Join 3,495 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


7. Look For "The Signs"
November 16, 2010 10:54 AM   Subscribe

A rare video excerpt from 1994's Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults

Included among the FBI's list of resources on "Beheadings & Ritual Murders"
posted by hermitosis (200 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand why someone would summon the power of Satan just to turn his grandmother into a shirt.
posted by theodolite at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love the trailing, context-free "a penis is placed inside the mouth of the deceased person." It's like he got all this information from the first ten minutes of a late-night Skinemax movie and turned it off right before it got to the good part.
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why didn't he simulate the penis in the models mouth?
posted by brando_calrissian at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


...to be fair, it IS hard to keep them straight. I can't tell you how embarrassing it is to show up wearing the wrong goat leggings to the sacrifice.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:00 AM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's at the FBI library. That doesn't mean that it was composed by the FBI or endorsed by the FBI any more than a book at the Library of Congress is endorsed (connected to or ever read) by Congress. Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible is on that list.

What this video is part of the early 90s Satanic Panic quick buck off of sensationalism genre of books and videos. The FBI in a detailed report in the early 90s effectively debunked Satanic crime as being responsible for anything more than an occasional crazy outburst.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


He will stagger and babble when questioned. He will not respect your badge.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:03 AM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


FYI - "St. Joseph" refers to Clifford St. Joseph
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I think of the heyday of the Satanic Panic, I always think of the late 80's rather than the early 90's, but now that I see this, I'm reminded of the teacher at my high school who confiscated one of my friends' D&D books because they were 'satanic.' When we asked for the books back, the administration refused to return them, citing as evidence Bob Larson's cynically manipulative book "Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth." This was in Vallejo, CA in 1993.

And as much as that was a hassle, none of us went to jail for fabricated child abuse. None of us had our right to practice a non-Christian religion infringed. We just got harassed.

It's just so weird to look back on this and realize that people took it seriously ... that the instinctive reaction of a significant number of people was not, "Massive satanic conspiracies? You're utterly full of shit." Which, even when I was 15 or 16, was so immediately my reaction. But people took this seriously enough to send people to jail over it. Jail! Jesus.
posted by Myca at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


Now I'm tempted to get this through interlibrary loan, just to see if any of my wee occult-themed pranks made it into the material. I know one of them brought in the suits, photos were taken, and some people reasonably close to the incident were questioned. Hrm.
posted by adipocere at 11:08 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The leg reveal is bizarrely erotic, a slow undressing.
posted by Nelson at 11:08 AM on November 16, 2010


I don't understand why someone would summon the power of Satan just to turn his grandmother into a shirt.

The power of satin would have been much more appropriate!
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:09 AM on November 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


He did a good job of circling around and around that pentagram on the model's stomach while I sat here saying "Don't touch! Don't touch!"
posted by orme at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the worldcat link, since it informs me that the closest place I can obtain this video is a nearby theological seminary.

?
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2010


Well, all the alleged backmasking of the 1970s certainly had the witch hunters all fired up. I know that in 5th grade all the rumors about Kiss, Nazareth, and Styx being devil worshippers (and of course that only added to the mystique).
posted by crapmatic at 11:15 AM on November 16, 2010


Now I'm tempted to get this through interlibrary loan, just to see if any of my wee occult-themed pranks made it into the material. I know one of them brought in the suits, photos were taken, and some people reasonably close to the incident were questioned. Hrm.

Woah, I would love to hear this story!
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:18 AM on November 16, 2010


Wait, wait, wait...

Styx had mystique?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


...occult-themed pranks...

I was watching a documentary on Horror Houses. At some point they stated they got an actual warlock as a consultant. The scene ends with a giant tarp/tapestry painted with a big, red Star of David.
posted by griphus at 11:22 AM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


The power of satin would have been much more appropriate!

I remember a bike path I often took as a child had the graffito Satin Rules! painted on it. Even then, I thought that this showed a curious level of dedication to fashion.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:24 AM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


a giant tarp/tapestry painted with a big, red Star of David.
Mötley Jü fans, obviously.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2010 [31 favorites]


Forensic science ist krieg!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:33 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel that covering the model at all was a little silly. I mean, you can just zoom in on the part that you're talking about if - which they do - if you want to draw our attention somewhere. This isn't like projecting a transparency onto a screen, where you have to hide stuff you don't want people looking at.

On second thought, maybe the model was just cold.
posted by scrutiny at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2010


Satin is one of the most decadent fabrics.

One assumes your teacher would have been just horrified to learn that a goodly percentage of occult van imagery was modeled on the work of Boris Vallejo.
posted by Babblesort at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2010


She should have worn a swimsuit with a more serious design.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:39 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Satin is one of the most decadent fabrics.

Walking to school on the first day of my junior year of high school, I passed the soccer field to find that someone had spelled out SATIN in toilet paper across the entire field. Not sprinting home to get a camera is one of my biggest regrets in life. I think about it all the time.
posted by peep at 11:42 AM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Teaches officials what to look for and how to anticipate satanic activity."

Anticipate? It's not like Satan works in Microsoft Project.
posted by stormpooper at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


peep: "Walking to school on the first day of my junior year of high school, I passed the soccer field to find that someone had spelled out SATIN in toilet paper across the entire field."

Some ne'er-do-wells carried out a spray-paint attack on our high school once. Chief among the graffiti was an exhortation to SMOKE A DOBIE.
posted by jquinby at 11:46 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the satanic panic did for me is make me highly suspicious of similar scare tactics now. If there's a guy with ominous music behind him telling me about how I should look out, because X is out there and it will ruin the world, I'm highly inclined to reject it out of hand. Examples: anchor babies, child pornographers, illegal immigrants, terrorists.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ah, had he looked a little deeper and asked a few more questions he would have discovered that the victim was also teabagged.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:53 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I too loved Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks in the remake of Dragnet.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


and here's the background music for this thread. brian jonestown massacre, golden frost.
posted by msconduct at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2010


anchor babies, child pornographers, illegal immigrants, terrorists

You've actually only described one group of people there. It is illegal immigrants who are having the anchor babies, supporting them with child pornography, and then sending them to the US to be terrorists.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


In the days of my mis-spent youth that were the late '80s, there was quite the Satanic panic that briefly gripped my rural high-school, as rumors of giant burning crosses in the fields spread around the campus.

My friends and I were fascinated by this, even going so far as try to track down those responsible (Friday October 13th with a full moon? Seemed like the perfect time!).

We looked all over the area where the sighting had taken place but couldn't find any signs of Satanists. We did, however, find the remnants of an old shed that had been torn down for firewood at a big field party.

A field party that one of my friends had actually thrown. It all came back to him when he realized that "Yeah, you know, when we threw those beams on the bonfire it probably did look a bit like a big burning cross for a few minutes, when seen from the right angle..."

So it turned out that we were the satanists all along, apparently. Once I figured that out, I realized that most of the other stories from other small towns were probably just a much bullshit as ours.

It probably speaks either really well or really poorly for my community, that the possibility of burning crosses weren't seen to be an act of racism but some weird cult thing instead.
posted by quin at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2010 [23 favorites]


The Satanic ritual abuse panic also gave us what was, at the time, a new cultural low point: Geraldo Rivera's Devil Worship special, featuring Charlie Manson. The segment wherein Jerry interviews a woman who is pretty clearly schizophrenic, and who claims to have bred babies for ritual sacrifice, in particularly hideous.
posted by steambadger at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Satanist. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

I'm thinking of one good friend right now. I won't describe what she went through. Suffice it to say the SOB that abused her like that when she was growing up was satanic as hades whether or not we wanna assume he was the "real deal".
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The power of satin would have been much more appropriate!

I love you.
posted by slogger at 12:12 PM on November 16, 2010


Nobody denies that there are individuals who identify as satanists who commit atrocities. But the satanic panic of the 80s was based in faulty evidence gathering, including some especially discredited techniques for recovering lost memories and extracting stories from children that were likely to produce fiction, rather than fact. Additionally, the overarching theory was that there was an organized international ring of satanists who were behind all this, and that the ritual abuse was coupled with ritual murders, which all took a very prescribed form.

No evidence of this has ever been produced. But it helped forward a number of agendas, and, unfortunately, put actual sexual abuse lower on the totem pole that this fictional sort, especially in cases that weren't inspiring such a profound panic, such as incest -- which is common, and documented, and overlooked thanks to law enforcement officials spending wads of cash on self-declared Satanic abuse experts. Additionally, because the evidence-gathering was bad, innocent people, such as the McMartins, were prosecuted and had their lives ruined.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:13 PM on November 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


Mötley Jü fans, obviously.

I love you too.
posted by slogger at 12:14 PM on November 16, 2010


There are horrible people who style themselves as Christian and other supposedly "good" groups, too. People label themselves all sorts of things. Heck, the Mariners even call themselves a professional baseball team despite not much recent evidence that they are one.
posted by maxwelton at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Man, Tim and Eric just keep getting weirder.
posted by klangklangston at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


That shirt he was wearing was a Satanic crime.

I wonder what the stats are; i.e. how many actual "satanic" crimes have been logged, if any.
posted by shnarg at 12:20 PM on November 16, 2010


There was definitely some overlap between the late 80s Satan scare and the early 90s Satan scare. Almost all of it was in the form of televangelists getting gigs talking to A Current Affair about backwards masking and such, but the police? I guess I always expected them to be a little more skeptical of concluding that an upside-down pentagram carved onto a person's body meant a Satanic cult was at work. Then again, police visiting my high school also used to contend that LSD was addictive and would make you think you were Liberace and attempt to play an invisible piano while jumping naked off a six-story-building. So I guess there's plenty of potential for error there.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody denies that there are individuals who identify as satanists who commit atrocities.

I deny it. I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes. I could certainly be wrong, but I've never seen a cite for a real satanic crime (though presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it).
posted by fatbird at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2010


Whilst the model did have some minor signs that might have indicated satanic abuse she failed to show the most telling ones: suddenly sitting up and screaming and complete head rotation.
posted by rongorongo at 12:29 PM on November 16, 2010


presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it

I was not excluding those people. So there are cases like that of Jason Massey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2010


I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes.

Yeah, I think this comes from the fact that in most cases where a "Satanist" was involved, their church affiliation wasn't the motivation for the actual crime itself. A satanist who murders someone doesn't necessarily make the crime a satanic murder or whatever.
posted by quin at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Additionally, because the evidence-gathering was bad, innocent people, such as the McMartins, were prosecuted and had their lives ruined.

See link above re: Clifford St. Joseph, the "satanist" repeatedly refered to in this video and convicted based on an afidavit of his former cell-mate who was given the opportunity to review St. Joseph's legal files prior to making his statements in exchange for early release from a fraud conviction and his ex-boyfriend in prison for another bizarre murder and also looking for leniency.

