Conspiracy Theories

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled Was Getting a Prime-Time Special


Historical document of the day: 20/20's 1985 report "The Devil Worshippers," a coming-out party for the 1980s Satanism scare. It may help, as you watch this, to know that the bodies of the alleged sacrifice victims never materialized, that the statistic of two million missing kids was a wild exaggeration, and that Mike Warnke, presented here as an expert on Satanic rites, was later exposed as a fraud. But really, anyone able to think critically should be able to see through this without the benefit of hindsight. What's interesting is that so many people took it seriously at the time.

At the beginning of the report, Hugh Downs declares that "police have been skeptical when investigating these acts, just as we are in reporting them"; at the end, Barbara Walters pronounces the story "terrifying." And it is rather terrifying that Downs believed his colleagues had "been skeptical." From the looks of it, they didn't even interview any skeptics.


I'm not posting this just for its historic value, nor simply to give you a chance to laugh at the part where Tom Jarriel goes to a shopping mall to prove "how easy it is for children, or adults for that matter, to get their hands on Satanic material." (One of his examples: The Exorcist. No, really.) Even if you ignore the actual misinformation in the program, this is as pure an example as you'll find of how a scattered group of unconnected crimes can be presented as a grand, malevolent movement, particularly when they're combined with anxieties about the influence of popular culture. Watch the show to see how it's done. It'll help you stay skeptical when similar narratives appear today.

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  1. The only thing that’s changed is that we now have 24-hour cable news channels providing a more constant stream of this level of suck.

  2. The Exorcist being Satanic must have come as a hell of a surprise to devout Catholic Peter Batty.

    1. Blatty. Although some of his views are, indeed, batty.

      1. I don’t that is Batty at all. How can a school call itself “Catholic” then invite that bitch to speak there in a place of honor? You cannot reconcile that act with the Catholic teaching that abortion is the greatest moral issue of the day. If Georgetown wants to do things like that, good for them. But they shouldn’t be able to call themselves Catholic anymore.

        1. John, goddamnit.

        2. We should sue Bill Mahr for claiming to be libertarian.

    2. The Exorcist being Satanic must have come as a hell of a surprise to devout Catholic Peter Batty.

      This thread needs some adorable.

  3. I’ll go ahead and bring up the Anton LeVay-Ayn Rand connection.

    1. …or “LaVey”; however that fucking heathen spelled it.

  4. Needs MOAR “Suicide Solution” from the King of Hell himself, Ozzy Osbourne, and the gay Prince of Hell, Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Don’t you know that Tipper Gore was on a mission from God?

  5. When Barbara Walters says it, it’s spelled “tewwifying.”

  6. I remember when some dude at my mother’s church was calling for a boycott of Proctor and Gamble because their “man on the moon” symbol was satanic.

    That was about the time I started to realize that religion can be a mental disorder for some people.

    1. I remember all that stuff too. The best one was that when I was a teen I was a rather devout Fundamentalist Christian but the beginning of my path to atheism was a couple guest preachers who came in to our church to do a special sermon on the dangers of Backward Masking in Rock Music and a second who did a sermon on the evils of Dungeons and Dragons. Being a geek I was fairly well read on psychological warfare techniques and knew that subliminal messaging had already been proven to have no impact and as an avid DD player it was pretty hard to take seriously the other guy who had obviously never even opened up the books but extrapolated his entire sermon from a couple of Chick Tracts

      1. Ah yes. Play ELO backwards and you hear “Satan! Satan! He is God! He is God!”

        I remember it well.

        1. You admit to owning ELO?

          1. He said it!

          2. You admit to owning ELO?

            Satan’s influence, right there.

          3. For the record, I will defend ELO. Production was a little over-the-top, but some great songwriting, especially on El Dorado.

        2. Actually, if you play ELO backwards it says “Why are you listening to this backwards, it was meant to be played forward” or something like that.

        3. The one I distinctly remember is Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust played backwards sounds kinda like Decide to Smoke Marajuana and while I’m sure the guys in Queen did partake of the weed often my guess is if they were trying to “corrupt youth” with backward masking they’d be encouraging them to “smoke” something else entirely 🙂

      2. You should have forgiven his shoot from the hip rant against DD was spawned from his alignment of chaotic-good.

      3. who did a sermon on the evils of Dungeons and Dragons.

        I knew Patty Pulling way back when during the DD scare. I knew her because she tried to get my family “kicked out of the neighborhood” because my friends and I were playing ADD.

        1. I forgot about the damned ampersand banishment again.

  7. Unfortunately, we now have a worse scourge than satanism – bath salts.

    1. We outlawed “bath salts” in Alabama last year. Obviously, no one in Alabama uses them anymore.

      1. Wrong! My friend in Birmingham was sending everyone naked pictures of himself and threatening to eat the neighbors on Facebook last night.

