Showing posts with label satanic panic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label satanic panic. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: S is for Satanic Panic

I survived the Satanic Panic
Click to get your own!
 Now, this is always a fun topic.  It would be difficult to talk about the history of Dungeons & Dragons and not talk about the 1980s moral panic known as The Satanic Panic.

Note: I will liberally use outside links in this one because I want to cite my sources and educate. 


Let me set the stage first. It is the start of the 1980s. Regan is in office riding a wave of conservatism and backed by "The Moral Majority." The 1970s were a time when there was a great Occult Revival (mentioned many times here) and this was the natural reaction.

In addition to flamboyant fashion choices, some really excellent music, and questionable hairspray techniques, we also got a strange moral panic in the form of everyday people accusing their neighbors of being secret practicing Satanists.

While there are a lot of triggers for this panic, the one that almost everyone agrees on is the publication of a book called Michelle Remembers, a lurid tale of repressed memories of Satanic Ritual abuse. Now, reading this there are just a lot of things that don't add up. At all. A recent Skeptical Inquirer article goes into more detail, but suffice to say that despite no tangible proof, this was the spark that lit the flames and the model that all so-called Satanic Experts would follow. This book leads to the tragic travesty of the criminal court system in the McMartin preschool trial. People lost their careers, their homes, and their lives, all for nothing but a panic. It was The Crucible all over again. This is not the last time I will use a witch analogy.  While that was going on other forms of media were not immune. Rock and Roll music took a hard hit, and it led to the creation of the PMRC. Movies had had their troubles before with the Hays Code, and comics had the Comics Code Authority, which had kept both mediums very conservative. But what didn't have those was the brand new pass time of mostly young high school and college age kids with higher than average IQs and a penchant for not conforming. That pass time was Dungeons & Dragons.

How does the Satanic Panic lead to Dungeons & Dragons?  Well, there is a great summary of the Satanic Panic and how D&D was involved from Goddless Panther.

I LOVE that he used my Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the cover of Dark Dungeons track.  It is too bad that no more of this series was produced.  I also got a kick out some of the picture of old D&D stuff.  He had another series on his older account.

The first one is here: (the production values are a bit low). There is a playlist by another user of all these videos, warning there is a lot of crazy here.

Dungeon & Dragons & Devils

Going back to 1980 to 1985, the most popular version of the Dungeons & Dragons game was the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.  While all the above insanity is going on D&D is about to take a hit.  That hit comes in the form of James Dallas Egbert III and private investigator William Dear. James was a smart but depressed kid who had gone missing from his Michigan State University dorm room in 1979. He had played D&D and listened to some Metal music, but had suicidal thoughts. Mostly around him coming to terms with his own homosexuality (the 1980s were shit for many kids). He went down into the steam tunnels under the University (where it was rumored that people would play D&D) and had planned on killing himself with some quaaludes. He was not successful and went to hide out with some friends, and then he traveled around.

Enter William Dear. Egbert's mother hired Dear to locate him after what she perceived as the authorities' inaction. Dear went to Egbert's dorm, saw his D&D books, and came up with this notion of a cult conspiracy whole-cloth. This was substantiated in his mind when reports came out that he had been spotted at the Gen Con game fair in nearby Wisconsin. 

Egbert was a troubled kid. I don't want to make light of that. He did finally kill himself and it is sad. He needed therapy, and at that time, he would not have gotten it, and he certainly didn't get the support. 

No. This sad tale was made worse by the utter incompetence and attention seeking of Dear. He recounted his investigation in the book The Dungeon Master.  You can read more about it in this article in two parts by Shaun Hately, The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, Part I and Part II.  The events would be fictionalized in Rona Jaffe's novel Mazes and Monsters, and the movie of the same name starring a very young Tom Hanks. Every gamer I know hated it, and every mother in 1982 had to ask me about it.

Then 60 Minutes happened.