Then again, police visiting my high school also used to contend that LSD was addictive and would make you think you were Liberace and attempt to play an invisible piano while jumping naked off a six-story-building.

What? You must not have been getting the stuff we had in college, man, but what do I know, I'm just an orange*.

*Please don't squeeze me.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:38 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Being involved in the local Black Metal scene, I know many self-proclaimed Satanists.

They're about as evil as a kitten.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Er ...
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


This tangentially reminds me of a recent excellent post on Slactivist about O'Donnell's claims to have "dabbled in witchcraft".

Unfortunately, police departments are not immune to the lure of conspiracy theories, which is ultimately what this whole "satanic scare" boils down to.
posted by muddgirl at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're about as evil as a kitten.

Deceptively attractive killing machines that like to torture their prey before devouring just enough of it to be insulting?

Also, violently aggressive against toes peeking out from the covers at the end of the bed?

Because that's pretty damn evil.
posted by quin at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


The model's attire made the whole thing very black and white for me. I used to have the bedsheets that went with her bikini. Mamm... er, memories.
posted by dbiedny at 12:47 PM on November 16, 2010


"I deny it. I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes. I could certainly be wrong, but I've never seen a cite for a real satanic crime (though presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it)."

See: Richard Ramirez.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This video dates from the time of the Robin Hood Hills murders and the subsequent conviction of the West Memphis 3, who are still in jail.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:58 PM on November 16, 2010


I deny it. I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes. I could certainly be wrong, but I've never seen a cite for a real satanic crime (though presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it).
Well, that's the trick. "Satanic Ritual Abuse" wasn't about people who claim to be Satanists ritually abusing kids. It was about people abusing kids with Satanic Rituals.
posted by verb at 1:01 PM on November 16, 2010


They're about as evil as a kitten.

Clearly you have never attempted to rub a kitten's stomach while it was doing that laying-on-the-back-come-hither thing only to immediately decide your hand was either its arch-nemesis, food, a mate, or all three simultaneously.

Kittens are true metal. \m/
posted by griphus at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I had a very close friend who unfortunately fell for some charlatan claiming he could recover "repressed childhood memories" under hypnosis. During the session, he told my friend that his parents were Satanists, and so were their friends, and they used to have rituals where my friend was repeatedly gang raped. This of course tore him apart, and it took him many, many years to come to realize he'd been had, and to repair the damage done to his family. So while I don't doubt there are Satanists, as I've met a few myself, I always shift a little in my seat whenever SATANIC CULTISTS are about. People making this claim are usually trying to sell you something, one way or the other.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Satanist. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

Heh.. it's almost like you actively pursue patronizing responses.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Being involved in the local Black Metal scene, I know many self-proclaimed Satanists.

They're about as evil as a kitten.


Likewise, I know many self-proclaimed Christians who are about as miraculous as a wet dishrag.

Not the sort which mysteriously transmutes into a wine-soaked dishrag, mind you, but the normal kind.
posted by vorfeed at 1:18 PM on November 16, 2010


I deny it.

No, it happens. People kill for all sorts of reasons of varying sanity. This does not prove that Satanism leads to murder, of course.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:20 PM on November 16, 2010


Pfft. How are you going to hunt witches without The Hammer of Witches or the assistance of The Witchfinder General? Amateurs.
posted by electroboy at 1:22 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The evidence gets worse and worse. The Italian legal system is notorious for claiming "ritual murder" based on nonexistent "signs".
posted by muddgirl at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2010



Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Satanist. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

Heh.. it's almost like you actively pursue patronizing responses.


Look, I don't care if it's idiots playing at ritual or what, I don't see where it hurts for law enforcement to know in what forms games are being "played." When I see the human wreckage that severe abuse wreaks on people I personally know, I am all for anything that will lock up those evil people for as long as justice will possibly allow.

Rituals were done to all three of these individuals I knew-one friend lives and did live in Florida and I met the other two up here-they were both from different regions of the country. None of the abuse was local. The stories they could tell were....similar. I will leave it at that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:24 PM on November 16, 2010


Clearly you have never attempted to rub a kitten's stomach while it was doing that laying-on-the-back-come-hither thing only to immediately decide your hand was either its arch-nemesis, food, a mate, or all three simultaneously.

The power of Quad Mitten Defense compels you!
posted by Shepherd at 1:25 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note -I know pagans and witches and the ones I have run across are as harmless as fleas. I am not talking about those sorts of folk. I am not accusing them of anything.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010


And we wonder why the Tea Party?

Here's an answer: because Americans are so lazy and gullible that we just pick a Chick tract out of a hat and run with that as the scare de jour. You think satin is terrifying? Wait until you experience the horror of muslin!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010 [26 favorites]


Being involved in the local Black Metal scene, I know many self-proclaimed Satanists.

Your neighborhood's not in Norway, I take it.
posted by scalefree at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back in the 1980s there was a lot of "Satanist" and devil-worshipping scares as well, in the not-so-little town of Darien, CT. Some friends and I had requested space at the local library to hold our D&D games once a week. That was sufficient to spark off a controversy, with an eventual town meeting called explicitly to address whether this was to be permitted or not.

At the meeting, a woman in the audience stood up, brandishing a 1st edition Players Handbook (the one with the adventurers looting a temple and prying out the gems from the eyes of large demonic statue.) "Look," she cried, "Devils! They're going to worship devils!"

Fortunately, at that point, one of the people running the meeting also had a copy. He took out the book, put on his reading glasses, then described the scene for the audience, pointing out that rather than worshiping said demon, the players had obviously just slain the demon-worshipers, and were in the process of desecrating the temple.

Ultimately, we got our space.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Yeah, see The Monster of Florence. I recall hearing an interview with the author who said he was detained by the police several times while researching the book, because they claimed he knew too much and had to be involved. His take was that they hadn't really bothered to investigate thoroughly and knew shockingly little about the crimes.
posted by electroboy at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2010


What? You must not have been getting the stuff we had in college, man, but what do I know, I'm just an orange*.

*Please don't squeeze me.


I love you.
posted by scratch at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2010


Here's an answer: because Americans are so lazy and gullible that we just pick a Chick tract out of a hat and run with that as the scare de jour. You think satin is terrifying? Wait until you experience the horror of muslin!

Don't even joke about the muslin hordes swarming our gates AS WE SPEAK.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rituals were done to all three of these individuals I knew-one friend lives and did live in Florida and I met the other two up here-they were both from different regions of the country. None of the abuse was local. The stories they could tell were....similar. I will leave it at that.

You are aware of the "repressed memory therapy" movement, right? It's entirely possible that all three of your friends were abused... by people who convinced them they were the victims of rituals which never happened.
posted by vorfeed at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Satanist. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

Oh, please. Replace "Satanist" with "Christian" and you've described about half the kids I knew in church growing up.

Look, you may not want to personally acknowledge that these things happen, but I assure you that they do, and it's not just limited to a single Christian denomination. The crimes ranged from everything from "ritualistic abuse" to incest and sex crimes to plain old ass-whippings with actual belts. This included the creepy old Sunday school teacher who was a homicide detective at a major police department who loved to tell gory, scary stories to make the young girls in his class cry so he could "comfort them" so he could put his hands places they shouldn't go while the rest of us watched, petrified.

Abuse is abuse is abuse. Clothing mental illness and abuse in religious vestments only obscures and hinders justice and clear communication on the issue, whether it's a mainstream religion or something fringe.

This is exactly the sort of irrational thinking that allows witch hunts to start. You're being disingenuous and naive if you think these awful things are strictly the domain of Satanists, or that self-styled Satanists are any more dangerous than any other criminal.
posted by loquacious at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


The stories they could tell were....similar. I will leave it at that.

St. Alia - did you read the link to Slacktivist I posted? It is written by an evangelical pastor who posted several reasons why your friends can tell similar stories - they are quite likely influenced by a particularly pernicious scam that infected the church when I was a child. At the center of this scam is a fellow by the name of Mike Warnke, and you can read some very thorough exposes (written by evangelical Christians) Cornerstone Magazine.

I'm not saying that your friends are lying - I don't know them or their situation. But if a friend comes to me and says, "My friend works in the Pentagon and he knows for a fact that George W. Bush orchestrated 9/11", I would approach those claims with the same skepticism. Both of them are conspiracy theories, and while they may be true or be based on a seed of truth, it would require extraordinary evidence.
posted by muddgirl at 1:32 PM on November 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Do you have any idea how difficult it is to carve a half-dollar size circle into human skin? They always come out elliptical or otherwise screwed up, and believe me, you don't summon the Dark Lord with that kind of sloppiness. Not to mention the cross cuts on the pentacle. How many times, do I have to tell the initiates...pentacle first, then the circle! The cross cuts are very hard to get right if the circle has already separated the epidermis.

Actually, it's just a lot easier - not to mention profitable - to do the Dark Lord's work by starting an evangelical mega-church.
posted by Xoebe at 1:32 PM on November 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


The stories they could tell were....similar. I will leave it at that.

well, that's likely to happen, as its a pretty well established trope. People tend to act in ways they think are expected of them. It's certainly no evidence of a conspiracy, any more than the fact that mad people used to think they were Napoleon is evidence of a conspiracy of Corsicans.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The stories they could tell were....similar. I will leave it at that.

And the stories told by alien abductees are all...similar as well. If you accept one set on that basis, you'll have to accept the other as well.
posted by scalefree at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, UFO encounters is probably a much closer analog.

On preview... yeah.
posted by muddgirl at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2010


Me? I totally worship satin. It's the candy and dark chocolate of the fabric world.
posted by loquacious at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


dances_with_sneetches: "It's at the FBI library. That doesn't mean that it was composed by the FBI or endorsed by the FBI any more than a book at the Library of Congress is endorsed (connected to or ever read) by Congress. Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible is on that list.

What this video is part of the early 90s Satanic Panic quick buck off of sensationalism genre of books and videos. The FBI in a detailed report in the early 90s effectively debunked Satanic crime as being responsible for anything more than an occasional crazy outburst.
"

How DARE you defame our dark lord like that. A pox on your house... One minute, lemme scrounge up my pentagram...
posted by symbioid at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2010


Analog was a science fiction magazine.

Alien abductions are real. I'm carrying an alien anchor baby as we speak.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, put it down, Astro Zombie! Just not on the satin.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a great Radiolab episode on a woman who went for marital counseling and whose entire family was sucked into 'repressed memories' of abuse.

She finally came to her senses, but by then had signed away her parental rights (her husband took the kids, since she might ritually abuse them), most of her money, and she had ostracized her entire support system by accusing them all of abuse.

