Bill Ellis

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Raising the Devil reveals how the Christian Pentecostal movement, right-wing conspiracy theories, and an opportunistic media turned grassroots folk traditions into the Satanism scare of the 1980s. During the mid-twentieth century, devil worship was seen as merely an isolated practice of medieval times. But by the early 1980s, many influential experts in clinical medicine and in law enforcement were proclaiming that satanic cults were widespread and dangerous. By examining the broader context for alleged “cult” activity, Bill Ellis demonstrates how the image of contemporary Satanism emerged during the 1970s. Blaming a wide range of mental and physical illnesses on in-dwelling demons, a faction of the Pentecostal movement became convinced that their gifts of the spirit were being opposed by satanic activities. They attributed these activities to a “cult” that was the evil twin of true Christianity. In some of the cases Ellis considers, common folk beliefs and rituals were misunderstood as evidence of devil worship. In others, narratives and rituals themselves were used to combat satanic forces. As the media found such stories more and more attractive, any activity with even remotely occult overtones was demonized in order to fit a model of absolute good confronting evil. Ellis’s wide-ranging investigation covers ouija boards, cattle mutilation, graveyard desecration, and “diabolical medicine”--the psychiatric community’s version of exorcism. He offers a balanced view of contentious issues such as demonic possession, satanic ritual abuse, and the testimonies of confessing “ex-Satanists.” A trained folklorist, Ellis seeks to navigate a middle road in this dialog, and his insights into informal religious traditions clarify how the image of Satanism both explained and created deviant behavior.

The strengths of Raising the Devil lie in its meticulous research (in many cases, uncovering a wealth of obscure materials), close attention to detail, and broad view of the subject. . . . An insightful contribution to a vital topic that refuses to give up and die. -- American Studies International

An interesting analysis of satanic folklore and organized antisatanism in the US and UK. -- Choice

Highly valuable to scholars interested in the Satanic panics, in rumour panics in general, in the ways in which institutions draw on folklore for their own purposes, or in belief. -- Culture & Tradition

A fascinating study that should become a classic. -- Daniel Wojcik, University of Oregon

A fascinating study. It also has a message that, if heeded, will remove a potent source of grief and fear. -- Folklore

If you read one book on the latter-day Satan revival, this is the one you want. -- Fortean Times

Very few scholars have attempted what Bill Ellis does in this book: the careful, methodical study of a legend complex and its interaction with the surrounding context—social, historical, and global. . . . A story that is nothing short of fascinating. -- Journal of American Folklore

Very few scholars have attempted what Bill Ellis does in the book: a careful, methodical study of a legend complex and its interaction with the surrounding context—social, historical, and global. -- Journal of American Folklore Research

Never again shall I see ‘Satan and all his works’ in the same light. Such is the effect of reading a good book. -- Lexington Herald-Leader

Highly recommended as a lucid and well-documented account of a subject that is not always given thoughtful treatment. -- Library Journal

Shows how ancient bogeyman beliefs became aligned with politics and the criminal justice system to produce witch-hunts like the infamous McMartin Preschool case. -- Mother Jones

Takes an important and newsworthy topic and provides a very different slant upon it. The diversity of his approaches will make it important to several different fields. -- Philip Jenkins, Penn State University

Publication Date



University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Satanism, Folk traditions, Cults, Christian Pentecostal movement, Media



Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media
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