Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s
Edited by Kier-La Janisse & Paul Corupe
FAB Press – 2018 (Originally published 2015)
This is a collection of essays about different elements of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I remember seeing something about this book when it came out and thinking that it looked cool, and when I recently saw that it contained an essay on Russ Martin’s sexy Satanic mind-control novels, I knew I’d have to read it. I got a couple of gift vouchers from work over the past year, and I was delighted to find a way to use those vouchers to pursue my interest in Satanism.
The essays in here are of varying quality, but most are pretty good. I guess it’s inevitable that each reader will like some better than others. Together they present a pretty comprehensive look at the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.
Reading the book over the course of a few days was a bit odd as the introductory background information in some of the essays is pretty similar. Geraldo’s infamous Exposing Satan’s Underground special gets quite a few mentions. I guess this two hour TV special is probably the defining peak of the panic. Despite multiple attempts, I’ve never managed to watch the whole thing through. After a few moments of it, I feel a maddening urge to listen to Slayer and throw stones through church windows.
I’ve encountered a lot of the material in this book before, and covered some of it on this blog. There’s essays on Michelle Remembers, Bob Larson, books by Phil Phillips, and one on the McMartin preschool trial. The McMartin essay was one of the more interesting in the book. It argues that the claims of Satanist involvement in that case actually prevented prosecutors from busting a real paedophile ring. There are also interesting essays on Chick Tracts, Dungeons and Dragons, and heavy metal in here.
I felt that a few of the writers went a bit overboard trying to make their essays feel academic. One of them even references Foucault. Ugh. We get it guys, you went to college…
(Haha, after writing that last bit, I looked up the guy who made the reference to Foucault, and he actually teaches a course on college writing in a college. Classic! Referencing ol’ Michel might be a surefire way to dazzle your liberal arts prof, but it don’t impress me much.)
This is a far fancier book than the ones I usually read. It looks and feels really nice. There’s so many cool pictures, and it felt like a lot of work was put into the layout. Just to flick through it is a cool experience. In sincerity, if you know any goths who have a birthday coming up, this would be perfect for their coffee table.
I don’t have much more to say about this one. Overall, it’s a very cool book. I’m quite sure I’ll reread some of these essays as research for future posts.
5 thoughts on “Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s – Edited by Kier-La Janisse & Paul Corupe”
Years ago I did an article on “Michelle Remembers” and its relation to the McMartin trial. The comments I received (I didn’t approve all of them) were bizarre. Suffice it to say there are plenty of believers and defenders of the book and of SRA claims still out there. And, weirdly, in addition to SRA, I got some MRA, yes, Men’s Rights Activists, ranting about “radfems.” What interest misogynists have in “Michelle Remembers” I’ll never know.
I’ll also make an admission here that is grounds for immediate revocation of my Ph.D.: I got through grad school in humanities without ever reading Foucault! 😂 I got a splitting headache whenever anyone started talking about him, so I figured I’d just skip it. Fortunately no one noticed.
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Yeah, I’ve never read anything by Foucault either. I just don’t have the guts for continental philosophy!
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On the subject of Satanism more broadly, this is worth a look if you don’t already know it. The final chapters deal with the Panic, and compare the inquisitorial methods and beliefs of SRA believers and old school witchfinders.
Im intrigued by this being a child of the period who well remembers the media panic, though it was far less prevalent here in Australia.