The actual evil cult, it turned out, were the counselors planting all these ideas (as vorfeed says above) for plain old money and control over others. There never were any Satanic groups or conspiracy.
posted by benzenedream at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2010


Who else had rumors going around in junior high about windowless white vans full of Satanists kidnapping people for "ritual sacrifices"? This would have been the late 80s.

Even in 2009, when my mother told a coworker that I'd joined the Masons, he came back with "You know they're all devil worshipers, don't you?" From what I gather, her response to that blistered some of the paint on the walls and boiled down to calling him an idiot.
posted by mrbill at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2010


The evidence gets worse and worse. The Italian legal system is notorious for claiming "ritual murder" based on nonexistent "signs".

Well, if you say so, but the Guardian isn't some gutter tabloid. And since I'm no expert on the case, I could be wrong about that one. But klang's already provided the definitive case, the Night Stalker. I'm not arguing that there's a secret cabal or anything like that, but merely that the Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Satanic Imagery has some overlap. It's not a crazy argument, and it's not related to the wacko Satanic panic stuff (other than how the panic itself could serve as a disturbed person's source for "Satanism.")
posted by Bookhouse at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2010


I think you are misinterpreting me a bit. I think people who are looking for an excuse to be evil probably picked up that Warnke stuff, etc and used it as a manual. (Yep, I am quite familiar with all that-I heard him personally and I also saw all the research when it came out of him being a total fake.)

At least two of my friends were literally abused. One was abused by neighbors, one by her parents (I know her the best and these are not 'recovered memories") The third one is either the best liar I have ever met (possible) or what happened to her as a child was totally despicable. Supposedly there is still child porn out there with her in it.

But all three did describe their abuse as ritual, so in at least two out of three of the cases someone picked up a book and decided to play out what they read. IN the third one it's either the fullblown "satanic" thing, or again, she's the best liar I ever met.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2010


Elizabeth Loftus is the authority on false memories, and was an expert witness in some of the Satanic abuse cases.
posted by electroboy at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2010


I deny it. I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes.

I assume that's because the FBI distinguishes between satanically-motivated or ritualistic crimes and crimes motivated by mental illness.
posted by lodurr at 1:55 PM on November 16, 2010


but the Guardian isn't some gutter tabloid

Actually, it's an AP article. Not exactly fact-checked or anything. Seriously, I ran into this when I was interested in the Amanda Knox case. Everything is a sign of "ritualistic murder" in an Italian court.

But klang's already provided the definitive case, the Night Stalker.

I'm thoroughly unconvinced by the Night Stalker, as well. From what I can tell, the "evidence" that he was motivated by Satan is that (a) he liked pentacles, (b) he shouted "Hail Satan", and (c) he listened to heavy metal.

From my experiences as a high school loser, I suspect that (c) is a sufficient cause of (a) and (b). No actual Satan-worship required.
posted by muddgirl at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course the AP is fact-checked. What I meant is that it's not realy investigative journalism - it's a report of what happened in court, not a critical examination of the articles or evidence.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on November 16, 2010


Sorry for the multiple posts, but here's a better article about the alleged "Satanic ritual" aspect of the Knox case - not widely-reported in the US, because I think to Americans it appears ridiculous.
posted by muddgirl at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2010


I'm not arguing that there's a secret cabal or anything like that, but merely that the Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Satanic Imagery has some overlap. It's not a crazy argument, and it's not related to the wacko Satanic panic stuff (other than how the panic itself could serve as a disturbed person's source for "Satanism.")

Yes, but the point is that the Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Christian Imagery also has some overlap, as does the well-known Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Zodiac Imagery and the slightly less-famous Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Romantic Imagery. You can go "but Satanists do kill people" all day long if you want to, but the obvious reply will remain "well, yes, people do kill people".
posted by vorfeed at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Look, I don't care if it's idiots playing at ritual or what, I don't see where it hurts for law enforcement to know in what forms games are being "played."

I'm unclear on how something like the video at hand helps them understand anything useful. In fact, it's distinctly dangerous inasmuch as it presents ridiculous misinformation. As has been well-established, this kind of bullshit has put a bunch of people in jail and done more or less irreparable harm to lots of people by recovering false memories of "abuse."

I understand that there are psychopaths who style themselves as satanists as a rationalization for their abuse. But if it weren't satanism it would be juvenile de sade-ism or 'will to power' or just pure clinical sadism.

The people this shit targeted don't exist. There were always orders of magnitude more lives being destroyed by satanic panic than there were by people passing themselves off as satanists.
posted by lodurr at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


International Brotherhood of P.A.G.A.N. Manifesto: We believe that bad sex and good drugs are the cornerstones of a great democracy.
posted by Sprocket at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (written in 1841):
A singular instance of the epidemic fear of witchcraft occurred at Lille, in 1639. A pious but not very sane lady, named Antoinette Bourignon, founded a school, or hospice, in that city. One day, on entering the schoolroom, she imagined that she saw a great number of little black angels flying about the heads of the children. In great alarm she told her pupils of what she had seen, warning them to beware of the devil whose imps were hovering about them. The foolish woman continued daily to repeat the same story, and Satan and his power became the only subject of conversation, not only between the girls themselves, but between them and their instructors. One of them at this time ran away from the school. On being brought back and interrogated, she said she had not run away, but had been carried away by the devil; she was a witch, and had been one since the age of seven. Some other little girls in the school went into fits at this announcement, and, on their recovery, confessed that they also were witches. At last the whole of them, to the number of fifty, worked upon each other’s imaginations to such a degree that they also confessed that they were witches—that they attended the Domdaniel, or meeting of the fiends—that they could ride through the air on broom-sticks, feast on infants’ flesh, or creep through a key-hole.
posted by benzenedream at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, but the point is that the Venn Diagram of People Who Kill People and People Who Play With Christian Imagery also has some overlap,

That wasn't the point I was responding to at all. The argument I was responding to was that it never happens. We are, I think, making the exact same point.

I'm thoroughly unconvinced by the Night Stalker, as well. From what I can tell, the "evidence" that he was motivated by Satan is that (a) he liked pentacles, (b) he shouted "Hail Satan", and (c) he listened to heavy metal.

Then I take it you haven't read The Night Stalker by Philip Carlo? It's the definitive book on the case, supported by hundreds of hours of interviews with Ramirez, and in it Ramirez is portrayed as someone who absolutely believed he was an agent of Satan. (It also illustrates many, many reasons why his mental illnesses predate any playing around with Satanism, but again that doesn't have anything to do with what I'm arguing).
posted by Bookhouse at 2:12 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


That wasn't the point I was responding to at all. The argument I was responding to was that it never happens. We are, I think, making the exact same point.

The point you were responding to is this: "I deny it. I've heard multiple times that the FBI won't confirm any actual instances of satanically motivated or ritualistic crimes. I could certainly be wrong, but I've never seen a cite for a real satanic crime (though presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it)." [emphasis mine]

The fact that there are "many, many reasons why his mental illnesses predate any playing around with Satanism" does indeed have to do with what you're arguing, because the person you're arguing with already said that crazy folks don't count. I agree that a sane Satanic killer is certainly possible, but you haven't provided any evidence that there is one.
posted by vorfeed at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2010


I haven't read Night Stalker, which I believe was written well after he was charged and incarcerated? Skimming through the book, I am still quite skeptical - for example, Carlo's portrayal of LaVey's so-called "Church of Satan" seems very inaccurate to me.

There seems to be a lot of references in a narrative form to Ramirez believing in Satan, but then when we get to the actual transcripts of conversations, it becomes much more muddied. He talks about the "evil inherent in human nature". He says, "there is a part of me that believes he really does exist." It's possible that the decade in prison altered his beliefs, or that he's been receiving continuing psychiatric help, but this doesn't to me sound like the beliefs of someone who was murdering people as part of a Satanic ritual, which is what we're talking about here.
posted by muddgirl at 2:37 PM on November 16, 2010


Pfft. How are you going to hunt witches without The Hammer of Witches

DER HEXENHAMMER! No Cthulhu Mythos points or Sanity loss, but +3 to Occult skill!
posted by JHarris at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


[emphasis mine]

Um ... yeah. You're totally right. I glossed over that parenthetical. I've been arguing past you guys.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:40 PM on November 16, 2010


I was curious about the 'St Joseph's' case mentioned in the video. Google turns this up:

http://www.injusticebusters.com/04/StJoseph_Clifford.shtml

Mentally ill man with history of violence blames his former lover and court convicts him in a combined murder/sodomy case. No other witnesses, no physical evidence, and lots of accusations of sodomy.

I have seen the devil and he is us.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:44 PM on November 16, 2010


Note -I know pagans and witches and the ones I have run across are as harmless as fleas. I am not talking about those sorts of folk. I am not accusing them of anything.
I think the difficulty that most people have -- when dealing with Satanic Ritual Abuse panic -- is the disagreement about where attention is being focused. You are not accusing "harmless pagans" of abusing kids, but the emphasis on Satanic Ritual Abuse "research" in the 80s and 90s was very explicitly to study their beliefs and rituals -- and sometimes to invent fantastical versions of them -- and treat them as proof of criminal behavior.

Numerically speaking, I have personally known several charismatic/fundamentalist pastors and church leaders who were serial sexual abusers and pedophiles. Imagine how you would grind your teeth in frustration and anger if a decade of police attention, a decade of media buzz, a decade of therapist appearances on Oprah, had been spent talking about charismatic theology and the act of communion as if they were implicit evidence of pedophilia.

"Knowing what kind of christian/satanic/clown stuff those people are involved in" wouldn't have helped my friends. Their families paying attention to the signs of sexual abuse would have.
posted by verb at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, isn't that special.
posted by punkfloyd at 2:57 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I heard the Satanic panic stuff over and over again in the 80s. Went to a Christian private school in which I actually heard someone whisper in hushed tones about that noted idolater Carl Sagan. In which the whole high-school class was brought into a room once and shown a videotape that claimed with portentous music and stern voice that Star Wars was inspired directly by Wicca, which itself was nothing less than demon worship. Most of those people have not changed their opinions one bit.

Everything is Terrible has clips from many Satanic panic videos. They're hilarious, when you don't have fearful school instructors telling you how perilously real they all are.
posted by JHarris at 3:04 PM on November 16, 2010


"(though presumably this excludes crazy people claiming Satan told them to do it)." [emphasis mine] "

That's a bit "No true Scotsman ever murdered!" It's as empty as saying that no one has ever killed in the name of God, except crazy people claiming God told them to do it.

"I'm thoroughly unconvinced by the Night Stalker, as well. From what I can tell, the "evidence" that he was motivated by Satan is that (a) he liked pentacles, (b) he shouted "Hail Satan", and (c) he listened to heavy metal."

