A few years ago Bryan Alexander at Infocult blogged about a horror entrepreneur who, for a fee, would take on the guise of a terrifying clown and stalk a person of a client’s choosing over the course of days, culminating with a dreadful arm’s length meeting and a cake in the face. It was both the inversion and evolution of the haunted house, the dark ride, and the freak show. Whereas those experiences allow the ticket buyer to enter and then leave a dark underworld, the clown stalker slips into the world of his subject, the real world from which there is no exit. It is a deeper immersion into terror.
It’s a 2,000-word creepypasta, however, compared to Satanic Panic. The bulb-nosed menace stalks his quarry for a week or so, alone, creating a realtime play for a cast of perhaps a couple dozen. Satanic Panic, on the other hand, alleged a global network of robed, chanting Devil-worshippers with adherents in every town – your town – the imminent threat of which was shouted from televisions, pulpits, newspapers, magazines, and person-to-person. They were everywhere. They were after children. And it went on for a decade.
None of it was real, but that didn’t matter once enough people believed it.