Dumb Things We Went Through As Kids Because Of The 'Satanic Panic'

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Vote up all the foolish things you remember from back in those panicky days.

The Satanic Panic was a mass hysteria that swept the nation after unfounded allegations of ritual abuse came out, most famously at The McMartin Preschool in Southern California. The brouhaha peaked in the US in the 1980s and puttered along into the '90s. 

It was an interesting time to be a child, especially if your parents were religious and susceptible to rumors. Many forms of entertainment were deemed tools of the devil and banished from homes and playgrounds. The residual effects were felt for years after in the musical and playtime choices of American children. These are some of the silliest things we had to endure due to the hysteria.

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    1,389 VOTES

    ' Backwards Masking Of Music' Was Big

    From Redditor u/NoPusNoDirtNoScabs:

    Oh boy. Ok, I'm middle aged and was a pre teen when all the Satanic panic started happening. I don't know if anyone will care about my experience but here's a bit of it.

    My mom joined this independent fundamentalist Baptist church when I was in the fourth grade. She didn't know any better and I love my mom more than life itself. She wasn't well educated and she bought into anything they taught. This was the Reagan era and this was an end times type of Christianity that thought that a nuclear war between the US and Russia was imminent and was predicted in the Bible. Some of the teachings of that church were so bizarre that people think I'm making it up when I talk about it.

    Anyway, needless to say everything was Satanic during that time. Wearing shorts to school was Satanic. Listening to any music with a rhythm, drums, electric guitar was Satanic. Not going out to spread the Word on weekends was Satanic. Not going to church three times a week, even if you were sick was Satanic. The list goes on and on and on.

    A couple of highlights that stand out in terms of mild stuff was that we had spirit week at my middle school and even though it was a public school it was a small community so the local churches still had a lot of influence. One day was supposed to be punk rock day and you were supposed to wear something kind of rock and roll like red, blue, green or purple hair color or a torn shirt or something. Just fun stuff. Well my mom's church put a stop to that because hair color was Satanic. Wearing hair color that day could get you written up.

    Another thing was that the backwards masking of music was a big conspiracy theory that was going around at the time and everyone was freaking out about how rock music was programming everyone's minds to worship Satan. I remember our Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Diane, telling us that she liked waking up in the morning to an easy listening classical music station but she had stopped doing that because she was afraid that there were hidden messages in the music that might program her mind.

    There were record burnings in the community. I had rock records but my mom was freaked out about it. I had to keep some of them on the down low but as long as they weren't too extreme I got to keep them. It helped a lot that my older brother had some cassette tapes of bands like KISS, ABBA, and Blondie and mom trusted him so I got to listen to his music plus have some of my own. I remember very clearly mom being upset about it though and she told me there were demons in the grooves of the records and when you played the records the demons came out and ... I'm not sure what they did. Programmed you or something. I fought back against the idiocy of that because I asked her at what point during the manufacturing process did the record company insert the demons and where did they get these demons?? Did they have boxes of them just sitting around and they grabbed a handful and embedded them into the record or were the demons inserted into the machine that pressed the record?? She got pretty upset with me over that one but she also dropped the subject.

    I never had to burn any of my records but mom did threaten to break them. She never did though.

    Basically, what it boiled down to in our semi rural area was a lot of paranoia, gossip, passing of misinformation, and resistance to logic. When people freak out over the Qanon stuff today I am reminded of the Satanic panic years, the belief that pedos where ritualistically killing kids, seeing Satan everywhere, and thinking that the world was going to end at any minute.

    I miss my childhood but I don't miss that bullsh*t.

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    1,251 VOTES

    Dungeons And Dragons Was The Work Of The Devil

    From Redditor u/Anashenwrath:

    A friend of my fiancé’s mom was watching their house while they were on vacation. She threw out all his DnD books because… “satan.” The sh*ttiest part? He and his friends had pooled their money to buy the books. So all his friends were pissed at him too. Hell of a time to be a 10-year-old.

    From Redditor u/Emperor_Cartagia:

    My friends and I had to pretend our D&D group was a study group.

    From Redditor u/jcmrickett:

    When I was 13, I had briefly become live-in-the-woods poor. My Uncle came to NC and took me to a hobby store where I discovered an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition, Player’s Handbook.

    A game with no board.

    Infinite possibilities with only a book and some dice.

    When I was 14, I was house-without-electricity-poor. In a dumpster, and by chance, I happened upon a full box of modules, dice, miniatures, maps and campaign settings. A literal treasure hoard for someone who read books by flashlight and flushed the toilet with water from the neighbor’s hose.

    When I was 15, on a cool spring night, my mother invited me out back. There, she stood in a semi-circle next to my step-father and the neighbor. In the middle of them stood a metal 55-gallon drum. Inside, were all of those modules, dice, miniatures, maps and campaign settings. They set it on fire and made me watch.

    “It’s the devil’s game,” the neighbor told me.

    Two years I had collected. Two years I had either played or planned daily, drawing maps of places I’d never visit, creating characters I could love or hate, exploring dungeons and wilderness and being the hero and the villain and everything I’d never get to be in my f***ed-up, wasted, impoverished, abusive, existence.