D&D's 60-Minutes of Fame

D&D's popularity made the target of some sketchy reporting back in the day. Watching some of the videos from back then are always entertaining; at least now they are with the distance of time. 

CBS, the station that not only aired the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on Saturday mornings and the rather terrible Mazes and Monsters made for TV movie also was, more famously, the home of the weekly TV news magazine 60 Minutes. Ed Bradley presented what was supposed to be a balanced view on the game with interviews by D&D creator Gary Gygax and someone who we (the gamers that is) had not heard of, but would soon know all too well, Patricia Pulling of B.A.D.D. or "Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons." She would team up with former Dr. (he lost his license) and convicted sex criminal Thomas Radecki to try and discredit the game. 

Here is the clip below. If it looks like a bad VHS copy...well it is.

Reports from many credible sources and even Gygax himself (in the pages of Dragon magazine) was livid and called the whole thing a "Witch hunt." However, one thing is certain. After the 60 Minutes clip aired there was a rash of D&D book burnings. If there is ever a side that is burning books your best place is to be on the side they are not on. Ben Riggs, in his Slaying the Dragon, comments on how anytime the staff at TSR saw a book burning advertised, they would increase the number of books going to that town's retailers because they knew they would sell out. 

Pulling, Radecki, and BADD would be around to bother D&D players for a while. Pulling had started B.A.D.D. due to the suicide of her son Irving. I get she had pain and grief and a need to lash out. But her target was all wrong. Long story short, while Pulling, Radecki, and Dear would all get pulled into high-profile cases, which all seemed to involve the same secret cabal of D&D Playing Cultists (weird, I never got a call from them for the meetings), eventually, they were shown to be the frauds they were.

One of the biggest blows to Pulling and B.A.D.D. was from game designer Michael A. Stackpole who piece by piece dismantled Pulling and all her arguments in his Game Hysteria and the Truth. I would read this later when he re-published it as The Pulling Report.

You could not believe the elation I felt when I had discovered that on the internet. Everything I had heard for YEARS from "concerned people" and all the shit I got from ignorant fucks. Stackpole destroyed them all. Every single argument. I am still friends with Michael today.

Eventually, they would fall into disrepute.

The FBI would also release a report that essentially said that there is no evidence of any sort of systemic Satanic ritual abuse in the United States. The New York Times followed up with an article saying something similar.

Too late for some who were destroyed by this bullshit.

What happened to D&D?

Soon after the 60 Minutes piece, Gary was out of TSR for unrelated reasons. The specter of the Satanic Panic still held over them, though. When AD&D 2nd Edition was released, demons, devils, and overt signs of evil had all been removed in an enforced morality

And like the pendulum that swang to make things more conservative, it swang back the other way. I can recall a LOT of books, both in stores and online, in the early days of the Internet, that were like, "Oh, you think D&D is evil? I give you fucking evil!" I am not blameless in that, either. 

My Life with the Satanic Cult

Now, I am not a Satanist. I am an atheist. But growing up in a small mid-Western town, the average person on the street doesn't know, or even care to know, the difference. Add in my D&D playing in the 1980s? Yeah. 

There was this time, I think around 1985-1986 or so, that "someone" had found a "satanic altar" in the cornfield just south of my High School. The panic that shot through the school was amazing to watch. I was equally fascinated and horrified. Fascinated by how much it affected everyone and horrified by how quickly it ripped through the school and what it did. The next day, people were wearing their "satan busters" armbands. These were homemade armbands with an inverted cross in a red "busters" circle with a slash through it. 

Something like this
The "Satan Busters." Yes, this is what they wore.

