Content warning: the following deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some readers.
In the 1980s, the United States found itself in the grips of a bizarre moral panic. One about an apparently growing subculture of people who worshipped the very symbol of evil — Satan.
There were media reports that Satanists and occultists were rife across the country, performing terrifying rituals and committing animal sacrifice.
There were fears about evil messages hidden in rock music, poisoning young people's minds.
But the most potent claims of all were those that Satanists were operating daycare centres where they'd commit ritualistic abuse against children.
Over the course of the decade, US courts heard several such cases, the most infamous of which became one of the longest-running and expensive cases in US criminal history. And it all started with a claim from a sole terrified mother.
"Please question your child...": The McMartin Preschool case.
In the summer of 1983, a letter was distributed to the families of 200 current and former students of McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California.
It was from police, and it began:
This Department is conducting a criminal investigation involving child molestation. Ray Buckey, an employee of Virginia McMartin's Pre-School, was arrested September 7, 1983, by this Department.
The following procedure is obviously an unpleasant one, but to protect the rights of your children as well as the rights of the accused, this inquiry is necessary for a complete investigation.
Records indicate that your child has been or is currently a student at the pre-school. We are asking your assistance in this continuing investigation. Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim...
The letter went on to list possible forms of abuse including the taking of naked photographs, oral sex, molestation, and sodomy that may have been committed under the pretence of "taking the child's temperature".