Late last May I wound up in a cemetery. For me, this is reasonable without further explanation, but for the sake of the record, I’d been scouting out a room for rent across the street that looked like the total pits damn and I came out all this way… I might as well explore the local cemetery.
Opened in 1873, the Ross Bay Cemetery is a joy. With elaborate mausoleums, imposing, ancient foliage, rolling hills and winding paths through romantic states of disrepair, with grave curbs, aggressive crows, iron fences and ironic inscriptions, Ross Bay offers a view of the ocean and the historic horror that before the seawall was built to preserve the shoreline, the water would swell and swallow the dead, with children collecting bones along the beach post-storm.
I took a few pictures meant for deepsicks but had no narrative to couch them in. Rather than just throw them up, or throw them away, or file them out of sight, I have let them rest in limbo in a folder on my desktop for the past five months.
They weren’t important. But I didn’t want to forget them. There was something about this place I couldn’t place.
“Gone Home” and “Gone to be with Christ, which is far better.”
The “chains” of peace?
In other news…
I’ve long been interested in satanism. Well, the idea of satanism. The idea of the idea of ritualized evil, and the panic evoked by the fear of the devil come home to roost, in your wholesome neighborhood, your good Christian heart, and you must do your part to sacrifice your children to save them.
One two he’s coming for you, three four better lock the door and throw away your teen’s D&D library and Iron Maiden LPs. Stay glued to Geraldo and 20/20. Become a stay-at-home mom to prevent your little ones from falling into the clutches of satanic ritual abuse daycare providers in tunnels under graveyards with robots and lions and magical rooms where they stick knives in children but leave no bodies or scars—kiddie porn empires with no photos or films.
I’m a child of the eighties, so I know. What we say is what we are. We’re all naked booby stars.
I’ve been plotting for years to explore this deeper, bring to life/death through fiction the distortion and derangement and incalculable damage wrought by the satanic moral panic of the 1980s. There’s a fair amount of literature on the phenomenon, from a wide range of disciplines: sociology, psychology, criminology and folklore, as well as from the hardline True Believers, victim-survivors themselves, still night-quaking from eating feces and human flesh, stabbing babies and being buried alive with corpses when they were four.
But it all seems relatively forgotten—unrecognized for what it was at the time and not remembered for what it means now, though this is hard for me to tell. I was a child, so I don’t really remember the social tenor and trauma—and I don’t remember what I don’t remember, or anything suspicious or dire beyond what was reasonable for a child’s childlike fantasy, the fear fables of scary stories I consumed incessantly, intensely imaginative, speculative, myself.
I do recall hearing tales of little altars in the woods, bird skulls and bloodstains, the stark voices of teenagers’ claiming scary shit man you don’t wanna know my youth piqued but not by anything I really believed—at least I don’t think so. Ouija boards and photographs falling off the walls. Crucifixes twisting upside down, rosaries into knots and Jesus pictures crying blood. Lighting fires in the cellar, Sam and I almost burned down our baby brother, if not the whole apartment building from out-of-control candles we used to ward off the dark we chose, scaring ourselves half to death in the crawlspace crypt below our house.
Taking advantage of UVic’s library, I’ve been checking out books to research the subject, and discovered Bill Ellis’ Raising the Devil (2000). Though cumbersome at times, it’s also insightful and comprehensive, packed full of bizarre examples and connections while being, dare I say, laugh-out-loud funny. From Rosemary’s Baby to mutilated cattle in rural Minnesota to the exorcism of the Pentagon by Vietnam protesters to the demonology of the Illuminati to the vampire hunt in London’s Highgate Cemetery, Ellis, a folklorist, explores and explains satanic trends through the lens of myth and legend and the human propensity to create, demand and defend them—one of the more interesting perspectives I’ve found on the topic.
It took me until over halfway through the book to realize wh-wh-wh-wh-wait a minute… the Highgate Cemetery Vampire Hunt? Haven’t I drunk this up already?
