Satanic Panic Haiku

Good psychiatrists

Don’t love their theories so much

They fuck up patient

(TW: child abuse)

Today on Quack Week, we discuss the Satanic Panic of the 80s, when the hair was big and the capacity to swallow whoppers was even bigger.

That circus began with the 1979 book ‘Michelle Remembers’, by Victoria, BC psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his patient, Michelle Smith. It chronicled Pazder’s treatment of Smith, who had sought help for her depression. 600 hours of hypnosis later, they found the REAL reason for her depression.

Smith remembered now, the repressed memories bubbling to the surface. You see, her mom and her Satanist pals ritually abused her non-stop when she was five years old and forced her to participate. The rituals would occur in a basement and Ross Bay Cemetery, and would involve rape, infanticide, mutilation… The list goes on. They put her in a car with a corpse and crashed the car. It culminated in an 81-day torture session where the cultists summoned Satan. But Jesus saved her, healed her, and repressed her memories.

But there was just no evidence – for example, no extended absences from school were recorded. There’s no record of the car crash. And why didn’t the residents of Victoria ever notice a huge Satanic cult holding court in a major cemetery in a residential area?

Still, the book was a sensation. Pazder (who wed Smith after they ditched their spouses, which… no) began espousing the theory that there was a VAST NETWORK OF SATANISTS OPERATING WORLDWIDE and served as a consultant for related criminal trials. This included the infamous McMartin preschool trial. (Look that up. It’s bonkers.)

Meanwhile, real childhood abuse victims went ignored in favor of the sensational, or dismissed because the satanic stuff turned out to be bullshit. And formerly respectable psychiatrists did irreparable harm to patients as they chased their pet theories with hypnosis and leading questions.

Pazder himself was on record as saying that the truth of Smith’s accusations wasn’t as important as her believing them.

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