Shadows and Fog
Just then a bolt of lightning struck the courthouse out of shape,
And while everybody knelt to pray the drifter did escape. - Bob Dylan
It's always interesting to watch what happens when the proudly incredulous bump up against intransigent darkness. Ponchatoula is one recent example; Jeff Gannon, whoever he is, may be another, if only for his incidental disinternment of Craig Spence. What is it that happens? Perhaps retreat to the rolled eyes of ridicule; perhaps stammering doubt about mechanistic models of humanity, the universe and everything. At this point, unless intellectual humility kicks in, the marshmallowing effect of consensus ignorance will swell like emergency airbags to fill the latest void left by shattered presumptions, and people go on as though the weird had never disturbed their world.
You may have read recently about the unsolved murder of Pamela Vitale, wife of attorney Daniel Horowitz. Thanks to starroute, I learned an interesting backstory that darkens the picture further.
From "Lawyers, Murder, Hit Men and the Devil":
Horowitz is currently defending Susan Polk, who stabbed her husband, famous psychologist Felix Polk, 15 times in their mansion...just 5 miles from where Horowitz discovered his slain wife.
Susan Polk's defense included tales of ritual abuse, Satanic cults and narcotics. Her 70-year-old husband was a cocaine-crazed lunatic who hypnotized his wife and children to make them obey his "sinister orders."
Polk alleges her late husband coerced her into a sexual relationship at the age of 16, shortly after he became her psychologist, and that it continued "under the guise of therapy" until she was 22. Interestingly, the San Francisco Chronicle further notes:
In 1987, Susan Polk claimed her then-18-month-old son was providing lurid details about suffering ritual abuse at day care. "The terror in our son's eyes is too profound," she told The Chronicle at the time, "and the details he has given about the blood...and about the screaming -- it's too much not to believe."
A mistrial has been declared in the Polk case and the jurors dismissed. "Polk, who will remain in custody, was crying in the courtroom when the mistrial was declared."
We need to exercise intellectual humility ourselves, and recognize the caution that admitting the reality of a criminal occult underground with a long reach and friends in high places does not mean it is always the guilty party. (Similarly, Professor Pan introduces a complex case from Lancaster, Pennsylvania: "Trances, satanic abuse - now a trial.") The Horowitz mystery may have another, and entirely mundane, solution, but as so often with charges of ritual abuse, evidence and leads suggesting the same are dismissed out of hand because of the presumption that no such thing exists. Susan Polk's allegations of ritual abuse at her son's day care and at the hands of her husband are more likely to be regarded in an American courtroom as evidence of a delusional state than as authentic leads to be pursued in the solution of a crime. (For instance, an hypothesis: was Vitale murdered as a message to Horowitz from a cult that does not welcome exposure?) So criminals evade justice, or cop to a lesser offense - think of Franklin's Larry King, who served time for fraud but not for child prostitution and ritual abuse - because their grotesque crimes challenge belief to the degree that they are assumed to be the product of mental illness, rather than, perhaps, its cause.
The world isn't black and white, but thinking it is would be a step up for those who never admit the legitimacy of ritual abuse claims and for those who can see nothing but the Goat of Mendes. There are a lot of colours out there, but we need to wreck the shadow and fog machines to see them. Until then, black and white is better than all black, or all white.
A 16-year-old boy who lives near homicide victim Pamela Vitale, the 52-year-old wife of well-known defense attorney Daniel Horowitz, has been arrested in connection with the killing in a remote part of Lafayette, two sources close to the investigation told The Chronicle this morning. Scott Dyleski was arrested Wednesday night at a relative's house on a warrant alleging murder and will be charged as an adult, one of the sources said. Investigators believe he killed Vitale by striking her 39 times in the head with a piece of crown molding, then carved some kind of gothic signature into her back, that source said.
More about the suspect, from Associated Press, with thanks to starroute:
"He was really gothic, always wore a long, dark jacket," said Kevin Etheridge, 16. "He'd hang out with a few kids, but he was pretty quiet, pretty much to himself."
Another student remembered him drawing a pentagram on the ground with chalk in junior high school and dancing around it with other students.
"He told people the book that he was carrying and reading from was the book of Satan," Keith Kingon said.
A man at the house where the suspect lived declined to comment Thursday as goats and chickens wandered around the property. A potbelly stove, a bathtub and dozens of baseballs littered the yard.