartin's was the place in Manhattan Beach for daycare.
But suddenly the McMartins were not only a band of dedicated devil worshippers who managed to celebrate Satan in between Big Bird and Graham Crackers, according to the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, the McMartins, out of devotion to Satan, sexually violated their toddler clientele and probably murdered anonymous mystery children on site!
Fervent reports of similarly evil events involving very young children soon rocked American communities from Coos Bay to Boston. Prosecutions of alleged Satanist child molesters were underway in all regions of the United States. Men and women — mostly women — were being packed off to prison on the testimony of pre-schoolers with the children's vague but gory accounts backed up by an improbable alliance of ambitious prosecutors, dim social workers, opportunistic therapists, and unsophisticated parents intent upon branding their ex-mates and their children's daycare providers as perverts. Satan hadn't enjoyed this kind of success since a sexually obsessed preacher in Salem, Massachusetts named Cotton Mather managed to talk his flock into hanging 19 female congregants as witches.
Two hundred years after Cotton Mather, Barbara Orr, recalls her Fort Bragg flock.
"I had a lot of women and men come and ask to stay at my house who were victims of domestic violence because they just didn't agree with the policy and the spiritualness of the CAARE project. CAARE to be honest," Orr continues, "they were people who identified themselves as gay. A lot of the people who came to live at Jubilation were very intimidated by them and didn't agree with their policies. So a number of these people stayed at my house with their kids. I had men as well who had been battered. And Dr. Kehoe — Dan Kehoe — made a lot of referrals of his patients because I dealt well with autistic children. I also had some kids in my day care because their parents wanted their children to experience people unlike themselves. That's why they brought them there. I thought that was pretty neat. I cared for children of all ages up to twelve. A lot of the kids were dropped off at night and on the weekends because we were just about the only place parents could do that in Fort Bragg."
Looking back, Barbara Orr doesn't hesitate to place blame.
"The disturbed parents of a few of the disturbed children I cared for at Jubilation started the whole thing," she says. "The woman who really got it going was in a huge custody fight with her ex-husband. Her child had been kidnapped twice by the father and taken to LA. And we got him back; I helped her get her son back. I was going to pay her and her son's way to Hawaii, and help them get established there to get away from the situation here in Fort Bragg, but it all backfired. The little boy told his mother, a very young woman who had already been married several times, that he'd been abused when he was with his father by a guy in a cowboy hat at a fence near a barn. I didn't have a cowboy hat at Jubilation, but I had a barn and a fence, so I guess that was close enough."
“The woman who really got it going “was named Heidi. She got mad at Barbara Orr for reasons so childishly vague that no one could ever quite figure out what they were. Heidi began spreading McMartin-like tales that the Orr Sisters were not only devil worshippers, they were sacrificing Fort Bragg's children on Satan's very alter. It was Heidi’s little boy, Heidi claimed, who had been molested by a man wearing a cowboy hat at a fence near a barn, ergo Jubilation Day Care Center on Airport Road.
At the same time the little boy informed his frazzled mother of his imagined encounter with the cowboy, another child told his parent that Kelly Orr, age 8, had been playing a kind of kid's sexual show and tell with a small boy named Chris Bird, age 6.
The great Fort Bragg Witch Hunt was underway.
"It's like flashes, fast-moving pictures to me now," Kelly Orr says from the safe distance of adulthood. "I had never met my father before so I thought that day the police came, as a child would think, ‘Oh, they must have found my dad.’ I remember the texture of the chairs that we had. I remember having my hair half done because we were going to a piano concert in Fort Bragg. My friend Mary Beth and I were getting ready to go into town. And I remember being about six inches away from the officer and not understanding. I vividly remember the officer reading me my rights. It's etched and stamped on my brain. I remember my mother crying, and I remember the officer asking me if I understood, and I remember saying yes. I remember my mother telling me to be honest."
It was a winter night in 1983. Two Mendocino County Sheriff's Department deputies named Jack Stapleton and Fred Lima had appeared at the front door of the Jubilation Day Care Center on Airport Road. The deputies had come to investigate a complaint alleging that Kelly Orr, age 8, had molested a young boy by the name of Chris Bird, age 6.
