The Devil You Know (Part One)
They're whispering his name
through this disappearing land
But hidden in his coat
is a red right hand - Nick Cave
Nineteen-year old Italian Benjamino Evangelista emigrated to the US in 1904 and changed his name to Benny Evangelist. Two years later he began having ecstatic visions - "my own views and signs," he said, "that I see from 12 to 3 AM" - and they lasted for 20 years. He wrote it down in one of America's many "received" books, which he titled The Oldest History of the World Discovered by Occult Science in Detroit, Michigan. The first volume, self-published in 1926 and out-of-print until September, 2001, left the history at the time of Noah.
It was the only volume Evangelist lived to complete. On the morning of July 3, 1929, he was discovered slumped in the chair of his home office, his severed head at his feet and the floor littered with copies of The Oldest History in the World. Upstairs, his wife Santina was found hanging across the bed, only sinews connecting her head and neck, and clutching in one hand their murdered 18-month old son Mario. In another room lay the butchered remains of their three other children, Angelina, Margaret and Eugenis, ages seven, five and four.
The Detroit Free Press of July 5, 1929 ran a story headlined "Massacre of 6 in Cult Family Baffles Police":
Evangelist was a man of mystifying history on the religious side of his life. More than 20 years ago he founded the "Union Federation of America," a weird religious theory in his own somewhat warped mind, and, having been "appointed by God," he wrote the "bible" of that faith.
Several pieces of women's undergarments, each tagged with the name of its owner, police point out, reveal that the so-called mystic indulged in practices of "voodoosim," or devil worship. Such garments, "voodooism" has it, can lead to the finding of a missing person, when they are properly handled by one versed in the mystic arts of that belief.
"Evangelist, no doubt, was insane," Father [Francis] Beccheniu said [who was to bury the family the following Saturday], "Of that I am sure, although he was shrewd and seemed to have quite a lot of intelligence in other matters. Mrs. Evangelist was more of a fanatic than her husband on the subject of religion, and she did not display the intelligence revealed by him. "I do not believe Evangelist was sincere in practicing the creed he had established. Rather, I believe he founded the mysterious cult with all of its weird props and practices, with the sole idea of making money."
The previous day's breaking story of the murders adds colour regarding Evangelist's cult:
Eight or ten wax figures, each hideous and grotesque to the extreme, and each presumably representing one of the "celestial planets," were suspended on the altar in a circle by wires from the ceiling. Among them was a huge eye, electrically lighted from the inside, which Evangelist referred to in his bible as "the sun."
The walls and ceiling of this "religious sanctum" were lined with light green cloth, which bulged out in places like the walls of a padded cell. In a window of the basement, which was on a line with and visible from St. Aubin avenue, a large card bore the words: "Great Celestial Planet Exhibition."
Evangelist and his family undoubtedly were killed while the "prophet" was in his office after having "read the signs" from the celestial bodies, for his bible states that he "saw them from 12 to 3 a. m."
It was the worst mass murder in Detroit's history. Theft was not a motive; valuables were untouched. And it remains unsolved today.
What's the point of rehashing such a tragic though long-cold case? The trance-like authorship of the text, the occult aspect of the crime, the media's inadequacies, the singular brutality, "baffled" police and the impotence of justice: it's America. It always has been America.
Another cold case, this from Sonoma California, but only 20 months old: "Tantalizing clues in pair's slaying" read the headline in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle. Sheriffs have released evidence - a sign of some desperation - from the murder scene of a young engaged couple killed camping on a beach in hope of comparing "our evidence to people's suspicions," says Lt. Dave Edmonds. The evidence includes pictures of devil faces carved or burned in nearby driftwood and enigmatic journal pages in several different hands mentioning leprechauns and the toothfairy and containing text like, "At the Driftwood Inn, alone again, outside of myself and placid as hell."
The two murder victims were shot in the head, likely at close range while they slept. There was no sign of a robbery: "None of the couple's belongings, including Christian literature and camping gear, had been disturbed." Reverend Chris Cutshall, father of victim Lindsay, age 22, says "We have no idea at this stage whether these drawings have anything to do with the case. But we believe their deaths were satanically motivated anyway. These were great kids who were serving the Lord, and they didn't have any enemies other than the evil one."
It's easy to discount such remarks as simply a grieving father finding consolation and meaning in setting his religious template upon his daughter's mysterious death. American evangelicals seem to invite such discounting. And that so many seem to want there to be a vast satanic conspiracy, as though one provides an inverted confirmation of the sureity of their own faith, makes it easy for those who wish to do so to dismiss allegations of ritual abuse and occult crime as the product of religious hysteria, confusion and ignorance. But the unsolved murders in Sonoma remind me of the still unsolved 1974 murder of student Arlis Perry, found stabbed in a Stanford sanctuary with a tall candle in her vagina and another between her breasts, which in turn recalls the 1980 killing of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a hospital chapel, an inverted cross stabbed into her torso, for which Father Gerald Robinson is at last standing trial. (In an interview with the prosecution, "Robinson said he was stunned when he walked into the sacristy and [fellow hospital chaplain Rev. Jerome] Swiatecki turned around and said, 'Why did you do this?' Robinson said he did not know why the other priest pointed the finger at him.") Also, the Sonoma murders were cited by Richard Hamlin in his recent trial, referring to the satanic rituals he claims wife Susan described to him. Many took place, he said, on Goat Rock, close to the murder scene.
It's very late and I haven't actually reached the point of this post. But I'm too tired to make much sense to carry on right now, so I'm afraid I'll need to wrap this up later.