Speak of the Devil

These excerpts conjure up images of, in Raschke's words, "some beetle-browed, red-necked, fire-breathing Baptist," but in person their author hardly could seem more reasonable or benign. He arrives promptly for our interview at a meeting place of his choice - a Denny's restaurant - dressed in a conservative suit and looking not unlike any harried professor. A burly, barrel-chested man in his early forties, with modish hair that curls over his ears, Raschke is an enthusiastic orator given to broad gestures and high volume. He orders a hefty slab of chocolate cream pie and cup after cup of coffee, and as he passionately defends his hypotheses about Satanism, he remains oblivious to the blue-haired heads that swivel to listen in.

Raschke says he first became curious about the so-called "religious counterculture" while attending the University of California at Berkeley during the late Sixties, but didn't take an academic interest in the subject until he arrived at the University of Denver in 1972. His first published article, "The Asian Invasion of New Religions: Creative Innovations or New Gnosticism," started a scholarly argument that still reverberates today. Just ask him. About the time he published his first book, The Interruption of Eternity, his investigations of such figures as the Guru Maharaj Ji, a mid-Seventies Denver fixture whom Raschke describes as "a fat little kid who was about fourteen years old and called himself `the perfect master and lord of the universe,'" led him to put so-called cults and new age precursors under his academic microscope. He was knee-deep in these new religious studies when, in 1981, he first heard about satanic practices in the area, from a source he refers to by the pseudonym John Jones.

"John came to me as one of those people over the years who would call me up out of the blue to tell me what they're doing with their life," Raschke says. "He was talking to me about a whole weird and wild spectrum of things: communication with ascended entities and all this new age kind of stuff. And at some point [he said that] he had known people who would pick up hitchhikers and take them out to the Pueblo reservoir and sacrifice them."

With no proof and a source he admits "lived in a different world," Raschke wasn't convinced by John's claims. But they planted a devilish seed of curiosity that refused to go away. "After a three- or four-year period, I'd heard so many of these stories from so many different people, all of them coming out of what could be called the metaphysical underground, that I concluded there was probably something going on," he says now. He became more convinced as the result of a long correspondence with Linda Blood, an ex-girlfriend of Michael Aquino, and by the time 1988 rolled around, Raschke was appearing as an expert witness at the trial of Joplin, Missouri, teen Pete Roland.

Roland, along with cronies Ron Clements and Jim Hardy, was charged with the December 1987 murder of schoolmate Steven Newberry. According to Raschke's account, Hardy, his school's senior class president, led a "mini-mafia" of drug-addicted Satanists who "sacrificed" Newberry. His evidence included allegedly satanic graffiti found near the body, Pete Roland's record collection (lots of Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath, as well as music by well-known vampirists such as the J. Geils Band), and the testimony of plenty of kids in the area. Roland told his psychiatrist that the boys chanted "Sacrifice to Satan! Sacrifice to Satan!" while clubbing Newberry to death.

As he does elsewhere in Painted Black, Raschke focuses on the most sensational claims he can find, no matter who makes them. Some of the juiciest are attributed to a "stoned" teen identified only as Eddie, who "began to steep himself in the darker dimensions of the `faith,' which he claimed was erected upon the ideas and traditions of the Church of Satan." Raschke even prints Eddie's statement that "I can walk down the hall of school and see more committed Satanists than Christians. It's like the flu. One person catches it, and everybody catches it."

Raschke defends the presence of these off-the-cuff allegations by noting that his publishers wanted a book "with large sales potential" that should be "comprehensive and impeccably researched, and they wanted it to tell stories." To Raschke, then, Eddie's comments, and the dozens of others like them in Painted Black, are simply color, used to make his narrative more readable. "Frankly," he adds, "this kid really wanted to talk to me and he told me a lot of crap that I didn't put in, things like Anton LaVey was 2000 years old. I didn't put [Eddie's quotes] in there to prove a point, it was just part of the story. If I supported them, I would have said it."

About the material on heavy metal, however, Raschke admits to having a few regrets. "My son has read the book and he's been somewhat critical of my own treatment" of the subject, Raschke says. "I want to make the point that I only deal with a chapter on heavy metal. I realize that's what everybody wants to talk about, but I wasn't really interested that much in the beginning. I just wanted to deal with the issue because that's what the editor wanted to deal with." On top of that, he's "a big fan" of Led Zeppelin, a group singled out by fundamentalists as teeth-baring Satanists.

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