        1. That’s just an average Wednesday night in Birmingham as I understand it.

        2. Why is no one blaming the obious culprit in face eating, Facebook itself.

          All those faces begin to look yummy when you fritter away so much life on there…

          1. The poor bastards who bought stock have no choice, though I’m sure that spending 2-3 hours a night clicking on banal ads in the hopes of driving up values would lead anyone to desire “bath salts.”

            It’s a vicious cycle that must be stopped! Think I’ll open a Facebook rehab clinic.

  8. Hell even just a few years ago in Lubbock, Christian “activists” spent a year or more constantly defacing a designed face called the Windy Man on new highway overpasses because it was “pagan”.

    They never hurt anybody, but they did cause untold dollars in property damage over the course of a couple of years until the city gave up and changed the decoration.

    But seriously as a practicing Devil Worshiper, I’m glad to see us get the recognition we deserve. “And I’m gonna line the swimming pool with gargoyles, for the sacrifices.”

    1. “I got a question: can you make the blood flow up the walls?”

      1. “Lemme go talk to my blood guy over here.”

        1. “That’s elf blood, too. That ain’t cheap.”

          1. “So I’ve gotta be humped by a giant red ape in space?”

            1. “You make our house bleed right now!”

      2. Like anti-Guinness Blood?

    2. You guys are always so lame. You never come through with the cool shit like you claim to.

      1. God hogs all the good followers. Satan just gets the retards.

        1. Let’s not forget these winners shall we?

        2. “Oh why are my sins always so unreliable?” ask Satan

          “Must be the wages you pay them” replied God.

    3. On the plus side, the fundies were apparently so busy with the Windy Man that they lacked the energy to fight the movement to make Lubbock wet again. Hooray for booze!

  9. Wow, wicked (pun intended) flashbacks! I was at ground zero of this hellish frenzy, being raised by fundamentalists in the 1980’s.

    On the bright side, being raised in that crap created a strong sense of skepticism in almost everything, and saved me from the Ozzy Osbourne fad. The downside was that I missed a bunch of other good music, and I still feel a little nausea when someone offers to “pray for me.”

    1. …the Ozzy Osbourne fad

      Not sure you can call a 40-year career a ‘fad.’ That would be similar to calling the Stones a fad as well.

    2. Ozzy is not a fad, but a way of life. Fortunately for people like you who missed out on peak Ozzy, recorded music exists.

      1. I defer. I picked up with Metallica and Megadeth. Never bothered to backtrack.

        1. Not a bad start

  10. I assume this was before Stossel joined 20/20.

    Anyway, the only proper response to the 1985 story is JENKEM!

  11. Jesse, are you calling Barbara Walters a liar? You may be wearing loafers, but I can still see your cloven hooves. Are you sure your last name isn’t Beelzebub?

  12. Ah, yes. The Satanic Cult scare of 1985-1995. The staple of talk shows from Geraldo to Sally Jesse Raphael. And 20/20, by the looks of it.

    1. And false child molestation cases everywhere.

  13. I prayed for the devil to give me tax free $1,000,000.00. So the door bell rings and it is Warty, naked, with just his toothbrush and a 1/2 eaten snickers bar.

    Man, fuck the devil.

  14. If you weren’t molesting and strangling/stabbing/cannibalizing preteen children to a heavy metal soundtrack in the 1980s, unfortunately, you were wasting the decade.


    1. dug say ee natas! natas!

    2. Stop, I’m getting all nostalgic now.

  15. I was once accused of sacrificing a dead cat that had fallen from a window in a satanic ritual (the cat I supposedly sacrificed after it’s fall didn’t die until sometime in 1998 of old age). I was harassed in school by both students and faculty and the local LEOs watched me and my friends like a hawk. It was weird, scary, but mostly amusing because every allegation became more and more absurd until the whole kerfuffle petered out. All of this stemmed from having a copy of LaVey’s The Satanic Bible and using the pic on the back for a pen ink project in my freshman art class.

    1. The rituals in The Satanic Bible were only slightly less effective than the explosives recipes in The Anarchists’ Cookbook. Oh the 1980s, they really were not a bad time to grow up.

      1. But pop music and their vids were awful.
        Belinda Carlisle alert…

        1. Yeah but we didn’t know any better. And Belinda was hot.

  16. Let’s have a little Satanism.

    And shit, let’s have some Deicide too while we’re at it.


      You can’t talk Satan without Bon Scott.

    2. So Satan has a big rack? Who knew?

      1. Of course he does. What the fuck did you expect?

        1. I should have known better. There is no way any man can compete with the evil that is a woman.

      2. R:”It’s a girl.”
        E:”It’s Satan.”
        R:”I thought Satan was a man.”
        E:”It’s whatever it wants to be.”


      Not the lame ass remake. But the original.

      1. God damn. Nothing like Raquel Welch in her prime.

        1. She is not my favorite from that era. But she wasn’t bad.

          1. Sophia Loren is my favorite from that time. I’m assuming she’s yours, too.

            1. I think of her being more 50s. But yeah. Sophia is bloody awesome.

          2. She is not my favorite from that era.

            Who was?

            1. Katherine Ross or Ann Margaret always did for me. So did a lot of the early Bond women. Who doesn’t love a young Ursula Andress or Jill St. John.

              I would take any of them before Welch.

              1. Agree with you on Ann Margaret, absolutely gorgeous. The rest are stunning as well, as well as Sophia. But I would have to take Rachel over those, except Ann.

                Why can’t we have women like those today, why??

                1. They are too skinny and have too much plastic surgery. The older actresses were not fat. But they were not a size zero. It amazes me how Hollywood ruins women. Eva Green is in the new Dark Shadows move. And she is a goddess. But as gorgeous as she is, they have made her 10 pounds too skinny and she doesn’t look as good as she did when she fist started out.

                  1. They are too skinny and have too much plastic surgery.

                    I am afraid you are right.


    4. If you haven’t listened to Pallbearer, you should

  17. I am continually annoyed that reasonably intelligent people – not just the crowd who joins every moral panic but those who are otherwise skeptical – fail to recognize the close resemblance between the Satanic Panic and the current “sex trafficking” hysteria: http://maggiemcneill.wordpress…..affic-jam/

    1. Look at that picture of Simon Stevens and tell me he doesnt possess the evil eye! Just seeing the photo is enough to wither your crops.

  18. We need some more whores around here.

    1. I’ll do my best to send them this way. 😉

      1. Thanks, Miss McNeill!

  19. Back in the early 80’s I went fishing with a buddy of mine during hunting season. I always carry a gun, and on that particular trip I carried a SW 41 mag with a 7 in barrel and some loads I had made up pretty hot.

    While we were out on the water in catahoula swamp, an insanely huge boar hog came to the edge of the water. He stomped his feet, spun in circles and growled repeatedly at us. If we had not been on the water I am sure he would have tried to kill us. Since I had a license and it was season, my buddy finally convinced me to take a shot at him. It was a good 60 yards and with a pistol I was skeptical I could hit him, but I let one off anyway. Bingo, I hit him square in the eye and dropped him in his tracks. He turned out to be around 7 feet long and in my estimation 500+ lbs…..a real monster.

    After stuffing 4 ice chests with meat we still had a significant bit of hog left over. So, to amuse ourselves we put the head on a shoulder-high stick at the edge of the water.

    Several nights later I was watching the evening news and a report on local devil worship aired. Yep, there was the reporter and half a dozen deputies in hip waders pointing wide-eyed at a hog’s head on a stick in the edge of a swamp….proof positive that devil worshipers were operating locally. All I could do was smack my head and note what total fucking idiots they were.

    1. Just because you didn’t realize that your actions were inspired by satanic possession doesn’t mean they weren’t.

      1. Maybe I should change my name here to ‘Lord of the Flies’.

    2. That was a hell of a shot Suthenboy. To take that hog down at that range, rather than just piss him off, you had to have hit him dead on in a vital area. Salute!!

      1. Thank you sir, but I have to admit it was mostly luck, good luck on my part, bad luck for the hog. So lucky in fact that at first I didnt belive it and thought he was playing possum to get me close enough to jump up and gut me.

        The bullet went in his eye, not even cutting an eyelash, and hollowed his head out completely. Pure luck.

        1. Hmmm , or I may be overlooking the possibility that Satan was guiding my hand…..

        2. Luck or not, it still counts. How was the meat? I have always been tempted to go to Georgia or somewhere and bag a hog and fill a deep freeze with wild boar.

          1. It is interesting that you should ask that. Not everyone is aware of how tough, gamey and musky a boar hog’s meat can be. The big old males like that are widely considered not good to eat. This one had testicles the size of softballs. They also pick up the taste of anything they eat. If they have had any fish or rotten carrion to eat you cant stay in the house when you cook them they will stink so bad. Around here the boars are mostly used for dog food.

            My grandmother was still alive then and had grown up in an era when you ate what you could get regardless of taste. She soaked it in salt water first, then washed it in vinegar. you can also store the meat for a month or so and the hormones will break down. It turned out to be some of the best pork I had ever eaten. Granted, I ground most up into sausage and smoked it, but the few roasts I made were quite tasty too.

            I highly recommend boar hunting. It is quite an adventure. Find a guide who will take you on a night hunt with dogs. Make sure you have plenty of firepower. I also recommend Loosiana instead of Jawja, of course.

            I know these guys. They are down on Green’s creek not far from my land.

            If you ever decide to go in this area, let me know and I will set you up for some deer, ducks, or hogs on my place as well. I have 600ish acres on the Brushy ( mysteriously pronounced ‘bursley’ ) bayou.

  20. *turns down Slayer and Cannible Corpse* What was that you said, Hugh?

  21. Let’s not forget AC/DC (Anti-Christ/Devils’ Children) or KISS (Knights In Satan’s Service).

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