The assistant principal, who was always a pretty good guy, came to me and some of my other gamer friends and basically said until this stupid shit blows over, we should keep our D&D books at home. I chaffed under the notion that something *I* wanted to read had to be dictated by a mob of scared idiots. It pissed me off, but the guy had a point. Plus, he was a 6'2" guy who would regularly bench press 350+ lbs, and I was an asthmatic 15-16-year-old who weighed 125 soaking wet. I wasn't going to argue. Plus, over the next few days, shit got really weird.  I think my love of psychology was certainly strengthened then. As was my love for witches. I felt I understood them a little better after that. Not that anyone was trying to burn me (far from it), but they were trying to burn the things they feared. There were at least two or three book burnings in my town by people on the conservative religious side. Which was, in truth, the vast majority of the town.

As the panic spread, the stories got crazier and crazier. One involved one of the few openly gay kids in my glass, which sucks, really, but sadly all too predictable. Rumors that "they" were going to sacrifice a cheerleader. I remember seeing girls crying. And more. People were going to have prayer vigils to keep the cultists back, and some were going to bring weapons (mostly knives).  

It all began to sound like a pretty cool D&D adventure. The characters would have been the ones fighting evil. But it also had about as much to do with reality as a D&D game.

It blew over, of course, and a few days later, the whole thing looked rather silly. I never really knew if someone had found something and thought it was an altar or if it was all made up whole cloth. Hard to say. I never really got over how insane everyone was. 

I have to admit my own (at the time) anti-theism influenced my early D&D games. So, there were lots of undead, demons, and (you guessed it) witches. An immature reaction? Yeah, of course! But I was a teen at the time, so by definition, I was immature.

Present Day

I would love to say that this happened in the past, and then we woke up. But that is never the case, is it? Yeah, Dungeons & Dragons has largely been fine for the last few years and is gaining incredible support from high-profile players like Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Joe Manganiello (who I just missed at Gary Con), Deborah Ann Woll, Anderson Cooper, and the entire cast of Critical Role. 

D&D is largely safe these days, but the Satanic Panic still rears its ugly head. Pizzagate is just one recent and really stupid example.  Another making the rounds is the "fact" that Taylor Swift is the daughter of (or a clone of) Zeena Schreck nee Lavey. Even better, she is the daughter of Zeena and Zeena's own father, Anton Lavey, the founder of the Church of Satan. So Anton is her father AND grandfather.  

Taylor Swift & Zeena Lavey. Not related. Or clones.

Seriously. I wouldn't put this into a game because my players would never believe it. 

So, put on some Ozzy or Iron Maiden, grab some dice, and let's play some D&D! It's 2024, all of those critics have been shown to be frauds, and none of the rumors about D&D from 40+ years ago ever came close to coming true.

Remember, "If Dungeons and Dragons is Satan's game, then Satan is a giant nerd."

Tomorrow is T Day, and I am going with the company that started it all, TSR.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

She Kills Monsters or "Is it 1982 again?"

It is not often that I bring my Atheism into my posts over here.  I mean in D&D my preferred classes to play are clerics, druids, paladins, and witches; all pretty much the exact opposite of my own beliefs (or lack thereof).   So my blog reading is fairly split between RPG blogs and Science and Atheism blogs. 

It's nice when they combine. 

Case in point with the latest "scandal" with the play "She Kills Monsters."

She Kills Monsters

Briefly, the play, written by award-winning Qui Nguyen,  centers around a recently orphaned girl, Agnes, who wants to learn more about her younger sister Tilly by playing the D&D adventure Tilly had written.  In the process, she learns more about her sister and Tilly's struggles with being bullied for being gay.  The play happens both in the real world of Agnes and the game world where Tilly was Tillius the Paladin.  People from the real world are also represented in the game world. For example, Tilly's girlfriend Elizabeth "Lili" becomes "Lilith" in the game. Cheerleaders are Succubi, and so on.

She Kills Monsters

This in and of itself is worth talking about.  A well-received play featuring how a young woman comes to know her late sister a little more and her friends from playing Dungeons & Dragons. It is sweet and actually wholesome.

So, of course, some religious asshole is going to have a problem with it.

