About the Book

now i can see the moon

In the 1980s and 1990s, a mind-boggling social panic swept the country, resulting in dozens of daycare workers being accused or convicted of heinous sex crimes involving children—despite a consistent lack of evidence supporting the charges. Women began recalling episodes of ritual abuse by members of satanic cults, and diagnoses of multiple personality disorder (a psychological condition then believed to be linked to childhood abuse) spiked. In trying to understand the suicide of her twenty-three-year-old niece, Tallmadge discovers that what she thought was an isolated tragedy was, in fact, part of a much larger social phenomenon that sucked in individuals from all walks of life—with devastating results.

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About the Author

Alice Tallmadge

Alice Tallmadge has been a reporter, writer, and editor since receiving her master’s degree from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism in 1987. She was a correspondent for The Oregonian newspaper from 1999 to 2005, and a reporter and assistant editor for the Eugene Weekly in the 1990s. Her essays and stories have appeared in Portland Magazine, Forest Magazine, Oregon Humanities, the Register-Guard, Oregon Quarterly, and The New York Times. Her guidebook for juvenile sex offenders, Tell It Like It Is, was published by Safer Society Press in 1998. She was an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication from 2008 to 2014. She is currently a freelance editor.

People are saying...

Now I Can See the Moon is the first thoughtful account of a family caught in the vise of the ritual abuse panic that swept the country in the 1980s and early 1990s. Tallmadge takes us through a long, slow wringer of doom. It’s the private doom of caring deeply for someone who’s gravely mentally ill and wanting to help, yet suspecting that the accepted method of ‘help’ is making things much worse. It’s the civic doom of slowly, painstakingly realizing that a country-wide hysteria engulfed one’s own family—negating good sense, love, and even life itself. For every friend, family member and mental health professional who was sucked into the panic, Tallmadge’s quiet, beautifully written memoir will be painful but necessary reading. Debbie Nathan, Co-author of Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt and author of Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.
Alice Tallmadge entwines memoir and literary journalism in this heart-rending account of her bright, talented, and deeply troubled niece, whose downward spiral in the 1980s was abetted by mass hysteria over so-called satanic ritual abuse of children. Tallmadge takes to task the shockingly credulous (or self-serving) doctors, therapists, academics, and popular authors who perpetuated that unfounded craze, and casts the same unsparing eye on herself as she struggles with grief and guilt and wins through, in the beautiful final pages, to a new, hard-earned dimension of being. John Daniel, Author of Gifted and Rogue River Journal. Daniel is the 2011 Oregon Book Award recipient for literary nonfiction
In Now I Can See the Moon, Alice Tallmadge tells the story of a beloved niece lost to suicide. She weaves together strands of family love, false memories, mental illness, faith, and our inability to speak in a haunting story about what we need to be whole and what we are willing to give those we love. Sallie Tisdale, Author of Violation: Collected Essays
This wrenching story illuminates the dark days of ‘recovered memory,’ issuing a warning that’s all too relevant to ‘fake news’ in America today. Meredith Maran, Author of My Lie: A True Story of Recovered Memory and The New Old Me

Helpful Resources

Books Shaw, Julia. The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory. Kindle edition: Cornerstone Digital, 2016. [more info]

Beck, Richard. We Believe the Children—A Moral Panic in the 1980s. New York: Public Affairs, 2015. [more info]

Nathan, Debbie. Sybil Exposed. The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case. New York: Free Press – a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2011.

Maran, Meredith. My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Rabinowitz, Dorothy. No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times. New York: Free Press, 2004. [more info]

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point—How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2000. [more info]

Acocella, Joan. Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999. [more info]

Van Til, Reinder. Lost Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy & The People it Hurts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. [more info]

Nathan, Debbie and Snedeker, Michael. Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. New York: Authors Choice Press, 1995. [more info]

Pendergrast, Mark. Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives. Vermont: Upper Access Books, 1995. [more info]

Loftus, Elizabeth. The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse, co-authored with Katherine Ketcham. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994. [more info]

Ofshe, Richard and Watters, Ethan. Making Monsters—False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994. [more info]

Wright, Lawrence. Remembering Satan—A case of recovered memory and the shattering of an American family. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1994. [more info]

Victor, Jeffrey. Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1993. [more info]

Movies/Documentaries The Keepers, Netflix documentary directed by Ryan White, 2017. While not explicitly about the social panic over child abuse, the documentary explores the issue of recovered memory in a gripping narrative. [more info]

Several documentaries were produced on the case of the three Arkansas teenagers, known as the West Memphis Three, who were imprisoned in 1994—two were sentenced to death, and one to life plus forty years—for the murders of three young boys, crimes that prosecutors linked to the perpetrators’ supposed practice of satanism. Local police, some witnesses, and most of the local community, went along with the fiction. However, the untiring efforts of a corps of supporters, plus DNA evidence, recanted testimonies and outside experts who proved the convictions were unsubstantiated, led to the three men’s release in August 2011.
Paradise Lost (1996)
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011)
West of Memphis (2012)
Devil’s Knot (2013). Directed by Atom Egoyan and based on a 2002 book about the case. [more info]

Magazines Rachel Aviv. "Memories of a Murder," The New Yorker, June 19, 2017. [more info]

Websites Allon, Janet and Kali Holloway. "9 Social Panics That Gripped the Nation, Were Totally False, and Did Horrible Lasting Damage. " March 2015, Alternet. [more info]

Hanson, Cynthia. "Dangerous Therapy: The Story of Patricia Burgus and Multiple Personality Disorder." June, 1998, Chicago Magazine. [more info]

Victor, Jeffrey. "The Satanic Cult Scare and Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse" 1991, IPT. [more info]

Beck, Katherine. "Wenatchee Witch Hunt: Child Sex Abuse Trials In Douglas and Chelan Counties" 2004, History Link. [more info]

Zimmerman, Ann. "Cult of Madness" 1999, Dallas Observer. [more info]

Fister, Barbara. "The Devil in the Details: Media Representation of "Ritual Abuse" and Evaluation of Sources" May 2003, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education. [more info]

Romano, Aja. "The history of Satanic Panic in the US — and why it's not over yet" Oct 30, 2016, Vox. [more info]

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