I wrote to ask [my newspaper to capitalize Pagan when writing about the local Pagan community] and their response was to include my letter in a column dedicated to kooks and their letters.yea.I know it seems trivial but respect and acceptance has to start on a basic level.
October 11, 1997 --Miss. Town Listening to Cult Rumor
Filed at 1:47 p.m. EDT-By The Associated Press
PEARL, Miss. (AP) -- Stan Harrell swears he'll never fuss at his daughter, 16-year-old Kelly, for being late to school again. If she had been on time on Wednesday, Oct. 1, she would have been in the line of fire when the shooting started.
This past Thursday night, Stan overheard his daughter in her room. Like many in this largely Baptist community of 22,000 people, she was praying.
What folks here are wondering now is just who some of the other kids in town may have been praying to.
In the aftermath of the killings and arrests, there is dark talk of a satanic cult, of a clique of misfit teens who dressed in black and called themselves ``The Group.'' Prosecutors and civic leaders seem to think there may be something to it.
Bordering the city of Jackson, Pearl is a peaceful-looking town of red-brick, one-story ranch houses, most with flower gardens out front and welcome signs on the small front porches where people sit after dinner. The houses line narrow streets lush with large oaks and willow trees. On the outskirts, beyond clusters of rusting house trailers, 8-year-old Pearl High School sprawls across a pristine campus of manicured lawns and athletic fields.
Last Friday, police found a sheet of scorched paper, it edges burned to form a jagged edge, taped to the school wall next to the main entrance. On it, someone has drawn a skull and crossbones and an Iron Cross, and written the words: ``Luke is God. From your friends at Pearl High School.''
Luke would be Luke Woodham, the 16-year-old who is charged with slashing his mother to death with a butcher knife and then opening fire on his classmates with a rifle. He is accused of killing Lydia Dew, 17, and his former girlfriend, Christina Menefee, and wounding seven other students, leaving them bleeding on the polished floor of the school cafeteria.
Roy Balentine, the principal, dashed out of his office when he heard the first shots.
``I ran out to see if something possibly malfunctioned,'' he said. ``I was hoping that's what it was, but I knew it sounded like gunshots.''
He saw Woodham, about 15 or 20 feet away, wearing a big, blue coat and holding a rifle. Balentine dangled both arms to show how Woodham held the rifle low out in front of him.
Fearing Woodham would come for him next, Balentine ran to his office to call the police. As he dialed, more shots rang out. More students fell.
Minutes later, Assistant Principal Joel Myrick chased Woodham down outside the school, held him at bay with a .45-caliber automatic pistol he kept in his truck in the school parking lot. He forced Woodham to the ground and put his foot on the youth's neck.
``I think he's a coward,'' Myrick said. ``I had my weapon pointed at his face, and he didn't want to die.''
It seemed an open-and-shut case -- a single young gunman.
But then, a week later, six other teens, described as Woodham's friends, were taken to jail on charges that they had conspired to murder Pearl High School students and some of their parents.
There had been whispers that some kids in town may have been toying with the occult. In the aftermath, townspeople have latched onto the rumors as an explanation for the seemingly unexplainable.
``On the street, they're talking about some devil cults, and I'm sure there's good reason for that,'' said Mayor Jimmie Foster, whose son was allegedly targeted by Woodham, but was late for school that day.
Foster, a former Pearl police officer, said that over the years, there have been scattered signs of cult activity in town. ``Cult signs, maybe a couple of pets missing, but we never found the carcasses,'' he said.
The Rev. Martin Ruane, whose St. Jude's Catholic Church is just a few homes away from where Luke Woodham's rampage began, said he counseled a local teen-ager last year because he had ``some involvement in this devil-type thing.'' But he said he doubts that 17-year-old Wesley Brownell, a parishioner who was among those arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder was involved in such things.
Delbert Shaw, whose son Delbert, 18, was among those arrested, asserted that ``some of the boys were in a cult'' and that ``they tried to recruit my son.''
``But my son hasn't done anything,'' he said. ``He wasn't in a cult and that's all I have to say.''
Prosecutor John Kitchens, Rankin County's district attorney, his investigation ``has led us to believe that there is satanic activity occurring in this county.'' He said he has not ruled out the idea that the youths arrested this month are involved.
Ed Rainer, attorney for one of the youths, Grant Boyette, 18, of nearby Brandon, called the demonic rumors nonsense. But the talk is everywhere.
A 19-year-old Pearl High graduate who only gave his first name, Chris, talked darkly of ``a devil worship church'' by a gated road in the woods north of the school.
Dried bones of small animals are scattered about the area, but there is also a lot of other garbage there - empty buckets, old wire spools, worn-out tires and rotting shoes. Satanic church or unofficial garbage dump?
