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Due to the graphic nature of this episode, listener discretion is advised. This episode features discussions of abuse, murder, sexual assault and child sexual assault that some people may find disturbing. We advise extreme caution for listeners under 13.
In the 1980s, a wave of anxiety surged across the United States. Worries about the economy, military conflicts and religious turmoil seem to dominate public discourse. And to many, it felt like the nation was losing its way. Looking to cast blame, some pointed the finger at inept governments and amorphous foreign threats from beyond the country's borders. But others suspected there was a more insidious threat, something evil in the biblical sense.
And this fear wasn't wholly unfounded. Fueled by highly sensationalized crimes, the rise of a cult imagery and pop culture and the growth of evangelical churches paranoia ran rampant. There was some invisible, malevolent force corrupting the youth of America and tainting the moral fabric of society.
Every shadow hit a monster. There was no safe harbor. And in the face of such overwhelming evil, some people reasoned there could only be one entity to blame Satan himself.
People were convinced they'd uncovered the truth about an all encompassing evil conspiracy to end life as we know it, and from that first spark of insanity, the flames spread rapidly. Allegations emerged that devil worshippers were carrying out disturbing occult rituals all over the country in homes, businesses, even schools and daycares. People claimed to see Lucifer's influence in movies, music and on the backs of shampoo bottles. In the midst of the panic, a new religious right rose up using the news media as a megaphone.
They stoked the flames, compounding the situation in a misguided bid to destroy Lucifer at all costs. It wasn't long before wild conspiracies, half truths and phony first person accounts of Satanism blended together. Horrific stories that young children were being kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered by evil cults spread like hellfire.
Overzealous law enforcement and psychologists pursued the claims, coaxing children into corroborating the outrageous allegations. Based on these dubious testimonies, scores of daycare center employees and parents stood trial. Families were torn apart, businesses left in ruined, reputations reduced to tatters. And when the dust settled, some still didn't know what to believe.
That was the satanic panic. Misinformation, paranoia and fear ignited a firestorm across North America. And the implications of this modern day witch hunt still ripple even today. Hi, I'm Greg Polson. Welcome to the first episode of a five part special on The Satanic Panic, part of a crossover event between serial killers and cults. Over the next four weeks, we're taking a deep dive into what sparked this modern day mass panic in America.
I'm here with my co-host, Vanessa Richardson. Hi, everyone.
You can find episodes of serial killers, cults and all other Spotify originals from Parker cast for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts with several decades worth of distance.
It's easy to pass judgment on those who were swept up in the madness of the satanic panic. But we're going to examine exactly how it took hold from 1960s popular culture and the rise of evangelical Christianity to serial killers and murderous cults. We're delving into the facts that fed the falsehoods.
Today, we're charting the origins of the satanic panic, tracing its roots back to the highly publicized crimes of cults and serial murderers in the 1960s and 70s.
We'll also look at how sensational reporting led to an unprecedented explosion of paranoia as the 1980s rolled around.
Next time, we'll cover the murderous rampages of three iconic serial killers who terrified their communities. And look at how these criminals impacted the atmosphere of the satanic panic.
We have all that and more coming up.
Stay with us. Detective Bob Perez could feel all the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, he wasn't sure if it was the chill in the air or his horror over the task at hand.
For the last several weeks, he'd been investigating one of the most horrific abuse cases he'd ever seen. His 10 year old foster daughter, Donna, revealed that she'd been sexually molested by nearly every adult in her life. Every time he talked to her, Donna revealed more and more abusers. But she didn't always know their names. She called them things like a bald guy with glasses or a fat mother with black hair. Detective Perez needed more information.
So that morning, March 13th, 1995, he drove Donna around the streets of Wenatchee, Washington, to see if she could point out the homes of her molester's, the places where she and other children had been passed around like party favors. According to Donna, it was all arranged by an elaborate underground sex ring, the hidden underbelly of this sleepy Pacific Northwest town. As Perez turned down street after street, Donna pointed at more and more of the front doors.
