February 13, 1988 - By LISA LEVITT RYCKMAN AP National Writer Five years ago, Colorado pol
February 13, 1988
------ By LISA LEVITT RYCKMAN AP National Writer
Five years ago, Colorado police destroyed evidence in a teen-age
suicide when their cruiser tires obliterated occult symbols drawn with a
stick in driveway gravel. Oklahoma investigators saved a few satanic
drawings and writings by a boy who had killed his parents; relatives
threw away the rest.
They know better now.
Police, parents, teachers and clergy have learned some tough lessons
about a hard-to-believe phenomenon as dark as it is complex. Violence
and crime among teen-agers caught up in the occult, particularly a
self-styled Satanism laced with drugs, savage rock music and a mish-mash
of symbols and rituals, have adults talking seriously about the
"Three years ago, nobody wanted to hear it, nobody believed it was
real," said San Francisco police Detective Sandi Gallant, who receives
four calls a day from around the country on crimes with satanic or
occult overtones. "Now I'm seeing them tuning into it, looking to see it
is a reality and facing it head-on."
The Satan of "Paradise Lost" was a favored angel cast from Heaven for
defying God. In the 1980s, a small but growing number of fallen angels
has pushed accepted adolescent rebellion into the realm of the bizarre.
"The paranoid fantasy is becoming a major national social problem,"
said Carl Rashcke, director of the Institute of Humanities at the
University of Denver. "If you're not looking for it, you don't see the
evidence. But when you're looking for it, you see it everywhere."
In one month this winter, three Missouri teen-agers were charged with
first-degree murder in the death of a classmate beaten with baseball
bats and dumped into a cistern with a bludgeoned cat. A popular
15-year-old put a rifle to her head in Vermont. A New Jersey
eighth-grader fatally stabbed his mother with a Boy Scout knife, then
slit his throat and wrists.
"The kids will tell you themselves: `What have we got to live for?
You've crammed religion down our throats. You've destroyed everything.
You've built bombs that can wipe out the world. So we live for today,"'
said Denver police Detective Bill Wickersham. "That's what Satanism says
-- `Do what thou wilt."'
At the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, every month brings news
of a teen-ager involved in crime believed linked to devil worship. At
least 10 percent of the 250 calls they receive each month are about
satanic cults, a significant figure considering the thousands of U.S.
"I suspect we're only getting the tip of the iceberg," said Executive
Director Cynthia Kisser. "I believe for every one we're hearing about,
there are five or six teen-agers ... we haven't picked up on."
It's easy to see why. Thomas Sullivan Jr., 14, appeared to be a model
son and student until a month before he killed his mother and himself.
Michele Kimball, 15, before she put a bullet through her brain, was
considered a giving, loving child who brought light into others' lives.
James Hardy, one of three 17-year-olds charged in the beating death, was
senior class president.
Kids involved in self-styled Satanism -- separate from the
traditional religious Satanists, who are public about their beliefs and
disapprove of criminal activity, and adult devil cults, which some
observers believe use drugs and blackmail to lure youngsters into crime
-- usually are bright and creative, sometimes underachievers.
Like many teen-agers, they lack self-confidence and have trouble
communicating with their families. Most are white males, although that
is changing, and often from stable, middle-class families.
Satanism, which revels in evil, destruction, instant gratification
and ritual guaranteed to shock parents, offers the ultimate rebellion.
"It's a shortcut to power, and the only thing you have to do is stick
your neck out. There's this element of danger," said Linda Blood, a
former member of the Temple of Set, a group of traditional Satanists.
"It's like the occult version of the Marines: `Are you man enough for
this? Do you have what it takes?"'
Law enforcement, which has been in the forefront of education about
teen-age satanic activity, cautions against reading too much into
youthful fascination with such common introductions to the occult as
heavy metal music, fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons or science
"Only about 5 percent of the kids ever involved through one of those
influences will get extremely involved, and only 1 to 3 percent will
become obsessed and act out in a violent way," Gallant said.
Some graduate from fun and games to experimentation. They become
"dabblers," adopting some of the outward trappings: black clothing,
inverted crosses, encircled pentagrams, goat heads or the number 666
worn as jewelry or drawn on notebooks.
How do parents know when the dabbling is turning dangerous? Involved
kids keep a "Book of Shadows," sometimes just a simple spiral notebook,
where they write down rituals, violent song lyrics, satanic symbols and
suicide notes, according to Detective Jerry Simandl of the Chicago
police department's Gang Crimes Task Force.
They might create their own code, possibly some form of reverse
alphabet, and give themselves satanic names. They might set up a kind of
altar in their bedrooms using candles, ritual knives, skulls and bones.
Some rob graveyards to get what they need.
Drugs play a major role, especially amphetamines, PCP and
hallucinogens such as psilocybin. Satanism and drugs were the glue for
the Purple Knights, a gang of Denver-area teen-agers, some as young as
12, involved in burglaries, suicide attempts, auto theft and arson. They
conducted rituals where they drank blood drained from self-inflicted
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank