The recent phenomenon of Satanic Panic originated during the 1970s -- and gained traction during the 1980s and 1990s -- when a widespread belief took hold within American evangelical Christianity that a vast underground network of Satanists is in control of secular society. Thankfully, Satanic Panic seems to have died down quite a bit during the 2000s, possibly because fundamentalists now have other things to panic about.
The 1972 publication of The Satan Seller by Mike Warnke played a large part in launching this scare. Warnke continued to be referenced by the mainstream media as an "authority" on Satanism until his story was exposed as fraudulent in 1992. Unfortunately, this revelation has had little effect on majority of people who choose to believe in the power of Satan -- i.e., fundamentalist Christians. During the late 1970s, John Todd became a brief sensation speaking in fundamentalist churches claiming witches, druids, and the Illuminati were in control of world politics, media, and even most churches. Todd and his claims were likewise exposed as fraudulent, but he continued to be promoted by fundamentalists like Jack Chick. The scare was given another boost with the popularity of the 1980 book Michelle Remembers by Michelle Smith, an alleged memoir of Satanic ritual abuse which was also exposed as a fraud. Other claims proliferated during the early 1980s, including backward masking of Satanic messages in rock music, Dungeons and Dragons and heavy metal music as occult recruiting tools, disappearing pets and poisoned candy at Halloween as part of a larger conspiracy, and most significantly, underground movements of Satanists engaged in human sacrifice, "breeding" of children for same, ritual child abuse, and other crime.
Satanic panic spread to society at large when law enforcement agencies began taking the wild claims made by evangelical Christians at face value. They used -- and, on occasion, still use -- such allegations as a basis for investigations of occult activity on the assumption that these activities (often committed by harmless neopagan groups or teenagers) is part of a broader conspiracy. Or, worse yet, that these activities are precursors to major crimes like kidnapping, rape and murder.
As law enforcement linked more and more crimes to Satanic rituals, the popular media took notice. Something that would have been considered ridiculous a decade or two earlier now had the authority of government behind it. Soon, hundreds of books, newspapers articles and TV stories helped spread Satanic panic throughout North America. An early example of this was when Geraldo Rivera did a 1988 TV special on alleged Satanic activity and it became the most widely viewed documentary ever aired on NBC, even as more responsible media editorials panned it as sensationalistic trash, and panned NBC for airing it. Occasionally, certain popular media outlets will still run a "Did Satanism play a role in this crime?" story.
 Stereotypical characteristics of Satanists and Satanism
Evangelicals and the police and prosecutors that they influence usually believe that the network(s) of Satan worshipers are characterized by the following:
- There are families of devil worshippers, and they tend to be multigenerational.
- Teenagers are enticed to join Satanic cults.
- Human sacrifice.
- Disappearing pets are used for animal sacrifice.
- Ritual child abuse.
- Satanist networks are part of a broader conspiracy, e.g. the Illuminati.
- Wiccans and other neopagans are Satanic in nature.
- Wiccan symbols such as the pentagram are signs of Satanic activity. Some Christian books on Satanism (and materials provided to law enforcement) included the peace symbol and the anarchy symbol in their lists of "Satanic symbols" to watch out for. Warning! There are pentagrams in the American flag and in the EU flag.
- Some parts of popular culture are functioning as recruiting tools for Satanism, including heavy metal music and the game Dungeons and Dragons.
- Halloween is a Satanic holiday; urban legends and scares over poisoned candy were claimed to be the work of Satanic cults.
- Some towns, agencies, or even major corporations (i.e. Procter & Gamble) are secretly under the control of Satanists.
- Satanist "infiltration" of the military.
- Washington, D.C. is infested with Satanic symbols designed into the city.
- Atheists are really satanists.
 Recent crimes blamed on Satanic rituals
Since the 1970s, many people have been officially accused of crimes linked to the practice of Satanic rituals. Some have been tried and convicted.
 McMartin Preschool abuse cases
In 1983, the mother of a McMartin Preschool student accused her estranged husband and a teacher at the preschool -- located in Manhattan Beach, California -- of molesting her son. The arrests, investigations and trials lasted until 1990, when all charges were dropped. There were no convictions in this trial, the most expensive in history at the time. Among the allegations were that the preschool staff practiced Satanic rites where they flew through the air and drilled holes in the children. One child even accused "actor" Chuck Norris of being one of the abusers.
