Book Review: Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s

"He-Man is more powerful than Jesus Christ!"

As technology moved forward, parents began to leave child-rearing to the TV, the far right bible thumpers started their war against The Devil and nobody was safe; not your Saturday morning cartoons; not new technology in the form of 976 and 900 phone numbers or computers; not rich kid drug dealers; not heavy metal musicians; and certainly not Satanists themselves. 

"Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." - Edward Burke

I was a young metal-head in the 80's, during the Satanic Panic.  Luckily, my stoner hippy mom didn't panic and left me to my own devices; however, a lot of kids weren't as lucky.  I remember reading about Ricky Kasso in Rolling Stones and it was strange having a crush on a dead murderer. 

The Satanic Panic was fueled by hard-right Christian conservatives hellbent on saving us all from Satanic Ritual Abuse, a non-existent phenomenon that was thoroughly debunked by FBI agent Kenneth V. Lanning, and the media who love hyperbole knew that mass hysteria generated viewers.  They wanted America back in the flock, and scaring the average parent with demonically possessed children, and the alleged hazards of horror movies and that loud heavy metal music would certainly bring us all back to the fold. 

SATANIC PANIC POP CULTURAL PARANOIA IN THE 1980's is a collection of essays on the various aspects of how the Devil was going to possess our children and destroy America. While the "true" story of the recovered memory of Michelle Smith, we dive right into the Satanic Ritual Abuse of Michelle.  This book ended up being thoroughly discredited and the publishers were almost sued by the Church of Satan for saying the abuse was done by members of the CoS in spite of the fact that NOT harming children is codified within founder Anton LaVey's Eleven Satanic Rules of Earth. 

Gavin Baddely's essay on the Dungeons & Dragons phenomenon sent me back to my childhood.  My mom was pretty laid back, but my very Catholic Grandma heard about D&D and came after me, warning me of the dangers of these games, "they're devil worshippers!" Luckily, my mom intervened, and I suddenly wanted to find out more about D&D!  Growing up in Southern California, there was a time when it was impossible to turn on the TV and not hear about the McMartin Preschool trial.  Again, with the "recovered memory" crap. Innocent lives were destroyed because of "recovered memory."

The book wraps up with an essay about the end of the 80s, the comedic movie THE BURBS (a personal favorite), that mocks the medias version of Satanism, and it does it so well.  I've thoroughly enjoyed this collection of essays, and I've purposefully left out a synopsis of each essay, as I truly feel this book needs to be devoured whole, and not just as sound bites of each one.  It was education about a part of my life that, while I remember bits and pieces of it, I was too young to fully understand it when it was going on.  The authors did an excellent job of researching this volatile time in our recent past, and the editors found a delicious trove of images to go with the essays. I do have one very tiny qualm with Alison Lang's "What About These 10,000 Souls Buster?" I feel like it deserves clarification; Michael Aquino's Temple of Set was not an "offshoot sect from the Church of Satan," Aquino left the CoS after a disagreement with the CoS's founder, Anton LaVey, as Aquino stated in his own book: THE CHURCH OF SATAN. 

While not a horror novel, the book does an excellent job of dissecting the horror genre during this time period, and gives us a new list of movies to find.  So overall, I'll rate this 5/5, as I know I'll be going back to this for the bibliographies included, just to further educate myself. 

Nikki VonFrankenstitch 

SATANIC PANIC is now available in paperback and hardcover (limited edition) via FAB Press