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45 MIN READ TIME

THE SATANIC PANIC

Fear of Satanic cults trickled first through certain types of Christian churches. Then, in 1980, a bestselling book suddenly unleashed a rushing flood of public panic.

Michelle Remembers told a horrifying tale about a woman raised in the quaint west coast city of Victoria, Canada. Over many months of intense therapy (up to six hours per day) Michelle Smith slowly came to suspect that she had been abused as a child by a Satanic cult. This was not something she remembered to begin with. Her claims began with bad dreams. More nightmarish images flashed into her mind during trance-like therapy sessions. Her therapist Lawrence Pazder encouraged her mind to wander and recorded everything she said. Her dream like imaginings often made little sense. Over many months, however, the two slowly wove “many fragmentary sessions” into a story—and then into a scary book (unsuitable for young readers).

Their claims were outrageous. They said Smith’s own mother coldheartedly turned her over to Satanists, saying, “You belong to the Devil.” Supposedly, the cult tormented Smith though months of ghastly rituals. She claimed to have witnessed murders and sacrifices. She said the cult surgically sewed devils’ horns and a long tail onto her body. Smith even claimed that the group literally raised the Devil! Satan appears as a character in the book, emerging from a fire to recite bad poetry. Smith claimed to have physically touched Satan; he supposedly wrapped his tail around her. In the end, her ordeal was ended with personal help from the Virgin Mary.

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Other Articles in this Issue


COLUMNS
Is Low-Dose Radiation Good for You? The Questionable Claims for Hormesis
Define Your Terms (or, Here we Go Again)
ARTICLES
John Andrews and the Invention of a Legend
A Virtual Experiment in the Dark Side of Human Nature
DATA MINING INVOLVES RANSACKING DATA AND searching
THE INSTANT, GLOBAL SPREAD OF INFORMATION through the
How this Group Raises Big Money Using a Dance Troupe and its Own Victimhood
DRUG OVERDOSE IS NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF death for
“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s
The Lion of Intelligent Design Roars Again
The Case Against the Case Against Postmodernism
THE TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF GOD CREDITS HIM WITH
REVIEWS
A Review of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
A review of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake, by Steven Novella with Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein.
A review of Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits by Benjamin Radford
Reviews of Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post- Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young and Hoax: A History of Deception: 5000 Years of Fakes, Forgeries, and Fallacies by Ian Tattersall and Peter Nevraumont
Review of Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War Over Anthropology by Peter Hempenstall.
Michelle E. Ainsworth holds an MA in history. She enjoys
JUNIOR SKEPTIC
Today we’ll sharpen our pencils, pick up our magical
As we’ll learn, role-playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons
Strategy board games like Risk were complicated enough
It took a year to sell the first thousand Dungeons
Eventually the Satanic Panic faded away. The FBI concluded