At the height of the ’80s Satanic Panic, I was a prototypical blasphemer. I played Dungeons & Dragons, blasted Shout at the Devil at maximum volume, plastered Metallica posters on my wall, read the Necronomicon, gorged myself on horror cinema and wore a daily uniform of ripped denim and black T-shirts.
According to Al Gore’s wife, I was a bloodthirsty soldier for Satan. Oh yes, me and my virginal D&D pals—who could perform about 15 push-ups combined—were dangerous, alright.
But the tragic nadir of the Satanic Panic was the case of the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers wrongfully convicted of child-murder in rural Arkansas.
The case first attracted media attention for its lurid qualities—abduction, mutilation and supposed Satanic Ritual Abuse. It later attracted attention for the hillbilly witch hunt that resulted in the trial of the West Memphis Three. Two of the boys received life sentences while Damien Echols, the alleged leader of the trio, was sentenced to death.
After two decades of public outcry, numerous books and feature films, the three men were finally released in 2011.
On Sept. 18, Echols recounts his experiences in Life After Death, available in hardcover and e-book. Echols has previously published his poetry, nonfiction and the 2005 memoir Almost Home. I’m excited to read what he has to say about the years since then.
Much has been written on the horrors of the Satanic Panic, but the definitive account should rightfully come from Echols, one of its biggest victims—a man who was nearly put to death on account of mass hysteria.
The saving grace for our justice system is that it’s not a posthumous release.
Check back for info on more upcoming releases throughout the week.