Tag Archives: Satan

About That “Satanic” “Teen” “Craigslist Killer” …

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Pretend, for a moment, that you were programming a website that auto-generated sensationalistic headlines. What kinds of words would you plug into it? “Teen?” “Satanic?” “Serial killer?” The name of some kind of tech company? (Trust me on this one; headlines that include the word “Google,” “Apple,” or “Facebook” get tons of hits). On Sunday, nobody needed a fake headline generator to come up with a story that included all these phrases. After all, Miranda Barbour basically handed the story to them.

I won’t recount the details, not only because they’ve been splashed across news sites around the world already, but because right now there’s no evidence for almost anything she claims, except for the murder of one man she allegedly killed after luring him with a Craigslist ad in which she may have offered to exchange sex for money.

Instead, I want to look more closely at what she says, and how she says it:

“I remember everything … It is like watching a movie.”

Whether or not this girl is a legitimate killer, she’s indicating a sense of being disconnected from her actions. Is she delusional? Or possibly sociopathic?

Barbour claimed she began killing when she was 13 and involved in a satanic cult.

Invariably, young women who claim they belonged to “Satanic cults” were actually brainwashed into believing this by psychotherapists. They enter therapy for a variety of reasons, including childhood abuse.

At one point, she planned to let LaFerrara out of her Honda CRV. “He said the wrong things,” she said. “And then things got out of control.”

… She said she felt no remorse for her victims and said she killed only “bad people.”

Was her alleged victim a “bad person” for “saying the wrong things,” or was it more complicated than that? It’s hard to tell, taken through the filter of a news article. But if this is truly how she feels about the situation, it’s worrisome to consider what constitutes a “bad person” in her mind.

She said she was sexually molested at age 4.

Aha, now we’re getting somewhere.

“By no means is this a way to glorify it or get attention. I’m telling you because it is time for me to be honest and I feel I need to be honest.”

The way to not publicize and glorify your actions is to avoid talking to the press. You talk to the police. You cooperate with an investigation of your claims. You don’t talk to reporters.

What I’m saying, I don’t think this adds up. I’ll be interested, in the weeks and months to come, to see how much of her story holds up.

“Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults” Clip

I could comment, but the comments in the video pretty much speak for themselves. I sincerely hope no police officers watching this video actually took it as a form of education — or as a basis for action against actual occultists or Satanists.

Violent video games, Satan, and murder (again)


Did video games make Peter Charles John Jensen, left, shoot his wife? Did Satan make Christopher Roalson, right, stab an elderly woman to death? If not, why are police, prosecutors, and the press mentioning it?

On Sept. 25, police in Jacksonville, Florida, charged Peter Charles John Jensen with murder. Allegedly, he apparently was “playing violent video games under the influence of some type of drug,” police said, before he got into an argument with his wife, Karina, and shot her. A witness — who was playing video games with Jensen — reported the shooting, and fled when Jensen pointed the gun at him. Karina was dead when police arrived and found her.

A few days earlier, a Hayward, Wisconsin, jury found Christopher Roalson guilty of first-degree murder. Roalson, along with accomplice Austin Davis, broke into 93-year-old Irena Roszak’s Radisson house and stabbed her to death in 2009. They have called it a “thrill kill,” and Davis told the court that he heard screaming and someone saying “Hail Satan” coming from Roszak’s bedroom the night of the murder. Roalson also reportedly claimed he was “Satan’s son” as he and Davis left the house that night.

As you can see, the headline in the Jensen case is:
Man killed wife in Julington Creek shooting Saturday, police say
Police: He played video games and took drugs before the slaying.

And for Roalson, the lede in a Duluth newspaper:
A Sawyer County jury on Friday found 30-year-old Christopher Roalson guilty in the murder of 93-year-old Irena Roszak, a case that officials called a “thrill kill” with satanic overtones.

Coverage in both cases has been sketchy and doesn’t point to a clear, legitimate motive. Maybe that’s why everyone has latched onto these sensationalistic but meaningless details. I can point to Jensen’s glazed demeanor and compare it to that of (allegedly schizophrenic) Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, but that’s guesswork at best. How we can get through an entire trial, in Roalson’s case, and not be clear on why he killed an elderly woman, is beyond me — especially since you have to prove premeditation for first-degree murder, and premeditation suggests a motive.

Instead, we’re left with violent video games, drugs, and Satan: scary things many people don’t understand, but are happy to consider valid motivations for killing — as valid as any other impetus we also might not understand. We’re also left with the impression that these things might make anyone else commit murder. Better take them away before that happens, right?

Who’s training South Africa’s occult police?


Some of South Africa’s police officers will be trained as occult specialists. Photo by Flickr user ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.

The South African Police Service is apparently training some of its officers to become “occult specialists,” according to a leaked memo. South African pagans are nervous about this — and rightly so.

In the United States, police forces have relied upon training from outside consultants, including the late Don Rimer. Unfortunately, most of these outside consultants have been far from experts in legitimate pagan or occult practice, and instead presented police with confused and sensationalized information that could only lead to profiling and accusing people who were otherwise likely innocent.