Well, and the several victims he carved pentagrams into. And the victim he made swear to Satan and say that she loved Satan.

I mean, this is kinda obviously something that you don't know anything about, yet are taking a hard line in defending, which is kinda weird.
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on November 16, 2010


I heard the Satanic panic stuff over and over again in the 80s.

Yeah, it was all over the place, and even at the time, to me, was pretty risible. There was a persistent rumor that up in the Idaho panhandle, Satanists would dress up in robes and line up to block rural highways. Then, supposedly, some luckless late-night driver(s) would stop confusedly and the Satanists would SIEZE THEM AND THEY WERE NEVER SEEN AGAIN. Pretty good campfire bullshit.
posted by Skot at 3:12 PM on November 16, 2010


I mean, this is kinda obviously something that you don't know anything about, yet are taking a hard line in defending, which is kinda weird.

I don't mean to take a hard line on anything - I'm expressing skepticism because it's natural to be skeptical about alleged murderous Satanic rituals.

Maybe I'm just confused as to what, exactly, you're arguement is. That people who are mentally deranged are... mentally deranged? That human sacrifice as a form of Satan worship exists because violent sociopaths (or psychotics or what have you) people kill other people while invoking Satan?

I don't think we can separate the fact that Ramirez was mentally deranged from his invokations of Satan, which you seem to want to do. To me, it doesn't matter what Ramirez claims to be influenced by - whether it's Satan or God or the Easter Bunny. But you could try to make a case that it matters? Or you could just dismiss my questions and arguments.
posted by muddgirl at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2010


But all three did describe their abuse as ritual, so in at least two out of three of the cases someone picked up a book and decided to play out what they read. IN the third one it's either the fullblown "satanic" thing, or again, she's the best liar I ever met.

I notice a few things here, but maybe they're not tripping your own flags because you're calibrated differently. I think it can best be summed up as follows:

You belong to the demographic that is both the originator of the 'satanic ritual abuse' meme, the demographic that has most fervently purported the idea of these satanic circles, and the demographic that has a large portion of their worldview tied into the concept that there are literal groups of people who worship the dark lord and perpetrate hideous crimes in order to gain favor from hell and corrupt the Earth.

Now, the rest of the country has, for the most part, come to realize that this is a heap of crap with absolutely no evidence to support it, and there hasn't really EVER been evidence of this existing outside of the vibrant imaginations of some moralizing fearmongers. A few may know a person who was terribly damaged by this boogeyman hunt, with a large portion of the damage being centered around the fact that they raised accusations and believed in this false narrative. However, you somehow know THREE separate victims of this ritual abuse, all three of which are convinced, along with yourself, that it is real?

Now, personally, if something like that stuck out so drastically, I'd start to re-appraise what sources I took as 'credible'.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


Note that when I brought this up, I wasn't addressing klanklangston, I was addressing Bookworm who, it seemed to me, wanted to conflate Ramirez with the current Satanic Panic happening in Italy.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on November 16, 2010


Your neighborhood's not in Norway, I take it.

No, no, it's not.

Norway has some great metal, but some purely batshit insane folk. Seattle is a bit more benign than that...
posted by spinifex23 at 3:25 PM on November 16, 2010


bookhouse, I mean.

So it's possible, klangklangston, that we're talking across each other. I fully accept that Ramirez might have been all "Yay Satan!!!" I just don't see what it has to do with allegations of actual cult Satanic rituals, or even individual Satanic rituals.
posted by muddgirl at 3:26 PM on November 16, 2010


Read Mean Justice Edward Humes investigation of a murder in Bakersfield, CA and The Ritual Abuse cases brought by the DA's office there.

The Kern county DA's office headed by ED Jagels brought the first cases dealing with claims of Satanic Ritual abuse. Of 26 convictions 25 were reversed.
posted by pianomover at 3:26 PM on November 16, 2010


muddgirl, can i ask what you would consider "actual" Satanic rituals?
posted by Bookhouse at 3:28 PM on November 16, 2010


That's a bit "No true Scotsman ever murdered!" It's as empty as saying that no one has ever killed in the name of God, except crazy people claiming God told them to do it.

Except that it's damned easy to come up with examples of people who were not obviously mentally ill, yet killed in the name of God. Cromwell comes immediately to mind.
posted by vorfeed at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2010


I don't think we can separate the fact that Ramirez was mentally deranged from his invokations of Satan, which you seem to want to do. To me, it doesn't matter what Ramirez claims to be influenced by - whether it's Satan or God or the Easter Bunny.
To be clear, this is also why I think it would be dangerous to train police officers in Catholic dogma and ritual "to protect kids from pedophilia." Even though there is actual evidence that the current pope actively conspired to hide evidence of ritual sexual abuse to protect members of his religious order, I do not believe that equating Catholicism with sexual abuse, or studying the elements of Catholicism is particularly helpful in preventing future abuse.

I have a friend-of-a-friend who says that her daughter was abused by satanists. As best as I can tell, this meant that she was sexually abused by a babysitter and possibly taken from the family house on several occasions. There are dark mutterings about there being "rituals", but there were never charges pressed, never accusations made, never... well... anything. Another family friend of mine insists that SRA was real but repeatedly conflates Satanism and Hinduism, and explains it away with "Hinduism is inspired by Satan."

I don't think that it's particularly callous to say that I believe sexual abuse occurred, that it was wrong, and that it should be punished -- but that I will need a whole hell of a lot more evidence than a stack of Mike Warnke tapes and someone saying "I know someone who base abused and they remember it being ritualistic" before reopening the books on one of the biggest disproven panics of the past couple of decades.

It's the categorization, and connection of these disparate crimes to the hand-waved bogeyman of Satanism that I find most suspicious, not the idea that the crimes themselves occurred.
posted by verb at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


(fun fact: this entire conversation has been held while I'm wearing this t-shirt).
posted by Bookhouse at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


muddgirl, can i ask what you would consider "actual" Satanic rituals?

They are nearly as varied as Christian ones. Personally, I think the use of the term "Satanic ritual" is problematically linked to sex crimes and violent crimes in ways that "Christian ritual" isn't (this has probably been true since the middle ages, when witches were accused of black sabbaths and the like), such that it's use automatically puts me on edge.

Do I believe that the Church of Satan is actually a Satanic organization? No, of course not. They're a particular brand of Chaotic-Neutral-Humanism, similar in some ways to Objectivism. By definition, their rituals are not "Satanic". I stopped expecting the media to understand irony a long time ago.
posted by muddgirl at 3:46 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


can i ask what you would consider "actual" Satanic rituals?

I think that's the point--WTF is a Satanic ritual in the first place? Are there any? Does what was found at the crime scenes or reports correspond to any sort of established Satan rituals, or does it correspond more to what some metalhead dude thinks one might look like?
posted by Hoopo at 3:48 PM on November 16, 2010


or does it correspond more to what some metalhead dude thinks one might look like?

I think this is the major disconnect that I'm having with people in the thread. I'd argue that if someone says they're a Satanist, they are. Life's more fun that way.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:00 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


theodolite: "I don't understand why someone would summon the power of Satan just to turn his grandmother into a shirt"

I went to a satanic ritual and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt.
posted by Splunge at 4:01 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does what was found at the crime scenes or reports correspond to any sort of established Satan rituals, or does it correspond more to what some metalhead dude thinks one might look like?

I'm reminded of an old childhood bully of mine, who got arrested in her senior year for desecrating a grave. She and a couple other peckerwoods dug up the grave of some old woman who'd been dead eleven years and left the skull on top of the grave, because that's what you do when you're Satanic, apparently.

My first unease with Christianity came when I was little and noticed how much it was (according to my peers' parents) that everything, everything whatsoever aside from the little bower of the Baptist church, belonged to the devil.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:05 PM on November 16, 2010


I think this is the major disconnect that I'm having with people in the thread. I'd argue that if someone says they're a Satanist, they are. Life's more fun that way.

Well, maybe. But when it comes to crime enforcement, does it benefit anyone for the police to believe that there's a giant, semi-organized force of biblical-style evil out there to do combat with?

..because I think that's pretty harmful. Think West Memphis Three.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:08 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, I am in no way denying that Christian ministers (or as I would term it so called Christian ministers) have abused people. I have a dear friend who was molested by her Baptist pastor. (Yep, I am friends with a lot of formerly abused people, which I don't find to be weird as there are a LOT of abused people out there.) To the best of my knowledge, the pedophiles and abusers who hide out in places of trust (such as pastor, teacher, etc.) are not generally abusing in any kind of ritualistic way.

As to some people thinking that just because the great Satan freakout of the 80's has mostly turned out to be ridiculous, that my friends did not experience what they shared with me? No, I'm gonna believe the victim. I see the effects the abuse had on them mentally and emotionally. I see what triggers them. One -a devout Christian-could not go to church for years because crosses, etc were a trigger. The SOBs that abused her used Christian symbols in the ritualistic way she was abused. It took her years and years to get over this stuff. The other gal I know has similar weird triggers that have affected her daily life to quite a degree. Both are doing a lot better now but it's been a long road. I have lost touch with the third person over the years-she moved away-but she too was totally affected in her daily life.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:11 PM on November 16, 2010


Any description of ritual satanic abuse is based solely on imagination,
the murder tableau presented here uses some old masonic motifs.
checkerboard underwear, masonic aprons, Mormon lucifer's temple garments.
throat slitting disembowelment penalties for disclosing the temple secrets.
Twin columns Boaz and Joachim from solomons temple
draped body, temple veils .
Did they just use the props available down at the masonic hall including the colored lamp.?
posted by hortense at 4:12 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dude, that checkerboard bikini is a sign of Satanism FOR SURE.
posted by sonika at 4:22 PM on November 16, 2010


Just to be clear, I am in no way denying that Christian ministers (or as I would term it so called Christian ministers) have abused people. I have a dear friend who was molested by her Baptist pastor.
Agreed, Alia -- and I had to think hard before mentioning that angle because I don't want to turn the thread into some kind of "Oh yeah? BAPTIST RITUAL ABUSE!" derail. I'm less interested in throwing Christian abusers in peoples' faces than pointing out the dangers of starting with peoples' religious symbolism as the central focus of investigation and suspicion.
As to some people thinking that just because the great Satan freakout of the 80's has mostly turned out to be ridiculous, that my friends did not experience what they shared with me? No, I'm gonna believe the victim.
I believe they were abused, and I have no problem saying that. It's still going to take a hell of a lot more for me to re-open the books on "SRA" than your friends having Christian symbols as trauma triggers. I'm sorry if that is callous, I'm sorry if that is harsh, but you are conflating believing that a victim was victimized with believing an already-debunked wave of religious hysteria. You don't get to do that, no matter how traumatized your friend was.

