I don't know about you, but as a small child I used to get this terrifying idea in my head that there was something under my bed at night. I can't remember anymore if I thought it was a person or a monster but whatever I believed, it made getting up to go to the bathroom at night a nightmarish ordeal! If you had that childhood fear you know exactly what I'm talking about. Sure it made no sense, but it seemed like some kind of rule; The horrible thing under your bed would leave you alone only if you stayed still and quiet. So then setting your feet down on the ground was like asking to be grabbed! You know what changed all of that? The family flashlight. It was this big, bright red, boxy thing about the size of a brick and keeping it in my room at night was like magic. Suddenly I only had to flick a switch to dispel any lurkers from the darkness of my bedroom.
I tell you this because as a teenager I had a very different, yet remarkably similar fear. Satanists were the monster in this case and they weren't under my bed, they were everywhere!! Also, they had amazing magical superpowers. Now my teenage self would have seen no similarities between the Satanists of legend* and the monster under my bed. The formless entity under my bed was obviously made up and I never saw any evidence to the contrary. Fine, I never actually saw any evidence for these magical Satanists either, but lots of other people seemed to. The occult experts that came to speak at my church and my school certainly seemed convincing. The Jack Chick comics I read and the (Christian) books on the occult that my mom got me also seemed pretty convincing! Most memorable of these was a book called "He came to set the captives free" by Rebecca Brown. The police officer that came to speak to our Sunday School class only mentioned devil worshiping teens killing animals and vandalizing gravestones. According to Rebecca Brown, the truth went lightyears beyond teenage misdemeanors. Real Satanists were apparently masquerading as respectable people in positions of power all over society. Their power wasn't just political and financial either, they were able to preform the most incredible magical feats - the kind which would be able to convert any skeptic into a believer instantly, not to mention win them the million dollar JREF prize several times over. They could attack you in hundreds of terrifying ways and they could do so completely invisibly. Also, werewolves and vampires were totally real things - these functioned as high level satanic "enforcers" within the Satanic church.
This all seemed so terrifying and fantastical. With good reason too, since it all turned out to be fantasy! What I realize now is that all this Satanic Panic is just another version of "monster under my bed" that grownups believe in. No one has actually seen this "monster" for themselves but everyone knows someone who has heard of someone who totally did. To keep yourself safe from this "monster" you also have to follow some arbitrary rules to keep it from grabbing you - no listening to Metal, no watching horror movies, no reading Harry Potter, etc. Lastly, just like any good imaginary monster it all seems to disappear the moment you shine the light of inquiry on it. The facts tend to not be very kind to these "former Satanists" and their fantastical stories. It all tends to fall apart the moment you start checking up on their tales.
If you are at all interested in seeing what the light of investigation actually showed, S.M. Elliott over at Swallowing the Camel is currently doing a series on these "former satanists"/"witches who switched" and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's an excellent read, both exhaustively detailed and extremely well researched & written. If you have any interest in this matter I can guarantee you that you will find it as fascinating as I do. Just look for the "The Prodigal Witch" tag. (I'll keep an updated link list here too)
As I read the stories behind these famous "ex-devil worshipers" I can't help but wonder why I didn't smell a rat much earlier. Every one of these "former Satanists" claims to have been very high up in the organization before they converted to Christianity. Never do you seem to hear from someone who was only an entry level devil dabbler. Instead they are always (at the very least) former High Priests/Priestesses and usually so high up the Satanic food chain that they could see exactly how deep this devilish worldwide conspiracy reached. They were Satanic superstars, every one! In fact these guys usually have a story of how they met (and fornicated with) Lucifer himself at some point, that is how deep into it they were! So then, if they were all telling the truth then you would expect them to all be telling the same story, wouldn't you? Yet the more "testimonies" you read, the more differences you find. So far none of these people seem to agree on what the Satanic Scriptures looked like, what the rituals were** or what the rules and hierarchy of the church looked like. To date no one has been willing/able to reproduce any of the secretive satanic writings they encountered either. In short, each fantastical tale of horror and magic is really different from all the others. Another interesting thing is that much like horror movies, these testimonies have certainly become a lot more gruesome and graphic since the early 70's!
Call me crazy but all of that sounds less like a real worldwide satanic conspiracy and more like the fantasies of mentally unwell people desperate for attention.
The Prodigal Witch Series so far:
The Prodigal Witch: Intro
The Prodigal Witch Part I: Doreen Irvine
The Prodigal Witch Part II: Mike Warnke (Mike Warnke's Story)
The Prodigal Witch Part II: Mike Warnke (The Real Story)
The Prodigal Witch Part III: John Todd (Part 1)
The Prodigal Witch Part III: John Todd (Part 2)
The Prodigal Witch Part IV: Other "Former Satanists" of the '70s
The Prodigal Witch Part V: Irene Park, Another Witch That Switched
The Prodigal Witch Part VI: Tom Sanguinet
The Prodigal Witch Part VII: Bill Schnoebelen
The Prodigal Witch VIII: "Elaine"
The Prodigal Witch VIII: "Elaine" Part II
The Prodigal Witch: A Thumbnail Sketch of Johanna Michaelsen
The Prodigal Witch IX: Lauren Stratford
The Prodigal Witch IX: Lauren Stratford Part II
The Prodigal Witch IX: Lauren Stratford Part III
On the flipside, The Slactivist recently wrote a great article examining the other side of this equation - the people eager to buy what these conmen were selling. Well worth a read:Mike Warnke and Marriage Equality
*These seem to have very little in common with those in the actual, official religion of Satanism.
** Depending on who you asked they either just danced around a fire, ritually sacrificed roosters, sacrificed actual babies or just mock sacrificed naked women. The only similarity seems to be the orgies. Every testimony is just riddled with orgies...
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