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...

“I immediately bought this book after hearing Alice interviewed on the RadioWest podcast. My family is currently living through a nightmare where a loved one suddenly claimed to be a victim of family based RSA. Some of the tendrils of the panic continue to spread even today. This book has brought clarity to an impossibly insane situation. Alice does a great job of writing her reactions and reflections to Michelle's downward spiral. Initially, I wasn't sure what I thought of the book being written as a memoir for Alice instead of specifically being about Michelle, but having finished it I really appreciate hearing the story through Alice's lens. Alice writes about using post-it notes and a highlighter in a couple reference books during the writing of her book. That's how my copy of "Now I Can See the Moon" looks. It's going to be a reference book for me as I continue to process my family situation. It's a gripping, sad, very well written story that I recommend to readers interested in this subject matter.” Amazon, August 2018
Alice Tallmadge uses no writerly devices to soften the impact. From the very first line of the prologue of her personal and family memoir, “Now I Can See the Moon: A Story of a Social Panic, False Memories, and a Life Cut Short,” there is no doubt that her story will be a difficult one to hear. ... Something else is also immediately evident. The story will be thoughtfully, even beautifully conveyed. I trusted Tallmadge to take me on what was sure to be a rough journey. Brian Juenemann, The Register-Guard, April 22, 2018
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
Alice Tallmadge’s magnificent memoir is a story told with the intimacy of a family member, and the breathtakingly beautiful writing of a terrific journalist.  It’s a story of false memories that has afflicted so many families in the last half century. I commend Now I Can See the Moon for understanding the problem, and communicating it so superbly. Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine; Past President, Association for Psychological Science; Author, Eyewitness Testimony
This book, visceral and urgently depicted, creates an intensive portrait of a family in the throes of misfortune and desperation….The author’s crisis of conscience…forms the memoir’s core as the powerful book also astutely addresses the issues of social panic and mental illness….potent and compassionate… Kirkus Reviews,


A Social Panic And A Life Cut Short

Published August 7, 2018 on Radiowest
In 1989, journalist Alice Tallmadge was dumbfounded when she heard that her niece had recovered memories of a Satanic cult torturing her in grotesque ways. It was part of a hysteria that gripped the nation, and it just wasn’t true. Listen here

Alice Tallmadge's New Memoir

Published September 26, 2018 on Oregon Public Broadcasting
We talk with Oregon author Alice Tallmadge about her new memoir, “Now I Can See The Moon: A Story of Social Panic, False Memories, and a Life Cut Short.” The book explores her relationship with her mentally-ill niece Michelle. She and her family were devastated by the false belief — which rose to a fever pitch among some disparate but mainstream groups in the 1980s and 1990s — that Satanic, ritual abuse was sweeping the nation. Listen here

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 Katie Herzog. "Media Fueled the Satanic Ritual Abuse Craze. Social Media Will Fuel the Next False Panic." March 9, 2018, The Stranger. [more info]

Douglas Perry. "How the 'Satanic Panic' shaped 1980s Oregon, sparking 'repressed memory' claims and murder" February 13, 2018, Oregon Live. [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]

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]

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

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

Podcasts A new (February 2020) CBC podcast, “Uncover—Santanic Panic” explores how a small town in Saskatchewan was upended by the social panic over suspected ritual child abuse that spread across North America in the 1980s and into the mid-1990s. Produced by Lisa Bryn Rundle, “Uncover” is a riveting look at the people drawn into and affected by the hysteria, including a police officer who was charged and found innocent, and those who remain adamant the abuse occurred, despite a consistent lack of evidence supporting any of charges. [more info]

Other Writing

My Niece Believed She Was Abused By A Satanic Cult. The Truth Is Even Scarier.

Published on April 10, 2018 in Huffington Post
Here is an excerpt: "I know I am just one among millions of people who feels profoundly dismayed by the realization that the truth has, in our political environment, become as unstable as sand in a high surf. Where I part ways with many of my confreres is that I am acutely aware of another time in our recent cultural history when truth was tossed aside like a worn sock, with devastating consequences. " Read more here

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