What was the Satanic Panic?

– Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, a wave of troubling accusations swept across North America. – New and intense scrutiny on the activities of Satanic cults. – [Reporter] Stories of devil worship and Satanic cults corrupting young minds– – Unbelievable crime at the hands of Satanic cults.

– There were terrifying tales of secret Satanic cults bent on tormenting and corrupting the young. Heavy metal music had hidden Satanic messages. – Possibly Satanic messages on some rock music recordings. – Games like Dungeons and Dragons were luring kids to devil worship, and it got even stranger.

– The allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children at a babysitting service. – The dark world of ritualistic child abuse. – [Reporter] There’s a widely held opinion that what happened at the daycare was the devil’s handiwork. – Underground networks of Satanists were infiltrating daycares and preschools

To physical and sexually abuse children in occult rituals. Much of what fueled the panic was not real, but these claims led to a wave of high-profile criminal trials in the US, Canada, and beyond. The cases often followed a similar pattern, an initial report of physical or sexual abuse at a daycare would snowball, taking on a life of its own. Overzealous interveners, everyone from parents to police to counselors would question children, some as young as two years old, in ways now known to produce false allegations.

Children began to talk about animal sacrifices, blood rituals, secret tunnels, even cannibalism. Police would lay charges, prosecutors would take them to court, and the media would report uncritically on what seemed to be a growing threat. – [Reporter] Authorities searched frantically for evidence of an apparent ritual abuse epidemic across North America.

– Some cases would fall apart at trial or during appeal. Others resulted in wrongful convictions. Many of the accused spent years in prison, while others faced financial ruin and damaged reputations. As it turns out, the Satanic Panic may have its origins in Canada. When asked about the spark that set off the hellfire,

Many experts point to this book, “Michelle Remembers”, published in 1980, written by Canadian Psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder, and his former patient Michelle Smith. The book provided a template for the allegations of Satanic ritual abuse that followed. Pazder claimed he helped Smith recover repressed memories from her early childhood of a terrifying initiation

Into a secret cabal of Satanists operating near Victoria, British Columbia. – They would put me in cages. They would sacrifice animals. They would have a lot of candles, and chanting, and bizarre things I had never seen. – Did people think this was a fantasy? That you made this all up?

It was such hocus pocus that it couldn’t possibly have happened? – Well, I was one of the first to stand up and start to recount these kinds of things to bring it publicly. – There was no evidence or witnesses to Smith’s account, yet Pazder presented the book as a true story.

– The hard evidence is difficult to find, because if a child is sacrificed, that child’s body isn’t gonna be left. If it’s an Orthodox Satanic cult they’re going to burn the body and they’re going to eat it during ceremony so they’ll leave no evidence around.

– “Michelle Remembers” is also one of the first books to suggest that underground Satanic networks were not only real, but were infiltrating communities in and organized effort. Anyone could be a Satanist, your nextdoor neighbor, your dentist, or your daycare provider. It was an idea that stuck with many readers.

– The book is called “Michelle Remembers”. – The book became an overnight sensation, and Pazder and Smith received a lucrative publishing deal, about $1.2 million in today’s dollars. It also established Pazder as a sought-after expert on the burgeoning phenomenon of ritual abuse, a term he coined himself.

There was even talk of a movie deal with Dustin Hoffman playing Pazder. For the McMartin Pre-School trial in Manhattan Beach, California where seven daycare workers were accused of ritually abusing children, Pazder was flown down to be an expert consultant in Satanic cults for the prosecution. In another ritual abuse case in Bakersfield, California,

“Michelle Remembers” was used as training material by social workers who believed they had uncovered an extensive Satanic pedophile ring. Specialists in Satanic ideology were suddenly in high demand as more and more ritual abuse cases went to trial. In Austin, Texas, another self-styled Satanic cult expert was used to secure the convictions

Of daycare owners Dan and Fran Keller, who spent decades in prison before being exonerated. It became increasingly common to see ritual crime training seminars led by psychologists, church groups, and even the police. This is former FBI agent Ken Lanning, who studied the spread of the panic in the ’80s.

– [Ken] All the people network with each other, and they’d all get together and goes to seminars and discussions, and they’d be told, “This is what Satanists do and this is how they do it.” And so all that is planted through the use of these kinds of techniques, hypnosis and other ways,

That cause the spread of this kind of stuff. So many people say, “Well, you can’t identify these cases “unless you’ve been trained to learn about them.” And some of that training becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. – The commercial success of “Michelle Remembers” inspired dozens of copy-cat memoirs, which further amplified the perception

That Satanic ritual abuse was widespread, but there was never any evidence of a Satanic conspiracy. In 1994, a psychologist from the University of California researched over 12,000 accusations of ritual abuse, but found no substantiated reports of organzied Satanic groups who sexually abused children. In later years, as the panic died down,

Pazder tried to distance himself from the claims he made in “Michelle Remembers”. – I’m not there to believe or not believe, I’m there to try and understand what they’re trying to tell me of an experience. Whether that has actually happened to them or that is their way of trying to express

A profound pain that they’ve experienced. – But neither he nor Smith ever publicly renounced the book’s allegations. This strange period of moral hysteria serves as a reminder of what can happen when we abandon the pursuit of facts for a more sensational fiction. The question is have we learned our lesson?

I’m Lisa Bryn Rundle, host of “Uncover Satanic Panic”. You can listen to the series now on the CBC Listen App or wherever you get your podcasts. – Is there a well-organized plot, an insidious design right now to program and influence the minds of our children towards the occult and witchcraft?

#Satanic #Panic