Author Biography: Mark Pendergrast

Mark Pendergrast is the author of several books, including Mirror Mirror, Victims of Memory, For God, Country & Coca-Cola, and Uncommon Grounds. His work has appeared in the New York Times, London Sunday Times, Wall Street Journal, Skeptical Inquirer, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Ethics & Behavior, River Teeth, Holocaust Studies, and elsewhere.

Pendergrast reviews books regularly for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and television shows and has given speeches throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. Pendergrast is a Harvard graduate with an advanced degree in library science from Simmons College. He lives in Vermont.

His book Victims of Memory is the classic book in its field, the most comprehensive, scholarly work on a disastrous, misguided form of psychotherapy that harmed clients and destroyed families in the name of healing. Under the influence of this therapy and self-help books on the topic, millions of people came to believe that they had been the victims of prolonged childhood sexual abuse, when they had not. This is the book that explains exactly how people can rewrite their entire past and come to believe that the very people that loved and nurtured them were fiendish perverts who abused them. And how it could easily happen again . . . .

Availability for Public Speaking Engagements

Mark Pendergrast speaks at universities, business conferences, management seminars, and psychological meetings. His presentations are tailored to the audience, but are always entertaining, thought-provoking, and challenging. For more information on arranging a speaking event, (in an MS Word document) Click Here.

Excerpts from Reviews of Victims of Memory
by Mark PendergrastVictims of Memory, book cover

  • An impressive display of scholarship…a comprehensive treatment of the recovered-memories controversy…. Pendergrast offers a broader portrayal of the social and cultural contexts of the recovered-memories phenomenon [than other books on the subject]. His treatment is also distinguished by some welcome historical perspective…. Pendergrast demonstrates a laudable ability to lay out all sides of the argument…. [He] renders a sympathetic portrayal of recovery therapists as well-intentioned but misinformed players in a drama that has veered out of control.
    —Daniel L. Schacter, Scientific American,
  • Victims of Memory constitutes the most ambitious and comprehensive, as well as the most emotionally committed, of all the studies before us. Pendergrast’s book stands out from the others in several respects. For one thing, it transcribes his numerous interviews…allowing the cruel unreason of the recovery movement to be voiced with a minimum of editorial mediation. Second, he is the author who delves most deeply into the movement’s antecedents in witchcraft lore, mesmerism, early hypnotherapy, and the treatment of so-called hysteria…. Third, Pendergrast offers illuminating material about physiological states (sleep paralysis, panic attacks) that have traditionally been mistaken for “body memories” of one lurid kind or another. And it is Pendergrast who devotes the most effort to analyzing the contemporary Zeitgeist in which the recovery movement thrives.
    —Frederick Crews, The New York Review of Books
  • Pendergrast has written a well-researched and important book, and his findings should rightfully scare all of us…. Pendergrast tries for evenhandedness, going so far as to offer in-their-own-words chapters by those with repressed memories and the therapists who treat them. But there is also a chapter from the “retractors,” women who have realized that their memories of abuse were only products of their own imagination. Pendergrast’s account of this controversial subject is wide-ranging. He covers everything from the nature of memory and hypnosis to such related forms of sexual hysteria as the Salem Witch Trials to this country’s growing cult of victimization…. His strongest and most effective assaults are reserved for the book The Courage to Heal, the bible of the repressed-memory movement…. Pendergrast makes a strong case that what began as a way to empower women has now victimized them, isolating them from friends, families, and their true memories. This is a book sure to spark a long-overdue debate, and it deserves to be on library shelves, right beside The Courage to Heal.
    —Ilene Cooper, Booklist
  • By far the most thorough journalism done on this issue [the recovered memory debate] appears in Victims of Memory.
    —Katy Butler, Los Angeles Times
  • Victims of Memory is…a comprehensive study of a disturbing phenomenon which began to sweep the U.S. in the mid-Eighties, reaching Britain in the early Nineties.
    —Sarah Strickland, The London Observer
  • A much-acclaimed rebuttal to various bibles of the recovered-memory movement.
    —Richard Marius, Harvard Magazine
  • Victims of Memory traces the roots of a phenomenon that exploded in the late 1980s and is now reaping a thunderous backlash…. Pendergrast explores a variety of contexts for the phenomenon, from Freudian theory and witchcraft hysteria to fundamentalist religion and the modern feminist movement. Informing Pendergrast’s book is a deep sense of social history.
    —Joseph P. Kahn, The Boston Globe

Contact information for Mark Pendergrast

To visit Mark Pendergrast’s personal Web site, Click Here.

The site should contain current contact information, as well as descriptions of his other books. Any journalist who has difficulty reaching him for an interview should call Upper Access at (802)482-2988 or e-mail us .

Sample questions for journalists and talk-show hosts, on the topic of recovered memories

  • What exactly is recovered memory therapy? What is the theory behind it?
  • I gather that Freud is not one of your heroes. Can you talk about his theories and his influence?
  • Why would someone want to believe something so terrible about their parents if there was no basis to it at all? Where there’s smoke, isn’t there usually fire?
  • You have lost all contact with your own children because of recovered memory therapy. Because you are so personally involved, have you had people question your conclusions? Can you tell us about what happened in your case?
  • Why would these therapists try to convince their clients of something so horrible? Are they sick or evil?
  • Do you think that anyone’s memory could be rewritten?
  • Are certain personality types more susceptible to false memories than others?
  • Is recovered memory therapy a form of brain-washing?
  • You compare this kind of therapy to a cult. Why?
  • Are you against all therapy?
  • Can you explain what methods lead to false memories? (hypnosis, dream analysis, “body memories”, drugs)
  • Are you saying that hypnosis doesn’t dredge up real memories from you subconscious?
  • How does memory work, then? Is it like a computer where you punch the right button and the memory pops up?
  • A lot of these accusations involved some pretty bizarre things like satanic cults, murdered and devoured babies, etc. Was there ever any tangible evidence for these? If not, why did the police take it seriously?
  • What about so-called multiple personality disorder? Are you saying it is all a hoax?
  • I’m fascinated by your historical material, where you review the treatment of women from the great witch craze up through today. You claim that women have been mistreated by the medical and psychological profession for hundreds of years, and that this type of therapy is a continuation of that trend. Can you give us some examples?
  • Why do you think this incredible epidemic of false memories took place in the late 20th century, when it did?
  • You compare the hunt for alleged perverts in the late 20th century to the Salem Witch Hunt of the late 17th century. Why?
  • You single out one book, The Courage to Heal, as being involved in fostering many false memories. Can you talk about that book and why you warn people against it?
  • You say that recovered memory therapy has pretty much stopped now. Are there still innocent people in prison?
  • So are you saying that the cases involving little children, the day care cases, were even worse than recovered memory therapy?
  • Are little children suggestible? Is it true that “children never lie”?
  • Do you have specific recommendations for people who are seeking therapy? How do you tell good from bad therapy?
  • Do you have recommendations for how to interview children in order to avoid false accusations?
  • You compare the hunt for alleged sex perverts in the late 20th century to the Salem Witch Hunt of the late 17th century. Why?

Catalog listings of Mark Pendergrast’s Books

For the complete listing of information about Pendergrast’s book Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives, Click Here

For the complete listing of information about his book Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection,Click Here