By the end of the drive, she identified 22 houses and buildings throughout the town, including a local Pentecostal church. Perez was stunned the cult of abusers was wider than he could have possibly imagined.
He started to call them the circle, but Perez didn't truly appreciate the diameter of the circle. Not yet. When he finally saw the whole picture, he'd help bring charges against 43 adults accused of raping or molesting 60 children, at least 29000 726 times. Except none of it actually happened.
Scenarios like the one in Wenatchee played out over and over again during the satanic panic in towns across America in the 1980s and 90s. It was a time of nearly unprecedented paranoia, a period where the darkest, most outrageous accusations were taken seriously, even by educated, otherwise reasonable adults. In short, it was a moral panic. And to fully grasp these events, we need to understand exactly what that means. Sociologist and criminologist Stanley Cohen writes that moral panics occur when a person or a group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.
Next, warnings about the threat must be passed on by worried citizens. This can happen through any number of ways, but in the modern era, panic most commonly spreads through mass media.
According to Cohen, if newscaster's community leaders or other public officials can condense the danger into a digestible, easily recognized simple, it's much more likely to incite public outcry and to Christian middle America. There is no simple, more terrifying than Satan himself.
Once a threat has been signified, regardless of whether the panic is justified or rational, authorities are pressured to do something about it. Any dissent is considered suspicious at best. At worst, it's a clear sign of guilt. At the height of the Satanic panic, many took disagreement as a sign of collusion with evil because no one wanted to be ostracized by their community. People encouraged and embellished rumors wanting to avoid casting suspicion on themselves. To many, there were only two choices guilty or innocent.
To believers, defeating Lucifer was a cause that was an absolute good cloaking themselves and sanctimony. Parents pointed to the encroaching threat of Satanism as justification for stamping out whatever offended them. After all, the fate of their children's souls were at stake. Eventually, moral panics can grow powerful enough to affect actual social change. And when they do, this only reinforces the original concern. After law enforcement and psychologists started looking into the satanic accusations, circular logic ensued. For skeptics and believers alike, the very fact of an investigation served as evidence that the threat was real.
Why else would those in power act? This process showcases the emotional minefield that surrounds any widespread moral panic or conspiracy to those who feared that satanic cultists were invading their neighborhood, the devil was the ultimate evil and his victims, young children, were the ultimate innocents. In this way, the collective voices of the satanic panic believers grew until they drown out any reasonable debate with each additional person who bought in.
The threat started to seem more legitimate to those on the outside. Eventually, the masses took even the most outrageous claims seriously, with life altering consequences. And the bigger the scandal, the more captivating the headlines. Though the satanic panic spread through mass media and was influenced by modern popular culture. It followed a similar course as previous moral hysterias throughout history, from the Salem witch trials to the Red Scare. Vicious rumors and the dark side of human nature have always driven people to violence masquerading as righteous justice.
Even the disturbing accusations of satanic ritual abuse have their origins in the ancient and often bloody crusades of the past. Stories about children being kidnapped and murdered to appease the devil can trace their roots back millennia.
Ironically, some of the earliest of these stories targeted Christians rather than Satan as the perpetrators of evil. In ancient Rome, Christians were accused of kidnapping and cannibalizing children as a relatively new religious minority. They were blamed for everything from economic hardship to destructive fires.
But as Christianity spread and became more socially acceptable by the Middle Ages, the myths were co-opted and used to advance the church's interests. Florence Riddley, a literary scholar, found that stories of child sacrifice circulated as early as the fifth century. In her article, A Tale Told too often, Riddley attributes one of these tales to Socrates of Constantinople, a Christian historian not to be confused with the Greek philosopher, she writes, Socrates spun a tale of Howett in Mistah.
In Syria, a group of Jews had tortured and murdered a Christian child in mockery of Christ. And ever since that remote time, similar stories have continued to appear in various forms in the folklore of Western Europe and eventually in America.
This pattern continued as the years went on. Throughout the medieval period, stories of innocent children who were kidnapped and tortured by smaller religious groups ran rampant in the modern era.
Similar tropes were used by the Third Reich as anti-Semitic propaganda to indoctrinate the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany. In the United States, tales like these were used from the country's inception as a way to malign black people for more than a century, stories of black men attacking, torturing and killing white children circulated throughout the country.
At one time, they served as excuses to justify evils like slavery. After the Civil War, they were used to enact and expand Jim Crow laws that kept black people subjugated and oppressed. No matter what else changed this kind of baseless fear mongering, reinforced racist policies and institutions.
Though each iteration of these vile stories differed in their particulars for over a thousand years, they've demonized vulnerable groups by using innocent children as sympathetic victims, because society generally agrees across the board that crimes targeting children are senseless and despicable. It's so outrageous. We don't even question whether these accusations are true by manipulating emotions, these stories twist the protective instincts of parents into a tool for prejudice and violence.
The specific group targeted by these myths always depends on the social environment of the time. As the 60s turned into the 70s, a new group emerged as the target of collective fear and distrust. Unlike in the past, the motivation for these fears seemed less rooted in hate and more anchored in a mystical paranoia. Conservative adults were frightened as they felt American culture changing and ultimately slipping out of their control.
In those uncertain times, they invented an enemy big enough to justify drastic action and reassert their dominance over the country. This time, they blamed Satan himself.
Up next, the seeds of a satanic panic take root. Listeners, I have a surprising new treat for you, you know, you can find love in a bar or on an app, why not a podcast in Blind Dating, the new Spotify original from podcast. We're expanding the places you can meet your match with a twist you'll never see coming. Every Wednesday, YouTube and host Terry Michel introduces one hopeful single to two strangers in a voice only call.
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But the paranoia that spawned these claims began much earlier.
The first time many Californians heard the term Satanist may have been in 1966, when Anton Levay founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco. But though his movement had a controversial name, it didn't inspire much outrage. At first, he only had a few followers, most considered Levay to be nothing more than a harmless crank for the rest of the country.
Their first frightening introduction to Satanism came two years later in 1968, when the horror movie Rosemary's Baby was released to critical and popular acclaim. Originally, a novel, Rosemary's Baby told the story of a secret group of cultists who arranged for an innocent woman to be impregnated with Satan's child the next year in 1969, when they published the Satanic Bible.
For him, Satan was not a physical creature with a pitchfork and horns. Instead, he was a symbol of liberty and rebellion against a prudish controlling establishment.
In the first part of the book called The Book of Satan, Levi wrote, In this arid wilderness of steel and stone, I raise up my voice that you may hear to the east and to the west. I beckon to the north and to the south.
I show a sign proclaiming death to the weekly, wealth to the strong. But the Satanic Bible wasn't as revolutionary or controversial as it pretended to be. Levay attacked the concepts of good and evil as well as organized religion. But his critiques weren't very original or shocking. The book also outlined the philosophy of his church, which borrowed from or even plagiarized concepts from social Darwinism.
Along with the writings of Ragnar Redbeard and Ayn Rand, Levay also argued for a hedonistic lifestyle, believing that it was human nature to give in to lust, greed and the individual ego. Hardly a shocking concept at the time. Indeed, the only thing in the book that went beyond recycled philosophy was the final section there. Levay gave dubious instructions for various magic spells and invocations to the devil, which looked a lot more frightening and impressive than they were because Levay did not actually believe in the supernatural.
These were meant to read as performance art pieces.
Overall, much, if not all of the Satanic Bible was derivative of other philosophies and debunked works of alleged black magic. Some purchase the book as a novelty, but few gave it any credence. For now, Levey was largely ignored. But it wasn't long before public interest in the occult grew beyond just a moneymaking opportunity for authors and movie studios. In August of 1969, the same year the Satanic Bible was published, stories about depraved cults became gruesome reality.
