Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>Satanist urban legend
Subject: Satanist
Culture: American
Setting: "Satanic panic," America from 1980s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Victor 1993 p298
"The Satanic cult scare is, in part, a response to people's need for simple and quick explanations for several different kinds of ambiguous social phenomena.  The most publicly visible of these social phenomena, and the one which has received the greatest newspaper attention, is a rash of petty crimes by teenage delinquents, some of whom call themselves 'Satanists.'  A second ambiguous phenomena consists of children's reports of bizarre forms of group sexual abuse at child-care centers ....  These allegations have also received a lot of sensational newspaper attention, even though the Satanic cult aspects of the allegations have often been downplayed.  Finally, less publicly visible but more important are the claims of Multiple Personality Disorder patients, who tell their psychotherapists stories of childhood torture by Satanic cults.  These stories are being spread across the country by believing therapists.
"All three phenomena are being linked together by moral crusaders, who see themselves as fighting an organized, secret criminal conspiracy.  However, the only real link consists of people's preconceptions, guided by the Satanic cult legend."

* Ross 1995 p61-62
"There are different levels of Satanism, and it is not possible to treat victims of 'Satanism' without taking this into account.  The same variations are present in any human activity. [...]
"In comparison with our knowledge of cocaine, our understanding of the nature and extent of Satanic ritual abuse is rudimentary; data on the drug trade are widely available, whereas proof of the existence of widespread organized Satanic cults practicing human sacrifice is lacking.  Despite this tenuous external context it is important that those trying to treat victims of Satanism understand the subjective context of the patient and clarify the different degrees of involvement and forms of 'Satanism.'
"Involvement can be divided into five distinct levels.  An individual can shift from one level to another, or be involved in more than one level at a time, but the five levels provide a general framework for putting treatment in perspective.  The five levels are:
1. Isolated criminal deviants;
2. Teenage dabblers;
3. Non-criminal public Satanic churches;
4. Narcosatanistos;
5. Orthodox multigenerational Satanic cults.
There is substantial evidence, including extensive physical evidence gathered by police and criminal convictions, for the first four levels of Satanism. It is only the fifth which is unproven." [citation omitted]

* Hicks 1991 p58-59
"Law enforcers' dogged belief in a faceless satanic conspiracy, despite the lack of evidence, relies on nonevidence: to them, what one doesn't find proves the strength of the conspiracy.  Since traditional Satanists measure their success by leaving no evidence, the more successful they become at kidnapping, child abuse, and murder, the fewer clues they leave behind.  Richmond, Virginia, Bureau of Police Lieutenant Lawrence Haake once admitted that he had no evidence of satanic human sacrifices, but added, 'No evidence can be evidence.'  Patricia Pulling tries to link unsolved homicides to human sacrifices: 'They certainly have found a number of unsolved murders with no motive, haven't they?'  Another self-appointed expert, Sergeant Alan Alves of the Freetown, Massachusetts, Police Department, asserts: 'The organized satanists leave absolutely no evidence.  They're killing.  That's what they believe in.  They have to make sacrifices.  They're killing babies.'  Of course Alves himself admits that he has never made a satanic-crime arrest nor uncovered evidence of human sacrifice.  But the lack of evidence does not inhibit detailed claims about Satanists' ceremonial doings.  Deputy sheriff Larry Dunn from Washington State, backed by cult survivor Jacquie Balodis, claims that 'devil worshippers sacrifice 50,000 humans a year, mainly transients, runaways, and babies conceived solely for the purpose of sacrifice.'  But how would Satanists dispose of the evidence of such slaughter?  One cult survivor who claims to have witnessed human and animal sacrifice says: 'They'd burn everything up at the end.  What they didn't burn, they would bury.  They would have to have it done before the sun came up.'  Another survivor related that body parts were also eaten.
"The belief in the transcendent traditional Satanists has become the test of faith for cult cops.  San Francisco police officer Sandi Gallant: 'With organized groups, it's very deliberate that we're not finding any evidence of criminal activity.  They're much too careful and hide their tracks very well.'  To pursue such a belief has one apparent value: one can assert anything about traditional Satanists without having to demonstrate how one arrived at such assertions. ... [T]he defining characteristic of a pseudoscientific assertion is its irrefutability.  Therefore, when cult cops assert as true a complex model of traditional satanic behavior, they rely on a certain argument in the face of skepticism: 'Prove to me that they don't exist.'"