"We were getting the kids ready to go into town for a concert the night it happened," Barbara remembers. "The two deputies talked to Sharon first. Suddenly I heard Sharon crying, and I knew something bad had happened. I didn't know what."
Little Kelly didn't know what, either. She thought deputies Stapleton and Lima had good news for her. She thought they'd found her dad. But the police hadn't found Kelly’s father. They'd come to interrogate Airport Road's youngest witch.
"What happened was," Kelly begins, "my friend Jasmine, who was two months younger than me — and I was told she would never get in trouble because she was younger than I was — was the one who started it. We used to sleep together in the same bed, and we would sometimes touch each other. There was no penetration or anything like that. It wasn't like I was sexually active. And one of the boys who lived on the property with his mother would take naps with us. His name was Mike. He gave us hickeys, which we thought were the coolest things in the world. I can remember the mat that we slept on. It was a blue and gold mat, like an aerobics mat. We slept on that. I certainly wasn't a sexual predator. Jasmine and I thought hickeys were fun."
Before she was transformed by local hysterics into Lucifer's little helper, Kelly Orr remembers her Airport Road as an idyllic place "like a little communal farm where we raised some of our own food and where a lot of single women and little kids lived with us."
Deputies Lima and Stapleton concluded that there had been some low-intensity sex play among children and referred the case to the Mendocino County Department of Social Services.
"I had to go to therapy," Kelly remembers. "I was called a liar a lot. I told my mother that everything I knew about sex I learned from a Penthouse magazine my friend Jasmine and I found in the middle of the road one day when we were riding our bikes. We took it to our secret little hiding place, a bunch of trees. It's such a shock to a little kid to see adults in the nude and doing what they were doing in Penthouse. Even my mom didn't believe I knew about oral sex from Penthouse, but we had given each other hickeys and felt each other up at nap time, but we certainly weren't performing oral sex on each other."
Mendocino County's therapists, apparently close readers of Penthouse, told the little girl that there were no depictions of oral sex in the magazine, that Kelly must have learned of the act by participating in it. These helping professionals wanted to help Kelly by taking her away from her mother, and they wanted to put Kelly’s mom and Kelly’s aunt Sharon out of the daycare business.
Kelly's besieged mother, Barbara shakes her head disbelievingly.
"I've tried to forget it, but I remember them taking Kelly to the police station and soon after people started calling us up and saying they were going to kill Kelly for molesting their children. An 8-year-old doesn't molest children. It was play, that's all. But with everything going on out there at the time, the McMartin case on television every day, we were all scared. We stayed with friends for a while east of Fort Bragg when we lost the place on Airport Road. The three of us had to go to counseling with Pam Hudson, and I remember Pam Hudson warning me that if I didn't turn Kelly over to the county voluntarily, the state would take her away."
Which is what the state did.
"'What's going to happen next, mom?' Kelly would ask me," Barbara says, the pain of the memory audible in her voice. "Pam Hudson said Kelly was a sexual predator, that she needed special, full-time therapy. Then the cops and Pam were saying that Sharon had taught Kelly all this stuff, and they'd play good cop, bad cop with us. They'd take Sharon and me in different cars and say, 'Well, your sister did such and such. Why don't you just say she did?' I was in shock."
The rumors of vast evils on Airport Road increased with the police visit to Jubilation. Little Kelly Orr was designated witch-in-training by the gossips, and the campaign against her aunt and her mother picked up momentum.
Barbara and Sharon Orr hadn’t noticed that they'd become the inspiration for the most vile, most implausible rumors the community's most malicious and disturbed persons could conjure. They had no idea that they were sponsors of ceremonial child molestation and committed expediters of infanticide. Fort Bragg's sea-crisp air fairly crackled with the kind of demented talk a small American community hadn't heard since the Salem Witch Trials.
