ST. LOUIS – The 1980s and 1990s mark an era of “Satanic Panic” in American history.

This article defines “Satanic Panic” as a phenomena that overtook society when satanic abuse against children and other members of society was introduced.

Teachers, government officials, and therapists were implanting false memories while attempting to protect these victims. These “recovered” memories were usually the result of hours of counseling. The restored memories were frequently graphic accounts of ritual Satanic abuse.

Missouri was not immune to the panic. Satanic Panic, on the other hand, has never fully recovered.

Satanism is uprising

One of the first claims of Satanic ritual abuse can be traced to the publication in 1980 of “Michelle Remembers” by Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder.

This is allegedly Smith’s true’survivor’ narrative, in which she retrieved previously forgotten memories of being tormented as a kid by nightmarish, perverted sexual assault by a Satanic sect, which imprisoned her for many months in 1955, when she was five years old.

She said she had forgotten about the incidents for more than 20 years until she went to therapy with Pazder, whom she eventually married and with whom she co-wrote the book.

The book became a worldwide best-seller but was later severely debunked.

In Missouri people believed that during the Satanic Panic, people from outside the country would steal numerous children and sexually abuse or kill them as part of a demon worship practice.

In 1987, James M. Hardy, a troubled 17-year-old student from Carl Junction, a Joplin suburb, was accused of the murder of Steven Newberry, a fellow student. This was a major story that drew the attention of the entire country.

Hardy, Pete Roland, and Ron Clements used baseball bats to kill Newberry after killing a kitten as part of a ceremony in a secluded region near Carl Junction.

In just a few days, local cops identified and arrested suspects. According to the three youths, they murdered Newberry as a sacrifice to Satan.

The men’s spiral into depravity was cobbled together by police: drug use, violent heavy metal music, and animal brutality led to Newberry’s murder.

Geraldo Rivera hosted the prime-time NBC special “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground,” which aired in 1988.

Throughout the movie, Rivera stated that Satanic organizations in the United States sacrifice hundreds of children each year, and that metal music and marijuana are responsible for many young people’s devotion to Satan and bad behavior.

“Exposing Satan’s Underground” immediately became the most-watched “documentary” on television. In the years that followed, hundreds of documentaries like it aired on every major network.

Missouri Monsters

The state’s police departments joined the hunt for Satanists.

Creepy Devil silhouette from hell in the mist with backlit. (Getty Images)

In 1990, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that ten police departments, including those in Crestwood, Eureka, and Festus, were looking into behavior that was “related to the occult.”

Police in St. Louis said they had found 30 places where they thought “satanic activity” had happened. Even the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Missing Persons Unit was questioned about possible “satanic” happenings.

During this seemingly godless onslaught, cops, therapists, and instructors began attending seminars sponsored by “national specialists on satanic-related crime.”

This research explained what the words “satanic” and “occult” mean. It also pointed out the “problem” that these workshops were trying to solve.

The study’s methodology section described the steps for training law enforcement, teachers, and therapists.

According to the Post-Dispatch story “Cult Memories Stir Horror, Doubt,” therapists, psychologists, and social workers revealed awful acts of depravity against children as part of a system of mass ritual abuse encompassing torture, molestation, and forced cannibalism.

Scary horror occult sectarian priest in black hood and metal mask on black background with red glow. (Getty Images)

Hundreds of people worshiping the devil, according to witnesses, were performing rituals in the tunnels beneath St. Louis City.

Even though these meetings were secret and there wasn’t much proof, Chief of Police Don Story in Matteson, Illinois, who is a “specialist on occult-related crime,” said that the situation was “definitely getting worse.”

Not everyone believed in satanic fear. Sarah Huges argued in a 2015 dissertation for Temple University that the satanic hysteria was a physical manifestation of how the media connected evangelical conceptions of suburbia with the occult more quickly in the 1970s. This was made feasible in part by the concurrent emergence of tabloid television.

The increased pace of media coverage contributed to the widespread fear, which became a “satanic panic,” comparable to QAnon.

It was never truly gone

Chris Conner, an assistant teaching professor of sociology at the MU College of Arts and Sciences, shifted his research focus from sociology to QAnon research at the University of Missouri.

He quickly noticed parallels between the various subcultures he’d studied. Two examples are people who like electronic dance music and the way social media has made it easier for LGBTQ+ people to connect, but at the cost of more social isolation and sexual discrimination.

Young angry man with aluminum cap and face mask over the eyes is gesturing angry. Conspiracy theory concept. (Getty Images)

Some might argue the media has contributed to today’s “Satanic Panic” via QAnon. For example, a Republican prosecutor lost re-election this year after internet allegations spread that he was a satanist who ate young children. David Leavitt is not the only one.

According to this Kansas City Star article, Missouri Senate candidates fed into conspiracies last year.

“One of the key themes within QAnon is this lost community story,” Conner explained. “This is where people feel something in their lives is missing, as if suddenly, something has changed and they are feeling estranged from the rest of society.” “What QAnon does for a lot of these folks is give them a sense of purpose and belonging, as well as connect them with a community of like-minded people.” It’s also the same kind of reasoning employed by people who join non-traditional religious institutions. QAnon is likewise utilizing political disenfranchisement to create a weaponized subculture with a political goal.”