Investigators and students say there is no question that Woodham and his friends -- described by Balentine as ``highly intelligent'' students -- kept largely to themselves, mostly wore black and were often teased because they were different.
``There was a few you could tell something wasn't right with,'' said Nikki Miller, 16.
But Woodham's friends have offered police an alternative explanation for the shootings -- one that has nothing to do with devil worship. They say Woodham told them he was just plain angry because he was sick of being picked on.
Today, Balentine is trying to get his school back to normal. A trophy case cracked in the shooting has been replaced. Football games are going ahead as scheduled. Cheerleaders stayed after school last week to practice their routines.
``The best thing we can do to get things back on track is to go about business as usual,'' he said. ``This is something we will never forget, but we can put it behind us and move forward. Life must go on.''
But signs of sorrow remain. On the school grounds, blue ribbons are tied around the willows and oaks. Colored remnants of melted candles surround the flag pole. Sympathy cards from school sponsors, neighboring campuses and supporters adorn the walls. Uniformed police officers patrol the campus.
The American flag at city hall has hung at half-staff for more than a week. The sign board, which usually announces football games and summer picnics, offers a silent plea: ``God Help Us Heal.''
Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company
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TWV Comments: Obviously there will be a trial and it seems that-based on what the DA is saying or not saying- there may be some testimony involving the "occult" connection to this case. If the other teens arrested are also indicted, this chance will increase and the media coverage will be extensive as it always is in these sensational cases.
Added NOTE: If you have Pagan teens now attending school, this may increase pressure on the school authorities to be "on the look out" for teens wearing black, pentacles, etc. Teens who are meeting with other Pagan teens may consider avoiding calling their meeting together as a "group", since this is the name that the alleged parties are reported to have used. "Satanic panic" can be viewed as something from a mere annoyance to a possible threatening community overreaction depending on what part of the country you live in. As most of us know, the Satanic panic myth more often turns out to be just that-a myth. Thus far there have been no published reports involving "Witches or Witchcraft" in these articles. However we can safely presume that some local churches will be preaching sermons and using this as an example of the "dangers of occult involvement". We will continue to monitor the press releases on this situation.
Besides the debate it has caused among the Unitarian congregation, this so-called fairy circle has irritated one local minister and sent another briefly to jail." (The San Francisco Chronicle, 7/26/97)
One on One
Ted Rabouin / Repentant witch
By Allen W. Fletcher
On the 11 pm, est, TV newscast, there was a piece about a Witch in Amityville, LI, NY, who regained custody of her child and was commented on by your anchor Ms. Dana Tylor. Did I hear Ms. Dana Tylor say, in effect, that XXX was able to regain control of her child EVEN though she is a witch - among other comments? I do not have the exact quote. If this is substantially accurate, this seems to be gross religious bigotry.
The Connecticut Post has a toll-free number (Conn. Area only) where you can call to voice your complaints in 50 words or less. They ask that you state your initials and town..state where you live.1-800-286-9000 (this is for Southern Conn. only. and available 24 hrs. a day). (We are working on getting a proper national number).Thank you.
Letters to the Editor can be emailed to Edit@Snet.net
By Thomas J. Gibbons Jr.
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The discovery of several trash bags containing a decapitated goat and birds, along with dolls and other possibly cult-related articles, in Tacony Creek Park this week has prompted an investigation by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
``This looks like something that was being used for some type of ritual,'' said Elaine Skypala, the SPCA's director of operations. ``Our agents are going door to door in the area'' to determine whether anyone heard sounds of animals being tortured or killed.
State law forbids cruelty to animals and specifies fines and/or jail sentences for violations.
According to Skypala, the find was made Wednesday near Bingham and Ashdale Streets in Lower Olney by a woman walking her dog. In past years, evidence of cult rituals has been found in that area, as have human bones, cloven hooves, slaughtered birds, and animal entrails.
One trash bag found Wednesday contained the heads of roosters, pigeons, doves and a goat. A second bag held their carcasses. None of the animals had been dead longer than 24 hours, Skypala said, and because no blood was found in the area, it is believed that they were killed elsewhere and dumped in the park.
Mingled with the remains were handmade male and female dolls and children's underwear and socks, some with bird feathers tucked inside.
In the past, investigators have linked the finds to the practice of Santeria, not devil worship. Santeria is a religion with roots in the Yoruba culture of West Africa. It was practiced originally in Cuba, and its believers identify Yoruba deities with the names of Roman Catholic saints and pray for favors by using animal sacrifices.
