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Satanic Panic: Crime, Christianity, and the Occult

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “satanic panic,” you might be in for a wild ride. The term was coined during the heyday of serial killers, big hair, and televangelists. You’re probably wondering why this is such a hot topic now, and you wouldn’t be alone – most of us are scratching our heads at the return of fear of paranormal paranoia.

What Is Satanic Panic?

The Satanic Panic was a massive cultural hysteria over the occult that began in the 1970s. As the U.S. moved out of the tumultuous 60s, many suburbanites and white-collar people found structure in religion. Similar shifts happen throughout human history – a period of turmoil and hedonistic practices followed by a more rigid, religious, and conservative few years.

While evangelicalism was beginning to take shape, a new criminal was wreaking havoc on communities around the country – the serial killer. From the infamous Charles Manson to the lesser-known (and arguably more terrifying) Richard Ramirez, murder and the occult mixed to make an alarming cocktail of violence and fear.

Between Manson family values, and Ramirez’s pentagram signature, occult practices were now in the open for all to see. Naturally, many people in these communities were fearful of what this could mean for the future of the United States, and many of them flocked to religion for an explanation.

The answer? Satanism. Satanism and its followers were held responsible for the widespread horror taking over the nation. At first, this reactionary charge was relegated to Sunday morning services, but as more killers came out of the woodwork, more people began to see credence in the claim that satanism was to blame.

Eventually, the Satanic Panic faded into the background as the U.S. entered a new age of war and terrorism. However, the fallout from the witch hunts of the 70s and 80s put many people behind bars. Claims of ‘ritualistic abuse’ led to incarcerations, and some of these unfortunate souls are still in prison today.

So, what does all of this have to do with recent events? Let’s take a closer look.

January 6, 2021

The United States capitol has only been attacked twice: by the British forces during the war of 1812 and far-right domestic terrorists on January 6, 2021.

The 2020 election will probably go down in history as one of the most controversial ones in American history. Incensed by QAnon conspiracies and charged rhetoric from former President Trump, a group of angry, armed Trump supporters stormed the capitol prepared to fight anyone in their path. Some were armed, others were not, but all of them had one goal in mind: take back the capital from the liberal left.

One commonality, in particular, is raising concerns of another Satanic Panic – QAnon.

What Is QAnon?

If you aren’t familiar with QAnon, think of it as extreme Facebook. Essentially, QAnon is a forum that has taken on a life of its own and emerged as a vast resource for political conspiracy and extremism. At the epicenter, proponents believe that a Satan-worshiping cabal of democratic politicians are abusing children for their satanic rituals.

Of course, that isn’t the only conspiracy floating around QAnon chatrooms. Believers point to specific politicians and public figures as the perpetrators of a vast evil rotting the country from the inside out. Whether it’s because of Satan or not seems to be a matter of course, depending on who you talk to. One thing that most QAnon supporters agree on is that former President Trump was wronged in the election.

QAnon and Criminalization

The main concern regarding QAnon is that it could lead to the type of fear that puts real people behind bars on false charges. At the height of the Satanic Panic, the McMartin trial led to over 300 counts of child abuse leveled at a preschool staff in California.

While that case eventually dissolved due to a lack of evidence and all charges were dropped, the trial and investigation lasted for years, and the McMartin preschool staff were pariahs in the community. Immigrants, school principals, and upstanding community members were put behind bars for alleged satanic ritual abuse in other states.

These periods of hysteria have real consequences - whether it’s a destroyed reputation like the McMartin case or decades-long prison sentences for crimes that were never committed. The concern with QAnon is that there could be a similar witch hunt in the future.


The incarceration of innocent people isn’t new, but it is a massive systemic issue. It’s never helpful to add another factor that could lead to wrongful imprisonment, but QAnon supporters seem hell-bent on putting satanic personalities behind bars regardless of the law.

The profoundly upsetting part of hysterical time periods is that innocent people and oppressed minorities almost always pay the price. From the Salem witch trials to now, wrongfully convicted people are forced to carry a burden they should never have to bear.

Conspiracy and justice should never be interwoven, but QAnon supporters are gunning for their version of the truth to take center stage. If it does, marginalized communities could be at risk for persecution on a massive scale.