Season Two, Episode Two

Before and After the Satanic Panic:
Conspiracies and Their Consequences for Real Kids

Transcript coming soon!

This episode explores moments when adults become completely consumed by the specter (see what we did there?) of children in spiritual danger – and spiritual danger so severe that it threatens their physical well-being. Where do these fears come from? How do our ideas about children’s vulnerabilities feed those fears? How do adults act on their anxieties, and how do kids respond?

We consider a range of texts across time that exemplify adults’ fears about children’s potential contact with the darker side of the supernatural – from Henry James’s unsettlingly knowing child protagonist Flora in The Turn of the Screw to the images of endangered children circulated by conspiracy-driven organizations such as QAnon – but our conversation centers around a watershed cultural moment when adults’ fears about children’s safety reached a fever pitch: the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. 

reading list

Hitt, Tarpley. “Followers of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon believe Hollywood and Democratic elites take a psychedelic drug called Adrenochrome harvested from the fear of children.” Daily Beast, August 14, 2020. 

Hughes, Sara A. American Tabloid Media and the Satanic Panic, 1970–2000. Palgrave, 2021.

James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw.  Macmillan, 1898. Standard Ebooks.

Miller, Janette. Commentary on playing Flora in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, 1959 television adaptation. YouTube.

Okyere, S., N. K. Agyeman, and E. Saboro. “‘Why Was He Videoing Us?’: The Ethics and Politics of Audio-Visual Propaganda in Child Trafficking and Human Trafficking Campaigns.” Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 16, 2021, pp. 47–68.

QAnon Anonymous Podcast. Apple Podcasts.

Victor, Jeffrey S. Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Open Court Press, 1993. 

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