The Satanic Panic seems to be having a comeback — everyone's getting in on the action, from Stranger Things to QAnon to Teal Swan. Given this, I thought it might be important to revisit one of the original purveyors of the Satanic Panic — Chick Tracts.
Fundamentalist Christian Jack Chick (1924-2016), through his company Chick Publications, has produced more than 225 different 24-page 3×5 inch religious cartoon tracts since 1961. Chick Tracts have been translated into more than 100 languages, and Chick Publications claims that more than half a billion tracts have been sold and distributed worldwide, making Chick one of the best-selling artists of all time. These tracts help set the stage for the Satanic Panic that took the United States by storm in the 1980s, and revealed and fomented the paranoid worldview of Christian Fundamentalism, which is on the rise in the United States and increasingly influences social, cultural, economic, educational, and political decision-making.
These tracts construct and transmit social and political beliefs along with their theological messages. These messages include the paranoiac anxiety that Satan is working through a host of peoples and practices.
My own analysis of the tracts revealed that the people and practices through which Satan is working, according to the themes of the tracts, include: communism, Catholicism, Masonry, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, Harry Potter, suicide, reincarnation, Islam, Dungeons and Dragons, Buddhism, Hinduism, liberal Christians and the ecumenical movement, Jehovah's witnesses, witchcraft, Santeria, Native American spirituality, Mormonism, gangs, Ouija boards, tarot cards, Halloween, the belief in and teaching of evolution in schools, psychoanalysis, promiscuity, gossip, partying, homosexuality, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, pornography, sex education, teen pregnancy, alcohol use and addiction, drugs and drug addiction, rock music, and many more.
Perhaps the tract that had the most impact on the Satanic Panic was the classic "Dark Dungeons," which was published in 1984 (and updated in 2013) and directly attacked Dungeons and Dragons, accusing it of being a gateway into Satan worship. As The Escapist explains:
Dark Dungeons touches many of the bases of mid-80s anti-RPG paranoia. Most of the cliches and urban legends are here; the dark, seductive lady who acts as DM for a group of younger players, the gamers who identify far too much with their characters and become deeply troubled when a character dies, the "real spells" contained in the books, the obsessive playing at the cost of a healthy social or spiritual life, the eventual induction into a witches coven, and of course, the inevitable suicide. About the only legends they miss are drugs, rape, murder, and lead figures that scream when you throw them into the fire. But to be fair, you can only give so much story in 21 pages
All of this would be just kind of funny and maybe a bit sad, if these beliefs weren't currently driving so many conspiracy theories, including QAnon, and the many politicians who are running and getting elected on QAnon platforms.
As Heather Greene of Religion Unplugged explains:
Contemporary satanic-based fears are not aimed, however, at alleged ritual child abuse, clandestine neighborhood covens or teen indoctrination. The focus today is politically driven, demonstrating a fear of leadership and systems rather than friends and neighbors.
Today's concerns often align with the contemporary conspiratorial narrative linked to QAnon — an internet-birthed ideology that proposes, among other things, that a satanic-based cabal of pedophiles controls the federal government. According to a 2021 PRRI study, 15% of Americans believe this theory — that's 49 million Americans.
Satanic rhetoric is also intertwined with the pandemic. In November, Newsmax correspondent Emerald Robinson suggested in a tweet that the COVID-19 vaccines contain "tracking devices linked to the devil."