Somehow, the breathless gossip went, in between the comings and goings of unsuspecting Jubilation daycare parents on busy, transparent Airport Road, Satan's highly efficient ground crew would load Jubilation’s pre-schoolers into a Georgia-Pacific helicopter and fly them up the Mendocino Coast where Beelzebub's Fort Bragg worshippers would sexually abuse them as part of their mid-day devotionals. Sometimes an anonymous infant "bred for the purpose" was ritualistically butchered as part of the services. When church was out the tots re-boarded G-P's helicopter and were flown back to daycare at 32800 Airport Road in plenty of time for their unwitting parents to pick them up.
In less logistically complicated, non-corporate, and un-airborne versions of this grotesquely improbable scenario, pre-schoolers were sexually molested in Satanist rituals at the Airport Road daycare center itself. During these sessions, men and women, lavishly outfitted in medieval costumes, paid their respects to Lucifer in ceremonies featuring the ritualistic slaughter of infants or, when infants were in short supply, animals, whose remains were then quickly buried on the three-acre premises.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver, a supervising sergeant with the Sheriff's Department in 1983, laughs as he remembers Fort Bragg's great Satanist hysteria.
"Oh yeah," Craver snorts. "To give you an idea of what we had to investigate, the mother of a 4-year-old told me her child, 'who does not lie,' up around Abalobadiah off Highway One, the boy was taken by submarine to an amusement park in a secret cavern under the bluffs where he was forced to perform in pornographic movies. It was all I could do to stay on my chair while mom told me all this. We couldn't find one shard of evidence to support any of the accusations going around. Kids — little kids — would say things like, 'Debbie killed Bobby, and then she poured blood all over him and he would be ok again.’ Lots of mothers actually believed this Twilight Zone stuff. It was blown out of all proportion."
The McMartin case fell apart when its instigator, a disturbed woman by the name of Judy Johnson, was found to be clinically insane. Heidi was Fort Bragg's Judy Johnson, at least initially. There came to be lots of Judy Johnsons in Mendocino County. One of the Judys, Pam Hudson, the child therapist employed by the Mendocino County Department of Mental Health, happened to be backed by civil authority. She had the power to take your child away from you. The most lurid of the accusations against the Orr Sisters were obviously coming from Hudson's fevered imagination and the dim, credulous minds of Hudson's allies in the Social Services Department.
And from them, the accusations were getting into the Fort Bragg community where they became even more dramatically implausible.
Child Protective Services’ Fort Bragg office added substantially to the mounting hysteria when it sent out letters to parents — except those known to be friends of the Orrs — warning them to be alert for “certain signs” in their children that they’d been sexually molested.
Pam Hudson was already convinced that Satan himself was working through Kelly Orr, while Mrs. Duff of Social Services agreed that Kelly was obviously a dwarf pervert who required institutional retooling.
Barbara Orr soon lost her Airport Road property. Her daycare business had collapsed and her life savings she'd invested in it and the property were gone. Little Kelly had been taken away from her mother and stuck away in Trinity School, Ukiah, and the sisters had left town. Their many enemies said the Orr Sisters had run away because they were guilty. But the Orr Sisters left town because they were afraid they’d be killed. People were calling them at all hours with threats to kill and rape Kelly Orr. And Sharon and Barbara were often menaced when they went into town to shop. One heroic defender of Fort Bragg’s children, male type, approached Barbara in distant Hopland where she'd found work in a restaurant to warn Barbara he'd kill her if she didn't leave Mendocino County.
A large part of Fort Bragg believed that the sisters were witches, perverts, and baby killers. The DA, and the Social Services and Mental Health departments were piling on as if these preposterous accusations were true, and Judge Conrad Cox of the Mendocino County Superior Court had just sanctioned the whole evil show by signing little Kelly Orr over to Trinity School.
"I had to grow up pretty quickly," Kelly says of her institutional experience in Ukiah. "I was always on my best behavior at Trinity because I wanted to get out of there, but it took seven months before I was back with my mom. I didn't say anything to anybody about what happened to me at Trinity until four or five years later. I look back now and it's like a separate life; like a movie. I can't even describe how I think about the past. We had friends who stood by us, and I'm still close to some people who live in Fort Bragg today, but I don't know of anyone who said publicly that what was happening to us was wrong. It took me a long time to heal, to get over it."