This naturally makes me feel marvelous. I don’t find it especially meaningful that I am interested in the same things that caught my eye five years ago—that I have been interested in my whole life—but still. Neat. Funnystrange.
Raising the Devil also briefly mentions Michelle Remembers (1980), the touchstone personal account of recovered memories of alleged satanic ritual abuse. I heard of the book years ago and have tried unsuccessfully to find it. Newly intrigued, I did a bit of reading (from the “Pagan Protection Center” no less) to see if it’s worth tracking down.
Co-written by her therapist, Lawrence Pazder, adult pseudonym’ed Michelle Smith claims young Michelle Smith at age five was subjected to ongoing torture by scads of unnamed satanists in the mid-fifties. Over the course of a year, Michelle, among other things:
- suffered cuts from knives and razor blades
- was imprisoned inside a statue of Satan along with snakes, spiders and a dead baby
- was locked in a cage and denied food for days at a time
- had her teeth pulled out by a doctor who also hacked apart bodies and sewed the parts back on in the wrong places
- witnessed the dismemberment of kittens
- was forced to eat cremains
- had an infant torn apart over her body
- and was dragged by her neck around an enormous round room by Satan himself, his tail as noose, at the culmination of a nonstop 81-day ritual of hundreds of devil worshipers devoted entirely to torturing her.
Michelle’s school records do not report this continuous 81-day absence, nor make any remark regarding her appearance one would imagine as emaciated, slashed and, well, exhibiting a generally disturbed demeanor. Luckily for Michelle, and her publicist, all resulting physical scars and dental deformities—and memories—were erased by a French-speaking Virgin Mary, the recollections of these events only to be recalled years later under the guidance of her therapist, who later became her husband.
Though a heavily controversial and criticized narrative, full of holes and logic leaps, Michelle Remembers nonetheless fueled the emerging satanic panic and provided “proof” for other equally evidence-less cases, all part of the vast underground intergenerational satanic conspiracy to subvert the social order and control the world by murdering kittens and making young children eat poo.
Because of such beliefs, accusations and hysteria, people all over North America have gone to prison. People are still in prison. How’d you like to go to jail because preschoolers said you flush them down a magical toilet into a secret room where you molest them, though you’ve also been known to take them on hot air balloon rides and through underground tunnels as well as orchestrate orgies at the local car wash and airport, along with your accomplice, Chuck Norris?
Oh yeah—and the woman who started all this? She thinks you can fly.
To say everyone was lying about everything in what grew to be hundreds of cases throughout the eighties to the mid-nineties would be incorrect—child abuse is very real—but these bombastic sorts of allegations simply were not true. Yet the people who believed them were utterly convinced of their realities, as well as convincing to other presumably otherwise reasonable people who banged the drum along with them to crucify the naysayers, which was better than, say, being complicit with Satan himself.
It’s the sort of thing that sets my brain on fire, and I don’t want to put it out.
Also among the claims in Michelle Remembers is her coerced participation in a rebirth ritual in a cemetery, where after being locked in a crypt she is stripped of clothing and transferred to a mausoleum filled with women dressed in black. Meowing and cavorting like cats, they give her a dead one and make her throw it in a grave in which she’d earlier lain. Her mother, present at the event, disowns her, and later one night the group returns and forces her to lie in the grave again, piling yet more dead cats in with her.
Despite Michelle’s screams throughout this ordeal, she is unheard by anyone in the neighborhood. The site of this residential-district graveyard?
Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, BC.
SPEAK! OF! THE! DEVIL!
Here are more (better!) RBC photos taken this afternoon:
No mausoleums that I could see could reasonably host a satanic party of more than three or four people. Unless the cat women were short. Or imaginary.
Mother and child were entranced by some irate crows. A surprising number of people were in the cemetery, strolling by with dogs and blazing through on bikes.
…That’s what I’m talking about.
Happy October, friends and fiends—have a terrific and safe Halloween.
CANDY! nom nom nom