I watched people I knew and respected get up in front of groups of other believers and announce that Satanists controlled local governments, state and federal governments, and the National Education Association. That Satanists sacrificed thousands of babies a year, and used their networks of power to escape detection. As it became clear that more and more "repressed memories" being trotted around were fabrications, I watched them announce that the psychiatric community was in on the Satanic coverup. As "spokes-satanists" like Mike Warnke were exposed as frauds, I watched them announce that, sure, there might have been some exaggerations, but the essence of his stories was true.
One -a devout Christian-could not go to church for years because crosses, etc were a trigger. The SOBs that abused her used Christian symbols in the ritualistic way she was abused.
That sounds like Christian Ritual Abuse.
posted by verb at 4:38 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on November 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gullible is as gullible does. No matter how wrong facts may show them to be—they're gonna believe the bullshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:43 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The program began talking directly to me, openly mocked me. It typed out, 'Preacher, you are a weakling and your God is a damn liar.'

Oh no, Reverend, that was just Usenet.

Then the device went haywire and started printing out what looked like gobbledygook...I later had an expert in dead languages examine the text. It turned out to be a stream of obscenities written in a 2,800-year-old Mesopotamian dialect!"

Yep. Definitely Usenet.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:44 PM on November 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


USB - Satan's Data Connection
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on November 16, 2010


St. Alia, I have no trouble accepting that your friends believe that they were abused by Satanists. The sincerity of their beliefs about that, however, is not directly connected to whether or not the people who were abusing your friends were people who actually did self-identify as Satanists.

People can be completely honest and just as completely mistaken. I am sorry for the people you know who experienced abuse as children; no matter what construction they put on those experiences, and my opinions about how accurate their memories of the contexts of their experiences might be, the bottom line is that there is real pain speaking there, and for that I have only sympathy (and empathy, sorry to say).
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on November 16, 2010


That sounds like Christian Ritual Abuse

Well, the concept of Satan IS a concept in Christianity, yes. Most of what I suppose most of us have heard about satanic ritual, from LaVey on down, is pretty much a mocking of Christianity, from what I understand.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:10 PM on November 16, 2010


My impression is that the Church of Satan, LaVey flavor, was actually created as a backlash against his perception of Christianity and people who were straitlaced and puritanical. He seems to have created the "church" from whole cloth very much in the way that Hubbard did with Scientology. Almost a joke. Or maybe, completely a joke.

The concept of the Satanic Church is to be yourself and have fun and fuck anyone who can't take a joke. It also derives a lot from Crowley (Love is the Law, Love Under Will) and his Thelemic church.

The descendants of this whole idea can be found in Erisian Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius. Also Chaos Magick.

It's all one big ball of fuck you to the system.

I don't believe that any of the above mentioned groups condone ritual sacrifice of children. Although they might have you think that they do.

Look up the concept of Operation Mindfuck. And have fun losing your mind. I did.
posted by Splunge at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I watched people I knew and respected get up in front of groups of other believers and announce that Satanists controlled local governments, state and federal governments, and the National Education Association. That Satanists sacrificed thousands of babies a year, and used their networks of power to escape detection. As it became clear that more and more "repressed memories" being trotted around were fabrications, I watched them announce that the psychiatric community was in on the Satanic coverup. As "spokes-satanists" like Mike Warnke were exposed as frauds, I watched them announce that, sure, there might have been some exaggerations, but the essence of his stories was true.
I forgot the second part of that: following those claims about the Satanist conspiracy, I discovered that the same Christians I respected had been working together to conceal the fact that a respected Christian leader from our house church had been sexually abusing children for several decades. That he had been using his position as a leader in a Christian organization to prey on inner city children. That he had been using his reputation and his position to keep himself above suspicion, and that they had known there was a serious problem, though not the full extent, for many years.

Even after he was sent to prison, they worked to keep the information about the nature of his crimes from spreading. But they were very, very serious about the dangers of Satanic Ritual Abuse.

I apologize if I am particularly jaded. And I apologize if you feel that my skepticism about the fantasy of widespread covens of Satanists (I guess that's like Synagogues of Christians?) and a "tidal wave" of ritualistic sexual abuse by those Satanists is insensitive. As others have said, I can believe that profoundly traumatic abuse occurred without believing in a disproven conspiracy theory.
posted by verb at 5:21 PM on November 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit

1985, hell. Evilspeak came out in 1981.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:23 PM on November 16, 2010


Well, the concept of Satan IS a concept in Christianity, yes. Most of what I suppose most of us have heard about satanic ritual, from LaVey on down, is pretty much a mocking of Christianity, from what I understand.

Isn't that what they say about the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons? When you say mocking, I say sect. (That last sentence is also part of my hypeman routine.)
posted by box at 5:28 PM on November 16, 2010


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit

Even worse, you can get a torrent with every evil spirit ever on Piratebay!
posted by ymgve at 5:30 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are perhaps a few hundred die-hard MeFi writers. One of them knows three Satanically-abused people. Extrapolate that to the population of the nation.

Why there must be damn near a million Satanically-abused citizens! Quick, panic!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2010


thsmchnekllsfascists: "Don't even joke about the muslin hordes swarming our gates AS WE SPEAK."

IT GOES ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP, MAN
posted by Rhaomi at 7:36 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


FFF, by strict definition, every single person ever abused by anyone is satanically abused. All we are talking about here, really, is the capacity for evil. Evil comes in many flavors.

Again-I am not saying my three friends were abused by an underground system of Satanists. (One of them did claim this, but you know, I wasn't there so whatever.) What I AM saying is that those friends of mine were abused, and the abuse took ritual form, and the form of ritual was (claimed) Satanic. Who knows where the abusers got the idea to mess around with their victims in such a way? I don't. Maybe they made it up as they went along, or said to themselves, What Would McVey Do, or maybe they truly believed they were serving a dark god of evil by torturing a child?

All I really know was that something happened to my friends, and it had a very negative and profound effect on their lives.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:03 PM on November 16, 2010


FFF, by strict definition, every single person ever abused by anyone is satanically abused. All we are talking about here, really, is the capacity for evil. Evil comes in many flavors.
I'm not trying to be nitpicky, and I'm not trying to deny that your friends were abused monstrously.

But by that 'strict definition', Christians are Satanists. If you want to use "Satanic" as a tautological reference to anything bad, pretending that it is the same word used by 'SRA' advocates or 'Satanists' is a lie, plain and simple.
posted by verb at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


What I AM saying is that those friends of mine were abused, and the abuse took ritual form, and the form of ritual was (claimed) Satanic.

Yes, but what we are saying is that it is very possible that your friends' memories of understandably traumatic incidents in their childhoods were shaped by a cultural narrative that caused them to put their experiences in a particular context.

I'll give you an uncontroversial example--I was talking about the famous "earwig" urban legend, and several people were convinced they had seen that dramatized on The Twilight Zone, with lots of corroborating details they remembered (including it being in black and white). In fact, the story was dramatized on Night Gallery, a program that was broadcast in color. Now, the host of both programs was Rod Serling, so the confusion is understandable, but people had very vivid confabulations about it being The Twilight Zone--to the point where one person refused to believe that multiple Internet and print sources were accurate, because he knew for a fact that he had seen it on The Twilight Zone.

It seems very possible to me that someone who was abused by someone who used crosses as tools of abuse would, later on in life, perceive that experience through a filter of the cultural narrative of "Satanic ritual abuse," whereas Occam's Razor would suggest that that someone who used a cross to abuse a child would be much more likely to be an abusive person who self-identified as Christian (because that's who has crosses around the house).

Nobody is suggesting that your friends are dishonest, or that they never experienced abuse. What is certainly possible is that their memories and narrative of their experience have been shaped by a particular cultural narrative--the same cultural narrative that is on display in this video.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:26 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


FFF, by strict definition, every single person ever abused by anyone is satanically abused.

Your 'strict definition' of 'satanic' to mean 'anything bad' is the opposite of the actual definition of strict. You can't say that your friends' trauma was both an incredibly specific form of meticulously planned abuse following a regulated series of tropes and activities, and then say that every abuse ever falls under that same category. This is one of those 'words have meanings' moments.

The entire point of this discussion is that the concept of SRA as a widespread, regularly occurring phenomena was total bunkum, on the moral panic level of 'rainbow parties' or something similarly ridiculous and non-existent. Devoting effort to identifying the 'methods' of a fake abuse is as nonsensical as pleading that parents be aware of their children buying different colored lipsticks, because it is evidence of debauched middle school orgies.

Not only is it a spectacular waste of effort due to the 'tilting at windmills' factor, it actually distracts from the issue of ACTUAL abuses, which are perpetrated not by 'evil forces' but by straight-up screwed-up human beings. The concept of organized forces out to do evil is a veil, removing people's responsibility for their own crimes against each other by placing the burden of guilt on some mythological agent out to sow discord amongst humanity.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:48 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, guys. This argument is getting kind of ugly. You might consider cooling it down.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:28 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like it if a special circle in hell was set aside for the assholes who propagated this ridiculous Satanic Panic rubbish.

I must've spent a few years of late childhood & early teenage years under a grey cloud of fear that this stuff actually existed, and that there were people out there who really did Satanic shit like ritual murders.

You know how you might see a scary movie or have a nightmare as a kid, but your parents would reassure you that it wasn't real, and the boogeyman doesn't actually exist? Well, this is the exact reverse. Adults, who were supposed to be responsible, were spreading this paranoid meme that had potential to scare the shit out of any kid.

This came back to me watching a doco on the history of metal recently. I was laughing at how utterly lame and Spinal Tap-ish bands like Black Sabbath were, when I remembered all that "common knowledge" about subliminal messages, backmasking, satan worship, or that time when there were cases against I think Ozzy & Black Sabbath because a couple of kids killed themselves.

I remembered being horrified when a friend got into AC/DC: "Doesn't he KNOW it stands for ANTI CHRIST DEVIL'S CHILD?!??" and then he played the song Hell's Bells and I was certain that he was on a path to doom, and I wanted away from him.

Somehow Motley Crue were associated with all of this. That bunch of prissy Valley Girl drag queens?!?? Seriously?!?? But yeah, that was the bullshit we kids were fed, and without enough critical ability to dispel the lies, it was really kinda frightening - because Satanists are EVIL!!! They will KILL YOU FOR NO REASON!!!! JUST LIKE THAT!!!!

What a load of fucking shit. Imagine warping a kid's mind like that, and pretending that it's all about "Oh, won't somebody think of the children!1!!1!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:35 PM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Satanist. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

I'm thinking of one good friend right now. I won't describe what she went through. Suffice it to say the SOB that abused her like that when she was growing up was satanic as hades whether or not we wanna assume he was the "real deal".
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:06 PM on November 16 [3 favorites +] [!]