    And the flames had reflected off their righteous smiles.

    I’ve never forgiven my mother for it. I doubt I ever will.

    In that barrel was… everything.


    See, fate had a different plan… I continued to play, daily. I continued to plan daily. Running covert games for my friends. Hiding my maps.


    Friends. Amazing friends. They’d caught wind. Their parents were talking.

    Like severing a limb trapped under a rock, I ripped the cover off my original Player’s Handbook my Uncle had bought me and put the cover on another source book. I took my first set of dice, like choosing which children I’d save from slaughter. And I hid them. I hid them well.

    I still have that Player’s Handbook.

    That was 25+ years ago, but the importance of that decision, of those friends who warned me, they can’t be understated.

    Dungeons and Dragons was more than a game to me. It still is. Dungeons and Dragons is an ice-breaker. It’s friends bonding. It’s an invitation not only into someone’s house, but into someone’s mind. It’s a powerful, creative, social, experience. With a book and dice, we could fight dragons. We could overthrow future dystopias. Race through the streets on Tron bikes to untangle political espionage. Sail among pirates or among the stars. We could be anyone. From anywhere.

    It's the reason my children exist.

    While my parents, brainwashed by the panic, were bent on destroying my world, I held on to the one thing that allowed me to create my own.

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    887 VOTES

    Nearly Everything Was A Gateway To Evil And 'Children Were Being Sacrificed To Satan Daily'

    Nearly Everything Was A Gateway To Evil And 'Children Were Being Sacrificed To Satan Daily'
    Photo: Eliphas Levi / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    From Redditor u/panda_slapper:

    Born in 79 to a hardcore evangelical mother. She had, as she described it, spent some time "dabbling in the occult" before she was born again, so when the satanic panic hit, she was already primed for it since she had "spent some time in that world".

    Where should I start?

    All rock music was from satan. It taught us to be rebellious to our parents, which is a sin before God. And, of course, all the backwards messages embedded in the music.

    Rock music producers would have witches come and pray over the record masters before they were sent off to press the records - this would infuse demonic energy into the master, which would then pass that demonic energy into every record pressed. When tapes became big, they would pray over the duplicating machines.

    As a child, I was forced to watch "Hells Bells: the Dangers of Rock and Roll". I was young enough and impressionable enough at the time that I believed it all.

    Couldn't go to the movies because Hollywood was filled with Satanists and homosexuals who "had an agenda". They apparently wanted to break down the family structure and turn all of us kids gay. So, all movies were off limits, even if they weren't "bad", because paying to see a movie was giving money to Hollywood and supporting their evil plans. We would occasionally rent movies though, since she believed that Hollywood didn't get any of that money. Of course, we still couldn't rent anything with magic, sex, or violence (so nothing interesting).

    [Dungeons & Dragons] was a gateway to the occult and was causing kids to kill themselves. Our church had tracts that talked about how as a player played more, their character would actually begin to influence them and could take over their mind. They also said that kids were getting so attached to their characters, that if the character died, the kids would commit suicide. I listened to a radio show for many many years called "Adventures in Odyssey" which was, for the most part, relatively benign. However, they did have a couple DnD themed episodes, and they made it seem that the game would cause players to essentially astral project into the game world. Needless to say, that [threw] my mom into a massive tizzy.

    Side note about [role-playing games] - my step brother was a huge rpg fan. Mom forbade him from bringing any of his rpg materials to our house or even talking about them. She was convinced that if he even talked to me about them, I would be lost to satan. However, she was a huge Star Trek fan, and changed her tune a bit when he mentioned that there was a Star Trek rpg. The rule then became that "sci-fi" was ok, but everything else was satanism.

    Wasn't allowed to watch tv because "Hollywood." Smurfs had magic, and therefore was witchcraft. He-man was obviously demonic. Someone also told my mom that kids who watched He-man were reporting that he would appear to them at night, talk to them in their rooms, and teach them witchcraft. Basically, the only thing that was ok to watch was The 700 Club.

    I was lectured constantly about how if I went to the house of someone who was “foreign,” I would be asked to participate in their religious rituals and that I should never ever do that. I was legitimately scared that if I visited someone foreign, they would want me to pray to idols.

    Halloween was satan's holiday. I wasn't allowed to participate in any way. My elementary school would have a party and a costume parade. When it time for those, I would have to go sit in the office and do my work. Mom wouldn't let me just stay home from school because then satan would be taking away from my education.

    Playing cards where forbidden in our house. Mom, in her “occult days,” would do fortune readings using playing cards, so she viewed them as a tool of the devil and a reminder of her sin. She eventually let me have Uno cards though.

    One time I mentioned to her that I had deja-vu. She proceeded to anoint me with vegetable oil and pray over me.

    She was livid when my sister let my nephew read Harry Potter, swore up and down that it would turn him to witchcraft. When I asked her why Lord of the Rings was ok, despite having magic, sorcery, gods, etc, she claimed that it was classic literature and that since Tolkien was friends with CS Lewis it was ok.

