Satanic Panic: Throughout the Ages

Featured Image: A Satanist “expert” explains what a pentacle looks like in the 1995 video “The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults“.

The “Satanic Panic” came to a head long before the 1980’s. However, for many, the moral panic of the 1980’s and 90’s is the most recent in memory. I ask the reader to dispel the notion that Satanic Panic is a relatively new concept and take a journey with me back in time as we revisit several incidents of Satanic Panic, throughout the ages.

Knights Templar [1307]

Jacques de Molay was ordered burned at the stake by King Philip IV of France in 1314. Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis/Getty Images

We will start our journey into the Satanic Panic in 1307-14 CE, in France. King Philip IV and Pope Clement V
conspired together to take down the Knights Templar. They had the grandmaster, Jacques de Molay arrested on charges of heresy and Satanism. After torturous interrogation, Jacques Molay and other Templar leaders confessed to the crimes and they were burned at the stake.

While this was not the first time someone was burned at the stake on charges of heresy and devil worship, it’s an important event because the Knights Templar helped lead the Crusades to a “victory”. 100 years later, in 1431, Jeanne d’Arc would be burned at the stake after leading France to victory at the siege of Orléans, on charges of heresy, fraud, sorcery and cross-dressing.

The Witch-Burnings [1580 to 1630]

With the evolution of christian philosophy, post-Thomas Aquinas, devil worship was no longer considered a pagan superstition, but instead a real-life threat of individuals conspiring with Satan and his minions. Throughout history, individuals that refused to “fit-in”, practiced uncommon rituals or simply refused the advance of a Lord or Lady, would be accused of witchcraft and devil worship. But between 1580 and 1630, it is estimated that 50,000 people were tortured and executed, 80% being women. This period was the bloodiest period of the “Satanic Panic”.

In 1486, the Malleus Maleficarum by Heinrich Kramer was first published. Kramer’s anti-witchcraft views would prove popular with the hyper-superstitious people of the times. Translated to “Hammer of Witches“, Kramer’s book would detail how to find witches, test them, and execute them. It’s unknown as to the true effect of this literature on the moral panic fueled executions, but one can imagine it held sway.

Mass trials were being held and thousands of people put to death. To name only a few of the trials:  Trier witch trials, Fulda witch trials, Eichstätt witch trials, Würzburg witch trials, Bamberg witch trials,  North Berwick witch trials. The latter is of particular interest as it involved King James VI, directly. The King had fallen into a deep paranoia that witches were planning to kill him, and he heard that witches were on trial. He had them delivered to him and ordered the kingdom to hunt all witches down. The King wrote a book that expressed his views on witches and the dangers they posed to society, named Daemonologie.

The witch-panic reached far across Europe and even to North America, in 1692.

Salem [1692]

Witchcraft at Salem Village. Engraving William A. Crafts (1876)

In 1692, the witch-panic reared its head in the form of the Salem Witch Trials. More than 200 people were accused of witchcraft. But how did they start?

Several children were afflicted by spasms and fits, most likely a febrile or epileptic seizure. John Hale, a minister, refused to believe the spasms were natural and assumed they were being afflicted by curses, led by witches.

Elizabeth Hutton, a 17-year-old girl who was one of the afflicted, along with some younger children, accused some people of witchcraft and demon-possession. Ms. Hutton testified, under oath, that “I saw the apparition of Sarah Good, which did torture me most grievously, but I did not know her name until the 27th of February, and then she told me her name was Sarah Good, and then she did prick me and pinch me most grievously, and also since, several times, urging me vehemently to write in her [devil’s] book”. By the end of the trials, Ms. Hutton mad 40 accusations and testified 32 times. Her testimony and accusations led to 17 arrests, of whom 13 were hanged. Dorothy Good, daughter of Sarah Good, was all but four years old when she was accused of witchcraft.

She also accused Tituba, an enslaved girl, of witchcraft. In fact, Tituba was the first person to be accused of witchcraft in the New World. Tituba would eventually confess and accuse others of taking part in witchcraft as well. It is believed that Tituba confessed to survive.

In the end, of the 200 accused, 19 would be put to death by hanging and 5 would die in jail. A further 1, was “pressed” to death for refusing to plead.

Modern Satanic Panic Uptick [1969 – 1979]

The rumblings of a “new” moral panic began with the Church of Satan’s founding in 1966. It picked up some speed when ritualistic killing was put on the world’s mind the the Manson Family murders in 1969, along with the publishing of The Satanic Bible, in the same year.

In 1971, a terrifying new novel, put to screen in 1973, would shock and transform the nation. “The Exorcist” single-handedly led fun games like Ouija boards and Dungeons and Dragons to no longer be “harmless”, but instead scary and dangerous. The 70’s would also give rise to other self-proclaimed former “Satanists” that swore the world was being run by a secret Satanic cabal and ritualistic witches. Among those spouting such tales were John Todd, Hershel Smith, and David Hanson.

All three men were directly linked to the newly forming religious fundamentalist political Right, now known by most as “Christian Nationalists”. It was not only led by men, as Pat Pulling would join the anti-occult team when her son committed suicide. Pulling believes that Dungeons and Dragons led her son to kill himself, and would even publish anti-D&D pamphlets and start an advocacy group “Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons”, in 1982.

