Book: Satan’s Silence, Debbie Nathan

 “The adults fashioned a subculture of fanatical belief that enveloped the children and demanded their total participation.”

As a journalist in Chicago and El Paso during the Satanic Panic, Debbie Nathan covered much of the scandal and fury firsthand, from the fear and confusion of the initial allegations through the surreal spectacle of trials and finally to the disquieting aftermath when cracks in the stories about recovered memories, devil worshiping cults, and child abuse conspiracies became painfully evident.

In “Satan’s Silence,” Nathan and defense attorney Michael Snedeker provide one of the earliest and most vivid firsthand accounts of the beginning and end of a modern moral panic, and pick apart its roots in societal anxiety, sexual shame, cultural xenophobia, and religious zeal.

Reader Guide

There are lots of Satanic Panic chronicles, but “Satan’s Silence” was one of the first, and followed fast on the heels of the phenomena itself, a time when many die-hard advocates were still refusing to give up prosecuting the urban legends of child-snatching devil cults. Some of “Satan’s Silence” is now outdated, as the real scope of the disaster was still not entirely apparently in the ‘90s.

But it’s a one of a kind, boots-on-the-ground account of how America was swept up in a literal witch hunt just a generation ago, with invaluable insights on the cultural fears about women, sex, and changing social values that eventually manifested as Satanic Panic.


This book contains frank discussion of child sexual abuse, including sometimes uncomfortable descriptions of forensic medical tests conducted on kids as young as four or five. Although virtually all of the abuse alleged in these cases turns out never to have happened, “Satan’s Silence” may be more difficult for those who have suffered real trauma themselves.