That month, Charles Manson and his Bohemian followers brutally murdered seven people in Los Angeles. Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her death.
Immediately, the Manson murders were sensational news around the country. All of a sudden, reality was more terrifying than the bloodiest horror film. And at the center of it all was Charles Manson. Almost overnight, he became one of the world's most notorious villains, evil incarnate.
He was a genuine cult leader, a man who commanded his followers to murder innocent victims, including an unborn baby, in the service of a dark, mystical plan. His crimes were modern proof of the ancient horror stories about satanic child murderers.
Tales of the attacks were further sensationalized, morbidly fascinating, the nation for years to come. And in many ways, Manson's family played specifically to the paranoia of white suburban Americans that an evil force was coming to take their innocent children.
His violent cult was composed primarily of young middle class women who were drawn in by the hippie movement of the time. Every night, the news reported more about how the women were plied with LSD and mesmerized by a bizarre evil ideology.
Following the murders, the truth about the cult emerged. Manson told his followers that there was a secret coded message hidden in the Beatles White Album. According to him, the lyrics of Helter Skelter foretold an upcoming apocalyptic race war for which he and his followers had to prepare since. Manson wasn't described as a horrific, isolated case, his violence was conflated with anything and everything the news could link him to. In this environment of rising dread, things like the satanic Bible no longer seemed like harmless novelties.
Instead of a bit of spurious, hedonistic nonsense, depraved devil worship suddenly seemed like a real possibility.
Charles Manson made America fear a new dimension of evil and everything he was associated with, from rock music to the rise of hallucinogenic drug use were all loosely lumped under the same counterculture umbrella that led directly to Satan's doorstep. The amorphous counterculture movement had been a favorite boogeyman of conservative adults for years, young people throughout the country sought new, experimental, more tolerant lifestyles. They also fiercely criticized the establishment and the ideal of the American dream.
This trend, combined with the burgeoning civil rights and anti-war movements in the U.S., made many feel that the country was under attack. After years of worry, the changing nation proved to them that their fears weren't unfounded.
They were very real threats in the eyes of these frightened parents. Their growing children were poisoned by immorality and shortsightedness. There were plenty of potential scapegoats. But after the Manson family murders, a huge portion of the blame fell on the era's popular music.
In a fit of bizarre hypocrisy, many bought into Manson's claims that satanic messages really were hiding on rock albums, though they decried the cult leader as an evil liar.
They cherry picked his claims that supported their fears and to kind of dress rehearsal for the later satanic panic accusations.
Baseless rumors were repeated ad nauseum until a sizable number of people in the U.S. gave them credence. People started playing albums backwards, searching for hidden infernal messages. In reality, bands like the Beatles were experimenting with hiding Easter eggs in their music, for example, using back masking a technique in which a sound is recorded backward onto a track. The Beatles had inserted a reversed lyric in their song, Rain.
It just wasn't satanic, though there were some legitimate instances of back masking. Not every rumor about it rang true when people found something they thought was demonic. They played it for their friends. With ample encouragement, even skeptics could be convinced that there were devilish words hidden in the meaningless, reversed sounds.
As it turns out, the human mind has a natural tendency to search for patterns, images and distinct words, even where none exist. This psychological phenomenon is known as Perry. Dolia, looking into the sky and comparing clouds to animals or spotting gnarled faces in tree trunks are examples of visual paedophilia. But this can influence our perception when listening to music as well. We don't always simply hear what is played to us. Instead, we hear what we want to.
Psychologist Diana Deutche discovered that by broadcasting the same sounds through two speakers at slightly different rhythms, listeners could be tricked into believing that fantham words or phrases were being played. She also found that the words people heard depended greatly on their mindset and thoughts at the time of the experiment.
