The Repercussions of Modern-Day Witch Trials


We like to think mass hysteria about black magic in the US died with the Salem witch trials, but 300 years afterward, starting in the 1980s, childcare providers across the country were accused of “Satanic abuse.”

One such case involved Fran and Dan Keller, who ran a daycare center in Austin and went to jail after being accused of using children in outlandish “Satanic rituals” involving murder, cannibalism, grave robbery, and sexual abuse. (They were convicted on charges of the latter, on extremely flimsy evidence shored up by descriptions of impossible and/or magical events.)

The Kellers were released in November 2013 after over twenty years in prison. Texas Monthly article from 1994 goes into detail about the trial, while Slate article from last week looks at the aftermath of the trial and where the Kellers will go from here.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →