Stranger Things Season 4: How Dungeon & Dragons sparked satanic panic
On June 9, 1982, 17-year-old Irving Pulling committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. His mother, Patricia Pulling, noticed Dungeons & Dragons posters, accessories and magazines in his room. She pursued the rules of tactical studies. When the case was thrown out before it went to court, Pulling founded the public advocacy group Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) in 1983. The devil was in the details.
According to the book Video games and education by Harry J. Brown, Pulling called Dungeons & Dragons “a fantasy role-playing game that uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, madness, sexual perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, rituals of satanic type, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, summoning of demons, necromancy, divination and other teachings She wrote that spiritual corruption began with the dungeon master, who she claimed had the power to use the satanic rituals published in the rulebook.
In 1984 evangelical cartoonist Jack Chick published the comic dark dungeons, in which the mistress of the dungeon is a cult leader who gains magical powers through ritual murder. He would further demonize Dungeons & Dragons in an alignment with Dr. Rebecca Brown, who was stripped of her medical license for misdiagnosing mentally ill patients with demonic possession the same year her anti-J&D comic was published.
In 1985, CBS News dedicated an entire hour of programming, introduced by the venerable Ed Bradley, to role-playing. The episode featured interviews with Pulling and Dr. Thomas Radecki, the president of the National Coalition on TV Violence, who linked Dungeons & Dragons to 28 cases of murder or suicide. Radecki was notorious for confusing statistics. While attacking the film industry, he said one in four Hollywood films contained a rape scene. He would endure other indignities. The University of Illinois revoked his medical school accreditation in 1985, although he continued to seek accreditation. His medical license was revoked twice over allegations of unprofessional conduct.
The damage was already done. The Upside Down was upset for a short while. The 1989 second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons removed all demonic references. They were reintroduced in the third edition of the game, released in 2000. Dungeons & Dragons now owned by a subsidiary of Hasbro. The rulebook is in its fifth edition.
Friends don’t lie. Studies by the CDC and the American Association of Suicidology have found no causal link between role-playing games and suicide. Dungeons & Dragons players are no longer vilified as Satanists, although some may be ridiculed as harmless nerds. High schools have J&D clubs. The Satanic Panic was ultimately a live action role-playing game.