Well I can say is:

Well, look, there are criminals out there that style themselves Men of God. I have several friends who were severely abused by these types.

I'm thinking of one good friend right now. I won't describe what she went through. Suffice it to say the SOB that abused her like that when she was growing up was satanic as hades whether or not we wanna assume he was the "real deal".

Although i always thought hades wasn't evil...more like the supervisor at a fucked up company.

posted by hal_c_on at 9:37 PM on November 16, 2010


by strict definition, every single person ever abused by anyone is satanically abused. All we are talking about here, really, is the capacity for evil. Evil comes in many flavors.

Whuh? Does it come in many flavors or does it all come from satan? I think most of us would argue that every single person ever abused is abused. You may conflated evil and satan, but to me Satan is something that people invented to blame evil on.

And that's at the heart of this argument. If your friends were abused by people who said they were satanists, okay. But whether that could, or should matter one whit in the criminal persecution of the people who did it is, I think, what we're really debating.

Because the satanist panics of the 80's and 90's took a tremendous amount of manpower and resources out of our police and legal system. And never found anything other than psychotics and sociopaths blaming satan from time to time.

I would bet dollars to donuts that if those panics never happened, the amount of crazy people blaming satan would be considerably lower, though obviously not non-existent.

And I hate to beat the same drum over and over, but the irony of all this is that the only organized, ritual child abuse that comes close to being as widespread and codified as was attributed to satanists, has happened in churches. So the intersection of people who were working in christian churches, warning people about satanists, and simultaneously abusing children is almost certainly non-zero.

That's why when people start talking about satan as if he was real, I get the hell away from them.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you have any idea how difficult it is to carve a half-dollar size circle into human skin? They always come out elliptical or otherwise screwed up, and believe me, you don't summon the Dark Lord with that kind of sloppiness. Not to mention the cross cuts on the pentacle. How many times, do I have to tell the initiates...pentacle first, then the circle! The cross cuts are very hard to get right if the circle has already separated the epidermis.

Use an apple coring device from the kitchen; its a good thing.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:51 PM on November 16, 2010


Your 'strict definition' of 'satanic' to mean 'anything bad' is the opposite of the actual definition of strict. You can't say that your friends' trauma was both an incredibly specific form of meticulously planned abuse following a regulated series of tropes and activities, and then say that every abuse ever falls under that same category. This is one of those 'words have meanings' moments.
This is actually reminiscent of a conversation with a family member, in which she discovered that a friend of mine was a Wiccan. She announced that she felt it was dangerous to associate with a Satanist, and I had to take a moment to explain the difference between a Satanist and a Wiccan. All issues of safe-association and evil-by-contact aside, conflating fundamentally different belief systems is a recipe for embarrassment, confusion, and the sort of fundamental laziness that leads to Joel Osteen being a bestselling author.

All this to say that her response gave me a lot of food for thought: She replied that my friend might not be a Satanist, but that her beliefs were Satanic, and that even if she didn't know the source of her beliefs was Satan, the end result was the same. I asked if this applied to other faiths like Hinduism, Jainism, etc. After some back and forth it basically boiled down to a split between the traditional monotheistic faiths (which are "about God," even if only Christianity is correct) and faiths outside of the monotheistic tradition (which are "Inspired by Satan.")

The idea that the entirety of human belief outside of monotheism is fundamentally a bunch of front groups for Satan is not terribly uncommon. In stricter Fundamentalist branches of the Church, the only argument is over who else gets grouped under Satan's umbrella. The real red meat folks insist that Mohammed was inspired by Satan, and that Islam is really just repackaged paganism, which is Satanic, which is just a handwave from Satanism. Like someone who joins the local Masonic Lodge without realizing they're part of the Illuminati, or someone who donates to CAIR without realizing they're funding Islamic terrorism, a middle aged SoCal woman who starts channelling and reading tarot and doing past-life regression doesn't realize that she is following Satan. But she is.

This kind of hand-wave dismissal is one of the remarkable characteristics of the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare, and one of the reasons it's fundamentally impossible to take seriously. Even more than the profound lack of evidence, the absurdity of the connections drawn between New Age soccer moms, LaVey Satanists, Wiccans, Goth kids, metal heads, D&D players, people who collected pewter wizards, and pretty much anyone who seemed spiritually dark stood out like a sore thumb. But for those inside the cultural bubble of normed Christianity, the idea that all of those other beliefs were really a Satanic mish-mash seemed quite plausible.

Remember that this was an era when one of the most popular Christian personalities was a stand-up comedian who told horrifically gruesome stories about how he had literally disemboweled babies during rituals with the Satanic coven he'd run before "God found him." He appeared on 20/20 episodes dedicated to the dangers of Satanism, consulted with police departments and "educated" investigators about the dangers of Satanism. It was an era when the bestselling Christian novel was a story about a little girl being ritually abused by a town full of Satanists, who used their powers as sheriff, mayor, and tenured elementary school teacher to conceal their dark conspiracy. In that story, only the prayers of faithful Christians were capable of bringing down the satanic machinations. While local police departments started telling parents about the dangers of razor blades in apples on Halloween, local Christian television shows took the month of October to remind viewers that it was Satanists putting the blades in the fruit, with no irony to be found.

In 1991, I interviewed a bestselling author who explained that Saddam Hussein was, if not a Satanist, at least Satanic, because he wanted to kill Jews. And Jews, being God's people, were Satan's biggest target. But that year, Mike Warnke -- the Christian comedian mentioned above -- was exposed as a fraud. All of his consulting, all of his educating, all of his public campaigning about the satanic conspiracy that spanned the globe, turned out to be the fevered imaginings of an Indiana huckster. To the credit of the Christian faith, it was Cornerstone Magazine that did the hard legwork of investigating his claims and pounding the nails in the coffin. In a lot of ways, it was like a pinprick to the Satanism Scare Balloon. At the same time, increasing skepticism of the "secular" evidence for the SRA epidemic was cresting. Quote Wikipedia:

"In a 1994 survey of more than 11,000 psychiatric and police workers throughout the US, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers investigated approximately 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse based on satanic ritual. The survey found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children, but did find incidents in which the ritualistic aspects were secondary to the abuse and were used to intimidate victims."

Slowly but surely attention drifted to other problems: the pockets of Christianity that were most worked up about the dangers of Satanism found political activism around that time, and Bill Clinton made it into office, distracting everyone. The one-upsmanship of assorted heavy metal spinoffs gave way to the Seattle scene, which was more about the dangers of pot than the dangers of pentagrams scrawled on your binder. There was another twinge on the needle by the time DOOM shipped, but it was clear the war had ended with a whimper. Although no formal cessation of hostilities was ever signed, and pockets of belief can still be found, it's primarily drawn back to the same pockets of Christian thought that considered everything outside of Monotheism to be "Satanic, aka Satanism" in the first place.

The lesson?

When you decide that a particular name is the signifier of all evil, you not only invite contrarians to adopt the name to spite you, you start grouping everything you dislike under that name. Later, when you encounter something genuinely evil? You group it there, too. And whether you like it or not, you begin lumping the people you disagree with into the same bin as that deeply, profoundly evil crap.

The irony of course is that many of the people who still hold onto the Satanism == Satanic == The Other equation are the first to protest blurring even the finest distinctions of Christian theology. Hinduism and Satanism, sure, brothers in arms. Wicca and West Coast Zen Lite, same diff. But man! Don't lump the classic premillennialists in with the dispensationalists, that's positively offensive.
posted by verb at 9:56 PM on November 16, 2010 [28 favorites]


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit

Yeah, but in those days you needed like 30 floppies. Now all you need is a thumb drive, and you can fit your whole collection of evil spirits on it!
posted by krinklyfig at 10:11 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Remember that this was an era when one of the most popular Christian personalities was a stand-up comedian who told horrifically gruesome stories about how he had literally disemboweled babies during rituals with the Satanic coven he'd run before "God found him."

So, what do you call your act?

Sorry, I know, won't happen again ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:13 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slowly but surely attention drifted to other problems: the pockets of Christianity that were most worked up about the dangers of Satanism found political activism around that time, and Bill Clinton made it into office, distracting everyone.

"Say, did I ever tell you about the time I was in a Satanic cult, and we dined on delicious babies and bacon for breakf.... wait just a minute. Did I just hear that guy on Arsenio say, 'I feel your pain?'"
posted by krinklyfig at 10:20 PM on November 16, 2010


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit
Also, to be clear: the article that's being passed around seems to date back to a clipping from The Register in 2000. The only source it cites is The Weekly World News.

Even if it was intended as a joke in this thread, it's clear from some simple googling that the story took on a life of its own and the WWN attribution was quickly stripped. Poking fun is ha-ha and all, but in a thread about absurd exaggeration of Satanism, let's not do the same about Christian beliefs.
posted by verb at 10:21 PM on November 16, 2010


"Say, did I ever tell you about the time I was in a Satanic cult, and we dined on delicious babies and bacon for breakf.... wait just a minute. Did I just hear that guy on Arsenio say, 'I feel your pain?'"
You think you're kidding, but you're not. I reviewed Christian novels at the time -- like, novels by the pound from the three major publishers in that genre -- and watching the Zeitgeist in action was amazing.
posted by verb at 10:22 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if it was intended as a joke in this thread, it's clear from some simple googling that the story took on a life of its own and the WWN attribution was quickly stripped. Poking fun is ha-ha and all, but in a thread about absurd exaggeration of Satanism, let's not do the same about Christian beliefs.

Er .... strangely, I don't feel compelled to do research every time a one-liner hits me.

In case anyone was taking my joke to heart in any way: What the sam hell is wrong with you?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2010


I wasn't suggesting that your joke was being taken too seriously, or that you meant it seriously, or anything along those lines. Just that it was a link dropped into the thread, that the source of the link was unattributed, and that it was a slightly-plausible-sounding example of Religious Folks Seeing Satan Everywhere -- but that it was also a Weekly World News story, not a real book written by a real author.

It's funny, but after pouring a bunch of textual coals on the heads of the Satanic Panic folks, I wanted to make a note of it.
posted by verb at 10:53 PM on November 16, 2010


All I know is: D&D was a lot more fun when it was more evil and less popular.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:06 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


So if there are signs of ritual at a murder scene, it was a ritualistic murder? Egads, that's brilliant!

I've got a hideous shirt, too, where's my FBI badge?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:26 PM on November 16, 2010


.... a stand-up comedian who told horrifically gruesome stories about how he had literally disemboweled babies during rituals with the Satanic coven he'd run before "God found him." He appeared on 20/20 episodes dedicated to the dangers of Satanism, consulted with police departments and "educated" investigators about the dangers of Satanism.

