Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 53-75

First online:

Satanism: Myth and reality in a contemporary moral panic

  • Philip JenkinsAffiliated withAdministration of Justice, Pennsylvania State University
  • , Daniel Maier-KatkinAffiliated withAdministration of Justice, Pennsylvania State University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In the last decade, there have been many allegations about the prevalence of occult or “Satanic” criminality, which is believed to be involved in many offenses ranging from vandalism to child abuse and serial murder. Some have advocated the creation of specialized police units to combat the supposed threat. On the other hand, most of the alleged evils are very poorly substantiated, and highly questionable statements have been widely circulated. In fact, the current concern about the occult appears to have all the hallmarks of a classic moral panic, where a peripheral issue is suddenly perceived as a major social menace. This paper discusses the limited foundation of truth underlying the present “crime-wave”; and suggests that the panic reflects the moral and political agenda of extremists from the fundamentalist religious Right. *** DIRECT SUPPORT *** AW502017 00005