“Michelle Remembers” [1980]

In 1973, Lawrence Pazder PhD., would begin treatment on patient Michelle Smith. After 3 years of care, Michelle told Pazder that she “had something important to tell him, but couldn’t remember what it was”. Pazder claims that soon after, during a regular session, Michelle screamed for 25 minutes and then began speaking in the voice of a 5-year-old. Pazder further claims that while under hypnosis for “memory recovery”, Michelle detailed Satanic Ritual Abuse that would have happened to her in the 50s.

Pazer, believing that he had uncovered a massive Satanic conspiracy, took his patient to the Vatican, to make the world aware of the emerging problem of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Pazder and Smith would go on to co-author “Michelle Remembers”, the first ever book to chronicle the “treatment” of a “Satanic Ritual Abuse” survivor. Pazder and Smith earned close to $400,000 for the rights plus a hardcover advance.

With its publication, it slungshot Pazder into the spotlight as an “expert on SRA” [Satanic Ritual Abuse]. As Michelle Remembers circulated, the instances of SRA grew, fast. It would not be the last time we heard the name Pazder.

McMartin Preschool Trials [1984-1990]

Virginia McMartin [pre-trial]

The McMartin Preschool was owned and operated by Virginia McMartin and her family in Manhattan Beach, California. In 1983, one of the child’s mothers would report to the police that her son had been sodomized by her estranged husband and McMartin school teacher, Ray Bucky. The mother made several more accusations, implicating Peggy McMartin in the abuse of other children at the daycare. The police then sent a letter to over 200 parents of students, informing of the accusations made against the staff, and to question their children.

By 1984, 360 children had reported abuse at the hands of the McMartins. The children were interviewed by Children’s Institute International, an abuse clinic run by Kay MacFarlane. As can be witnessed by the recording of interviews, the questions were highly suggestive and and un-tested, which led to a plethora of false accusations. Only 41 of the 360 children would address the grand jury hearing, and less than a dozen in the actual trials.

The accusations were some of the most bizarre to ever be heard in a court. Aside from the allegations of sexual abuse, the children saw witches fly, traveled in a hot-air balloon, and were taken through underground tunnels. Some of the allegations of sexual abuse supposedly took place in the “secret tunnels”, although after several extensive excavations, no evidence of said tunnels have been found. There were even reports of orgies at car washes and airports, and children being flushed down toilets in a secret room.

“March 22, 1984, Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray Buckey, Ray’s sister Peggy Ann Buckey and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler were charged with 115 counts of child abuse, later expanded to 321 counts of child abuse involving 48 children”. During the preliminary hearing, Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder would meet with the accusing families and were believed to have affected the children’s later testimony. In 1986, all charges were dropped against Virginia McMartin, Peggy Ann Buckey, Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor and Babette Spitler. Peggy McMartin and Ray Bucky remained in custody.

In July 1987, Peggy McMartin’s trial began. It would take the court 3 years and nine months to acquit Peggy of all charges. Ray Buckey was cleared on 52 of 65 counts and freed on bail after more than five years in jail. In May of 1990, Ray Bucky was retried on 6 of the 13 counts that had not been acquitted. The second trial ended in another hung jury, resulting in Ray Bucky’s final innocence.

The McMartin Preschool Trial was the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.

QAnon [2017-2022]

In early 2017, a far-right conspiracy group, QAnon, reared its nasty head. The core QAnon theory is that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic sexual abusers of children operating a global child sex trafficking ring conspired against former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office. The QAnon folks also believe that former President Trump was and still is secretly fighting the Satanic cabal and will conduct a mass trial and execution of the Satanic elite.

QAnon spread dangerous theories that have helped seed modern politics with religious talk of demons and Satan. QAnon supporters has accused government officials, hollywood actors, and buiensess people of people part of the massive cabal. It is believed that QAnon conspiracies led to the eventual insurrection at the capitol, on January 6th, 2021.

QAnon conspiracies have been disproved time and time again, but it’s followers are still wide-ranging and dangerous. Some of the conspiracies they pushed, but were proven false are:

-Hillary Clinton was about to be arrested and would attempt to flee the country.
-John Podesta would be arrested on November 3, 2017, and public riots would be organized to try and prevent the arrest of other public officials.
-A major event involving the Department of Defense would take place on February 1, 2018.
-People targeted by Trump would commit suicide en masse on February 10, 2018.
-There would be a car bombing in London around February 16, 2018.
-A “smoking gun” video of Hillary Clinton would emerge in March 2018.
-Something major would happen in Chongqing on April 10, 2018.
-There would be a “bombshell” revelation about North Korea in May 2018.
-The Trump military parade would “never be forgotten”.
-The Five Eyes “won’t be around much longer”.
-Mark Zuckerberg was going to leave Facebook and flee the United States.
-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey would be forced to resign “next” (in the context of the prediction of Zuckerberg’s resignation).
-Pope Francis would have a “terrible May” in 2018.

Satanic Ritual Abuse was seeded into their wild theories with the claims that children are tortured, or sacrificed in Satanic rituals, to harvest the adrenaline that comes from fear, known as Adrenochrome. It was claimed that Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin took part in this wild ritual.

Satanic Panic Never Left

As we have read, the Satanic Panic is as old as religion itself. Tens of thousands of lives lost to superstition and conspiracy. To combat “Satanic Panic”, one must always weigh reports against reason and facts. If we lose sight of the real world, we allow fairy tales to reign- ones in which nobody lives happily ever after. Do yourself a favor before sharing Satanic Panic conspiracies, do research and find the truth.

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