IS SATANISM LINKED TO CRIMES?
by Thomas D. Elias, Scripps Howard News Service
San Francisco – From small towns like Sanford, ME. and big cities like San
Francisco and Los Angeles, a steady stream of crime reports are indicating
that satanism – devil worship – is becoming a fast-growing but still
unmeasurable force in America.
When Richard Ramirez, the accused night stalker, raised his right hand in a
Los Angeles courtroom, where he was accused of 14 murders and dozens of
other felonies, his palm displayed an inked pentagram.
The five-pointed star within a circle positioned with two points up to
symbolize the devil’s horns was found at several night stalker murder scenes
and the wife of one victim testified that Ramirez forced her to “swear on
satan” she wouldn’t alert neighbors by screaming.
In Huntington Beach, Calif., 33 small animals kept in an elementary school
yard were slaughtered last May, a crime that police say was apparently part
of a satanic ritual.
In Contra Costa County, Calif., the battered body of a 17-year-old boy who
had graduated from playing “Dungeons and Dragons” to being involved with a
satanic coven was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near San Francisco Bay
last year. He had told his father and others that he wanted to leave the
Police call the death a suicide, but a coroner’s report says the body bore
marks more like those from a beating with sticks than bruises typically
received in a fall.
Scores of reports link child molestations to satanic rituals featuring
chalices of blood and participants either nude or wearing black hoods.
Altogether, as many as 800 crimes now under investigation by ploice
nationwide are said to be linded somehow to devil worship.
Detectives from seven western states last spring held a closed-door session
to play strategies against satanism.
One tactic they reportedly agreed upon: deny its involvement in crimes to
discourage publicity and copycats.
Consistent with that idea, police and prosecutors are almost invariably
hesitant to label devil-worship and savrifice as the motive behind any crime
and no one has been convicted of a crime on the basis of satanic involvement
for more than a decade.
“There was talk about drinking blood and allegations that people involved
worshipped the devil and had certain ceremonies,” says Stephen Tauzer, a
Bakersfield, Calif., prosecutor handling a case where as many as 80 adults
have been suspected of molesting up to 60 children. “But we’re not trying
the case on religious grounds. I know satanism exists as a fad and that
there are reports of cremated victims. But I have a hard time concluding
that anything as large as cremating victims would not have witnesses.”
Police usually say satanism exists, but has only peripheral involvement at
most in crimes committed by alleged satanists.
“One hears about cases,” says Joseph Kranyak, a crime analyst for the San
Bernadino, Calif., police department. “But when you track them down you
find you’re mostly chasing shadows. The vandalous nature of these things
may not be organized and conspiratorial, but a response to stimuli like rock
And some of the leading fighters against satanism say there is a distinct
difference between organized satanists like those belonging to San
Francisco’s Church of Satan and “freelance satanists.”
“In the formal churches, you get no murders, only symbolic actions,” says
Karen Hoyt, executive director of the Berkeley, Calf.-based spiritual
counterfeits project. “But freelancers sacrifice animals and reportedly
infants, although no one has found a body as yet.”
Church of Satan members adamantly deny any use of actual or animal
sacrifice, although “The Satanic Bible” written by church founder Anton
Lavey spells out rituals calling for “symbolic” human sacrifices.
“I’m a Satanist and I don’t want to molest children,” says Blanche Barton,
Lavey’s personal secretary. “The Satanic Bible says both animal and child
sacrifices are illegal, so the whole idea of sacrificing to release energy
is bull. But a lot of groups have adopted satanist images like hoods and
But the Satanic Bible does say that “Satan represents indulgence, instead of
abstinence” and that “Satan represents all the so-called sins, as they all
lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification.” and in a chapter
titled “On the choice of a Human Sacrifice,” Lavey adds that “Anyone who has
wronged you” is a “fit and proper human sacrifice” and “you have every right
to (symbolically) destroy them.”
Opponents of satanism believe many “freelance” practitioners omit the
admonition to make sacrifices “symbolic,” and use the Satanic Bible to
justify psychoses or perversions.
Covens centered around drugs, homosexuality, sexual fetishes, child
molesting and other illicit activities are known to use rituals from the
Satanic Bible and a later companion volume. So do groups using druidism,
celtic witchcraft and Egyptian mythology. Even “children’s covens” are
known to use such rituals.
Like many fundamentalists, Roger Burt, an Evangelical minister and president
of the Christian Counseling Association in suburban Los Angeles, believes
the current state of satanism is part of a long war between the forces of
good and evil.
“People who are getting involved in satanism are looking to get the power of
demons and use it for themselves,” he says. “It all centers on power over
their peers, especially among teenagers, which is where this is growing
fastest. This is not just a fad of the ’80S. It is actual spiritual
warfare. Spiritual possession has great power in attracting young people.”
Games like Dungeons and Dragons, with medieval imagery, help attract
children and teenagers to satanic rituals, which sometimes involve archaic
Rock music groups are even more of an influence, according to many police
Burt lists heavy metal groups like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motley
Crue, Blue Oyster Cult and Merciful Fate among the most influential. All
have performed music with a satanic-style message that critics contend is
taken literally by many listeners.
Burt says membership in satanic groups has grwon to “at least 60,000,” with
about one-third in California, the world’s main center of modern satanic
Hoyt and Burt agree that young children are often recruited by parents or
teachers, then molested or forced to watch and participate in ritual
killings of animals. Some are photographed during rituals and later
blackmailed into continuing either via threats to show the pictures to
parents or threats of harm to the parents.
Runaway teenagers, the anti-satanists say, are an especially fertile class
Other experts contend that many teenagers join satanist cults willingly.
“Many kids believe there is a force for evil in the world and some think it
is the really powerful force in the universe,” says Rabbi Jack Bemporad of
Tenafly, N.J., a nationally-known expert on cults. “A lot of them believe
in demons, which are mentioned in the new testament. Kids also have a lot
of rage and anger and a feeling of powerlessness because of the threat of
nuclear war and the increasing complexity of the world. They come to feel if
the world is going to destroy itself, they might as well glory in it.”
In short, says Bemporad, they feel “if you can’t beat evil, you might as
well join it.”
‘SATANIC BIBLE’ AUTHOR DENIES RESPONSIBILITY
By Thomas D. Elias, Scripps Howard News Service
San Francisco – Some people call him Satan. Others say he’s merely the
Anton Lavey says he doesn’t care what they think, although with a shaved
head, a small pointed beard and an all-black costume broken only by a red
necktie, he takes pains to look like the common image of a devil.
“If the shoe fits,” says the aughor of “The Satanic Bible,” “I’ll wear it.
But I don’t claim it. I’d rather be known as a devil’s advocate with a
small ‘D,’ a champion of individual freedom.”
Many opponents of satanism claim Lavey’s books, “The Satanic Bible” and “The
Satanic Rituals,” inspire many of the crimes linked to satanic symbols and
Lavey doesn’t argue with them.
“Anything can be misused,” he says. “When I was a kid, every time there was
a murder, the murderer would say something like, ‘God made me do it.’ A lot
of psychotics are doing whatever they’re doing and saying they’re satanists
as a way of getting themselves off the hook. There are crazies and there
will always be crazies. Whatever is around that they can lay blame on,
they’ll do it.”
Many of satanism’s opponents point to passages in Lavey’s books that they
contend specifically encourage crimes ranging from murder to grave-robbing.
One instruction in “The Satanic Rituals” calls for waving a human arm or leg
bone through the air, but offers no hint of where to get it.
“I figured people the bone someplace other than by killing a person,” Lavey
said. “But if they’re going to kill, I hope they at least get a deserving
Lavey says he has no personal knowledge of any murders attributed to satanic
practices, although he recalls meeting Richard Ramirez, accused Night
Stalker Killer in the Los Angeles area.
“When I met Richard Ramirez, he was one of the nicest, most polite young men
you’d ever want to meet,” said Lavey, 56. “When I met him in 1983, he was a
model of deportment. I suppose that shows even murderers may not be all
bad. Maybe he did his murders for reasons other than satanism. Maybe he
was disturbed or had an axe to grind.”
His satanic bible specifically prohibits animal and child sacrifice, but
apporves of “symbolic” adult human sacrifice. Readers are told to choose
their own victims and to graphically visualize “appropriate” revenge in a
“It’s just a short step from that to action,” Says Rabbi Jack Bemporad Of
Tenafly, N.J., a cult expert.
Says Lavey, “Of course murderers can use my books. But they can use the
Holy Bible, too. That’s the most incendiary book ever written. There’s
raping and patricide and matricide and killing your own kids in there.”
Responds Bemporad, “Comparing his book to the Hebrew Bible is like trying to
compare Shakespeare to a comic book. There’s violence in Shakespeare and
the Bible, sure, but there’s a great moral sense, too. The Bible has the
ethics of the western world in it, but it couldn’t legislate away the
reality of its time.”