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Margaret Singer

Margaret Singer / Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.

Margaret Singer

Psychologist Margaret Singer, an expert on brainwashing and cults, died Sunday 23rd November 2003 after a long illness at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley. She was 82. 

A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday at the McNary-Morgan, Engle and Jackson funeral home, 3630 Telegraph Ave, Oakland. Memorial donations may be sent to the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 34133. 

In Memorium:

The "Samurai Grandmother" Margaret Singer has passed away… 

I have known Margaret Singer for 23 years. First as a victim of Scientology where Margaret personally counseled me back to sanity. Second as my mentor where I studied everything she would give me to read on cults and mind control and thirdly as a co-creator of FACTNet where Margaret was always on our advisory board assisting and guiding us to wise, rational decisions and actions. 

I can truthfully say I have not met another person so gifted in intelligence and strength and so guided by integrity and courage. Though her courageous educational work Margaret reflected the justice of the Divine at archetypal levels. She truly was her nickname in the movement of the Samurai Grandmother. 

I could not have gotten my life back if was not for Margaret's wisdom. FACTNet would not exist now nor, would the good FACTNet has done have ever happened --- had it not been for Margaret. 

I as an individual and FACTNet as an organization will honor her memory by doing the best we can to spread her wisdom and balance and, by continuing to help the victims of cults and mind control all over the world. 

I was privileged to have had many meetings on her kitchen table and many meals with her. I fell in love with who Margaret was as a person. I will miss those conversations and meetings dearly. 

Lawrence Wollersheim as an individual and as a Director for FACTNet

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Born in Denver, where her father was the chief engineer at the U.S. Mint, Singer received her degrees from the University of Denver.

She began studying brainwashing in the 1950s at Walter Reed Institute of Research in Washington, D. C., where she interviewed U.S. soldiers taken prisoner during the Korean War.

Singer testified in the 1976 bank robbery trial of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. She interviewed more than 3,000 cult members, assisted in more than 200 court cases and was a leading authority on schizophrenia and family therapy.

"My mom spent her whole life assisting other people - victims, parents or lawyers - and often for free," said Sam Singer, a San Francisco public relations consultant.

Occasionally threatened, Singer refused to back down. In a 2002 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she told how, at 80, she had frightened off someone who'd been leaving menacing notes in her mailbox.

"I've got a 12-gauge shotgun up here with a spray pattern that'll put a three-foot hole in you, sonny, and you'd better get off my porch, or you'll be sorry!" she shouted out the window.

Singer was the author of "Cults in Our Midst," a 1995 study on cults that she revised earlier this year with analysis of the connection between cults and terrorism.

She won the Hofheimer Prize and the Dean Award from the American College of Psychiatrists, among other honors.

Dr. Margaret Singer was a professor of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco and in the school of psychology at the University of California in Berkeley. She often appeared as an expert on issues of sects. She was generally concerned with the problems which are caused by "coercive persuasion" and collected experiences of American soldiers who returned home after being held as POWs in North Korea, and recently, of the survivors of the Peoples Temple sect in Guyana in November 1978. 

She held a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award and numerous other scientific awards. She also served as president of the American Psychosomatic Society, as a senior psychologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and as an advisory editor for professional journals.

"She was a remarkable person — the only genius I ever met in our business," said Daniel Goldstine, chief psychologist of the Berkeley Therapy Institute. "There are simply very few people anywhere who had the clinical skills that she had — period. In addition, she was a world-class researcher.

"She was twice nominated for a Nobel Prize for her work in schizophrenia. That work revealed that the best indicator of the disordered mind was the schizophrenic's odd and peculiar use of language."

She is survived by her husband of 48 years, Jerome, and by her children, Sam and Martha, all of Berkeley.

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About Margaret Singer:

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Cults in Our Midst by Margaret Thaler Singer
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"The strength of Cults in Our Midst is its clear explanation of the nature of cults, how they operate, the threat they pose to individuals, families, and society, and how others can help cult survivors escape and recover. Many types of cultic relationships are considered, from tiny religious or occult groups to the "large group awareness training" programs that have infiltrated workplaces."

Crazy Therapies : What Are They? Do They Work? by Margaret Thaler Singer, Janja Lalich
Click to Purchase or see further Reviews
"An expose of alternative psychotherapeutic philosophies and practices, revealing the sometimes harmful effects of methods such as past-life therapy, alien-abduction therapy, rebirthing, and skull adjustment. Outlines guidelines for distinguishing legitimate therapeutic approaches from those that are irrational or unethical, and offers advice on avoiding the risks of entanglement. Reports on a broad spectrum of alternative therapies--such as alien-abduction, channeling, inner-child work, flower essence therapy, and karmic astrology--all of which the authors contend are doing more harm than good to those who are hoping for help."

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CSJ Contribution:

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No.1.,

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol.10, No.1

Ronald M. Enroth. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992, 227 pages.

Volume 10, No. 1, 1993


Other Contribution:

Cults, Psychological Manipulation:
1992, Arlington, Virginia Video Available

National Institute of Health, January 17, 1997,  Bethesda, MD Video Available


National Institute of Health, January 17, 1997,  Bethesda, MD Video Available


Conference May 30, 1997, Philadelphia


Psychological Manipulation: The Abuse of Women Conference, May 30, 1997, Philadelphia Video Available

Keynote Address- Psychological Manipulation: How it Works and Why Women are Vulnerable;  "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work?

Symposium -Treatment and Cults: What Works with Whom; Psychological Manipulation: The Abuse of Women Conference, May 30 and May 31, 1997, Philadelphia

AFF Annual Conference: Children and Cults

May 29 - May 31, 1998, Philadelphia, PA

AFF Annual  Conference: Jonestown Memorial

November 13-15, 1998, Chicago, IL

1999 Conference: Cults, Psychological Manipulation & Society, Minneapolis, MN, May 14-19, 1999

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