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Season 6: Satanic Panic

In the '80s, Satanic cults were believed to be preying on kids, terrorizing them in dark rituals. There were horrifying allegations. Criminal trials. Lives torn apart. Yet, no solid proof. So what happened?

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In the 1980s, rumours swirled across North America about Satanic cults torturing and terrorizing children. It led to mass hysteria — yet there was no proof of the alleged crimes. So what happened? (Ben Shannon/CBC)

In the newest season of Uncover, host Lisa Bryn Rundle unravels the history of a moral hysteria that took root across North America.

Throughout the 1980s, Satanic cults were widely believed to be preying on children — torturing and terrorizing them as part of dark rituals. Across Canada and the U.S., there were hundreds of false allegations, scores of unjust criminal trials and countless lives torn apart. But never any real proof.

By the early '90s, the panic reached the tiny Prairie town of Martensville, Saskatchewan. And nearly 30 years later, the people touched by it all are still picking up the pieces.

So what happened? And why do so many still believe to this day?

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Season 6 Trailer

Episode 1: 

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
Police Officer Claudia Bryden is drawn into a bizarre case unfolding in the peaceful Prairie town of Martensville, Saskatchewan. What starts with a single complaint about an alleged sexual assault in a home daycare grows into something bigger and more disturbing than anyone could have imagined. 36:44

Episode 2:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
By June 1992, nine people face nearly 180 charges related to the sexual abuse of children who have attended a home daycare in Martensville. Journalist Dan Zakreski revisits the sites of the story that dominated everyone's attention, including a ‘Devil Church,’ and reflects on his own role in spreading the story. Then, we meet a young mother searching for answers who shares her own heartrending story of a childhood turned upside down by the Martensville Nightmare. 40:10

Episode 3:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
As the number of suspects continues to grow, rumours of an underground Satanic cult whose members include police officers have taken root. Saskatoon Police Officer John Popowich finds himself facing “the worst things that a human being can be accused of.” 37:55

Episode 4:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
A local activist in Saskatoon, Marjaleena Repo, says she knew instantly that the accused were innocent, victims of nothing less than mass hysteria. Though she sounds the alarm in any forum she can find, her warnings are ignored. 47:59

Episode 5:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
As devastating as the Martensville Nightmare is for all involved, it’s just one piece of a much bigger picture. FBI special agent Ken Lanning spent the ‘80s trying to figure out what the hell was happening across North America, and why. 49:56

Episode 6:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
How does it come to be that hundreds of children across North America and beyond report such similar crimes? How has a phenomenon that’s never seen a proven case become so real in the minds of so many? And what does it mean for the children at the centre of it all? 43:19

Episode 7:

(Ben Shannon/CBC)
Far from healed, the Martensville Nightmare remains an open wound for those who lived through it. And yet for the rest of us, the history is all but lost — a symbol of the broader failure across the board to face the effects of the Satanic Panic head on or to learn its lessons. But, some surprising good did emerge out of all the pain. 50:32

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