However, most people trust their senses implicitly and don't know to expect psychological tricks of the mind. So in the 1970s, when fearful parents heard what they thought were demonic voices in the music their children listened to, they panicked. And for those who believe the messages were there, it wasn't a stretch to assume that the backwards words were actually corrupting their children, swaying them to the side of evil.
Part of this paranoia can be explained by a long held misunderstanding about so-called subliminal messages. Starting in the 1940s and 50s, companies tried inserting single frame advertisements in the midst of otherwise unrelated cartoons and movies.
Even though the conscious mind couldn't perceive the brief flashes, advertisers hoped that the unconscious would be persuaded to act on the ads.
Subsequent psychological studies have largely discredited the original theories behind subliminal messages in 1975. Researchers determined that flashing the words Hershey's chocolate during a student lecture did not lead to a sudden craving for chocolate, for example, even when chocolate samples were readily available. That isn't to say that subliminal messages are entirely mythical. However, more recent research has suggested that they can impact a person's choices, though the effect is more subtle than once believed. Either way, the idea that backwards infernal slogans can infect a child's mind is completely unsubstantiated.
Nevertheless, it was still a theory in the early 1970s and into the 80s. At the time, some social psychologists and doctors argued that the brain could unconsciously perceive and internalize the secret recordings. But their statements were completely baseless. Even these learned researchers had been hoodwinked by their own fears and biases.
Ultimately, the truth of the claims didn't matter to concerned parents. They heard what they wanted to, and for a multitude of reasons, they were already looking for an excuse to declare the counterculture movement tainted or in. Moral hysteria around subliminal messages, shocking books like the Satanic Bible and horrific cults like Mansons justified prejudices that parents already held. But more significantly, the rumors unified a number of disparate groups. Suddenly religious groups, conservatives who resisted the social change at the time and adults who were simply wary of drug use all had common ground.
The evil behind the curtain was at last revealed, and to many it all made complete sense.
The youth wasn't just rebellious, and there was nothing innocent about the shifting tide of popular culture. Everything was orchestrated by a single entity who pulled the strings in the darkness. Every moral failing could be attributed to Satan, and only a strident, unified moral police could stop him. To some, he was influencing the music that children listen to the films they watched, or possibly encouraging the use of drugs like LSD. Others saw that the devil was drawing young people away from Christian churches or fueling the spread of Eastern religions like Buddhism.
Meanwhile, for those who feared cults and serial killers like Manson, Satan was a violent being who craved debauchery, blood and human sacrifice to those who opposed the rising tide of political and social change. Satan was instead an insidious cultural force, a seductive whisper that threatened the hegemony of white, middle class Christians in the United States.
No matter what a concerned parents biggest fear, chances were it could be traced back to the counterculture. And thus Lucifer the Devil was a vague enough concept that it accommodated Christians of all stripes, and it provided paranoid suburbanites the perfect excuse to interfere wherever they liked.
As Anton Levay wrote in the nine Satanic statements of the Satanic Bible, Satan has been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.
And even after millennia, the Dark Lord was still giving the fears about satanic messages.
Infiltrating media soon spawned a cottage industry of Christian approved paraphernalia as rhetoric about the dangers of the devil in popular music and media multiplied churches eagerly stepped in to fill the vacuum as Satan's eternal enemy. Many concerned citizens felt only their pastors could truly be trusted. Since people still needed entertainment, they turned to their religion for a safe alternatives. Contemporary Christian music was born in the late 60s and early 70s as artists worked to create songs of worship with instrumentation and melody that resembled the popular music of the time.
It was given the church's stamp of approval, something that was safe for children of all ages.
Meanwhile, Born Again Christians wrote inspirational books about their religious journeys, and as the 1980s dawned, Christian television shows aimed at children dominated the airwaves. But even with the explosion of Christian media, some stood out from the pack, like the work of cartoonist Jack Chick. By the 1970s, Chicot published a slew of short comic strips designed to inform children about the devil's devious ways and to inoculate their young minds against unholy temptations.
