41 - MixTape: HBO's Chernobyl / Satanic Panic Origins

This week Melinda and Aaron delve into the darkness and talk about two weirdly similar incidents from the 80s: Chernobyl, as seen in the HBO miniseries, and Mike Warnke as an originator of Satanic Panic. In the first half, Aaron walks us through HBO’s Chernobyl and discusses some of the key highlights and strengths, including things he learned, without spoilers. Later, Melinda describes how Mike Warnke convinced an entire generation that Satanists were everywhere and describes how he did it, how he was found to be a fraud, and what the fallout was. Note: while we don’t use profanity, due to content listener discretion is advised.


While this show doesn't take a clear 'position' politically it seems to be heavily aimed at the American public to at least start the conversation about how we are different than the Soviet Union, and how we seem to be drifting closer than we think we are to becoming the Soviet Union.  It takes some liberties and license with the source material for the sake of narrative, but the broad strokes are essentially the same, and the mood is assuredly Soviet and ominous.


  • Full production scripts are available at HBO.com for anyone interested in how the show was put together 

  • The Russian Woodpecker – 2015 documentary about Ukranian artist Fedor Alexandrovich, who travels to the exclusion zone to pursue his suspicions about the meltdown's link to the Duga, a huge Soviet radio antenna located near the Chernobyl site. 

Mike Warnke

In the 80s, “Satanic Panic” gripped the US - the idea that an organized and ominous group of Satanists were working in concert to come after children and teenagers for all sorts of evil reasons, including stealing their souls and even killing them. One of the first people to begin this now debunked myth was Mike Warnke, author of the book Selling Satan in 1972, in which he CLAIMS to have been a Satanic high priest who converted to Christianity. However, in the early 90s, a Christian magazine called Cornerstone debunked the book by interviewing nearly everyone who knew Mike and documenting that they all tell a very different story. Warnke is not the only Christian pop culture icon who claimed to have been a Satanist during that time, and he’s not the only one whose story was debunked, but he was probably the biggest and was definitely the first.


Selling Satan - The Tragic History of Mike Warnke - By Jon Trott & Mike Hertenstein from Cornerstone magazine 1992

Religious Write – Chicago Tribune 12/28/92

The history of Satanic Panic in the US — and why it's not over yet

CBE International: Jon Trott - Author of the Cornerstone article

Dennis Cooper Blog: Nick Toti presents … Mike Warnke