Hooded figures meeting in the woods. Sinister underground groups preying on family pets and luring children into barbaric rituals. All around America, whispers of a devious danger infiltrating small towns spread across quiet streets. Neighborhoods once considered safe were now tainted by a threat that could be hiding behind a neighbor's friendly smile or teachers welcoming children into their classroom. That threat was Satanism, and it was about to take America by storm.
In the 1980s, Satanic Panic swept across the country, offering a monster to blame in a time of fear and unrest. Frightened parents banded together to protect children from the seductive forces of evil. Incited by panic and a mob mentality, anger often overshadowed the need for evidence, destroying innocent lives in the crusade against the diabolical.
This wasn't the first time collective fear targeted marginalized groups. From the Salem Witch Trials of 1962 to Dungeon & Dragons-related panic reconstructed by Season 4 of Stranger Things, the US has a history of turning scandals into scapegoats.
How did unfounded claims produce mass hysteria that drowned out logic and reason? Let's look at the timeline of the Satanic Panic and examine how America lost its collective mind - and how traces of this panic are still visible today.
1980: The Dubious Book 'Michelle Remembers' Inspires The 'Day Care Panic'Photo: St. Martin's Press
1982: A Young Dungeons & Dragons Fan's Death Sparks A Nationwide Campaign Against The Game
1983: Allegations Of Ritual Satanic Abuse Against McMartin Preschool Take The Nation By Storm
1984: Two Men Blame Their Strangulation Of A Missouri Teen On Dungeons & Dragons
1985: A '20/20' Segment Brings Wild Tales Of Satanic Worship To Viewers Across The CountryPhoto: The Devil Worshippers / ABC