The comics were quick and easily digestible, with expressive art and heavy handed Christian themes. They were eventually translated into over 100 languages, making them a handy tool for missionaries seeking to proselytize overseas.
But as his repertoire expanded into dozens and eventually hundreds of comics, the dark side of ChiX Christianity reared its head. Chick promoted a literal interpretation of the Bible and didn't shy away from attacking those he saw as enemies of Christ.
His comics included racist, sexist, homophobic and anti Catholic diatribes that warned of satanic conspiracies and threatened his critics with eternal damnation. Despite or perhaps because of their aggressive and bigoted language, the sales of Chick comics flourished during the 70s. They found a fertile audience among the rising numbers of conservative Christians in the U.S. and abroad, though they were ultimately just comic strips.
They nonetheless captured the essence of many Christian churches at the time. And it wasn't a message of love or peace, but rather a warning against evil and a call to arms. Chick spelled it out loud and clear. Satan was responsible for corrupting every aspect of modern life, and anyone who refused to rise up against him was doomed to. Spend eternity in a lake of fire while chicks spread the word that only aggressive Christianity and moral policing could stand in the way of Satan.
Popular media at the time continue to fuel the public's paranoia.
More and more people came to genuinely believe that the devil really was on their doorstep. The news scared them, their churches scared them. Even comic books spread the fear.
By the mid 1970s, people had been bombarded with warnings about Satan for so long that they were just waiting for him to stick his flaming pitchfork through their mail slot. They were on the edge of hysteria and all it would take to set them off was one little spark.
When we return, the first ritual murders and the truth about the devil's shampoo. Now back to the story. During the 1970s, the United States was gripped by widespread fear about demonic possession and the growing influence of the devil, a rising tide of moral outrage over satanic imagery in pop culture, as well as the highly publicized crimes of cults like the Manson family, created a culture of paranoia.
It seemed like people were more willing than ever to believe in baseless gossip and conspiracy theories, especially if they played into their outlandish fears.
So in 1975, when a new crop of bizarre rumors spread across the nation, people bought in after dozens of Midwestern ranchers started reporting their cattle were being murdered and mutilated. People suspected the devil worshippers were responsible.
The cows were covered in small cuts, which looked to be the work of a scalpel, a knife or possibly some kind of ritualistic dagger. Cases of dead bovines popped up in Kansas, Montana and throughout the West and Midwest.
Some of the animals had been mysteriously drained of their blood, fueling wild conspiracy theories. It seemed like there had to be a paranormal explanation. What else could account for the fact that there were no animal tracks or footprints to be found around the animal's corpses? Surely an evil force was behind the deaths.
While some people blamed UFOs, government experiments or publicity hungry pranksters, the satanic cult theory got most of the press. Armed citizen militias started guarding herds of cattle at night, and statewide scientific studies searched for the origin of the attacks.
But the results of the investigations weren't what anyone expected. It turned out that most of the animals simply died of disease and other natural causes. Then small insects and other animals devoured their organs. The blood hadn't actually been drained at all. It just coagulated and thus didn't spill out of the tiny cuts made by the insects.
In the end, ranchers were forced to confront the truth that these kinds of deaths had been occurring for years. For decades, dead cattle like these were considered normal casualties. In fact, nothing about the incidence was out of the ordinary and nothing had actually changed.
But instead of accepting the truth, it spawned an even grander conspiracy. Now, not only did they believe that satanic cultists were slaughtering and drinking the blood of cows across the Midwest, they wondered if evil people were covering it up.
As is often the case with conspiracy theories, the sensational press was aided by cynical profiteers clamoring to cash in on the drama. So-called cult experts and former Satanists emerged from the woodwork, eager to testify about the nature of demonic sacrifices.
Even after multiple investigations failed to detect any foul play, cranks and con men appeared on local news to spread misinformation about the cattle deaths. They fabricated elaborate and contradictory stories about how the supposed rituals were carried out and the profane tools the cultists used to suck out the blood of the animals.