 Monster of Florence
Also known as Il Mostro, was an epithet given to a serial killer, who gunned down and mutilated sixteen known individuals in Florence and its surrounding countryside over a period of seventeen years (1968 - 1985). At the height of the killing spree in the early 1980s, hysteria, initially created by the media, was that the serial killings were the work of a satanic cult. Police investigations led to Pietro Pacciani, a Florentine local who had a violent criminal history, and he was later arrested by police after a bullet casing matching the ones found at the crime scenes were discovered at his home. Two other individuals, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, were also arrested after they confessed to assisting Pacciani. Due to a technicality with the evidence presented by the prosecution, Pacciani was released by the Italian Supreme Court. Pacciani died in 1998 before he could be retried, while Vanni and Lotti were jailed. There has been no conclusive evidence Pacciani, Vanni, and Lotti were members of any Satanic cult.
 Murder of Kimberly Simon
Teenager Kimberly Simon was last seen walking near her home in Oneida County, New York on 19 September 1985. Her body was found soon afterwards. Steven Barnes spent 20 years in prison for the crime. He was exonerated in 2009 thanks to DNA testing. Now the Oneida County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) is focusing on -- drumroll, please -- a coven of Satanic teenagers. This story comes from a witness who testified against Barnes in 1989. She now says that (1) the OCSD coerced her original testimony; (2) she was the girlfriend of one of the boys in the coven; (3) after her boyfriend ditched her, she snuck up on the group at night and could clearly see a drugged Kimberly laying on the ground by the bonfire. Honestly!
Anyway, America's Most Wanted is on the case of them dirty Satanists.
 West Memphis 3
At about 6 p.m. on 5 May 1993, three young boys who lived in West Memphis, Arkansas, disappeared from their neighborhood. Their bodies were found the following day in a nearby drainage ditch. The population of West Memphis includes a rather large contingent of Southern Baptists who have been preached to for years that many Satanic covens are hidden in plain sight within decent society. A neighborhood teenager named Jessie Misskelley -- who has the mental abilities of a ten-year-old -- confessed to the crimes. He then implicated two other neighborhood teenagers, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, claiming that the murders were part of a Satanic rite. Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life without parole. Echols received the death penalty. Later, evidence showed no traces of DNA from Misskelley, Echols or Baldwin. However, DNA evidence from the stepfather of one of the victims was found on the ligature that was used to hogtie another boy. For 18 years, the appeals of the West Memphis 3 remained unsuccessful. They were finally released on 19 August 2011 after entering a brokered "Alford plea" deal that allowed them to plead guilty and go free while declaring their innocence of the crimes.
 Murder of Meredith Kercher
On 1 November 2007, British university exchange student Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy. Because her death occurred the day after Halloween, local prosecutor Giuliano Mignini believed that her murder was due to a Satanic rite that got out of hand. In fact, Mignini believes that many major crimes are due to Satanic rites that get out of hand, thanks to the fact that he is a dedicated follower of Satanic panic blogger, Gabriella Carlizzi. In 2009, Mignini denied the charge, repeated in the American press, that he was mentally unstable and actually had no contact with Carlizzi over the Kercher case and was not on friendly terms with the blogger.
American exchange student Amanda Knox, Italian student Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guédé, a local laborer, were charged and, later, convicted of the crime. But Guédé was the first to go to trial because the physical evidence pointed to him, not to Knox or Sollecito.
At first Guédé claimed that after he had had sex with Kercher, an unknown man with a knife broke into her flat and killed her. Then, he confessed to accidentally killing Kercher. Then he said he was at the scene with Knox and Sollecito, but he didn't kill Kercher. Then he claimed that Knox and Sollecito weren't present when Kerchner was murdered. (Maybe Guédé is demon possessed. Those darned demons can be pretty inconsistent, don't you know.)
 Major promoters
- Jacob Aranza
- Rebecca Brown
- Morris Cerullo
- Jack Chick
- John DeCamp
- Mark Dice
- David Icke (though does not believe in Satan)
- Jerry Falwell
- Tipper Gore
- Gary Greenwald
- Ted Gunderson
- Alex Jones (Because devil worshiping pedophiles run the New World Order and don't you forget it!)
