Strange Days Indeed

I often find myself ruminating on the occult scene of the mid to late 80’s. Those of us of a certain age remember those days quite vividly I suspect due in large part to the so-called “Satanic Panic”. Pre-schools and daycares were, according to popular media, infiltrated by Satanic Cultists and were covers for their heinous activities. “Satanic Ritual Abuse” became a money making machine for both therapists and daytime talk show hosts alike. So-called experts were paraded before the press, along with supposed victims.

It was a full on witch hunt.

Every weekend it seemed there were churches hosting revivals centering on the evils of rock and roll and backward messages found on albums by everyone from Led Zeppelin to ELO, of demonic influences found in Dungeons & Dragons, and the like. Christian Fundamentalists went to war. Satan was everywhere. And me and my friends weren’t smart enough to be scared.

In 1994, as the Satanic Panic was starting to subside, the West Memphis 3 were wrongfully convicted of the brutal murder of three young boys in what the police described as a satanic ritual sacrifice. It was all bunk. Fearful men fanning the fires of hysteria and many of them getting rich in the process.

Not that there weren’t some scary things going on out there. In my neck of the woods, something was happening. I was awakened to this one evening when my friends and I were enjoying ourselves at a shelter house out at the Mississinewa Reservoir. A Conservation Officer checked in on us, chatted for a bit, and the subject of the occult was brought up and I confessed my interest and knowledge. I was invited out to the scene of a local campsite where a cat had been crucified within a pentagram made from small stones. Empty beer cans and bottles of Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s were strewn about. There were half-assed runes and magical writings in the dirt, the kind you’d copy from an Ozzy Osbourne album cover. I assured the CO this was not the makings of some cult, but of teenagers playing at self-styled satanism, influenced more by the Fundamentalist furor than the devil himself.

A few weeks later, I again was asked to look a scene over and give my thoughts. This time it was an abandoned house. Inside a bedroom on the second floor, someone with some obvious artistic talent had drawn an intricate magic circle on the floor and covered the walls with Enochian sigils and Malachim runes. There were some fascinating illustrations on the faded wallpaper. Scenes of demonic figures and females copulating with Lovecraftian beasts. I gave the CO my impressions and supplied them with copies of Green Egg’s Witchcraft, Satanism and Occult CrimeWho’s Who and What’s What — A Manual of Reference Materials for the Professional Investigator.

Then, someone covered our favorite shelter house in “satanic” graffiti and smashed up the fireplace. Soon after, someone burned it to the ground.

That’s when things really started to get strange, but that’s a story for another time.

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