* Hicks 1991 p56-57
"The primary level of Satanists is said to include members of families who have practiced their beliefs secretly for generations, those who abuse children in day-care centers, murder, kidnap, and rape.  Such Satanists, according to cult 'experts,' comprise an international underground, tightly organized and covert, responsible for upwards of 50,000 human sacrifices a year (many of which involve babies bred specifically for murder).  These traditional, dangerous Satanists supposedly exist in a realm beyond publicly accessible, organized groups.  Overall, though, traditional Satanists belong not to different denominations of the same thing but rather to an international megacult tightly organized in a clandestine hierarchy.
"Whole families are said to participate, raising children to a lifetime of human and animal sacrifices, kidnapping, ongoing mental and physical abuse, and child pornography, to name the primary activities. ....
"Primary-level Satanists' belief in magic propels them to sacrifice people: through killing, they release some primal energy force that enriches the participants, say the cult officers.   The abuse of children itself is a form of worship.  While for most ritual purposes the children of traditional Satanists will suffice, sometimes Satanists must look elsewhere for sacrificial fodder: usually at day-care centers."

* Cook 2009 p172
"Secret cabals aside, most law enforcement agencies refute the idea that thousands of people are being abducted by evil cults for sacrifice.  The link between most heavy metal music and actual believers in the occult is tenuous at best.  And backmasking has yet to be established as an actual way to influence the subconsious -- the case against Judas Priest, for example, was thrown out of court.  Satanic ritual abuse and the recovery of such memories through regression hypnosis is denounced by the majority of the psychiatric community as well as law enforcement, who claim it owes more to the power of suggestion than of Satan.
"There are, of course, a number of different groups that call themselves Satanists: the Church of Satan, the Temple of Set, and others.  They seem to have little to do with the worldwide conspiracy discussed here, although it's unlikely that they would admit to such a thing on their websites.  Still, the Church of Satan doesn't even seem to believe that there is such a thing as 'Satan' and uses the term only metaphorically.  Many people confuse Wicca and other pagan religions with Satanism, making the sinister, shadowy cult seem even larger."

* Brunvand 1993 p118
"Rumors about predictions of campus murders recur frequently, generally around Halloween.  Usually the stories specify that the killings will occur at a college whose name begins with a certain letter, or one situated near a certain configuration of hills or rivers.  Generally the target building is said to be a campus residence of a particular shape, size, or name.  In recent years the rumors may include claims that a satanic cult is planning the murders."

* Victor 1993 p289
"It would seem that the Satan-hunters of today, who claim that Satanic cults are so secretive that they cannot be found, are repeating a refrain heard over and over in the past.  Police agents have proven quite competent at infiltrating secretive political groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Communist Party, and even small groups of political terrorists.  They have been able to infiltrate crime networks of drug dealers and even, with some difficulty, Mafia crime families.  Police can't infiltrate secret criminal Satanist covens, however, because they simply don't exist."

* Ross 1995 p200
"Certain sectors of the media will continue their sensationalist exploitation of Satanism for ratings, circulation, and income, but the responsible media should consider takings steps to counter the polarization of discussion about Satanism.  Whenever a program or article is being done on Satanic ritual abuse, experts should not merely be asked for a statement but should be asked how they know that what they are saying is true.  Experts should be carefully questioned on the number of survivors they have interviewed personally, their direct knowledge of the practices of therapists, and the sources of their information.  They should also be asked about their motivation for speaking publicly on the issue and their reasons for being interested in Satanism.  The purpose of such questioning would be to establish the ideological biases driving the experts' opinions."