Demonic Economics and Satanic Panic

Jed Oelbaum

In today’s fast-paced business world, it takes more than grit and gumption to hit the big time. Even if you’re already doing everything the market usually rewards—pursuing profit at the cost of human decency, crushing your employees’ spirits, despoiling the Earth—you may still not be achieving the level of evil you need to really make bank. That’s why CEOs and entrepreneurs continue to turn to the eldritch power of the dark lord Satan, the ultimate #influencer, a wily dealmaker with millennia of experience, and (legend has it) founder of the Wharton School.

Sure, Satan might be a “bad guy.” But he gets results. And as any modern free-market acolyte can tell you, the job of a corporation is to make the most money possible for its shareholders, even if that means drawing power from the realms of hell via the occasional goat sacrifice. In fact, CEOs that don’t pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord could very well be leaving money on the table, thereby opening themselves up to legal action from their boards.

But just because Satan’s bony fingers so often extend from Adam Smith’s invisible hand doesn’t mean that every successful company is bankrolled in the blood of the damned. Sometime an overzealous public see traces of the infernal where in fact, there are none. And despite the truly demonic economic policies haunting the White House these days, it’s these baseless conspiracy theories, urban legends, and internet goofs that comprise our most enduring discourse on Lucifer’s influence in the private sector. So this year, in honor of Halloween, the annual height of the Dark One’s earthly sway, I present five chilling tales of businesses accused of being in league with Satan himself.

Outback Steakhouse

Lost in the ketchup-soaked labyrinth of family friendly fast-casual restaurant options, many consumers have heeded a spectral voice emanating from the darkness, a voice that wipes out any semblance of reason and drives hungry men to madness. It whispers: “Outback Steakhouse.” This summer, social media’s Chthonic investigators discovered the dark secret behind the Australian-themed chain’s unnatural pull—arranged on a map, the restaurant’s locations form pentagrams over several major U.S. cities.

Responding to the Twitter user who’d first noticed this unholy geometry, Outback tried to laugh off the assertion they were a satanic cult with a joke (?) about the company’s famous Bloomin’ Onion side dish (itself a deep-fried terror from the pits of depravity). The company told the Daily Dot it had “no plans,” for Satanic or otherwise nefarious activities. And in its defense, yes, as many party pooping commenters pointed out, you can pretty much make a pentagram out of any five points on map.

Procter and Gamble

Maybe the most famous example of a business rumored to be in the devil’s thrall, Procter and Gamble (P&G) has been facing theories about the supposedly arcane symbolism in its corporate imagery for decades. The company’s old logo, a curly haired man in the moon gazing on 13 stars, was said to hide secret or inverted iterations of “666,” the Number of the Beast mentioned in the Book of Revelations. If one squinted just right, the logo’s lunar character’s embellished hairdo could also be construed as horns—an alleged tribute to the caprine Satan, horniest of the fallen angels.

No one knows who first half-baked the rumors about P&G in the early ‘80s, but the Satanic reputation has remained surprisingly persistent through the years, much to the company’s chagrin. Despite changing the logo several times, executives still found themselves fending off charges of devilry, which were revived in the ‘90s by rivals looking to sabotage the company’s public image. Fingering a number of distributors at Amway, another maker of household goods, as the major culprits, P&G initiated multiple lawsuits, with mixed results. In 2007, a Salt Lake City judge awarded P&G more than $19 million in a suit the company had been litigating since 1995.

These days painting P&G with a demonic brush seems unfair, both to the company—which has consistently debunked the rumors—and to other corporations that have actually put in the hard work and (blood) sacrifice the dark arts require.

Monster Energy Drink

They say you can make your own Monster Energy Drink at home by mixing Mountain Dew with methamphetamine and Gila monster blood, but it seems a lot more convenient to just pick up a can from your local gas station. That is, until you realize that buying this particular extreme beverage supports the Satanic agenda and the destruction of all that is good and holy in this world.

In a 2014 viral video, a woman gave a passionate, in-depth presentation laying out the case that Monster’s cans hid a number of telltale signs of devilry. First, she pointed out, the three lines that make up the logo’s “M” each look suspiciously like a vav, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Arranged in a row, those three biblical sixes form the scariest of all the numbers, the dreaded 666. Not only that, she explains, Monster uses profanity in its packaging copy, including “the f-word.” She highlights more than one reference to “unleashing the beast” on a case of cans. Sad, isn’t it? We chug down this hellish potion unaware, “and the Devil laughs” she says, pretending to take a sip of the evil brew. “Bottoms up.”

Starbucks Coffee

In 2015 Starbucks changed their annual Christmas-themed snowflake cups to a simple, wintry red design, intending to be more inclusive of other religions’ seasonal celebrations. The bland, rosy corporate gesture somehow set the “War on Christmas” crowd—who only want to see Christian holidays acknowledged publicly—into a rage. Starbucks, they wailed, hated little baby Jesus and wanted to see him cry on his birthday.

Trickling down into still dumber parts of the internet, fake news stories began to claim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz admitted to using the new red cups to lure customers into a relationship with Satan. Not to let the cheer-hoarders have all the fun, parody giant Weird Al Yankovic tweeted a picture of a demonic version of the Starbucks sleeve that read “Hail Satan.” An Etsy artist released a limited edition “Satanic Starbucks” reusable cup.

The internet news engine had sublimated the outrage into irony, completing the natural circle of online narrative and freeing Starbucks from occult, anti-Christian associations. Or had it? After all, this wasn’t the first time Starbucks was linked with the forces of ungodly heathenry—in 2014 a Louisiana teacher made a fuss on Facebook after her Starbucks barista etched a caramel pentagram and a “666” on her drinks.

Dungeons and Dragons

It was the early ‘80s. Everybody was dancing to songs about what sweet dreams are made of, Ms. Pac-Man had recently made her debut, and Americans were working their way up to a full-blown moral panic over the supposed prevalence of Satanic cults.

This hysteria swept the nation through tabloid-ready Satanism trials built on scant evidence (if any), while parents trembled at lurid (and mostly untrue) tales of atrocities like child sacrifice and ritual abuse. People were seeing the devil everywhere. And an increasingly popular roleplaying game called Dungeons and Dragons, filled with goblins, elves, and wizards, caught the attention of the era’s scold warriors. The tragic suicide of a young D&D player became national news, adding fuel to the fire and stoking fears around the game.

TSR, the company behind Dungeons and Dragons, temporarily removed the most Satan-adjacent references and imagery from new editions. To their credit, they pushed back against suspicions with measured, persistent explanations of how their game actually worked, assuring concerned moms and scowling pastors that no, dreaming up supernatural scenarios with friends does not turn kids in Satanists. Since then Dungeons and Dragons’ creative and strategic elements have reportedly positively influenced multiple generations of artists and gamers—most of whom show very few outward signs of infernal depravity.