The South African police memo says that two detectives in each of the country’s provinces must be trained to deal with occult crimes, including “muti murders, curses intended to cause harm, vampirism, spiritual intimidation including ‘astral coercion,’ rape by ‘tokoloshe spirits,’ poltergeist phenomena, voodoo, black magic and traditional healers involved in criminal activities.” Those specialists will help other detectives in cases that seem “rooted in the supernatural.” It cautions police involved in these investigations to remain unbiased.

South Africa has a strong tribal tradition, and many in the region hold to older belief systems. The friction between these groups and Christians contributes to a kind of Satanic panic. This plays out in a number of places, including in the tabloid press, which has been known to run stories about children attacked by vampires or about religious leaders blaming all violent crime on Satan. A recent crime in which a young woman was set on fire was described as a Satanic ritual, and even teen poetry is blamed on Satanic cults.

It’s tough to see how the police will be able to remain unbiased. That’s one reason the South African Pagan Rights Alliance is worried about the new police plan:

“This newly envisioned scope of investigation must be viewed with suspicion and be of concern to anyone engaged in the practice of witchcraft, traditional African religion, and other occult spiritualities, including Satanism.”

It’s especially worrisome that police have not said who will be training the new “occult detectives” on the force. Will it be South Africa’s answer to Don Rimer? Or will it be folks from SAPRA and representatives from tribal faiths, who can help police tell the difference between legitimate religious practice and outright criminal activity? We can certainly hope for the latter, but there isn’t much precedent for it.

Could Egypt’s heavy metal days be numbered?


A band performs at the Heavy Tune Metal Festival at Nile Country Club in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2011. Photo by Flickr user lokha/Lorenz Khazaleh.

In January of 1997, roughly 100 Egyptian heavy-metal fans were rounded up, arrested, and accused of Satanism. Now, almost 16 years later, it looks like it could happen again.

Over the weekend, Ismail El-Weshahy, a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), filed a complaint to the Egyptian interior ministry against El-Sawy Culturewheel. He claims that the venue, a regular home for rock and metal shows, was hosting “Satanic” rock bands and events. El-Weshahy even claimed that his clients, members of an independent anti-corruption group called “We’re Watching You,” filmed “satanic rituals” at Culturewheel.

The news comes just as the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining power and legitimacy in Egypt. After the 1997 arrests, most were freed because the charges against them were unprovable. However, the metal scene in Egypt was essentially silenced; too many bands were afraid to play, and clubs were afraid to host them. But slowly the scene re-emerged. Today, it’s a healthy scene, but it remains underground for the most part — it hasn’t achieved pop-culture status. Most Egyptian metal bands aren’t known outside the country. That leaves them relatively to these kinds of political and cultural attacks.

Some metal musicians in the scene saw this latest move coming.

Wael Osama, founder and manager of heavy metal band Enraged, said:

“I was expecting that something like this could happen in the future, but I did not think it would be this soon. No matter how absurd the accusations are, the fact they are brought by a well known lawyer from the FJP will generate a big amount of bad publicity with possible serious repercussions.”

What those repercussions could be remains to be seen. Metal musicians in the country are gathering this week to discuss what to do and how to respond to the attacks.

Heba Ahmed, who works at Culturewheel, said the venue will continue hosting events, including heavy metal shows. In addition, a statement on its Web site denies the allegations: “In our ten years of activity, the Culturewheel has not hosted any kind of practice that could be called Satanic,” the statement asserted, going on to express doubt that Satanism in Egypt existed at all.

Certainly, heavy metal is not Satanism.

Retired therapist invents 22 ways to make money, and all of them involve “Satanic ritual abuse”


Judy Byington’s book, Twenty-Two Faces, resurrects the disproven ideas of multiple personality disorder and Satanic ritual abuse.

Just when you thought we were safe from the “Satanic ritual abuse” moral panic, along comes retired therapist Judy Byington with a new book detailing the supposed case study of Jenny Hill. According to Byington, Hill is “one of few surviving chosen sacrifices from a Black Temple ceremony.” Given the title of the book, we can presume that Hill coped with the alleged experience by splitting into 22 personalities — a syndrome many believe is actually the result of brainwashing by therapists.

Here’s a snippet from the book:

Secret ceremonies in which malevolent men and women cloaked in hooded robes, hiding behind painted faces and chanting demonic incantations while inflicting sadistic wounds on innocent children lying on makeshift altars, or tied to inverted crosses, sounds like the stuff of which B-grade horror movies are made,” Byington writes in closing her 428-page work. “Some think amoral religious cults only populate the world of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ but don’t exist in real life. Or do they? Ask Jenny Hill.”

It’s notable that most cases of multiple personality disorder not only emerged in therapy, but emerged at the same time as mysteriously “remembered” memories of Satanic abuse. Most of these memories are “recovered” during hypnosis — a state in which people are also highly suggestible. Speaking of suggestible, in the 1980s, 58% of the SRA claims gathered in a study of 12,000 appeared in the years following the Geraldo Rivera special on SRA and a further 34% following a workshop on SRA. Many believe that these false memories are then exploited by therapists, who claim it will take many years of treatment for people to heal — thus ensuring a steady, paying client base for the therapist.