Kelly Orr says she can remember "being embarrassed by anatomically correct dolls. The therapist would ask, 'Where did you touch him?' I was so embarrassed. And I really clammed up. I didn't know what was going on so I didn't really want to talk. They all treated me as if I were a sexual offender, like I did this to every child at Jubilation, which was my home too after all, and that I had some kind of devil's scheme programmed into my brain to prey on all of the other kids."
"Someone left a severed goat's head at Trinity's front door just after I got there," Kelly remembers, "and I myself was molested by one of the boys who took me up on the roof to do it. But Jean Smith, a lady who was kind of a housemother at Trinity, recognized right away that I shouldn't have been away from my mom. Mrs. Smith watched over me and would take me to her house to spend time with her family whenever she could. My mom had given me her special quilt when I went into Trinity, and it's gone everywhere with me ever since. We were never emotionally disconnected; that was a good thing. I was able to get out of Trinity in seven months, but I had to grow up very fast at Trinity, and it took my mom and me a long time to get over it. I've been very lucky. I've lived three lives, basically: my pre-California life, my California life, and then afterwards. I'm just happy that I haven't lost faith in God, and I feel that I'm lucky to have healed and that I have such a fantastic mother. I owe my mother so much. She's an amazing woman."
The Orr Sisters hired Ukiah attorney Maryann Villwock to defend them against the gathering wolves, but Villwock's services ranged from incompetent to non-existent.
"She just told us to go along, don't make anybody mad," Barbara says in assessing Villwock’s legal representation.
A staunch friend of Barbara Orr's, is still angry about what happened to Barbara and Sharon.
"I was young and dumb," the friend — who prefers to remain anonymous — says. "I was married to a very violent man who was having a terrible influence on my little boy, so I went to North Coast Opportunities and they recommended that I send him to daycare with the Orrs. About a month of him going to daycare out there he became independent and happy. When I got the letter from the so-called therapist talking about 'if your child exhibits unusual behavior' and all the rest of it, I called her and said How dare you do that. She told me my child didn't have to come in. I knew nothing happened out there. It was all a very creative diversion for Fort Bragg."
"The whole thing produced a great deal of money," the friend maintains, "for the mental health system and the cops. I've heard about a million dollars in grants. I know that there were solid people who knew this Satanist stuff was a lot of you-know-what, but the fear it created was real that if you didn't get on the bandwagon they might go after your kids. Most of us stood back even though I was very supportive of Barbara. She saved my son. Without her help, I would have lost him. My parenting skills were blithering. Barbara just stepped in and said this is how you do it. This is the way to be a mom, and this is the way you're going to do it, and I did it. She was the only person who helped me when I really needed help."
"Finally," Barbara says with an audible sigh, "I was able to get Kelly's case transferred out of Mendocino County to Lake County. A social worker named Sherry Pruitt Gregory said right away that Kelly did not belong at Trinity, that she belonged with me. And Kelly's psychiatrist, an older woman named Claire Frederick, backed Sherry up; she said Kelly should never have been placed with Trinity School, that there was nothing wrong with her. And inside Trinity itself, a very nice lady who worked with Kelly said she would testify that Kelly had no business in a closed facility for disturbed children. She protected Kelly as much as possible from the other kids."
"I was delivering newspapers early in the morning and I got a job with an Indian program tutoring kids," Barbara recalls of her harrowing Lake County limbo. "I did the tutoring in the library, but I always kept the door open so if anybody was watching me they couldn't accuse me of witchcraft or whatever. I also got up every morning at 3 o'clock to deliver newspapers and I'd pray and I'd cry the hundred miles around the lake. I didn't know what was happening."
Judge John Golden of the Lake County Superior Court knew what was happening. He knew exactly what was happening. And the judge was outraged when Kelly Orr's case landed in his court. Barbara says that day in court was one of the few gratifying memories she has of her long ordeal in Ecotopia, the self-advertised center of progressive politics and general enlightenment that is liberal Mendocino County.
"The people from Trinity got up and said that because we were Catholics we made Kelly ashamed of sex and so forth."