Enter said asshole, Jeff Lyle, and his cult at Good News Gathering

I found out about his fuckery from Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist. I guess for "God" reasons, Jeff Lyle wanted the play canceled. Because that is what religion does.  And he succeeded.  Sot of.

Here is a local news report discussing it

It is 2021. Why are LGBT issues still being censored?  Why are Dungeons & Dragons-themed media still being attacked by the right-wing members of the religious community?  

When I say "politics" are an important facet of my gaming THIS is what I mean.  The optics here are...well EXACTLY what we have been seeing forever.  Some white, hetero male sees something HE doesn't like, especially since it is a.) female focused, b.) has magic /occultism/demons involved, and SHOCK c.) might have a LGBT character in it HE decides that NO ONE ELSE can see it either.

That's original fucking cancel culture right there.  

But, just like all great D&D games, when our hero is down the party comes in to save the day!

In this case, the "party" is a Go Fund Me page set up to take the play off-campus so they can still perform it.   As of this writing, it has raised $13,762 of its original $5,000 goal! That is great!

So yeah. If you have a couple of bucks and want to send the message that this is not the Dark Ages, nor the 17th Century nor even 1982 anymore, then give it to these kids.

The Go Fund Me is here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tim Kask on Witches

Tim Kask, who goes back in TSR as long as there was such a thing has been online ruminating about the history of TSR, D&D, and related topics.

He has a YouTube channel, called appropriately enough, Curmudgeon in the Cellar.  Though I think he missed an opportunity to call it Curmudgeon in the Dungeon.

In this video, he talks about a lot of things going on in social media this week.  First is the issue of gatekeeping at GaryCon.  I didn't see or feel any myself so I am not sure where this is coming from.

The big one for me, of course, starts at 6:13, where Tim talks about why there was not a witch class in 1st Ed AD&D.  A lot of this we have heard before and tracks with the history of the game.  Here he is in his own words.

Frankly, I am glad they didn't include witches.  If they had I might not have ever made my own which led to my own publications and my current career/hobby.  I likely would have refocused back on writing vampire stuff.

Tim also goes into how he runs his games.

I like Tim, even when he is cantankerous (he is a self-professed curmudgeon after all) or maybe even more so.  He is also a fellow Saluki, so he always gets a pass in my book for that alone.

I am looking forward to watching some his other videos.  Should be fun.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

12 Nutty Dungeons & Dragons Media Mentions From the 1980s

This was making the rounds on social media last week.

My favorite is #4 which happened in the same neck of the woods where I grew up.

While it is fun to laugh at these now people took this stuff very seriously in the 80s.  I am not sure if anyone still thinks like this, but then again old Pat Robertson of the 700 club is still around.

Not for the first or the last time I wish I had documented this time and the Satanic Panic a little better. I know there were these things going on in my home town, a small town in Central Illinois, but I managed to avoid it for the most part.

I just need 3 more souls and then the Dungeon Master will make me 10th level!

And in what can be described a wonderful irony...the 4th Edition D&D Demonicon was released on PDF just a bit ago.  One of my favorite 4e books.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Satanic Panic!

I am fascinated with with the Satanic Panic of the early 80s.  Partially because I lived through it but also as someone who isn't religious I found the whole "panic" to be very confusing.
Here is an article that covers part of it.  D&D makes brief cameo.

A Brief History Of "Satanic Panic" In The 1980s

To get an idea of how serious people took this stuff here are a few other posts I made with links to articles and videos.,  Turmoil in the Toybox videos.
Here is a direct link to the D&D video (starting around 3:30)

And a few other videos I have watched, but not otherwise shared.

I LOVE that he used my Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the cover of Dark Dungeons track.  It is too bad that no more of this series was produced.  I also got a kick out some of the picture of old D&D stuff.  He had another series on his older account.
The first one is here: (the production values are a bit low).
There is a playlist by another user of all these videos, warning there is a lot of crazy here.