Investigators believe this latest find may have had something to do with Santeria. Anyone with information on the bags is asked to contact the SPCA at 426-6300
To quote "TV GUIDE" (March 15-21/97)
"Sunnydale High gets its own not-so-clueless teenage witch, who begins stirring up trouble for Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
and the listing for the show reads:
"Cheerleading tryouts turn tragic when a prospective pom-pom girl bursts into flames. Could it be that Buffy's new friend, who's obsessed with snagging a position on the pep squad, may actually be practicing black magic instead of cheers?"
I hope the actualy episode is better than these ads indicate.
Monitor Teens Who Play With Dark Side
BY STEPHEN HUNT
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Rebellion and experimenting with different lifestyles -- including Gothdom -- is how teens learn to become independent adults.
Psychologists say that teens join peer groups to establish identities separate from their families. And costuming -- such as the black dress code of the Goths -- helps groups differentiate from one another, said Jordan School District psychologist Megan McCormick. Gothdom seems especially repugnant to parents, however, because its fascination with vampires and death clashes with Judeo-Christian ideals.
''Kids are trying out who they are,'' said McCormick. ''And they do try to be different from their parents.''
But parents should watch for signs that indicate their teen's rebellion may involve something other than growing pains. This includes a sudden personality change, particularly the onset of depression; failing grades at school or an outbreak of truancy; self-mutilation; or substance abuse.
Cult expert Rand Johnson, a West Jordan police captain, said other signs of a troubled teen are loss of a sense of humor, avoidance of family members, a change in sleeping habits, loss of touch with reality and an increase in fear or anxiety.
McCormick urged parents to seek professional help if their teen is acting inappropriately. Most schools have a school psychologist who can provide advice.
Teens often are seen as uncommunicative and aloof. But teen years are the time when children most need to talk.
''Communication is essential,'' McCormick said. ''Teens get into trouble when they feel they can't talk to their parents.''
She urged parents to be aware of what their teens are doing, who they are associating with and how they are feeling. ''It isn't being nosy, it's our job as parents,'' she said. Teens may act resentful at being quizzed, but they appreciate the concern.
Johnson said parents should worry if their child becomes involved with Gothdom -- or any activity -- to the point of obsession. Ask if the activity is ''affecting interpersonal relationships, or damaging them spiritually, mentally or physically.''
Parents need to intervene early if an obsessive interest in Gothdom occurs. ''Once they turn to rituals, good luck,'' he said. Signs or artifacts that indicate a teen may be dangerously immersed in Gothdom or Satanism are:
-- Possession of ritual items used for magical spells, such as ornamental chalices, daggers, candles, magical oils and powders, magic wands, occult signs like the pentagram, and books like the Satanic Bible.
-- A private or group diary of handwritten spells and rituals known as a ''Book of Shadows.''
-- circles inscribed on the floor.
-- Preoccupation with death themes or talk of suicide.
Johnson said obsessing about death can lead to suicide. Nationwide, some 5,000 teens a year commit suicide.
''Teens are going through such tough times, anyway,'' he said. ''So much about Gothdom is dark. I've not seen much positive in this. I want my kids involved in something bright and positive.''
Unfortunately, Hotmail won't let me upload the message.
Suffice it to say the episode made the Buffy witch episode look like a pleasant little excursion into fairy land. I am really upset with MGM over this. I knew the show had Christian overtones, but didn't know how many stereotypes they were going to glorify to get their point across. (My husband also noticed that the only Christian group they seem to like is the Roman Catholics. This pisses him off a bit, since he was raised Protestant and thinks both kinds of Christians are worthy of contempt - needless to say he never did like this show and now likes it a whole lot less!) (I'm the tolerant one in my family......)
who isn't usually the type to send nasty-grams to Hollywood producers, but when they started to equate feminism with satanic ritual abuse she about exploded! (Watch the rerun with tranqulizers handy.....)
Because of the horrific nature of the three killings (in which the three bodies were found mutilated, one of them sexually), the press focused on theories of Satanic ritual sacrifice; hungry for justice, the townspeople and the local media led a witchhunt straight to Damien's door. But not until the local police coerced one of the accused, Jessie Misskelley, a developmentally-disabled young man with an IQ of 72, into "confessing" to the crimes (although his "confession" is laden with contradictions and the police illegally questioned him for twelve hours, without a lawyer present, before they turned on a tape recorder). Jessie implicated Damien and his friend Jason. No physical evidence of any kind links any of these young men to the crimes. The town, the media and the prosecuting attorneys focused entirely on Damien's apparent "evil" persona and on Jessie's completely-unreliable "confession." With no other suspects, the three teenagers were convicted, despite the lack of evidence and the near-total unreliability of the witnesses for the prosecution. Paradise Lost is well-worth seeing simply because it is a fascinating (if terrifying) glimpse into the way prejudice and media hype influence the legal system.