These bogus cult experts didn't just look for spots on the evening news. They also targeted churches and superstitious civilian watchdog organizations. All were eager to go into detail about their sordid satanic pasts and to warn the youth about the ever present darkness for a price. But the rumors about cultists ritually slaughtering cattle were just fueled by smooth talking senex. They were spread by average people desperate to make sense of a confusing world. And there was certainly evil lurking in America at the time serial killers and even a few genuine, depraved cults who committed a slew of horrific acts during the 70s and 80s.
This mixture of sensationalized truth, genuine mysteries, misunderstood psychology and misleading conspiracy theories was difficult to sort through. In some ways, it was simpler to believe that a single overarching evil like the devil was deliberately pulling the strings.
Unfortunately, blaming Satan for all of the world's problems allowed some bad actors to go overlooked. It also unjustly victimized innocent targets. As time went on and malicious stories multiplied, they became even more outlandish.
During the 1980s, the amorphous mob of conspiracy theorists turned their sights toward one of the largest corporations in the U.S. Procter& Gamble, best known for their Head and Shoulders shampoo, Procter and Gamble started receiving mounds of threatening letters from A.S. Satanists.
The messages claimed that Procter and Gamble logo was the work of the devil at the time, the insignia consisted of a man's face in a moon next to 13 stars. The stars were actually meant to. Present the 13 original American colonies, but critics believed they were evidence that the company allied itself with the Prince of Darkness, the myth was based on a verse from the Bible revelation, chapter 12, verse one states. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet and upon her head, a crown of 12 stars.
The letter writers alleged that the logo made a mockery of that verse and was thus satanic. They also claimed that the devil's number 666 could be made if you drew lines between the stars. According to conspiracists, that meant that Procter and Gamble had signed a pact with Satan. Some even allege that the company sent money to the Church of Satan. The allegations were primarily spread by a pamphlets passed out by evangelical churches in a shopping center parking lots. Concerned citizens informed their neighbors that they were washing their hair with the devil shampoo.
As absurd as the story was, it resulted in a genuine headache for Procter and Gamble. Some retailers caved to public pressure and stopped carrying their products in 1982. The company received more than 3000 letters a week complaining about satanic imagery. So they hired four full time employees who were solely devoted to answering every message.
Every year, it seemed the rumors became wilder. Finally, in 1985, Procter& Gamble changed their logo to quell the outrage once and for all, though it may have stopped some of the criticisms.
Moves like these only legitimized the absurd accusations in the minds of conspiracy theorists. And the more anti Satanists felt that their claims were validated, the more they loaded the powder keg for the future panic.
Later, in our Satanic Panic special, we'll explore exactly what happened when it did. But for now, remember, people have been flooded with propaganda from all sides about the contrived threat of Satanism. For years.
It was an environment where an extremely vocal group of people legitimately believed they were fighting an eternal war with the devil. There were no rules, but there would be casualties.
Thanks again for tuning into our Satanic Panic special.
We'll be back Thursday with part two of our Cults and serial killers crossover event. We'll explore the real and terrifying serial killers that fueled the satanic panic.
For more information on the history of the satanic panic, amongst the many sources we used, we found Jeffrey Victor's article, Satanic Cult Rumors as contemporary legend.
Extremely helpful to our research. You can find more episodes of serial killers, cults and all other Spotify originals from Parkhurst for free on Spotify, not only to Spotify already have all of your favorite music, but now Spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy all of your favorite originals from past, like serial killers and cults for free from your phone, desktop or smart speaker. We'll see you next time.
Serial killers and cults were created by Max Coddler and our podcast studios originals. Executive producers include Max and Ron Cuddler Sound Design by Russell Nash with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Joshua Kern. This episode was written by Terry Wells with writing assistants by Abigail Canon and stars Greg Paulson and Vanessa Richardson.
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