I have to admit my own (at the time) anti-theism influenced my early D&D games.  So lots of undead, demons and (you guessed it) witches.  An immature reaction? Yeah. of course! But I was a teen at the time; by definition, immature.

It has though been fruitful in one respect, I have a ton of material that I wrote back then that I'd love to pull out sometime.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z of Witches. O

O is for Occult Panic and Obeah

I picked Obeah for a very snarky reason.  It goes back to this terrible Christian video "Turmoil in the Toybox" based on the book of the same name.  It was your typical 80s Satanic Panic nonsense that talked about how evil Dungeons & Dragons and cartoons are for kids.
The host, Gary Greenwald,  and his guest, Phil Philips, think the devil is hiding in every toybox.

You can watch it and have a laugh like I did.  The jumps in logic are insane.

Turmoil in the Toybox
Part 1 - Introduction.  With Scooby Doo and the 13 Ghosts.
Part 2 - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. "He-Man is more powerful than Jesus!"
Part 3 - They talk about evil vs. evil...or so they think.  Again, everything they mention is wrong.
Part 4 - Commercials. I seriously doubt either of these guys have even had a class in Child Psychology.
Part 5 - ThunderCats. Evil or gateway drug to Furries?
Part 6 - Next Episode.  Ken and Barbie. But at 3:30 we get Dungeons & Dragons!
Part 7 - Insectars are featured in the Book of Revelations! Vader looks like Odin! Obi witchcraft!
Part 8 - Violence and the Occult influence of G.I. Joe and Smurfs. Though they won't say they are evil.
Part 9 - Care Bears. Littles and My Little Pony. Rainbow Brite is also evil. Voltoron and Transformers.
Part 10 - More Voltron and Transformers. Buy Gary's stuff!

I love how they pretty much get every detail wrong.

Of course in the 80s I loved all this stuff and if it looked evil I wanted it in my games.  Coming off of the 70s Occult Revival I always felt Witches needed to be a part of the game.  Was there some snarkiness on my part? Of course there was.  If you read my Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief, you know that this was the same time I was "coming out" as an Atheist.  So if I got to piss off some uptight Christians, all the better!

Of course what does this have to do with "O"?
Well Part 7 discusses, briefly, "Obi Witchcraft". Where witches chant Obi-Obi-Obi all the time.
Pure nonsense and like everything else in this they are as so far off base that they are not even in the same ballpark.

But there is Obeah.
Obeah is a folk tradition that is similar in origin to voodoo.
In my 3rd Edition book, Liber Mysterium, I described it as a form of the voodoo tradition.

I will talk abit more about this when I discuss Voodoo later one, but representing Obeah in a game is not as easy as first seems.  Though if the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movies are any indication, then I could combine bits of Obeah with the archetype of the Sea Witch to create something that could be rather fun.

I have a witch, Sycorax, that is a prototype of this sort of witchcraft.  She is something of a witch, a little bit of a hag and lives on an island.  Yes, she does have a monstrous son named Caliban.  You can do worse than imitating the Bard.

There is something here I think. Something that could be cool.  So I supposed in a way I should thank those two idiots for putting me on the path to getting my Sea Witch figured out.

Supernatural AtoZ

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Video: Satanism Unmasked Dungeons & Dragons

I am obsessed with the 80s Satanic Panic.  Here is another little turd from that time.

Christians talking about how morally deficient and evil D&D is.


Why is that these people get their facts so wrong?
Not just the really wrong shit of satanism in a game, but they can't even get the basic facts right.

...Satanism is not part of Witchcraft and visa versa.
...Those are not the words from "Shout at the Devil"
...NecroNOMicon, not Necro"NOME"icon. suicides due to D&D.
...what the hell is a "training 'prim-er'"?
...interviewing prisoners. Always a good source of "credible" information.

I could go on. But what is the point.  Here is a great podcast from "The Thinking Atheist".


