The "Satanic Panic." That slice of 1980's America when everyone from news anchors to your best friend's decidedly-not-hip aunt was scared of Satan worshipers breaking down their walls. Any day the satanists could come, brandishing 20-sided dice and weaponized guitar riffs, stealing away their children to force feed them an unholy cocktail of drugs, Dungeons and Dragons, and death metal until, against their own innocent will and in spite of their desire to run back to the safety of suburbia, their little angel's right hand would raise and make the sign of the devil horns ("throw the goat" as they say) as they skateboard into the night, lost, forever.
It's an easy thing to make fun of, especially if you're an unrepentant nerd who owns far too many 20-sided dice and knows that DnD is essentially just people arguing about math for 4 hours. Thirty or so years on, we forget that during the Satanic Panic of the 80's people were legitimately scared. OK, maybe it wasn't a legitimate fear, but they were actually scared, and police departments actually took it seriously. According to Mashable, Jennifer Jordan tweeted documents that her sister found in a school supply closet, written by then Detective Robert Simandl of the Chicago Police Department, which lays out how to identify both satanists and those "at risk" of falling prey to the occult.
Listed in the document are traits that make someone more likely to fall prey to black magic and witchcraft, including intelligence, "youth subculture," boredom, and curiosity, among others in the long and increasingly ridiculous list. Later pages reveal the signs that your child is dabbling in the dark arts, like padlocking their bedroom door, wearing ankh jewelry, and listening to heavy metal music.
The document also lists "magic spells" used by occultists, and all the pagan, wiccan, and satanic holidays, because they're all the same apparently. The rock-solid guide also reveals that (get this) satanists celebrate birthdays.
There is a guide to trail markings apparently used by satanic cults to direct their members to back-country meetups and rituals, as well as explanations of associated "satanic" symbols like the anarchist "A" and the "peace symbol" which is interpreted as an inverted, broken, cross symbolizing the breaking of Christianity.
This isn't to make fun of Christianity, or to make light of the dangers of cults, but the "Satanic Panic" took symbols and imagery from all sorts of disparate places and fused it into a great "other." It made it so blossoming nerds finding community and acceptance through shared love of overly-complicated games and overly-complicated music were looked at suspiciously by friends, family, and community members, all while showing zero understanding of the esoteric underpinnings that some of these things came from.
It was a real panic too. Covered extensively on talk shows, evening news programs, and culminating in the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.
In 1987, the Chicago Tribune quoted Simandl in a piece about the growing threat of Satanic crimes:
It's a very complex subject that makes street gang activity look like a nursery school rhyme. It's not a pleasant topic, but I believe it's going to be the crime of the 1990s.
Author of the book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, Peter Bebergal said to io9 in 2016:
It was something we didn't realize at the time, but now, it looks like a low-scale version of the McCarthy-era paranoia around communism. The devil worshipers could be anywhere. They could be your next-door neighbor. They could be your child's caregiver.
As to a nice summation of what we should take from this, and how to use this hilarious find in remembrance of a bizarre saga that might help us go about our lives in a better, less paranoid, and more just manner, you'll have to look somewhere else. Coincidentally, or perhaps synchronistically, it's DnD night and I have to go roll some dice.