Judge Golden listened to the crackpot theorizing from Trinity School’s kid-rehab experts, then he studied the even more implausible reports from Mendocino County's tax-paid therapists, and ordered Kelly immediately returned to her mother.
"The judge said ‘immediately’, not the next day, that same afternoon," Barbara Orr remembers of that glorious morning in Lakeport. "Finally, after more than two years of this stuff an official had the sense to say it was all a lot of craziness."
But Kelly Orr's reign as Lucifer’s junior lady-in-waiting wasn't to end for ten more years. She finally had to hire a lawyer to get her name removed from a national roster of sex offenders, only learning that she was on the list when she applied for a job working with children. Kelly has since picked up the psychological pieces from her wrenching years in Mendocino County, obtaining a college degree; she plans to go on to graduate school to become, of all things, a social worker.
Speaking from the safety of years and distance from the terrifying events of her stolen Fort Bragg childhood, Kelly puts the terrors of her broken childhood in optimistic perspective.
"I think my experience will make me a good social worker," Kelly says. "I almost think of Fort Bragg like it was a separate life."
Kelly's aunt is less sanguine.
"I was put on probation by State Licensing," Sharon Orr says, "for lack of proper supervision. They also alleged that I wasn't at the site as much as I should be as director, which wasn't true; I lived there after all. But what freaked me out the most were the anonymous phone calls from men who threatened to rape Kelly 'to see how she likes it,' and from women who said things like, 'I hope they put Kelly away forever.' A child! Can you believe it?"
Gary Hudson wastes no time pointing out that he is not related to the Pam Hudson of the County's Mental Health Department who parlayed the pursuit of the Orr Sisters into a career for herself as an expert on the ritualistic abuse of children. Hudson the cop is a native of Fort Bragg. He's presently Under-Sheriff, number two man in the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department.
"Everything proceeded from the allegations against Kelly for molesting young children," Hudson says. He cites interest in "ritualistic activity" began when a small group of Mendocino teenagers attracted police attention for killing small animals in what appeared to be their version of devil worship. There were also local episodes of animal sacrifice arising from Caribbean witchcraft practices known as Santeria. These episodes prompted calls to the Sheriff's Department to investigate.
Mendocino County's Santerians were graduates of the infamous Mariel Boat Lift of 1980 when Fidel Castro off-loaded thousands of his most committed criminals and mental patients in Miami. Some of these Cuban crooks made their way to Mendocino County where, with characteristic ruthlessness, they quickly established themselves in the drug trade. The Cubans seemed to know instantly that they were in an accommodatingly unwary jurisdiction where they could obscure their dope businesses with their religion, which they said was called Santeria. The Cubans weren't criminals, you see, they were spiritual seekers no different than the many other seekers who call Mendocino County home.
"My favorite headline from Rolling Stone magazine was the one on the last interview with Anton LaVey," he says. "It's hard to be evil when the whole world has gone to hell," LaVey had said. A self-proclaimed devil worshipper, the witty Satanist was considered a major weirdo even in the context of San Francisco where he maintained a highly publicized “Satanist” church.
With witches, witchcraft and the devil much in the news, Gary Hudson was dispatched by Mendocino County to Satanist seminars aimed at getting the local police up to speed on the newest wrinkle in Mendo weirdness. Hudson now talks knowledgeably of such mystic arcania as Wiccans and the Temple of Set, pointing out that the Sheriff's Department, at the time, was under a lot of pressure to link the prevalent Satanist allegations against the Orr Sisters' Fort Bragg Jubilation Day Care Center with the Presidio Day Care case then raging in San Francisco and the McMartin case making headlines in Manhattan Beach.
"Basically," Hudson says, "I learned to investigate ritualistic cases like they were accounting crimes, learning the belief systems to be able to identify suspects. What could be a reasonable explanation for what was being alleged? It's very difficult interviewing children anyway because their sense of time has to be put in a context of events in their own lives, such as birthdays and maybe a visit to a relative's house."
Because the Satanist hysteria’s primary informants were mostly children under the age of 8, it meant that police investigators had to rely on literally hysterical parents and freshly anointed experts like Pam Hudson as translators.