    When I got a little older, I got over my fear of music and, unsurprisingly, got really into all the stuff that I wasn't supposed to listen to. I wasn't allowed to have anything non-Christian in the house, so I had to hide most of my music. Mom would regularly search my room for music (among other things). If she found stuff, I would get a huge lecture about how music was affecting my soul, get grounded, and it would get thrown away. She got really pissed when I pointed out that she had a ton of non-Christian books and records. She agreed that I was right and made a big show of throwing them away, but she was fuming the whole time and still brings up how I “made her throw away her stuff.”

    She believed that rap music was based on African tribal beats used in demonic rituals and that the rhythms would hypnotize people and allow demons to influence them. She said that it was being brought to the US by the same producers that had witches praying over records as a way to influence "inner city youth" and turn them to satanism and drugs.

    We had a ton of books in the house written by people claiming to have been saved out of satanism and going into wild detail about their lives. Stuff about ritual sacrifices, sex with demons, kidnapping children and programming them. I remember reading this stuff when I was 8 and 9 years old.

    Any sort of mental illness was considered to be a spiritual failing and the more serious stuff, schizophrenia, bipolar, etc, was the result of demon possession (I know a pastor who still believes that). My sister wanted to take a psychology class in high school, my mom forbade it because she believed it was all just liberal satanist propaganda. Ironically, 15 years later when I started working on a psych degree, she thought it was wonderful and even helped with my tuition. My sister was pissed.

    I struggled with depression that started when I was in junior high, and she would pray over me regularly trying to cast out the demons of despair that had their hooks in my soul. She also lectured me constantly about my walk with God and basically told me that I was depressed because I didn't pray enough. Turns out I just needed Wellbutrin (I'm doing much better now).

    I never got into Pokemon, but Mom certainly had her opinions - since it came from Japan, she claimed it was a gateway to foreign religions, which were all just variations of satanism. [Magic: The Gathering] was "obviously" satanic, “it says so right in the name - magic!”

    Yoga and tai chi were "Eastern religions" (which is just packaged up satanism) that were influencing our culture and breaking down our Christian values. We wouldn't even get Chinese food. Mom claimed it was because we would be supporting people with eastern religious beliefs, but I think the real reason is cause my dad had the blandest sense of taste ever but she didn't want to call him out.

    Arcades were satanist dens. Arcade machines at the mall or restaurants were there to get us hooked so we would want to go to the arcade.

    Children were being sacrificed to satan daily. Any kid we saw on a milk carton had probably been kidnapped for ritual sacrifice. Mom also claimed that a lot of them had been sacrificed by their own parents and then “reported missing.”

    I was told to never allow myself to be hypnotized because then demons would be able to enter my mind.

    I was told that the Catholic church was actually a front for satanists and Mom suspected for a while that pope John Paul was the antichrist. Later, she decided that JFK was the anti-christ - he didn't die in Dallas, but Apollo Onassis flew him to a private island near Greece where satanist healers were helping him recover. He would eventually make a triumphant return to the public and usher in the new world order.

    Speaking of the new world order and the one world government - tattoos were the gateway to the mark of the beast. The United Nations is the precursor to the one world government (while complaining in the same breath about how useless and incompetent the UN is). 'Merica is the only thing stopping the European socialist satanists from ushering in the kingdom of the anti-christ! It's real fun when satanic panic and far right-wing ideology combine forces.

    Yeah, fun childhood. Mom couldn't understand why I was so eager to bolt out of the house as soon as I could.

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    707 VOTES

    Problems Were Blamed On The Ouija Board

    Problems Were Blamed On The Ouija Board
    Photo: Amazon

    From Redditor u/Harmony_w:

    Last day of 2nd grade kids brought games from home to play. Someone brought a Ouija board which I had never heard of before and really enjoyed playing. When I mentioned it at home Mom freaked out that I had “opened my spirit to demons” and was likely possessed. This was the family narrative that persists to this day, exacerbated by my struggles with PTSD and bipolar disorder. 

    As I got older my siblings would hold me down and perform “exorcisms.” As late as when I was 17. When I started getting mental health care at 25 they tried to convince me it was a waste of time because I just needed to get rid of the demons. The worst of them works for NPR now, no joke.

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    507 VOTES

    Our Parents Were Frightened By Those Darn Teens

    From Redditor u/OneHundredChickens:

    I was a kid at the time. I basically remember neighborhood parents being freaked out that their kids were going to become Satan worshippers. Then the teenagers would lean into it by spray painting pentagrams all over the place. There of course wasn’t any satanism going on. Just a bunch of busybody suburban parents worrying about nonsense and teenagers using the fear as a means of rebellion.

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    521 VOTES

    The True Name Of Bands Was Up For Debate

    The True Name Of Bands Was Up For Debate
    Photo: Amazon

    From Redditor u/Barbara_Celarent:

    I grew up in a Bible Belt area and had classmates who were banned from reading Macbeth because of witchcraft, etc. AC/DC was said to stand for Antichrist Death Crusaders.

    From Redditor u/notthesedays:

    I always heard "Anti-Christ Devil Child."

    From Redditor u/TheHrethgir:

    I always heard “Anti Christ Devils Cult.” Guess it varied by region.