And this gem,

Ok. How about this.

Shield of Faith
(Basic Era/Labyrinth Lord/Basic Fantasy/S&W)
Level: Cleric 1 to 7
Range: 5' in front of the Cleric
Duration: 1 round per level
By means of this spell the cleric focuses their faith into a tangible shield that will protect them from harm from creatures the cleric can consider "Evil".  Typically this is a creature of Chaotic alignment (or Lawful for a Chaotic cleric) and an "outsider" or supernatural creature. This includes (but not limited to) undead, djinn, effrit, demons, devils and any type of spirit. Sometimes even faerie creatures.
The spell reduces the attacks of these creatures at a number of hp per the spell level.  So a 5th level cleric using a 2nd level Shield of Faith would be able reduce 2 points per attack for 5 rounds.
The cleric must present their holy symbol when casting and they cannot attack.
Material Components: The clerics holy symbol.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Satan's Game

Saw this online and made me laugh.

"If Dungeons and Dragons is Satan's game, then Satan is a giant nerd."

From James D. Hargrove's sig file on RPGNet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wait? Is it 1982 again? More anti-D&D crap.

So the old "Dungeons and Dragons causes violence" meme has reared it's ugly head again.  This time from the particularly lazy journalism of Ms. Laurel J. Sweet and the Boston Herald.  Ms. Sweet put forth that golden chestnut that somehow playing the game Dungeons and Dragons is somehow linked to violent murder. In particular the ones Amy Bishop is accused of.

Now let me be clear here.  What ever Amy Bishop did or didn't do in her personal life is unimportant when dealing with the fact that she murdered three people, supposedly because she didn't get tenure.  We could just as easily blame the University tenure track or the pressures of a publish or perish environment.  I am sure people will blame the gun companies too.
Here is a novel idea.  Let's blame Amy Bishop.  She is the one that pulled the trigger after all.  Apparently she kept pulling till the gun jammed.

But my ire is not directed at Amy Bishop.  We have a court system, juries and a judge for her.  No mine is on the lazy, so called journalism of  Laurel J. Sweet.  Yeah I linked her name again.  Wonder why.

To make the claims or even allusions she is making are either laziness, a misguided attempt to push copy or a hidden conservative agenda.   She published not just one, but two articles on this.  At the risk of giving her exactly what she wants here are the links.  Use a browser that blocks ads if you wish to make a statement:

So. why do I get so worked up about these things?  Well frankly stupid people piss me off, but smart people enabling stupid people to do more stupid things is worse.

See here is how it works.  Lazy journalist looking for a good byline writes fluff piece about D&D leading to murder.  Next thing you know some shit-for-brains religious fuck-wit then quotes the article as "expert testimony", then that person gets quoted as "reading up on all the latest literature", then it is used as "evidence" in a Wikipedia article and you get a snowball of stupid rolling down hill.

Next thing you know someone is digging up old Pat Pulling again and TLN is showing "Mazes & Monsters" in heavy rotation.

Ok to be fair I have no idea if TLN has ever shown "Mazes & Monsters".

It irritates me because it is lazy, and stupid.  Obviously the Boston Herald is trying to push copy and Ms. Sweet is only too happy to help.  But it is bad journalism.

I had my run ins with the D&D Satanic Panic of the 80's.  I was lucky to have had parents that were smart enough to know better than to listen to fundies and to trust their children.  Later on I dealt with Jack Chick personally and, if I may be so bold, came out the winner in that one.

The time I now spend playing D&D with my own children has been fantastic.  I have met some of the coolest people through this game and others like it.  It is a great past time full of great people who deserve better than being painted by the sloppy brush of Laurel J. Sweet.

Agree with me?  Why not let Laurel J. Sweet know yourself.  Reasonable, intelligent emails only.  Or even just something to convey your disappointment in a polite manner.

Don't give her anything else to write about.