How The Satanic Panic Completely Changed The Way We Think About Memory

By Jennings Brown on at

The Gateway podcast follows Gizmodo’s investigation into the influence internet spiritual guru Teal Swan has over her thousands of followers across the world.

Swan delivers her self-help teachings through hypnotic YouTube videos. She specifically uses SEO techniques that target people who are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, then encourages them to undergo her signature trauma-healing technique, The Completion Process.

In our reporting we found that many of Swan’s followers uncover what they believe to be memories of trauma from their past. These seemingly new memories are often related to their childhood and their relationship with their family. We started researching “recovered-memory” therapy to understand how Swan’s methods could have this effect on people.

The controversial notion of recovered-memory therapy has roots in a strange chapter of American history that took place during the 1980s and ‘90s, known as the Satanic Panic. At the time, therapist across the country were using questionable techniques to help their clients uncover memories of what was known as “satanic ritual abuse.” Many of these cases went to court. The most significant case was the McMartin preschool trial in Southern California. Two daycare teachers accused of ritual abuse went on trial and were found not guilty, but the case helped set off a nation-wide moral panic, and hundreds of other daycare centers were investigated. But no definitive evidence of “satanic ritual abuse” was ever found.

One of the therapist who played a part in the Satanic Panic has a direct connection to Swan, and may have influenced Swan and her teachings.

We explore this connection in the fifth episode of The Gateway, which was released today. You can listen to the episode by clicking here.

The Gateway is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, or TuneIn. Subscribe now, so you can hear the next episode as soon as its available next week.

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The Gateway is hosted by Jennings Brown, produced by Jessica Glazer and Emily Pontecorvo, and edited by Bari Finkel of Pineapple Street Media. Mandana Mofidi is the Fusion Media Group Executive Director of Audio. Editorial oversight provided by Kelly Bourdet. Original score and mixing by Hannis Brown. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please email us at thegateway@gizmodo.com.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.