"There can't be a prosecution of children under 14 unless they have clear knowledge of the wrongfulness of their acts," the Sheriff's Department's Hudson clarifies, well aware that the alleged lead perp in the Jubilation case was 8 years old.
"There were a number of allegations against Jubilation," Hudson says, "but none of them were sustained. What it all came down to was that the only thing that might have been prosecutable involved Kelly Orr, and there was nothing there, really. When we assessed the opportunities for this kind of thing to occur out at their place on Airport Road, and added up everything we had, it wasn't enough. And the primary witness in all of it flaked out. She took off, literally disappeared into Los Angeles. It was clear to us that we couldn't have her testify anyway because she was so erratic."
The case faded "for lack of additional investigative leads," Hudson says, before adding, "but it's not officially closed. We still have a box or two of reports sitting in records. The kids, through their parents, made allegations of some pretty serious crimes. The reports focused on these allegations made by children, statements by their parents, records of searches, surveillance by people from the State Department of Justice, search warrants served. We invested a tremendous amount of time and resources on it. We piled up reams of reports, photographs, tapes. Technically, it's still an active case, but it's not likely to be revived."
Her therapy sessions with Kelly Orr had convinced Pam Hudson of the Mendocino County Mental Health Department that Satan had established a major outpost in Fort Bragg. But it was Hudson herself who seemed in dire need of therapy. She was becoming more and more erratic, a fact her supervisors and colleagues didn't seem to notice.
A person who attended the same Fort Bragg church as Pam Hudson remembered, "I think it was late in 1983 that Pam would get up at Sunday services and say, 'You've got to stop the abuse of innocent children by Satanist cults.' We didn't know what she was talking about until the McMartin case was in the news everyday. But Pam said it was happening here in Fort Bragg, too. The congregation thought she was nuts. She was obsessed by the devil."
In her capacity as a child therapist for the county, Hudson honed in on a number of children who'd been cared for at Jubilation. They and their unhinged parents became her case studies, her research tools. Hudson was convinced that the Jubilation Day Care kids were the devil's very own victims.
By early 1987, having hounded the Orr Sisters out of Fort Bragg and into hiding, Hudson had parlayed her expertise on the ritual abuse of children into national recognition as an authority on an entirely mythical phenomenon.
By 1988, devil-fighting had gone mainstream. A meeting organized by an ad hoc Mendocino County group called "Victims of Ritual Abuse" was convened at Ukiah High School. Pam Hudson was the keynote speaker. Dale McCulley of Potter Valley was also a presenter. A skeptic jotted down the topics discussed: "Satanic signs: heavy metal music; unidentified bones; free sex and drug parties; animal mutilations; blood drinking; sodomy; oral copulation; venereal disease; rabies; masks; fear; death themes; cannibalism; blasphemy; coffins; graveyards; mortuaries; Kenneth Parnell; Tree Frog Johnson; Leonard Lake and Charles Ng; Charles Manson; Rev. Jim Jones; Guyana; 22 children allegedly molested at Jubilation Day Care Center; animal abuse; erotic dancing; fear of bathing; nightmares; night sweats; bed wetting; fear of separation; aggression; eating disorders; catsup; fear of dark; vomiting and abdominal pain; memory gaps; child group sex; child molesters; kid cages; threats of abuse of parents; live burials; children held under water; fear of the water; fear of being filmed or photographed; children suspended by ropes from the ceiling; drugged children; children poked in anus, eyes, under tongue or between toes; closets; robes; candles; feces-eating and urine-drinking."
A good time was had by all.