... and during the time he was consulting with law enforcement agencies, no one at those agencies thought to ask him for evidence of his own alleged crimes?

Not that I find the failure to do so implausible -- I find it very plausible -- but if you put that detail into a mystery or thriller manuscript and sent it to any competent agent, they'd tell you to fix it.
posted by lodurr at 11:33 PM on November 16, 2010


So if there are signs of ritual at a murder scene, it was a ritualistic murder? Egads, that's brilliant!

You're oversimplifying the detective work. The occult symbols are not necessarily strewn all round the murder scene like so much confetti.

You might need to look further afield for things like an ankh tattoo, or a facebook fanpage subscription to Sean of the Dead, or even a doodle in the margins of an old school textbook that no regular person can decipher - so it's obviously some kind of secret cabalistic symbol, known only to insiders.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:35 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do british people generally know about the Weekly World News? If not, the person who reposted the satan-in-a-PC story at The Reg probably believed it, too.

See, this is the problem I've always had with Landover Baptist: If you're not clued in or reading closely, it's too hard to tell from the real thing.
posted by lodurr at 11:47 PM on November 16, 2010


Weren't there several FBI guys who played important 'satanic-panic' debunking roles in the mid-90s?
posted by lodurr at 11:50 PM on November 16, 2010


"Technicians can replace the hard drive and reinstall the software, getting rid of the wicked spirit permanently."

What rubbish. What if the software itself is evil? McAfee immediately springs to mind.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:59 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I dunno. She keeps breathing and ruining the effect.
posted by PuppyCat at 4:42 AM on November 17, 2010


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit

I have a MacBook Air. I have to store the evil spirits on my iDisk.
posted by Mcable at 6:33 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Weren't there several FBI guys who played important 'satanic-panic' debunking roles in the mid-90s?

If there were, they didn't have the influence that Ted Gunderson (former LA SAIC) had in creating the panic. He is also a perfect example of totally useless Wikipedia articles that are censored by proponents of a controversy.

McMartin Preschool, anyone?

I had the deep misfortune to be involved in preparing training materials for a state social service agency's child protective service during the height of the Satanic Panic. The planning meetings featured knock-down, drag-out fights over whether or not "ritual abuse" should be addressed in the training. I finally put my foot down and said that the true believers needed to provide some hard evidence. Mind you, this was happening at high levels in a state agency.

What did we get for hard evidence? One lousy videotape of a local talk show that had a total charlatan and his pet schizophrenic as guests. It was pathetic. They weren't even ashamed to bring that crap forward. And then they went over our heads in the agency and a directive came down from above that we had to at least include a mention of "ritual abuse" in the training. Later, this mention was used as evidence that it existed.

The whole damn fiasco finally imploded with the Wenatchee sex ring case.

Most child sex abuse is intrafamilial. The satanic panic was just one of many ways of whitewashing the issue or laying down a smokescreen. Complete and utter bullshit. Promoters are frauds and believers are chumps.

Child protective services are doing a very difficult job with virtually no resources. Consuming those resources with mindless religious hysteria only puts more children at risk and lessens the ability to protect and help them.
posted by warbaby at 7:24 AM on November 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


Great writing, verb. The shame is that the sorts of people who fall for this tripe are the sorts of people that are fundamentally incapable of understanding the truth of what you've said.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 AM on November 17, 2010


Thanks, FFF. I have a tendency to black out and wake up an hour later, having fired off highly nerdy and snarky essays about evangelical culture, so I'm glad the artifacts of my fugues are interesting. Heh.

I want to clarify that I don't think it's really a matter of certain people being "incapable" of understanding other beliefs or wanting to spread falsehoods. In a lot of ways it's a textbook case of Out-group homogeneity bias in action. It takes work to fight that tendency in one's self, and it's not ideology specific.
posted by verb at 8:08 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


All I know is: D&D was a lot more fun when it was more evil and less popular.

More evil? Judging by the response here, 4e was written by Satan himself....
posted by lumpenprole at 10:02 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


can i ask what you would consider "actual" Satanic rituals?

"Actual" Christian rituals include Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.

If I get together with friends from church for wine and crackers, that's not a Christian ritual, even if some of us are wearing crosses. If I dunk my 9-month-old in the sink at bathtime, that's not a baptism.

If an insane person kills someone while muttering about Satan, that's not a "satanic ritual." If a serial killer kills for fun and has a pentagram tattoo, or even if he uses satanic imagery to scare his victim because he likes watching their reaction, that's not a "satanic ritual."

If a person or group is actually trying to worship Satan or cast a magic spell, and killing someone is a means to the end of that worship or spell casting, that would be a satanic ritual. And I deny that there is any convincing evidence that this has ever happened, anywhere, in the last 200 years.

Supposedly some ancient "pagan" religions involved this kind of human sacrifice. I don't know history well enough to know if there is solid evidence that this actually happened. I know a lot of ancient groups were accused of doing so in records written by their enemies.
posted by straight at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Supposedly some ancient "pagan" religions involved this kind of human sacrifice. I don't know history well enough to know if there is solid evidence that this actually happened. I know a lot of ancient groups were accused of doing so in records written by their enemies.
AFAIK, this is pretty well established. People have sacrificed other people to Gods, historically. Even the Bible includes isolated incidents of good believers sacrificing loved ones (or being willing to do so) for God.

It's certainly no longer the accepted course of action -- I don't know of any currently practiced faiths that view it as a good thing today. But it's there when you go back into ancient texts, and it's not all accusations about The Other.
posted by verb at 10:46 AM on November 17, 2010


More evil? Judging by the response here, 4e was written by Satan himself....

THE POWER OF GYGAX COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF GYGAX COMPELS YOU!
posted by FatherDagon at 10:47 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even the Bible includes

Stop right there.
posted by grubi at 10:49 AM on November 17, 2010


Just to (ha) play "devil's advocate" here, if there were or are those kinds of human sacrifices happening, how likely is it that any of us would really know about it?

To broaden it out a bit, a lot of horrible crap happens to folk that we never find out about until and unless a body turns up. I certainly hope and pray that no one is getting "sacrificed to Satan" but I would imagine anyone being brutally tortured or killed really doesn't care just in whose name the abuse is happening. I am all for whatever would help an innocent person not be hurt or killed. Whether or not it takes place because of a Catholic priest or an insane individual who thinks he is serving the devil, or just someone who is a narcissistic sociopath, whatever. I just don't ever want one single solitary person to go through what some folks I know have gone through.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:49 AM on November 17, 2010


I was working at what was essentially a hospital for very severely disabled kids in Victoria in the 1990s. One Friday afternoon (after all the sane people had left, it seems) I heard that there was a 'lockdown' because word had been received, from the police, that "the Satanists were out to kidnap one of the kids". From the sounds of it, and the reaction of the entire staff, this was a fairly common occurance, certainly more common than, say, a fire drill.

Of course, Victoria is where a great deal of this insanity started.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:51 AM on November 17, 2010


Supposedly some ancient "pagan" religions involved this kind of human sacrifice. I don't know history well enough to know if there is solid evidence that this actually happened. I know a lot of ancient groups were accused of doing so in records written by their enemies.

Human sacrifice was pretty widespread in the ancient world -- the wikipedia article isn't a bad overview.

The Aztecs were very into human sacrifice, by their own account. They (and several other Mesoamerican cultures) believed that the gods had sacrificed themselves to create life, and that human beings were required to pay back the debt through ritual sacrifice (of people and many other valuable animals and objects).

There's a pretty good overview of Norse human sacrifice here. Again, the sagas themselves mention the practice, so it's not just a case of invention by enemies (though both the Christians and the Muslims seem to have played it up when they encountered it).
posted by vorfeed at 10:52 AM on November 17, 2010


Altho really, I'm a Reformist at heart. Gygax had some ideas about the philosophy of the game that are pretty ridiculous, especially about the adversarial nature of the PC vs DM and the place of all that wishy-washy 'Role Playing' and 'Character Development'. Pathfinder (i.e. 3.75 edition) is probably the most tightly balanced set of rules with the best spread and compatibility with adventure sets of the last 10 years or so.. that 4e garbage is just a bridge too far tho.

(finally makes Save vs. Derail)
posted by FatherDagon at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2010


Oh, yeah, there was definitely lots of human sacrifice in the past. Not in every culture, of course, but it was there. In the '70s, there was a (very small) movement among American anthropologists to deny that it happened (especially denying cannibalism), but it never caught on for a lot of excellent reasons. (Not least being that there were lots of working anthropologists who were friendly with actual ex-cannibals, but the fact that most of the anthropologists I've known don't really think there's anything particularly wrong with cannibalism* probably also contributed.)

Anyway, yes, there's been lots of human sacrifice. Not every story told by a conqueror implies its opposite.

But aside from that, I think you do a great job of elucidating the difference between ritual and an individual's practices. We talk about 'personal rituals', but that's a concept that makes about as much sense as 'personal language' (which is to say, a little, but only in a profoundly limited frame).

People called the child sexual abuse and satanic panic movements "witch hunts" for very good reasons: They looked like classic with hunts, with people denouncing neighbors in the absence of non-hearsay evidence, and the denounced usually being people in a weaker social position, or who didn't quite fit into the neat box people needed them to fit into; they're then re-cast to fit whatever mould is easiest for the community to disown & dismiss. (Viz Margaret Kelly Michaels, sent to prison for thousands of counts of sexual abuse she couldn't possibly have committed. She was a newcomer to town, a single womain in her 20s who didn't attend church [was apparently an agnostic at the time, but now attends church regularly] and wasn't dating anyone [she's since married a man]; consequently, she was identified by persecutors as an atheist lesbian, which was sufficient to marginalize her and remove all support in her community of residence.)

The classic witch hunts made lots of reference to black masses and satanic rituals where the only evidence that such things occurred was the testimony of the defendants. In the more modern literature, it's generally assumed that the testimony was coerced or produced by deranged minds, because that's what can be observed in witchcraft trials among modern, traditional peoples. (Which is why I find it really disconcerting & annoying when someone like Neal Stephenson picks up a Malleus Maleficarum black mass and runs with it as though it's a totally cool description of historical practice. But I digress.)

In modern traditional societies where you find witchcraft accusations, you often find them leveled at people who have some kind of occult involvement, e.g. as healers, or who are mentally imbalanced. You also often find them leveled at people who are in some sense threatening to old orders. For example, a number of studies have found disproportionate representation by landholding widows. (What happens to their land when they're convicted? Excellent question!)

Things are more complex in these modern cases, because there's nothing as obvious as someone going after the widow of a deceased rival, and you have to actually find some kind of a pretext to imprison a few suspected lesbians. And we have to dress it up in scientistic clothing. But it's still a witch hunt.

--
*Of course whole schools of thought have been built on the idea that there are things fundamentally wrong with cannibalism, and I think those may have been what really inspired the movement to discredit its existence. But there's so much evidence that it happened, and that furthermore it was more often than not viewed as an honor to the deceased/eaten, that I don't get the impression modern anthropologists really give those ideas much credence anymore.
posted by lodurr at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to (ha) play "devil's advocate" here, if there were or are those kinds of human sacrifices happening, how likely is it that any of us would really know about it?

This specific logical fallacy is known as the 'Argument from Ignorance'. Postulating that the lack of evidence for something as support for it 'just not having been discovered yet' is a red-flag.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:55 AM on November 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


The only example of a Satanic cult that springs to mind from recent history is the drug cartel cult in Matamoros, Mexico. They weren't into abusing children, but were sacrificing humans.

This is not evidence of a worldwide Satanic conspiracy, and one might surmise that the drugs, gang warfare, prostitution, and murder gave rise to a charismatic leader who packaged it into a cult. These were not exactly regular folks seduced by the dark side.
posted by benzenedream at 11:01 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to (ha) play "devil's advocate" here, if there were or are those kinds of human sacrifices happening, how likely is it that any of us would really know about it?

If there was: It could be pretty darn likely. Since peoples with sacrificial regimes thought they were doing a good thing, they wouldn't have seen any reason to deny that they did it. (At least, before christian hegemony. After christian hegemony, there would be really strong incentives to make that cultural memory go away.)

If it were, now: Really effing likely. People would be missing; we'd find bodies; there would be leaks, and the leaks wouldn't be ridiculous collections of logistically impossible accusations. (Seriously, in the Kelly Michaels case, she'd have had to have been committing multiple simultaneous acts of perversion every minute she was alone with those kids; the McMartin case had similar logistical impossibilities. In both cases their defense team pointed them out to no avail.) The coverup would have to include tens of millions of people and be so pervasive that one wonders why they wouldn't just take over ("BUT THEY HAVE! THEY HAVE!!!!").
posted by lodurr at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2010


After christian hegemony, there would be really strong incentives to make that cultural memory go away.

Are you kidding? The entire central point of Christianity is human sacrifice. The 'crux' of the matter, so to speak.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:07 AM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


yeh, benzenedream, those ritual drug killings were pretty fascinating. I talked to some guys who knew about palo mayombe who told me it looked to them like a really extreme and disturbed extrapolation of that. I just keep thinking about how many drugs were available to those guys and in what quantity, and about how everything in their lives was all about power of life over death, and it stops seeming very unusual that they might be sacrificing "warriors" to enhance their protection. Seriously disturbed shit. Though in some ways, it might be an improvement over the current situation...
posted by lodurr at 11:09 AM on November 17, 2010


FatherDagon: Exactly. The pagan sacrificial regimes would have been Satanic. Or at the very least, make you look bad when you want to elicit sympathy.
posted by lodurr at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2010


The entire central point of Christianity is human sacrifice.

...and you can't have a bunch of witches hanging around if you want to stay in the Big Man's good graces.
posted by electroboy at 11:29 AM on November 17, 2010


I am all for whatever would help an innocent person not be hurt or killed.
Agreed, wholeheartedly. That's why I call the 'Satanic Panic' crap on the floor whenever I see it: we know, without a doubt, that it consumed inordinate attention, resources, and bandwidth from child protection services, law enforcement officials, religious groups, etc. And it consumed them in a profoundly fruitless fashion: there was no grand conspiracy, there was no Satanic coverup, there was no wave of pagan sex rituals sweeping the nation.

Instead, there was garden variety evil: the kind of horrifying, soul-crushing shit that you find in the closet of the youth pastor, or the woodshed of the quiet grocery bagger across the street, or the basement of the local florist, or the bedroom of the family friend. Recognizing and paying attention to the signs of sexual abuse, and making sure that sexual predators aren't allowed back into positions of power or influence over children by protective friends and loved ones, is important.

Creating a fanciful category of "Other" to study, make up rumors about, and blame abuses both real and imagined on, does absolutely nothing to help those who were, are being, and may be abused. That is why I feel so strongly about this.
posted by verb at 11:29 AM on November 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


The entire central point of Christianity is human sacrifice.

Don't forget the cannibalism.
posted by grubi at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2010


Any PC built after 1985 has the storage capacity to house an evil spirit

666k should be enough for anybody.
posted by turaho at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2010


Having just finished reading through the thread, I just wanted to comment on what a gigantic fucking hassle this entire line of craziness was for normal, non-religious, non-Christian, non-Satanic, non-Pagan, non-whatever kids in the late 80's and early 90's.

Of course, this doesn't begin to compare to the lives ruined, families shattered, and people jailed over this Satanic Panic lunacy, but I think that other commenters have done a fine job illustrating that particular line of horrible consequences.

For me, I just want to say that there was a time period where if you happened to listen to Heavy Metal (which I did), listened to bands like Depeche Mode or The Cure (which I did), wore black (which I did), played role-playing games (which I did), were sometimes depressed (which I was), enjoyed the smell of incense (which I did), argued with authority (which I did), or did not attend church regularly (which I didn't) ... those were all considered warning signs of Satanism. Which is, to be blunt, fucking loony.

This pathologized the kids who were already outsiders, but what's worse, it pathologized lots of kids who were 'normal'. Wore black? Was sometimes depressed? Sat alone in the dark listening to music? Christ, you might as well make 'being 16' a warning sign for Satanism.

I don't think that buying into this crap in the 80's was understandable. I think it was clearly and obviously bullshit even then. If you believe in massive satanic conspiracies to commit ritual child abuse now, though? Holy shit, you are a loony.

A good rule of thumb: If someone is telling you about Satanic Conspiracies, either 1) That person is an easily manipulated idiot, or 2) That person thinks you are an easily manipulated idiot. Either way, run, do not walk, away.
posted by Myca at 11:48 AM on November 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


Christ, you might as well make 'being 16' a warning sign for Satanism.

I'll vote for that. Teenagers suck. Even me at that age.

Especially me at that age. Ugh.
posted by grubi at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2010


I'll vote for that. Teenagers suck. Even me at that age.

No, no, you misunderstand me. Being Satanic would explain it. It would let the kids off the hook. When a kid is a moody little fuck because he's 16, assuming that he's a moody little fuck because he's a Satanist is cutting him too much slack.
posted by Myca at 12:20 PM on November 17, 2010


Myca, I would say that it's both 'understandable' and bullshit.

(and I've got to write down "Christ, you might as well make 'being 16' a warning sign for Satanism.")
posted by lodurr at 12:56 PM on November 17, 2010



Myca, I would say that it's both 'understandable' and bullshit.


Yeah, maybe.

I just don't get how it is that even at the time, it seemed so ludicrous to me and yet there were grown adults sending other people to jail over it. It's not as if there was really some major revelation in-between then and now that made massive cover-ups of the rape and murder of hundreds or thousands of people somehow more obviously bullshit. It was bullshit at the time and it's bullshit now.

I mean, maybe the way in which it's understandable is that it plays directly into the crazy paranoia inherent in some people's (crazy paranoid) worldviews. Like if you actually believe that the blacks/the gays/Satan are 'out to get you' then when people start spinning out crazy fantasies about a black nationalist president/the gay agenda/Satanist conspiracies, you just nod knowingly ... "Ah ha," you think, "I knew this was coming."

But, like ... think about it for 30 seconds, people.
posted by Myca at 1:53 PM on November 17, 2010


Yes, it's frustrating. But are you using the term "bullshit" advisedly? If so, wouldn't you say that truth is more or less irrelevant from the perspective of the believer? So if they think about it for 30 seconds, they don't really get any closer to where we want them to be.
posted by lodurr at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If so, wouldn't you say that truth is more or less irrelevant from the perspective of the believer?

Interesting!

I would actually divide the Satanic Panic folks into two rough camps (with a lot of overlap).

The first camp is guys like Mike Warnke who are consciously bullshitting, know they're bullshitting, and want to deceive you. They actively don't care what the truth is.

The second camp is folks where the "Satanists Stole my Baby!!1!" storyline appeals to them emotionally and confirms their preexisting biases, but who aren't invested in actively making stuff up. They may or may not be vulnerable to appeals to truth and plausibility. Some are, some aren't.

I think that there are plenty of people in the second camp who believe this crap reflexively, but who would care about the truth, if they paused to consider.
posted by Myca at 3:35 PM on November 17, 2010


I'd add a third category, the easily suggestible/borderline mentally ill person who can't tell the difference between the truth & fiction who participate in creating/forwarding the narrative without understanding what they're doing. It's not all hoaxers making stuff up, there's a lot of people who somehow convince themselves this stuff is happening to them too.
posted by scalefree at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


well, as long as we're adding categories...

what i was thinking of when i said that was someone who's not necessarily actively, consciously bullshitting with the goal of controlling other people, but rather someone who was selectively editing the parts of reality they recognize in order to achieve an end ("get their needs met" as my wife likes to put it). I consider it bullshitting in the frankfurtian sense because the truth is irrelevant -- what's important is how well the story fits the end.

I think that includes both the classes Myca identifies, but doesn't include scalefree's group. the challenge for me is figuring out who's in scalefree's group, versus who's in Myca's second group. I.e., are you going along because you're for some reason highly suggestible or otherwise unusually vulnerable, or are you actively trying to con yourself? Or should I even be making that distinction (and if not, why not)?
posted by lodurr at 11:06 AM on November 18, 2010


So after all this I'm thinking about an actual taxonomy of Panic-Mongers, broken down like the levels of Dante's inferno. Is it useful? Maybe not. Is it interesting? Only to those of us who've stuck around here. Will I post it? Yes. posted by verb at 2:53 PM on November 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Bad Seeds: These are the ones who kick off the panics, who craft the lies, who rise to prominence and disappear into ignominy.

Yeah, right. So now it's all Nick Cave's fault.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:06 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Among "bad seeds", there's also the category of people who are borderline mentally ill and are compulsive liars. They can easily kick off a panic (as per the quote above) but don't stand to gain anything by their erratic behavior. The types of lies used are almost always "sensitive" topics that are unquestionable in polite society (I was abused, I have cancer, My father was abusive, My husband is an alcoholic, My house was broken into and all my money was stolen), but may not even be for personal gain, but only to serve some weird emotional need for drama.

There are some people for whom truth and falsity really don't have any meaning, their limbic system just propels words out of their mouths, which they then have to construct support stories for.
posted by benzenedream at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2010


Yeah, right. So now it's all Nick Cave's fault.

It's his own fault for leaving The Birthday Party. There, I said it.
posted by electroboy at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2010


« Older "He was capable of composing entire paragraphs in ...  |  Shortly before his 1924 death ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments