Sermon: On Rosemary’s Baby, the Satanic Panic, and Pagan Leadership

In 1973, a woman named Michelle Smith was treated by a psychiatrist named Lawrence Pazder. Under hypnosis, Smith “remembered” being repeatedly abused by a “satanic cult” as a child. She was allegedly tortured, locked in a cage, and forced to mutilate several babies, all in the name of Satan. These stories were published in Pazder’s 1980 book, Michelle Remembers, which became an overnight sensation. Next thing anyone knew, other hypnotherapists started parading their patients around on TV, calling them “Satanic abuse survivors” and making a shit-ton of money off of them. Sensationalists like Geraldo Rivera popularized these stories, bullying their viewers into accepting these “survivors” and their stories at face value. People started believing there really was an international conspiracy of Satanists who were sexually abusing and cannibalizing little children. Even psychiatric and law enforcement professionals blindly accepted these stories as true. Just being a daycare worker and having someone accuse you of being a “Satanist” (perhaps because you enjoy heavy metal music, or because you play Dungeons & Dragons) was enough to get you prosecuted for alleged child abuse. As with any witch hunt in history, no evidence was required; countless people were thrown in prison and prohibited from seeing their children just on the basis of rumors and hearsay. This was the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s.

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3 thoughts on “Sermon: On Rosemary’s Baby, the Satanic Panic, and Pagan Leadership

  1. Have you ever seen either “Regression” by Alejandro Amenabar, the fella who did “The Others,” or “The Seventh Victim,” the 1940s Val Lewton produced film? I would be very curious to know your opinion on those two, particularly their depictions of Satanists in the broader culture.

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    1. I haven’t seen Amenabar’s “Regression” yet, but I am most definitely a fan of “The Seventh Victim.” I actually enjoy that film quite a bit more than “Rosemary’s Baby,” personally. It features one of the most unique portrayals of Satanism I’ve ever seen in any film. Thank you for this suggestion, I will definitely be writing up a review about “The Seventh Victim” in the not-too-distant future.

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