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The Satanic Panic Over Disney's Hocus Pocus Explained

Disney's "Hocus Pocus" franchise has been a Halloween staple for nearly three decades. With the release of "Hocus Pocus 2" in late September, its popularity has reached wicked new heights — with people from all different generations now being able to share in the Sanderson sisters' spooky season fun. But just like its predecessor, the Anne Fletcher-directed sequel has managed to spark outrage among members of certain religious groups, who reportedly believe it to be a vessel for satanic worship and "darkness," as one Texas mom puts it. 

"Do not watch this film," warned Jamie Gooch in an interview with KWTX. Gooch's Facebook page went viral this week after she posted a message urging "mommas" not to let their kids see "Hocus Pocus 2" on account of its dark subject matter. "Everybody thinks it's fake and innocent, but they could be casting any type of spell that they want to," Gooch told KWTX. "Anything could be coming through that TV screen into your home."

According to her Facebook post, Gooch ultimately believes that there are several reasons why parents should avoid allowing their children to watch "Hocus Pocus 2" this Halloween season. The movie sees the return of Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson (Bette Midler), Sarah Sanderson (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) as resurrected witches once again terrorizing the legendary town of Salem, Massachusetts. While it may incorporate more modern themes and gags this time around, the film maintains its overall focus on witchcraft, which for conservative Christians like Gooch, just isn't sitting well. Below we explain why.

There's a belief that Disney is brainwashing children with movies like Hocus Pocus 2

According to Jamie Gooch, the Mickey Mouse company is attempting to brainwash today's youths with movies like "Hocus Pocus 2," which, to her, is meant to "bewitch" and "hypnotize" children, while also aiding in "the desensitization of the coming evil in this world." Gooch also has an opinion about the hidden meaning of the "Hocus Pocus" franchise outlined in her Facebook post from September 26.

"The whole movie is based on harvesting the purity of children's souls so that witches may live on," Gooch explained (via KWTX). "Hocus-pocus by definition means 'meaningless talk or activity, often designed to draw attention away from and disguise what is actually happening,'" she said. "What is actually happening when we watch these films? What are we subjecting [our] minds to? What are we welcoming into the homes of our families? It seems silly that you would need to consider what is coming through your TV screen. It seems innocent. Until it's not." 

For many "Hocus Pocus 2" fans, this may be the first time that they are hearing of any sort of satanic panic or paranoia surrounding the Disney movie franchise. But it is not the only time such a thing has existed.

Satanic panic always existed around Hocus Pocus

In the early 1990s, when the original "Hocus Pocus" movie came out, conservative Christians across the country were reportedly paranoid over the alleged existence of satanic cults and Wiccan ritual killings, per the Religion News Service. FBI agent Kenneth Lanning described the social climate of the time in a 1992 paper for the National Center For The Analysis of Violent Crime, saying: "We now have hundreds of victims alleging that thousands of offenders are abusing and even murdering tens of thousands of people as part of organized satanic cults." However, there was no evidence of this phenomenon happening, according to Lanning. 

As the RNS points out, "Hocus Pocus" was released when witchcraft was widely demonized by society. The film underperformed at the box office and was ultimately panned by critics, with it currently holding a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, even if the audience score reflects higher likability in the years since its release. Disney made attempts to draw attention away from its evil misconceptions for "Hocus Pocus 2," which now explains that it was an oppressive male religious leader who turned the Sanderson sisters into witches, along with the movie's inclusion of a good witch, so to say, in Becca (Whitney Peak). Also, nature is now the driving force for the Sanderson sisters' powers, and it's a woods witch who gives them their book of spells — not Satan (per RNS). But longtime fans haven't been so easy to persuade.

"'Hocus Pocus 2' was actually very good and entertaining, but Disney really tried their damnedest to gloss over the fact that the Book and the witches canonically get their power from Satan himself," said Twitter user @FireKnight427