Everything You Need to Know About the Satanic Panic of the 1980s

Broadcast of Satanic Panic

The Satanic Panic was a time period roughly covering the 1980s when many people became growingly concerned about Satanic conspiracies spreading throughout the United States. People were particularly fearful that Satanists were targeting children both physically and psychologically, and they warned that unwary souls might fall under the sway of Satanic influences if they did not remain vigilant.

How Did It Develop?

The Satanic Panic was a result of hysteria, much like the historical witch hunts. Upon hearing a tale of alleged Satanic activity, people attempted to be more watchful, eventually erroneously identifying various members of their community as part of the Satanic conspiracy. The hysteria spread quickest when children were the supposed victims and they were asked leading questions.

Suggestions of Physical Abuse

Teachers and day-care workers were notably targeted during the Panic as communities convinced themselves that those in positions of authority were ritually molesting groups of children.

This alleged molestation is now known as Satanic Ritual Abuse, or SRA, and the FBI has concluded that it is a myth. No group was ever found guilty of wrongdoing in these cases.

Satanic Recruitment

There was also growing concern that Satanic organizations were attempting to recruit people through a variety of manipulative means. This included the allegation that various music albums would reveal Satanic messages when played backward, and that be hearing these messages in reverse they would be subconsciously imprinted upon listeners. Scientists consider such suggestions to be junk-science.

Another potential source of recruitment was roleplaying games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons. Many of the accusations circulating about the game were flat-out untrue, but since many who read the allegations were completely unfamiliar with the game, that fact was not evident.

Rise of the Religious Right

The United States is considerably more religious than most Western countries, and the conservative branch of Christianity really started to entrench itself in American culture by the 1980s. Satanic Panic allegations most often came from (and still come from today) conservative and fundamental Protestant Christians.


In June 2017, Fran and Dan Keller were formally exonerated for the sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl at their daycare center, a crime that they did not commit. Their prosecution in 1992 was part of the wave of mass hysteria known as the "Satanic Panic." 

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Beyer, Catherine. "Everything You Need to Know About the Satanic Panic of the 1980s." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-satanic-panic-95964. Beyer, Catherine. (2020, August 27). Everything You Need to Know About the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-satanic-panic-95964 Beyer, Catherine. "Everything You Need to Know About the Satanic Panic of the 1980s." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-satanic-panic-95964 (accessed January 23, 2021).