After more than an hour of speaking, the final speaker was Rev. Elizabeth Walton, who contrived to have the last word. Speaking in a world-weary voice, she complained about all of the abuse she had received in the press, saying she had been called a Nazi, a bigot, and even a Communist(!), but she still remained true to her beliefs, and she believed that certain things, like the occult, were wrong. She mentioned the evil power that is supposed to be behind Tarot, but then she jumped to the evil that was done by people using Ouija boards. She claimed she was an ardent defender of the First Amendment, but she believes the First Amendment was not written to defend the licentiousness and the degeneracy that is present today. She said there is point beyond which First Amendment rights do not extend, but she neglected to say what that point was and who put it there.
Ivan Eaton was determined that she should not have the last word, and her spoke up against her position. Some people, including Chairman Stanley Hamel, thought he was personally attacking Rev. Elizabeth Walton, but he explained he was just attacking her position. "You're attacking Jesus Christ!" shouted one of the Christian ladies, and if Jesus and Rev. Elizabeth Walton were one in the same. At that point, the trustees decided that public discussion had gone on long enough, and a final statement was made by "Buffie" Heath. She pointed to a library publication from September, which actually had an article on how libraries could build a collection of occult books. She wanted to make it clear that this is something that is not hidden or shameful, but a topic that is being openly discussed.
Sean Bigham, craft name Shadar, of Jonesboro, AR is being held without bond for "contempt of court due to non-payment of child support" in the Craighead County Jail in Jonesboro, AR. While I am a single parent getting no support and have a problem with the REASON this happened, I still objective even more strongly to what has befallen this guy since he tried to "do the right thing". Now for the violation of his civil rights. He was told that since he is in jail for non-payment of child support, he is not entitled to a court-appointed attorney! Therefore, he is essentially being denied legal representation. We have not been able to find a statute supporting this and believe Sean may be the victim of religious discrimination because he is part of a group that is well known in the community.
You might remember hearing of the three teenagers from West Memphis who were tried for the triple murder of three young boys there. During that trial, there was speculation that one or more of these defendants were being hauled up on very slim evidence because they dressed funny and listened to rock music. I don't intend to go into a lot of detail about that, but during the trial, there was a march in Jonesboro, organized by the leader of Sean's coven, against the persecution of people based on their religion, in this case because they were quoted as saying they were Wiccans. During that time Sean and the other members of the Motani Coven were subjected to death threats and other harrassment. Terry and Amanda Riley, leaders of the Motani Coven appeared on the Jane Whitney show to tell about their experiences. scheduling a hearing regarding his case.
The reason we believe this is a case of religious discrimination is based on the fact that the judge at a prior hearing for Sean sometime back waived the jail time based on Sean's religious convictions that led him to take a vow of poverty for his path. The judge that heard Sean's case on this most recent occasion was from another county because the regular judge was ill. Judge John Harkey disregarded Sean's vow that was attested in the earlier court record and bound him over without benefit of defense. He also declined to review Sean's past payment history that proved he had never willfully refused to pay the child support he owed as much as he was unable to pay the specified amount of back child support in full and so mounted up arrearages that made catching up without a lump sum payment impossible. We feel that if the regular judge had heard the case, Sean would have been treated differently based on that judge's past rulings.
About Moore being a "witch": the most I have been able to find for the "witch" connection is that he says he is a witch, the police also found books about the "occult" in his home. Moore does say that his beliefs have nothing to do with the crime he is accused of. No details of a ritual nature about the crimes he is accused of committing seem to be surfacing yet, so it is possible the supposed "ritual" nature of the crimes was completely invented by the local media (most notable the _Danville Commercial News_).
Rana Kern said the photos showed a pagan fertility ritual and proved her ex-husband lied about living a witchcraft-free life. She was granted custody of the couple's 3-year-old son, Brandon. Walter Kern, 27, had contended his wife's witchcraft and ritual animal sacrifices made her an unfit parent.
But Mrs. Kern, 35, portrayed herself more in the mold of Oz's good-witch Glenda. She denied sacrificing animals and said her pagan beliefs did not prevent her from being a good mother.
Whether or not you believe her innocent it is extremely important for all members of minority religions to understand that what happened to Kerri could happen to you. Any neighbor, fellow worker, spouse, etc. could say anything they want about you, and no matter how untrue it is or fantastic it seems, you stand the same chance of conviction as Kerri did.
This case started 2 yrs ago in Onslow County, North Carolina, where a woman by the name of Kathleen "Lady Silver" Jones was seeking assistance from the Dept of Social Services of Onslow county. A DSS investigator came to Mrs. Jones home and saw her altar as well as other religious items as Mrs. Jones follows a earth based religion (Wicca). Mrs. Jones son who at the time was 12 yrs old was removed and placed into foster care. The court ordered that Mrs. Jones son would attend church every Sunday. Mrs. Jones does have a court appointed attorney.