- Liberty Lobby
- Lyndon LaRouche
- Bob Larson
- Hal Lindsey
- Texe Marrs
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- Phil Phillips
- Patricia Pulling
- Mary Stewart Relfe
- Geraldo Rivera
- Pat Robertson
- Michelle Smith
- Lauren Stratford
- John Todd
- Mike Warnke
- Terry D. Watkins
- Alan Watt
- Sheik Feiz Muhammad
 See also
- Satanic ritual abuse
- New Age, the subject of a closely related scare within Christendom around the same time
- Backward masking, alleged Satanic messages hidden in rock & roll records
- Spiritual warfare
- Demonic possession
- Moral panic
- False memory syndrome
- Temple of Set
- Entry in the Skeptic's Dictionary
- Investigator's Guide to Allegations of "Ritual" Child Abuse, a report by the FBI analyzing and debunking Satanic panic.
- Satan in Suburbia, Fortean Times
- 12/29/07 news item: the Pope orders Catholic bishops to ramp up exorcism efforts to combat the worldwide rise of Satanism.
- A Pagan view of the Satanic Panic
- Cornerstone magazine's Selling Satan articles
- The Pulling Report by Michael Stackpole, critical report on BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) and their claims that D&D was a recruiting tool by Satanists
- S.M.A.R.T.'s Ritual Abuse Pages: A website that does its best to promote every known form of ritual abuse panic, including satanic panic.
- Godlesspanther's Satanic Panic Part I on YouTube, first of a multi part series of videos on the history of the Satanic panic. Good series, worth seeing all of them, especially for documenting how popular media hosts like Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Geraldo Rivera promoted the scare.
- The following are actual categories on Wikipedia:
- ↑ Earlier occurrences are, of course, typified by the Salem witch trials. Tellingly, many of the claims made about Satanism in the last few decades of the 20th century echoed earlier scares from anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism, all of which share the same claims of ritual child abuse and human sacrifice. See, for example, blood libel.
- ↑ Although -- as demonstrated by the Meredith Kercher murder case -- Christians in other countries are also being influenced by Satanic panic.
- ↑ In reality, most violent crimes are not committed by strangers but by people who know the victims: lovers/spouses, friends, business partners, even casual acquaintances and family members.
- ↑ Los Angeles Times: "Satanism, Skeptics Abound", April 23, 1991
- ↑ Chicago Tribune: "Devil Made 'Em Do It At NBC", October 27, 1988
- ↑ New York Times: "NBC's Obscene Masquerade", October 28, 1988
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on McMartin preschool trial.
- ↑ Blundell, Nigel (ed.) (1996) Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. North Dighton, Mass.: JG Press, p. 135
- ↑ Jewell, Keala Jane (ed.) (2001) Monsters in the Italian Literary Imagination. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, p. 69
- ↑ "America's Most Wanted to air Kimberly Simon case on March 13", WKTV website, posted 8 March 2010, accessed 16 March 2010.
- ↑ As in today, the second decade of the 21st freakin' century!!!!!
- ↑ "Unknown Kim Simon killer: Cops Seek New Links To Old Case" America's Most Wanted website, posted 16 March 2010.
- ↑ Steel, Fiona. "The West Memphis Three", TruTV Crime Library website, accessed 28 February 2010.
- ↑ Gray, Madison. "'West Memphis Three' to Go Free After Plea Deal", Time Magazine website, posted and accessed 19 August 2011.
- ↑ The Independent - Masonic theory that put Knox in the dock
- ↑ BBC News - Kercher prosecutor 'not unstable'
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on Murder of Meredith Kercher.
- ↑ Owen, Richard. "Meredith Kercher suspect Rudy Guede incriminates other suspects", Times of London website, 27 March 2008, accessed 16 March 2010.
- ↑ Adams, Cindy. "Amanda Knox news: Convicted murderer Rudy Guede says Knox not present when Meredith Kercher killed", Examiner.com website, 8 March 2009, accessed 16 March 2010.
- ↑ http://www.rickross.com/reference/amway/amway28.html
- ↑ http://www.holysmoke.org/report/index.htm