Instead, Byington claims, according to the reporter, that “Satanic mind control programming helped create 22 personalities … in Hill as a young child.”

Well, at least she’s right about the “mind control” part.

The author is also the founder of the Trauma Research Center. There, she sells copies of her books and offers for-pay “webinars” on dissociative identity disorder/multiple personality disorder and other topics. And, according to a guest post over on She Writes, she has another book on the way, Saints, Sinners and Satan, “a first person account of her own experiences with multiple personality survivors and Occult crime.”

Sounds to me like she’s resurrecting some old (and debunked) ghosts to make a living. Don’t get me wrong; we do need outlets for legitimate sufferers of trauma. But does Byington think she can really sell this idea in 2012, when most people are pretty skeptical of Satanic-abuse claims — and with good reason? Is society tipping back to a place of superstition and fear?

Let’s play “imagine the Aurora killer’s motivations!”


Aurora, Colorado, shooting suspect James Holmes, in a recent mugshot courtesy the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

We’ve had the weekend to begin to digest the news of what happened in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater early Friday morning. While officials spent much of the weekend de-activating suspect James Holmes’ booby-trapped apartment — where the most information about Holmes’ life is likely kept — reporters began circulating among his former friends and neighbors, gathering what shreds of information they could about a man who apparently lived little of his life on the Internet and mostly kept his interests and proclivities private.

In the absence of much information, people’s — and pundits’ — imaginations have begun to fill in the details.

For example, Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, speculated on CNN that video games were at the center of Holmes’ murderous outburst:

“He’s probably prepared for this for a long time, just obsessing over it, gathering his weapons,” Brown said on CNN. ”[He] probably spent a lot of time in his apartment, playing one video game after the other—shooting, shooting, shooting—building up his courage and building up the excitement of when it’s going to be real for him. And it’s made his day.”

“This has been something he has really been into. And now we’re going to find, probably on [Facebook] or anybody who knows him will say, ‘Yeah, he did have a lot of interest in that. He was always playing the video games. And I’m not saying video games make you a killer. But if you’re a psychopath, video games help you get in the mode to do the killing.”

Perhaps more innocently, the Los Angeles Times circulated an article in which a childhood friend of Holmes said the suspected shooter enjoyed video games and movies as a teenager. Of course, that’s like saying a teenager enjoyed loud music, Facebook, and sleeping until noon. None of it describes Holmes with any accuracy, and it especially doesn’t say anything about his ability to plan and commit such a horrific crime. However, pundits like Brown, and anyone who believes video games cause violent behavior, will jump on such a line and consider it evidence.

In fact, much research has found no link between mass shootings and video games. Some shooters may play video games, but the one doesn’t cause the other.

There are a couple of reports that Holmes was into role-playing games. Of course, those reports are coming from fishy-looking Web sites that harbor more conspiracy theories (or, er, boxing information) than actual fact-based journalism.

Then come the religious pundits who argue that the shooting was, in fact, motivated by Satan. In the Christian Post, Greg Stier writes that a text-message exchange about the shootings:

… got me thinking about another “Dark Knight” who ruled the heart of a gunman in Aurora last night. It got me thinking about Satan’s role in the Columbine massacre on April 20th, 1999 when he invaded the hearts of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It got me thinking about Satan and the stranglehold he has in the souls of so many. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that this dark knight, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” and he did just that last night. He used the trigger finger of this twisted madman to steal innocence, kill people and destroy hope.

Research has indicated that Eric Harris’ psychopathy and Dylan Klebold’s depression, not Satan, was ultimately behind what happened in Columbine. (Apparently Stier didn’t get that memo.) I can understand the impulse to name the Devil as a scapegoat when we don’t understand why something awful has happened, and I’m thankful that Stier is blaming a mythological figure, rather than real-life Satanists, for what went on in that midnight movie.

As long as we blame forces outside ourselves (and to some extent outside our control), we let go of our power over very real, treatable motivations, such as mental illness in the Columbine case. In other words, it means we not only let the killers off the hook, we let ourselves off the hook for not intervening if someone we love goes off the deep end in a catastrophically violent way. It wasn’t my fault; it wasn’t his fault. It was Satan. It was video games. It was role-playing games.

Speaking of Columbine, Dave Cullen, the author of the definitive book on the shootings, wrote a piece in the New York Times decrying the temptation to jump to conclusions, and we all should heed it:

Over the next several days, you will be hit with all sorts of evidence fragments suggesting one motive or another. Don’t believe any one detail. Mr. Holmes has already been described as a loner. Proceed with caution on that. Nearly every shooter gets tagged with that label, because the public is convinced that that’s the profile, and people barely acquainted with the gunman parrot it back to every journalist they encounter. The Secret Service report determined that it’s usually not true.