That same year, Peter Page of the Ukiah Daily Journal, published this straight-faced report on the phenomena:
“Two dozen children over the past three years have told a Mendocino County therapist of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse they suffered in satanic rituals. Pam Hudson, a therapist in private practice and with the county Mental Health for 19 years, said in the past three years she has treated 17 children, and interviewed seven others, who have described bizarre rituals involving torture, sexual violation and blood sacrifice. All but one of the children lived in the Fort Bragg area. Hudson is certain she has not talked to all the children abused by the cult. The molestations were initially revealed in 1984 and 1985, she said. Hudson said she has finally "broken the silence" about satanism because of her concerns that cults are gaining in power and audacity. 'My point is there is a movement that is very complex and very sinister that has already struck close to home,' she said. 'It is my opinion that (satanism) is making inroads in America's adolescent population, not all of them, but some.' Hudson recently lectured on her treatment of ritual abuse victims at the Langley-Porter Psychiatric Institute at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. She has been invited to address other mental health professionals next September. 'There are a large number of therapists who know what these children are saying but they aren't speaking out,' she complained. 'The traumatized children were painfully slow to reveal the abuse to parents and therapists. The perpetrators frightened the children into silence and tried to convince them they had no hope of being believed,' Hudson said. The young victims claim they were hung by their feet, forced into ritualistic cannibalism, and compelled to witness the slaughter of animals. Four children described the ritual murder of infants. Hudson is convinced at least two infant killings occurred because the four children corroborated two different stories. Some of the children reported seeing a baby shot, some reported an infant was stabbed, and some of the children said they were forced to stab a baby. As recently as last week an adult woman contacted Hudson and told her of forced participation in the murder of an infant on the East Coast. The ritual described was strikingly similar to what the children in Fort Bragg related. 'Many children and adults throughout the United States are reporting human sacrifice at these rituals,' Hudson said. All the children were brought to Hudson by parents concerned about shocking changes in their behavior, such as 'night terrors,' which are extreme nightmares from which the children cannot be easily awakened. In some instances, the children screamed and pleaded hysterically in their sleep night after night. Nothing in her many years of treating young victims of sexual molestation and physical abuse prepared Hudson for the trauma these children suffered, she said. 'I have never seen these strange, abrupt personality behaviors, and this total terror,' Hudson said. Some parents began suspecting their children had been abused when they exhibited inappropriate sexual behavior or spoke of their bodies in an inexplicably sexual fashion, Hudson said. 'These children have been eroticized. They are corrupted in that sense,' she said. The children's stress was compounded because they were put in the abusive situation, albeit unknowingly, by their parents. Most, but not all, of the children Hudson has treated were enrolled in the now-defunct Jubilation Day Care Center in Fort Bragg. The owner of the Center, Barbara Orr, surrendered her license to operate a daycare facility in December 1985 rather than fight accusations that children in her care were sexually abused. She has since left Mendocino County and could not be located to discuss this article. State regulators moved to close the facility after learning that children had been physically and sexually abused by Orr's niece. The facility's license had been suspended earlier because of the same activities and Orr had been ordered to keep her niece away from the children. Public documents filed by investigators claim that children were molested over a three-year period, although it makes no mention of ritual abuse. The perpetrators used the inherent unbelievability of the abuse to heighten the child's sense of helplessness, Hudson said. 'They purposely make their rituals bizarre so the children would not be believed,' she said. 'They tell the kids they will be disbelieved, and when they are (not believed), they (the children) believe the other people.' The children were routinely threatened with the death of themselves, their parents or their pets if they revealed what had happened. The children Hudson treated have told of being molested by at least a half dozen different adult men and women, plus older children. At different times the molesters were dressed as police officers, or in robes, or in animal costumes. 'It is a rather common part of paganism and satanism to have masked figures,' Hudson said. A lengthy investigation of the daycare center by two Mendocino County sheriff's deputies yielded a report about 500 pages in length. District Attorney Susan Massini said the investigation uncovered reports, usually secondhand through parents, of ritualistic child sexual abuse similar to a pattern becoming familiar to police and prosecutors nationwide. 'The stories are consistent with information we have been getting as it relates to cult activity and ritual abuse of children,' Massini said. 'It has some of the same overtones.' Despite the lengthy investigation there has never been any prosecution for child molestation stemming from the Jubilation Day Care Center. Former District Attorney Vivian Rackauckas, who was in office when the allegations first surfaced, said she declined to prosecute the case because the 3- or 4-year old victims 'were too young to competently testify.'"
Not a single person in a position of authority ever publicly denounced Mendocino County's satanist hysteria for what it was.
