Laurel Rose Willson
|Laurel Rose Willson|
August 18, 1941|
|Died||April 8, 2002(aged 60)|
|Other names||Lauren Stratford, Laura Grabowski|
|Known for||Discredited author of books about satanic ritual abuse and Holocaust survival|
|Spouse(s)||Frank Austin (m. 1966; annulled 1966)|
Laurel Rose Willson (August 18, 1941 – April 8, 2002) was an American woman born in Washington, whose allegations of satanic ritual abuse were published under the alias Lauren Stratford, which she would later adopt as her legal name. She still later assumed the guise of a Holocaust survivor, and adopted the alias of Laura Grabowski.
Willson was adopted as an infant by Frank Cole Willson and his wife, schoolteacher Rose Gray Willson. A gifted musician from a young age, Willson learned to play the piano, clarinet, and flute. After college, Willson worked as a public-school music teacher. She later resided in Bakersfield, California for a number of years, becoming known within evangelical Christian churches there as a vocalist and pianist.
Satanic ritual abuse allegations
As Stratford, Willson wrote three books, the most famous of which was Satan's Underground, purporting to tell a true story of her upbringing as a baby breeder (for sacrifices) in a satanic cult. Willson had also claimed to have first-hand knowledge of high-profile cases of alleged Satanic ritual abuse (including the child abuse cases in Kern County, where she resided), but her claims were dismissed by investigators as unreliable and fabricated.
An investigation by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott in the Christian magazine Cornerstone discovered Stratford's real name and family background, and that her stories of abuse were false. In interviews with Willson's family and former associates, it was revealed that Willson had a long history of mental illness and making false allegations of abuse. She repeatedly threatened suicide and practiced self-mutilation. She attracted the attention and sympathy of evangelical author Johanna Michaelsen, one of the most influential promoters of the Satanic moral panic of the period. While living with Michaelsen, Willson claimed to have given birth to three children as a result of rape; two were allegedly killed in snuff films, and the third was supposedly sacrificed in her presence at a Satanic ritual. However, Cornerstone found no evidence that she had ever been pregnant or adopted a child.
False identity as a Holocaust survivor
After her books were withdrawn from sale by her publisher, Willson legally changed her name to Lauren Stratford. She would later create another false identity in 1999, with an equally horrific story to tell. Pretending to be Laura Grabowski, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Willson collected thousands of dollars in donations intended for Holocaust survivors. As Grabowski, Willson befriended Binjamin Wilkomirski, claiming to remember him from the camps. Wilkomirski himself (real name Bruno Grosjean) was later revealed to be neither Jewish nor a Holocaust survivor, aiding in the exposure of Willson as a fraud.
- Bob & Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott, "Satan's Sideshow: The True Lauren Stratford Story", Cornerstone, 1990 Vol. 18, Issue 90
- Lauren Stratford: From Satanic Ritual Abuse to Jewish Holocaust Survivor – Cornerstone magazine's exposé of Stratford's claim to be Laura Grabowski