Ok, here's one to file under a) "utterly terrifying", b) "can't believe I didn't know this was a thing", and c) "clear inspiration for a decent chunk of True Detective:
"The McMartin preschool trial was a day care sexual abuse case of the 1980s. Members of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool in California, were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care. Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history. The case was part of day care sex abuse hysteria, a moral panic over alleged Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s."
Accusations included that abusers had flushed children down toilets where they were funnelled down pipes into secret abuse chambers, that they were transported in hot air balloons, that their abusers included Chuck Norris, and that they SAW ONE OF THE ACCUSED FLYING. This was an actual thing that happened. In 1980s America.
Everything about this is an unbelievable clusterfuck, from the way the children were pushed into accusations against all existing guidelines, to the fact that the original accuser was a paranoid schizophrenic who died due to alcoholism just before the actual trial started - and this information was successfully withheld from the defence for the next three years.
I'm struggling to provide a decent summary - this just just the weirdest thing I've read about in ages and wanted to share...