The Mendo devil rasslers tended to be chronic substance abusers and/or persons suffering what psychiatrists call "personality disorders." Barbara and Sharon Orr's accusers fell heavily into the substance abuser-disturbed person category. These miscellaneous dysfunctionals compelled their children to claim that they had been sexually abused in rituals celebrating the devil.
A belief system prevalent on the Northcoast among is the widespread "feminist" notion among both men and women that women, historical victims of Christian "patriarchy," are more sensitive to the natural world than men. There are spiritually committed women on the Northcoast loosely affiliated with or organized into covens of "Wiccans"— or New Age witches. They lead solstice celebrations and other warm weather rituals on many a Northcoast ridgetop.
These retro festivals are typically little more than hippie costume parties, but they are evidence of the tendency among educated people of the influence on non-rational belief systems. Neo-mystic crackpots of the Starhawk type, for instance, are not only influential in the local environmental movement, they're ubiquitous at the area's pseudo-public radio stations. A red diaper baby whose given name is Miriam Simos, Starhawk, along with a woman who calls herself The Rabbi of the Redwoods, were featured speakers at Headwaters demonstrations in the Redwood Summer period, circa 1990. The politics of the Wiccans, the pagans, and the new mystics, is a humorless mishmash of tepidly liberal social principles, druidic gibberish, male-bashing feminism, and self-pity.
Rhetoric about love, compassion and the defense of women notwithstanding, the Orr Sisters were abandoned by the Coast's feminist sisterhood, many of whom occupied public jobs with the helping bureaucracies. People who should have known better stood aside as Fort Bragg hysterics, inspired by the constant television accounts of the McMartin case, stepped up their campaign against the Orrs. The area's churches? Not a public word. Barbara, Sharon and little Kelly were on their own. Not a single person rose to publicly defend the Orrs, and not a single person on the Northcoast, public or private, denounced the Satanist phenomena for the laughable but evil fraud that it was.
The persecution didn't end with the Orr Sisters bankrupt and hounded out of Fort Bragg and Mendocino County. A small group of Fort Bragg people have stalked the Orrs ever since, following them all the way to Illinois to cause Barbara and Sharon untold trouble over the years. Barbara has lost several jobs because of her fanatic pursuers.
"I was working with mentally retarded adults," Barbara says indignantly, "and someone called and told the people in charge about what had happened in California and they fired me. I took them to the Labor Board, but they never would say who told them what about me. And someone called the dean of my graduate school and told them the California story and I was almost kicked out of school on the basis of what? These rumors from Fort Bragg."
Sharon Orr has been similarly victimized by her long-distance enemies.
"They found out where we lived back here," she says, "and turned us in because my sister Barbara was watching some of our cousin's kids and I had a foster home. One day, the welfare people came and took the kids away from me without even bothering to explain to me what had happened. I found out that nothing had happened except someone had called from California and fed the welfare people a line about ritual abuse. That's all it took. My license was gone."
Sharon Orr has recently fought off cancer. Barbara Orr, now 48, last worked as a census taker and is in poor health.
Barbara has visited Fort Bragg several times since she and her sister were literally run out of town, but Sharon Orr "tries not to even think about Mendocino County."
Pam Hudson, the author of the crimes against the Orr Sisters and other innocent women, was aggressively defended throughout by her colleagues and supervisors even after the Satanist hysteria had been irrefutably debunked. Hudson and her friends hunkered down in her downtown Fort Bragg home on Sanderson Street. In 1994, Hudson was felled by a series of aneurysms and has been cared for at the Sherwood Oaks Convalescent Hospital in Fort Bragg where she died in 2008. "She said the devil had struck her down," an acquaintance remembers.
Kelly Orr went to see Pam Hudson at Sherwood Oaks when Kelly was in Fort Bragg to visit the few friends who'd stood by her mother and her aunt during their tax-funded persecution by Mendocino County. Kelly asked Pam, "Do you remember me when I was a little girl? I came to you, Pam, and I needed help and you didn't help me."
"Pam touched my cheek and said, 'You turned out so beautifully. You're so beautiful now’."