Image by Flickr user Adam Cohn.
Ever wonder where the police get their information about “occult” and “Satanic” crimes? Like any other professional group, they occasionally visit with experts and attend conferences so brush up on their knowledge or learn more about something related to their field. We recently got a peek into that aspect of police work when the Daily Press (Virginia) sat in on a presentation to police by “occult expert” and retired cop Don Rimer.
Unfortunately, the entire article reads like a massive game of telephone. What appears in print is probably a distilled version of what Rimer actually said, but Rimer’s own “facts” seem cobbled together from a variety of sources, and in ways that make no sense. Much of it seems focused on horror-based television and film, including True Blood and Twilight. Rimer also claims that occult crime among teens is on the rise, even though the reporter’s own information — obtained through local police departments — reveals otherwise.
In the article, Rimer recounts several crimes, one of which involves the beating and torture of a kid who claimed to be a vampire. Aside from being horrific, it’s also not what you’d expect when you hear “occult crime.” You would expect the so-called vampire to be the one committing the violence, right? In another example he describes a death by erotic asphyxiation, which seems to have nothing at all to do with the occult.
And then there’s this:
“Fantasy role-playing like Dungeons and Dragons … and vampire gaming are alive and well,” said Rimer. “There are people who take gaming to another level, one that results in deaths and suicides. In the world of gaming, there is evil.”
Vampire gaming, in particular, will often lure people, then send them out on a quest that involves blood or sex, sometimes with deadly consequences, said Rimer.
… In which I can only assume he’s talking about live-action Vampire: The Masquerade, which involves neither blood nor sex, except sometimes as part of the storytelling. It’s theater, not crime.
The piece ends with a list of supposed clues that a teen is into the occult, including suicide attempts, frequent runaway, alienation from family, bizarre cruelty, especially to animals, fascination with death, self-mutilation, and using secret messages or a diary. This is a very bizarre list, one that describes a teen who is (aside from the secret messages and/or diary) facing potentially serious mental-health issues and needs to be evaluated immediately. It’s no wonder parents can’t tell when their kids are facing psychological crises when “experts” like Rimer are going around saying these are symptoms of something else entirely.
Rimer has been around a long time, and he’s not the only one of his kind. In 1991, Robert Hicks wrote a book on these experts, and on police investigations into the occult, in In Pursuit of Satan. It wouldn’t be so bad if police forces were being educated by people who took the time and care to get their facts straight. Instead, a lot of these “experts” spread misinformation and fear, first to the police and (once police talk to the press about supposed “occult crimes”) then to the press and the public. Rimer offers a “handbook” (PDF) on occult crime on the Web, though it’s just as jumbled as his presentations sound. It would be funny if it weren’t so dangerously misinformed.
It’s no wonder, really, that most people don’t know the difference between a Wiccan and Satanic pentagram, between a serious Satanic ritual and a mock “Devil worship” ceremony, between actual Santeria practices and a half-dozen mutilated animals. Almost all of what gets attributed to occultists during criminal investigation should be attributed to pranks, sociopathy, or both. And in the meantime, peacefully practicing occultists get dragged through the mud, feared as violent and prone to take their victim without warning at any time.
Here’s a question for my readers today: How much do you know about occult practices, and where did you learn that information? Are you aware of any occult crime happening in your part of the world? Do you think such crime is on the rise? If so, what do you think is causing that trend?