James Shanahan

It was 1961 and I had just turned 11 years old and was attending school at the Christian Brothers’ College in East St. Kilda, Melbourne. I was told to leave the classroom one day and go to the brother’s quarters to see Fr. Thomas O’Keefe for the purposes of sex education. O’Keefe was the school chaplain and was also the assistant parish priest at Sandringham where I was an altar boy.

It was a large dim room. There were tall windows at the end and I could see trees outside bathed in bright summer light. O’Keefe sat next to me and began to fondle me. I focussed on the trees through the window and lost awareness of everything else. I had dissociated. It was something I had learned to do to cope with the violent nature of my home life. This fact was not lost on O’Keefe.

Thereafter, he would regularly sexually abuse me and soon introduced me into the Satanic cult he was part of. The particular coven that O’Keefe belonged to was led by another priest, Kevin O’Donnell, best known for his extensive paedophilia. Looking back, it is clear that I was to be trained to take up a leadership role in that cult. Satanic cults within the Catholic Church involving priests are, by their nature, not generational. Each generation had to be recruited. Though, in some cases, there is some extended family involved, as is the case with another of my abusers.

At 11 years old, I was beyond the usual age to start the indoctrination and programming but I could already dissociate and I was very intelligent and rather outgoing and so was, no doubt, an attractive proposition to them. Dissociation is important to create alter personalities that can be trained to do certain tasks and to contain the memories and programming separate from the rest of the personality. This is easier done the younger the victim is. I could already do that so I was ready to begin the training. (There is a link to an online book on dissociation in the notes at the foot of this article).

First, I was humiliated and degraded much like happens in army boot-camp only far more obscene. Then I was terrorised using dogs and guns. I was raped on occasions using loaded guns and I was also shot at close range with blank ammunition. On the one hand I was told I was below worthless and could do nothing without the cult and on the other hand I was told I was so powerful bullets couldn’t hurt me. The disorientation and terror was used to break down my understanding of the world and my place in it. This was to leave me mentally adrift ready for the next stage.

Next came the electro-shock treatment. I was strapped in a heavy chair and given two batons to hold through which the shocks were administered. A bright, dazzling light was placed in front of me. I was subjected to a high pitched noise in my right ear and O’Donnell would yell nonsensical things in my left ear; things like, “God is evil, Satan is good” and “Good is evil and evil is good”.

Interspersed with these insane back-to-front statements were electro-shocks. I was told that I could not feel them and if I called out, I was further punished. (Some years ago I read descriptions of electro shock treatment employed by the CIA in their MK-Ultra program that was exactly the same as I experienced. There was obviously some connection with the Roman Catholic Church and the CIA).

It was all designed to overcome my trust in my own senses and to accept what these priests said as reality. Controlling what people think of as reality is real power. Hence, the emphasis on propaganda in our society: from the pulpit, to the classroom, to the television to the podium. When seen together, it is everywhere.

The most direct demonstration of power over others is the stealing of their lives. There were four murders carried out by Kevin O’Donnell that I witnessed and that I was involved in various ways. Readers who think they may be triggered by the descriptions may be advised to skip down nine paragraphs and resume reading at the paragraph starting with “I will leave the description there”.

It is clear to me that I was being trained to fulfil a similar position to O’Donnell who did the killing. The first was a young man who was clearly drugged though he was still distressed so presumably was aware of his fate. He was beheaded with an axe. After decapitating the man, O’Donnell rushed in front of the man’s severed neck to catch the stream of gushing blood with his mouth. He then came over to me and, dragging me by the hair, pushed my face into the severed neck. I can still feel the hard bony vertebra contrasting with the squishy flesh of the neck against my cheek. I was being ‘blooded’.

The man’s head was put on a tray and was passed around the group for them to “Kiss John goodbye”. I took it as a mocking salute to the beheading of John the Baptist.

On another occasion, a teenage girl whom I knew, was drugged sufficiently well to show no awareness of her position or fate. She was naked and lying face up on an altar. O’Donnell had his hand over mine and in my hand was a knife. The knife was pressed against the young girl’s throat and O’Donnell pressed down on my hand and quickly drew it backwards to slash her throat, killing her in the process. Her breasts were cut off and O’Donnell and O’Keefe proceeded to eat one each. Their faces were pictures of delight.

An infant girl was also killed and I was blamed for her death. I was told by O’Donnell to choose between a young boy, maybe 6 to 8 years old, and the infant girl as to who would die. If I didn’t choose, both would be killed. I had already seen O’Donnell kill and had no doubt he would kill both if I did not choose. The boy was looking at me with terror in his eyes and so I chose the infant. Instantly, it seemed, O’Donnell cut the baby’s throat. He placed his fingers into the wound and then pushed his blood soaked fingers into my mouth saying, “You killed her”.

The baby’s body was then cut up as you would joint a chicken. A leg was pushed into my face and I was told to eat it. I refused. The world was spinning around. O’Donnell, wild with rage, brandished his knife in my face and threatened to kill me if I didn’t eat but I was happy to die. I didn’t move or say anything. I had let go of any desire to live.

Then, O’Keefe intervened and somehow persuaded O’Donnell to not kill me. I presume it was because others knew I was with O’Keefe and my disappearance would lead directly to him. I have often thought that my ambivalence towards living goes back to that experience and that decision of mine. I was later told that the infant girl was mine and her mother was a woman in the cult named Marama. I believed both assertions at the time but have doubts about them both now.

The last murder had the most profound effect upon me. I’m sure it was designed to teach me that love kills; that love leads to death. This was Marama. She was a beautiful woman and probably in her early thirties. Her job had been to show kindness towards me and then betray me and this happened repeatedly. ‘Love is not to be trusted’ was the lesson.

As planned, I fell in love with her. It was not surprising because, in all my fourteen years, it seemed to me that no one had touched me except to hurt me. Violence had followed me through my life from my family to my school to the cult. What was unplanned by the cult was that Marama developed a love for me. Once O’Donnell knew this, Marama was of no further use to the cult and was a threat to their plans for me.

Marama was naked, spread-eagled and chained down on an altar. O’Donnell was in my face yelling at me, “Do you love her?” I was silent. He repeated it many times. Of course, I did love her but I did not know which way would be best to answer as I was fearful for Marama. Finally, I said, “Yes”. O’Donnell then said, “Then, she has to die” and brought down a hatchet onto Marama’s chest.

I will leave the description there. Some veterans of ritual abuse will know what followed. For others, what happened is beyond most peoples imaginations and it would be a burden, to say the least, having those images in your mind. Suffice it to say that I was left in no doubt that my love for Marama was the cause of her death; that Love kills. The reality is the opposite but I was not in a position to know that then.

What I did know was that the reality of Marama’s love and my love for her made it impossible for me to accept anything the cult was trying to teach me. I escaped the cult and, by hypervigilance and the grace of God, managed to stay out of their clutches thereafter.” – James Shanahan.

It is way overdue that Australia’s VIP Paedophile Network was not only exposed but the perpetrators brought to justice, it is in that hope that We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For presents this painful story, in order that we may heal and move on from this very dark point in human history.

Eilish De Avalon thanks Fiona Barnett and James Shanahan for bravely coming forward to bring viewers this story.

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