Accusations flew of sacrifice, drinking blood, sexual abuse and the invocation of demonic forces but it was wasn’t Salem, and the year wasn’t 1692. The conviction of Daniel and Frances Keller took place in Travis County, Texas, three centuries later amid what became, quite literally, a modern-day witch hunt.

It began when the Kellers were accused of sexually abusing a troubled 3-year-old girl, Christy Chaviers, who was a visitor at Fran’s Day Care, which the couple was running out of their Austin home. The couple was convicted in 1992 and spent 21 years in prison until they were freed in 2013 — but not until after an investigative journalist and attorney looked into their case and discovered it was riddled with outlandish accusations, inconsistent testimony and undisclosed exculpatory evidence.

The Kellers were not the only ones to face outlandish charges; in the 1980s and early ’90s, a phenomenon that has since become known as “Satanic Panic” was sweeping the nation. A confluence of societal factors led to widespread hysteria about Satanists who were hidden in plain view and running clandestine, national child sex abuse rings. Hundreds of people — many of them daycare workers — were accused of abuse, including the McMartin family in California and Margaret Kelly Michaels in New Jersey. (The McMartins were eventually acquitted, and Michaels was exonerated, but not until she had spent six years in prison).

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