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Decades Later, Questions Remain In Thurston County Ritual Abuse Case

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Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons
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In the late 1980s, Paul Ingram was a prominent member of the community in Olympia, serving as a senior sheriff’s deputy and chairman of the Thurston County Republican Party.

Then he was implicated in a shocking series of crimes: His own daughters accused him of sexually abusing them, repeatedly, over many years. But that was just the first twist in a tale full of bizarre turns.

Ingram, who claimed he had no memory of the abuse, nevertheless made a full confession. Soon the accusations grew more shocking and more gruesome. His daughters said their father had invited friends – fellow deputies – to participate in the abuse.

They claimed Paul Ingram and others were members of a Satanic cult that practiced ritual rape, murder and sacrifice. And as the alleged crimes got more grandiose and more horrific, Ingram’s confessions got more detailed as well.

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Credit Kenny Braun
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Lawrence Wright

Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright investigated the case and found no forensic evidence to corroborate the stories. Wright determined that Ingram’s confessions were false, part of an episode of mass hysteria. He traces the case’s connections to the later-discredited panic around Satanic cult abuse and repressed memories.

He wrote about it in his 1994 book, “Remembering Satan.” He joined KPLU’s Gabriel Spitzer for Sound Effect’s episode on “Confessions” to explain why he argues that an innocent man was lulled into believing, ardently, in his own guilt.

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